In an odd bit of scheduling, the friday after a weekend series against each other the Bulldogs and Marlies have a rematch. This makes it so that after tonight the ‘Dogs will have played the Marlies more than the rest of the league combined.
Its not a promising reunion for the Baby Habs. The Marlies were the stronger squad last weekend on both balance of play and the score sheet. This was in no small part to the Leafs affliate’s top defender, Jake Gardiner who was tremendous at controlling the game from the back end. Matters are made worse by the absence of top Hamilton forward Louis Leblanc, whose absence cripples any chance the Bulldogs have of sustaining a three line offense.
In general, the Marlies benefit from a much older and more developed team lead by AHL veterans (like Aucoin and Zigomanis) and prospects with multiple years of AHL play behind them (such as Colborne and Kadri).
Head to Head Stats:
Number wise, Toronto seems to generally have the better off it, based on superior shot prevention and better finishing and goaltending. This has lead Hamilton to be in the red for goal differential while Toronto has held even.
Neither team has a special teams advantage, with Toronto’s being generally bad and Hamilton struggling mightily to score with the man advantage so far.
Keys to the Match:
-Scoring from two lines for the Bulldogs. Without Leblanc with Boyce and Blunden it will be up to the Geoffrion and Bournival lines to both produce goals.
-Defense from top two pairings. Bulldogs have had good nights from Tinordi’s pairing and from St. Denis pairing but if they want to win they need to get good nights from both. Especial against Toronto’s very deep ES offense, McKegg-Kadri is a heck of a combination to be on someone’s third line.
– Power from the power play. The Bulldogs have been able to produce loads of nice pressure with the man-advantage where Beaulieu has looked particularly adept. But that doesn’t mean anything unless it turns into goals.
– Who shows up in net? Hamilton won their first match against Toronto because Mayer stood on his head, lost the second because he couldn’t bail the team out of broken plays. A lot ridding on the starter tonight, be it Mayer or Delmas.
– Winger Defense. Toronto’s top defensive pairing of Gardiner and Kostka has combined for 4 goals and 42 shots in 5 games. Stopping this dynamic pair will fall on whether the likes of Blunden, Nattinen, Palushaj, Quailer, Holland and Gallagher can interdict their passing and shooting lanes in the offensive zone.
Game time: 7:30 EST.