Is The Devils vs. Marlies Showdown The Series Of The 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs?

TORONTO – Under the old American Hockey League playoff format, the Albany Devils and Toronto Marlies – the two top teams in the Eastern Conference – would clash in the Conference Final. However with the new divisional approach, these North Division rivals are set to faceoff in a second round, best-of-seven series.

The Devils, who chased Toronto all season for the top spot, finished with a franchise-best 46-20-8-2 record (.671), while the Marlies were the AHL’s regular season champions with a 54-16-5-1 (.750) mark.

Wednesday’s opening game at Ricoh Coliseum will launch what could be the series of the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs. Consider that of the 45 players who have dressed for both teams this postseason, 36 have NHL experience and 33 have played in an NHL game this season.

The series pits the league’s second-best defense against the top-ranked offense. Albany finished second with a 2.20 goals-against average, while Toronto was first with 3.87 goals-for-per-game.

“There’s no question that they led the league in goals for and it’s a five-man offensive attack,” said Head Coach Rick Kowalsky. “We’ve seen them, we watched what they did against Bridgeport. We know the strengths of their game. We have to be aware of it because they had a lot of success with it.”

The Marlies were led by T.J. Brennan’s 68 points (25g-43a) – third most in the AHL – and Mark Arcobello’s 59 points (25g-34a). Toronto had 10 players finish with 30-plus points. The Devils had seven.

“Toronto’s more of a lot of skilled guys, activated defense coming down the walls,” said Devils’ netminder Scott Wedgewood. “Not everybody’s going to throw shots on net. They look off, they find seams, they find wing guys and two passes before shots kind of situations.”

The Devils and Wedgewood, who is expected to make his fifth consecutive start this postseason, will try and slow down the Marlies offense. Albany allowed the fewest shots on goal during the regular season at 24.41 per game.

“You always want to take away time and space, especially with their skill players,” said Mike Sislo, who led Albany with 27 goals. “We want to eliminate time and space and turn pucks and go the other way.”

“I expect it to be a very fast series with the way both teams like to possess the puck and both teams can skate and transition both ways really quick,” Kowalsky said. “I think it’s more about just taking away room. I don’t think you’re going to slow them down at all, it’s just trying to make them make plays or be uncomfortable making those plays that they would normally make.”

When the Devils are at their best, they are keeping plays in their end to the outside and blocking shots. The team was 37-2-2-1 when allowing two or fewer goals and 21-10-5-2 when allowing 29 or fewer shots.

If the above evidence wasn’t proof enough of the potential this series has, the Devils went 2-2-2-0 against the Marlies this season and four of those the six games were decided by just one goal.