Professional playoff hockey is back in Toronto for the first time since 2009 as theÂ Toronto Marlies begin their Calder Cup bid tonight with Game 1 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Â Rochester Americans.
The Marlies will have Jake Gardiner and Matt Frattin in the lineup tonight, but those NHL additions are matched by the Amerks’ inclusion of Marcus Foligno, Brayden McNabb and T.J. Brennan, who all finished the season with the Buffalo Sabres. The Marlies have also added St. Michael’s Majors defenceman and first round selection of 2011 Stuart Percy to the blueline for the playoffs.
The feisty Foligno put up an incredible six goals and seven assists in his first 14 games as an NHL’er and could be a physical and offensive force to be reckoned with for the Marlies in this series. Meanwhile, the NHL’s best rookie defenceman this season, Jake Gardiner, will be expected to be a two-way stud for the Marlies throughout these playoffs.
The North Division rivals have played each other tight all season. TheÂ Marlies took seven of the ten regular season meetings, but each game was decided by just a goal as the Marlies outscored Rochester by a 27-23 margin. A low scoring season series suggests the goaltending battle between Ben Scrivens, who posted the AHL’s best goals against average this season, and Amerks netminder David Leggio will be an especially key matchup in the series.
Other names to look out for on Rochester include leading points scorers Phil Varone and Paul Szczechura.
A question mark for the Marlies comes in the experience column. Mike Zigomanis has played 27 AHL playoff games in his 10+ seasons in the AHL and Captain Ryan Hamilton has eight post-season games to his name, but after that the playoff experience wears thin. 27-year-old Phillipe Dupuis is a newbie to the AHL playoffs. For the likes of Scrivens, Marcel Mueller, Carter Ashton, Nazem Kadri, Joe Colborne, Gardiner, Frattin, Korbinian Holzer, Simon Gysbers, Nicolas Deschamps and Percy, playoffs at the pro level are uncharted territory.
Puck drop is at 7 p.m. Game 2 goes Saturday at 3 p.m. at RicohÂ Coliseum.
Where You Can Watch or Listen: Rogers TV will be showing the game, and according to some in the comments section it can also be found on Cogeco. You can listen in on AM640. Check the comments section for possible streams.
Anthony Petrielli is in the press box tonight and will have a game story posted tomorrow.