The Toronto Marlies (18-9-1) take on the Grand Rapids Griffins (17-9-1) 7pm on TSN 1050 and AHL Live. Depending on how the Charlotte Checkers fare tonight, the Marlies could move into first place in the West with a win.
Toronto is one of—if not the hottest team in the league the last 10 games (7-1-1-1), while Detroit’s AHL club is almost equally hot (7-3-0-0).
Jussi Rynnas is expected to get the start in goal tonight. There may be some movement amongst the skaters, but firm lineups won’t be available until closer to game time.
Dylan Yeo will cycle back into active duty replacing Paul Ranger for Saturday’s game marking only the fifth game missed by the Whitby born rear guard. Nicolas Deschamps also returns after sitting out on Friday, Kenny Ryan expected to sit in his place.
EXPECTED MARLIES LINEUP
IN GOAL: #40 Jussi Rynnas
Hamilton – Aucoin – Abbott
Ashton – Colborne – Scott
D’Amigo – McKegg – Frattin
Ross – Acton – Deschamps
On Saturday, I took in the Marlies 4-2 win against St. John’s with McKeen’s Hockey pro scouting coordinator Gus Katsaros. First off, he’s an excellent hockey guy who you should follow on Twitter @KatsHockey, if you aren’t already. More relevant to this piece, we discussed numerous Marlies and Leafs-related matters that I’ll go over here as points of discussion and analysis.
Watching the Marlies this year partially feels like watching a clock turning its hands back. It was on the first day of training camp that a brand new name appeared on the roster. While roster changes aren’t exactly an AHL novelty, seeing Paul Ranger’s name on a hockey jersey makes one take a quick peek towards the calendar.
If you did turn back the hands of time, Ranger would be a 25-year-old defenseman playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning. With a promising career ahead of him, he suddenly left the game many of us would pay to play. Personal reasons or a different motive entirely, it wasn’t quite clear why he left hockey only to find him himself coaching his hometown’s bantam team in Whitby, Ontario.
The Marlies got the result they wanted in their home opener tonight at the Ricoh, finding all their goals on the powerplay in a 3-1 win over Rochester. A pretty dominant 40-minute performance by the Blue and White tonight with a slow second period in between.
The Toronto Marlies have a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Semi-finals and look to deliver a “kill shot” to a team that had their number at the end of the regular season tonight in Abbotsford. The Marlies started the series well in game 1, but had a tough time beating Abbotsford’s goaltender, Danny Taylor. Once the Marlies were able to crack Taylor, The Marlies have had a relatively easy time with the Heat in this series, easily picking apart a team that plays a very heavy trap system. Ben Scrivens has been the talk of this series and has played exceptionally well.
Line up notes
Jesse Blacker is back in the lineup, replacing Matt Lashoff. On forward, David Broll is out, Kelsey Wilson is replacing him. Joe Colborne is still out with a bad finger injury to his middle finger.
Abbotsford Heat’s top regular season and playoff producers, Kris Kolanos, is back in after being a health scratch over ‘internal issues’. That could be an interesting story to follow.
The Marlies took a commanding 3-1 lead over the Abbotsford Heat in their Western Conference Semifinal series with a 3-1 win last night. Toronto now sits one win away from the Conference Finals. The Marlies benefited from an unlikely source of offense in Greg Scott, who scored a natural hat trick including a great shot at even strength, a short handed goal, and an empty netter. Scott, who has posted a surprisingly productive 74 points in 130 games over the past two seasons, garnered Matt Mistele’s attention in Game 2 as Matt praised his understated shot and energy level. With an ’88 birthdate, he shouldn’t be ruled out as a potential 4th line energy guy for the big club.
Goaltender Ben Scrivens has allowed three goals against in his last three games despite facing 95 Abbotsford shots to the Marlies’ 72 in that span (last night the Marlies were outshot 38-17). It’s a tough situation the Leafs are in here as the pending restricted free agent, who boasted the league’s lowest goals against average in the 2011-12 Â regular season, is providing ample proof he’s above the competition. Ideally Scrivens stays with the Leafs, despite no guarantee of increased NHLÂ opportunity,Â in order to continue to work with long-time mentor Francois Allaire throughout the season (he’s repeatedly credited Allaire for helping him get settled down into this playoff run). Scrivens is 25-years-old however, and beyond thinking about his own career and desire to take the next step, would not be waiver exempt under a new deal. His trade value to the Leafs may prove too useful to risk losing him for nothing.
If you haven’t been able to get to a game at Ricoh and don’t have local Toronto Rogers TV, tonight is your first chance to get a good look at Marlies playoff action. Leafs TV will be broadcasting games 3, 4 and 5 live from Abbotsford, British Columbia. The games are lateâ€”10 p.m. (EST) startsâ€”with Game 3 going tonight, Game 4 on Tuesday and Game 5 on Wednesday. The series sits 1-1 going into tonight’s game.
Game 1 of the AHL Western Conference semifinals kicks off this evening with a well rested Toronto Marlies taking on the Abbotsford Heat. With the Marlies fresh off a sweep of division rivals, the Rochester Americans, they will need all the rest they can get. Should the series go beyond 5 games, both teams will have traveled across the country 3 times between Ontario and British Columbia. The series will be a 2-3-2 setup, with the Marlies having home ice advantage.
The Marlies went 2-1-1 against the Heat this season, but the Heat have won the teamâ€™s two most recent meetings.
But Toronto Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins says he won’t make too many changes to the team’s gameplan.
The Marlies found out their second round opponent for the Western Conference semifinals last night after the San Antonio Rampage upset the Chicago Wolves 3-2 in their quarterfinal series. First-placed Oklahoma City will play the sixth-seeded Rampage while the Marlies have drawn the fourth-placed Abbotsford Heat, who also swept their first round series over Milwaukee. Game 1 goes Tuesday, May 1st at the Ricoh Coliseum. The Marlies went 2-1-1 against the Heat this season, but the Heat have won the team’s two most recent meetings. Abbotsford is currently riding a 10-game winning streak, with goaltender Danny Taylor winning his last eight. The playoff format now shifts to best-of-seven for the semifinals onwards.
The announcement and full second round schedule from the Marlies:
A proud member of the American Hockey League, the Toronto Marlies announced today that they will play the Abbotsford Heat, AHL affiliate of the Calgary Flames, in their second round best-of-seven Calder Cup Playoff series. Abbotsford finished second in the West Division and fourth in the Western Conference with 92 points. The Marlies posted a record of 2-1-1-0 against the Heat during the 2011/12 regular season.
Toronto will play host to games one, two, six, and seven at Ricoh Coliseum. The following are the confirmed dates and times for the series (all times eastern):
Game 1 â€“ Tuesday, May 1st: Abbotsford at Toronto 7:00 p.m. (Rogers TV â€“ Cable 10/63, AM 640) Game 2 â€“ Thursday, May 3rd: Abbotsford at Toronto 7:00 p.m. (Rogers TV â€“ Cable 10/63, AM 640) Game 3 â€“ Saturday, May 5th: Toronto at Abbotsford 10:00 p.m. (AM 640) Game 4 â€“ Tuesday, May 8th: Toronto at Abbotsford 10:00 p.m. (AM 640) *Game 5 â€“ Wednesday, May 9th: Toronto at Abbotsford 10:00 p.m. (AM 640) *Game 6 â€“ Saturday, May 12th: Abbotsford at Toronto 3:00 p.m. (Rogers TV â€“ Cable 10/63, AM 640) *Game 7 â€“ Sunday, May 13th: Abbotsford at Toronto 3:00 p.m. (Rogers TV â€“ Cable 10/63, AM 640)
Second round playoff tickets are on sale now, call the teamâ€™s ticket line at 416-597-PUCK (7825) or visit marlies.ca to get yours today.
For the first time ever, the Toronto Marlies have swept a playoff opponent.
Give the players and coaching staff full credit, too. Sometimes when a team mounts a big lead in a series it rests on its laurels, relaxes a little, and takes the pedal off the gas just a tad, enough for the opposition to maybe take a game or two. But the Marlies came out like a team who had no interest in playing any more games than they had to against Rochester. They clearly wanted to end the series last night and were very business like in their efforts to do so.
Here are some notes from the game, which I watched online via AHL Live.
- With Carter Ashton hurt, Jerry D’Amigo was bumped up to the second line to play with Joe Colborne and Matt Frattin, while Marcel Mueller slotted in D’Amigo’s old spot with Nicholas Deschamps and Phillippe Dupuis. Otherwise, the rest of the roster remained the same as it has for the first two games.
Leafs fans are showing heightened interest in the Marlies lately, and deservedly so as they have officially begun their run for the Calder Cup. While AHL success in the playoffs is always a fantastic experience for any player – especially young ones – fans of Toronto hockey at the end of the day are asking themselves one thing: How does this help the Toronto Maple Leafs?
Now, I want to stress that there is a difference between a long-term NHLer, and a fringe AHL-NHL tweener. A player like Darryl Boyce is an AHL-NHL tweener, meaning he’s a very good American league player, but struggles to get into a National league lineup consistently. Usually players that struggle to translate their games are missing one key ingredient that they can get away with in the AHL, but not the NHL – Be that a lack of speed, size, vision, strength, shooting ability, defensive ability, and so on.
So, inevitably, when someone says “where is Greg Scott,” well, Greg Scott brings a lot to the table, and hey, he could potentially make the Leafs as their 12th or 13th forward, but he is not a long-term solution to anything for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Thus, when we are looking at the players below, we aren’t just looking at players who may or may not crack the Leafs next season, we are looking at players who are being counted on to be contributing Toronto Maple Leafs for years to come in the ongoing quest to make the playoffs.
It was another 4-3 game in which the Marlies gave up a two goal lead and Jerry D’Amigo scored twice, including the game winner in the final minutes. In many respects it was like watching the same game as Thursday night’s. Did we mention that Zigomanis scored and Foligno, Verone and Brennan were the same Rochester goal scorers from Game 1? All that matters from the Marlie perspective is that it was the same result and they now hold a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
-For whatever reason the Marlies have let up on those – cliched, but true – always dangerous two-goal leads, but you can tell when it comes down to it, and when the Marlies need to score the next goal, they seem to believe in the game plan and that they’re capable of pulling it out. Winning a game despite giving up a two goal lead – and giving up leads in the third on both occasions – is not as easy as the Marlies have made it look the last two games. That type of resilience and abiding belief in their abilities should help take them deep in these playoffs.
With the quirky best-of-five quarterfinal arrangement in the AHL playoffs, holding serve at home puts the higher seed one win away from the Conference semi finals. Following a 4-3 win on Thursday, the Marlies look to put themselves in the driver seat this afternoon with a Game 2 win over Rochester at Ricoh Coliseum.
In keeping with the ten regular season meetings between the two sides, a one-goal margin decided Game 1. Like in seven of the those ten games, the Marlies came out on top. Jerry D’Amigo scored twice, Matt Frattin and Mike Zigomanis added to the total as the Marlies staved off an Amerks comeback from 3-1 down to win 4-3.
The Marlies outplayed, outchanced and outshot the Amerks for large spells, and the game plan will be to replicate that success without the slip ups and penalty trouble that allowed the Amerks back in it after the Marlies scored three unanswered to lead 3-1 in the third frame.
There’s an expected sell out, or close to, today, with Ricoh hopefully providing the seventh man for the Marlies. Myself and Anthony Petrielli will be in attendance. I’ll be interacting in the comments throughout and Anthony will have your game story later on.
In case you haven’t heard, the Toronto Marlies beat the Rochester Americans last night 4-3 to take a 1-0 lead in their first round best of five playoff series.
The game story and video highlights can be found here on the Marlies website. The readers digest version goes like this: the Marlies took the play to Rochester in the first, yet it was Rochester who finished the first period with a 1-0 lead. The Americans’ goalie, David Leggio, was peppered with shots throughout the game and the Marlies D’Amigo finally broke through in the second period as the two teams went into the third period tied at one. The Marlies then scored two goals to take what looked like a commanding lead, only for Rochester to storm back and tie the game. D’Amigo scored once again with under five minutes to take a final 4-3 lead as the Marlies held on for the win.
I linked the game story because I don’t plan on writing them. Below I have some game notes, interesting tidbits and takeaways from conversations I was lucky to have with the players. I want to supplement the standard game stories that can be found on numerous websites rather than duplicate them. So here it goes:
The Maple Leafs have signed 23-year-old left winger Spencer Abbott of the Maine Black Bears, according to reports.
[Abott] had his best season offensively and was named this week one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award that goes annually to the top player in U.S. college hockey.
Too small to play major junior, Abbott played Junior A with the Hamilton Red Wings. He had a late growth spurt to reach 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds. He was an alternate captain on the Black Bears.
Abbottâ€™s offensive numbers rose each year with Maine â€” he led the team in scoring this year with 61 points (20 goals, 41 assists). He believes heâ€™s ready for the NHL.
â€œWhen I came into this league, I was more of an offensive guy. Iâ€™ve been trying really hard to get better on the other side of the puck, defensively. Itâ€™s tough to do, especially at the next level. I hope to be a two-way player.â€
Abbott worked out last summer with Gary Roberts at his high performance training institute and the plan is to go back this summer to get ready for life in the pros.
â€œSpeed, skill and strength is what Iâ€™ve been trying to implement in my game. Iâ€™ve been working hard in the off-season. (Iâ€™ve got to) put on more weight, get faster, bigger, stronger. I think Iâ€™ve done that consecutive years.â€
Christian Hanson, Tyler Brenner and Brayden Irwin taught us all too well not to get too excited about these college free agent signings. The small but speedy and skilled Abbott did earn nomination as a Hobey Baker finalist, however, and seems to have much more natural talent than any of those three. This signing aligns more closely with the Bobby Butler (2010 Hobey Baker nominee) and Stephane Da Costa (2011 nominee) signings by the Senators, which is not to say those are smashing successes so far either. But at the low cost of a Standard Player Contract slot, these type of pickups are always a worthwhile experiment for an organization equipped with the Leafs’ financial might.
Abbott will join the Marlies for their Calder Cup bid on an Amateur Tryout Contract.
According to the Toronto Star’s Damien Cox, the Leafs are expected to sign 24 year old forward prospect Leo Komarov to an entry-level contract at some point in the near future. The Maple Leafs hold Komarov’s NHL rights as a 6th round selection, 180th overall back in 2006. Komarov was born in Estonia, but grew up playing hockey in Finland where currently holds a duel-citizenship along with Russia. He has spent the last two years playing in the KHL, earning himself an all-star appearance this past season. In 52 games played for OHK Dynamo Moskva, he recorded 14 goals and 12 assists, in addition to 70 penalty minutes. Komarov also impressed during a brief playoff run, scoring 4 times and adding 2 helpers in just 6 games.
Cinderella story, outta nowhere, about to become a Stanley Cup Champion. It looks like a mirac...IT'S IN THE NET! IT'S IN THE NET! (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
He's back. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
Updated scouting reports for recent call ups Nazem Kadri and Matt Lashoff (with files from Clayton Hansler):
Ranked 7th in AHL rookie scoring with 41 pts (44-17-24-41) and second overall in the AHL with eight first goals .. Kadri has adapted to some added bulk and cranked up the toughness .. isn’t afraid to engage in tight and along the boards .. physical game isn’t his forte however, despite improvement, and he relies on skills and dangles .. can waiver with intensity blending into the background, yet explosive enough to be able to exploit breakdowns and set up scoring chances seemingly out of nowhere that can change the tide of a game (first goals to open the game are an example) ..
The Toronto Maple Leafs suffered a bit of a loss in their win last night against the Nashville Predators. Midway through the third period, goaltender J.S. Giguere suffered an undisclosed injury (believed to be groin), and sat out the remainder of the game. He will now be out of the lineup for at least tomorrow night’s game against the New Jersey Devils. In his absence, Toronto has called up goaltender James Reimer from the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. Reimer has appeared in 9 games this season for the Marlies, posting a record of 5-3-1 with one shutout, a 2.90 goals against average and a 0.918 save percentage. Reimer will play the role of back-up goaltender to Jonas Gustavsson on Thursday night, but could see NHL action should Giguere’s injury be more long-term.