“The Marlies posted a record of 1-0-1-0 in two games this past week. On Friday night, Toronto traveled down the QEW for their third meeting of the season against the Hamilton Bulldogs, AHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens. Despite Josh Leivo scoring his first goal of the season just over five minutes into the game, the Marlies were defeated 2-1 in overtime. Martin St. Pierre tallied both goals for the Bulldogs, while goaltender Drew MacIntyre stopped 35 of 37 shots in the loss.
MLHS’s Michael Stephens conducted an in-person interview with Steve Spott, head coach of the Toronto Marlies, at the Mastercard Centre earlier this week. Spott touched on a wide variety of Marlies-centric stuff, including the biggest challenges facing the team headed into the new season and the opportunities the Leafs prospects will be embarking on in the 2013-14 campaign.
Joe Colborne, restricted free agent no longer, has re-signed with the Maple Leafs to a one-year, one-way contract valued at $600,000.
The Leafs remaining RFAs include Cody Franson, Carl Gunnarsson, Mark Fraser and Nazem Kadri. By handing out the one-way deal, Colborne came in at a pretty cheap hit of $600,000, leaving the Leafs with around $10 million in available cap space.
The Toronto Marlies are poised to announce the hiring of Steve Spott as head coach, replacing Dallas Eakins who departed for the Edmonton Oilers. While many candidates were rumored to be in the mix, it appears Spott gets the nod for his reputation as a developmental coach, something Eakins was well respected for, and certainly a top priority quality needed from the new bench boss.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are sitting in fifth place in the Eastern Conference (fourth in the Eastern Conference in wins) and some folks, even Leaf fans who write about the game, are simply writing it of as nothing other than luck. Puck luck. Good goaltending. Streaky scorers. Bad coaching is even bandied around as one of the reasons they’re bad – but not showing it yet – this season.
The truth is that the Leafs are playing right about where they should have been last year—offensively—but with a system that allows them to hold leads, shut down teams when they need to, kill off potential momentum robbing power-plays and turn them something that breeds confidence in their ability to defend and in their goalies’ ability to stop pucks. The two are not mutually exclusive.
Confidence was and is a big difference between this season and last. They were a confident group last season – arriving almost mid-summer for early camp and hitting the ground running – got off to a good start and were confident in their ability to score almost at will. But look no further than the two losses against Boston (3-2 until an empty netter finished it 4-2) and Pittsburgh (5-4 SO) – those were games that would have been horrendous blowouts last year. I think everyone was expecting them to be as much, but both turned into tight games in the end. That wasn’t on the strength of out-of-worldly goaltending, either.
The team has adopted a better structured system—even strength and on the PK—that has allowed them to mitigate the second chances that sank a lot of games last season. Rebound control is still a big issue with both Reimer and Scrivens, however getting good looks at pucks and directing rebounds into less dangerous areas allows them and the team in front of them to bend more without breaking into the type of horrible collapses that plagued the team last year. I feel that not fronting the opposing forwards—standing in front hoping for a shot block—and instead reverting to a method of clearing the front of the net, like defenceman have for decades, is much more effective for this group.
If Toronto were to be compared to any team right now, it would have to be the Ottawa Senators, as much as it pains me to say it. Both have benefited tremendously from strong AHL teams and excellent AHL coaching. Ottawa were a laugh to start the season last season—most were predicting a lottery pick, and instead they took the New York Rangers to game 7 of a close series that could have easily went either way. Toronto is getting exactly the same collection of things this year, between the internal development, the coach and the goaltending. The Marlies, in my opinion, were robbed of a Calder Cup by bad injury luck and I felt that, when healthy, they were the superior team. Regardless, they had the best PK in the league, the best goaltending tandem, and the best shutdown D pair in the league. Say what you will, but it’s impressive that they Leafs can walk three AHL defenceman onto the big club and have them play as well as they have. It’s a credit to the Marlies that they are able to do that so seamlessly. They aren’t ideal defence pairings, but this is the sort of depth that we, as Leaf fans, have been pining for. The first wave of development seems to have pushed through for the Leafs, and while the Marlies are completely depleted right now that will change as the next round of Burke draftees start to migrate from Jr. to the AHL. This is what a rebuild looks like.
So, just how good are they? I think they’re just that: “good,” if Boston is “Excellent” and Pittsburgh is “Very Good” to “Excellent” (they lack depth on D and a consistently good goalie). I think the Leafs were trending downwards quickly two and three seasons ago and are quickly trending upwards now. It should have happened a year ago, but … Ron Wilson.
It will be interesting to see how Dave Nonis makes his next two big moves to meet the club’s main two needs: A first line center who can play the game at a fast pace and is able to make plays at the same speed as Kessel and Lupul, and another top 4 two-way defenceman—preferably of the top-2 variety. Those moves don’t present themselves very often throughout the course of the season, and we’ll all be curious as to how he keeps adding top-flight talent to a group that has improved internally and is looking to advance gears in order to enter the conversation beside the Bostons and Pittsburghs of the league.
Leafs GM in no hurry to deal UFAs - (Chatham Daily News) Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis is perfectly satisfied playing the waiting game with pending unrestricted free agents Tyler Bozak and Clarke MacArthur
The Toronto Marlies look to continue their strong play of late (1st in the Western Conference) as they face-off against the slumping Hamilton Bulldogs. Toronto leads the season series 4-2 over Hamilton.
The Toronto Marlies earned three out of a possible four points this past week. On Friday night in Michigan, the Marlies fell to the Grand Rapids Griffins, AHL affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings, by a score of 3-2 in a shootout. Will Acton and Matt Frattin recorded goals for Toronto in regulation and Ben Scrivens stopped 24 of 26 shots. The Griffins managed two goals in the shootout, while Joe Colborne registered the only tally for Toronto. Saturday night marked the second half of a back-to-back between the two teams. Toronto defeated Grand Rapids by a score of 3-1 at the Van Andel arena. Ryan Hamilton had his third multi-goal game of the season and Carter Ashton added the other tally for Toronto. Jussi Rynnas made 27 saves to earn his fifth victory of the year.
Head Coach Dallas Eakins will return to the AHL AllStar game for the second time in as many seasons. He was an assistant coach for Oklahoma City’s Todd Nelson last year
The Marlies have won 10 of their last 13 games and are currently on an eight game point streak
Paul Ranger ranks seventh (tie) in AHL plus/minus (+14)
Captain Ryan Hamilton ranks eighth (tie) in AHL goals (14). Hamilton has nine goals in his last 11 games
Keith Aucoin ranks sixth (tie) in AHL points (32) and second (tie) in AHL assists (25)
Mike Kostka ranks third in AHL powerplay assists (12)
Toronto has not lost back-to-back games since November 25
Toronto plays host to the Hamilton Bulldogs, AHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens, tonight at Ricoh Coliseum. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. Toronto has posted a record of 4-2-0-0 against Hamilton so far this season. Gabriel Dumont and Brendan Gallagher lead the Bulldogs in points with 18 in 31 games. On Saturday afternoon, Toronto will play host to the Rockford IceHogs, AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks, at 3 p.m.
Martin St. Pierre leads the IceHogs in points with 30 in 33 games. Rockford currently ranks eighth in the Western Conference with 36 points.
In their last game of the week, the Marlies travel to Hamilton for a Tuesday night game with the Bulldogs. Puck drop is set for 7:30 p.m. The game will mark the eighth of 12 meetings between the two teams this season.
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.
Toronto Marlies defeat the Oklahoma City Barons 6-5 in OT
The Toronto Marlies defeated the Oklahoma City Barons 6-5 in what was a wild, high-scoring affair.
Toronto Marlies vs Oklahoma City Baron’s Highlights
Nicolas Deschamps Goal
Kenny Ryan Goal
Greg Scott Goal
Jake Gardiner OT Winner
Mike Zigomanis Goal
Korbinian Holzer’s Huge Hit
Jake Gardiner Interview
For a more detailed account, here is a live blog transcript from the Edmonton Journal.
9:37Â â€“ That didnâ€™t take long. 1-0 Marlies on a soft goal on Roy. The Baronsâ€™ defenceman (didnâ€™t see who it was for sure) couldnâ€™t get over to cut off the Marliesâ€™ Will Acton, and he fired a hard shot from the far side of the left wing that squeezed between Royâ€™s arm and body.
9:39Â â€“ No replay on the goal, so Iâ€™ll try to go back and look at it at the intermission.
9:45Â - Magnus Paajarvi drew a penalty with some good work in the corner, and this first power play shift has been a shooting gallery; no goals yet but Hall and Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins keep getting shots from good areas.
9:47Â â€“ No goal on the power play. Nelson went right to the fourth line for the shift after the man advantage ended â€“ with veteran Dane Byers alongside defensive forwards Chris VandeVelde and Tanner House, this seems to be his preferred line for defensive matchups when an opportunity (own zone draws late in the third, after power plays, etc.) arises. Theyâ€™ve had a strong game so far and do a nice job covering the Kadri line.
9:50Â â€“ Hybrid icing call on a long Teubert dump. I really like this rule â€“ it makes the game go by quicker (it eliminates all those long skates back to the red line) and removes those ugly plays where everybody knows one guy will get there first so the other guy just goes for a hard hit on a player in a vulnerable spot. A faster game, less injury risk, and they donâ€™t blow the whistle when the other team can negate the icing. This is an excellent rule change.
9:52Â â€“ Marincin takes a nice shot at point blank range off a nice setup by Chris VandeVelde.
9:54Â â€“ Magnus Paajarvi generates all sorts of trouble on a 2-on-2 rush, going wide around the Marlies defender and then cutting in; heâ€™s an ice fit with Hartikainen because even though Paajarviâ€™s initial shot was weak Hartikainenâ€™s presence in the crease made it exponentially more dangerous. Hartikainen with a nice chance off the rebound too, which Rynnas was equal too.
9:54Â â€“ Nugent-Hopkins rings a shot off the post.
9:56Â â€“ Mark Arcobello bails out Alex Plante. Plante had two strides on the forechecking Marlies forward racing for a loose puck, but got beat; Arcobello came in and turned the 1-on-1 battle into a 2-on-1, which got the puck moving the other way.
9:59Â â€“ Entering the offensive zone, Chris VandeVelde flipped the puck high and over to Tanner House. Even though it was a difficult pass to intercept, Nazem Kadri (impressively) batted it out of the air and went the other way. Without missing a beat, VandeVelde wheeled and caught up with him by center ice, pinning him against the boards and preventing a rush the other way. A small play, to be sure, but impressive hand/eye coordination by Kadri and a very nice recovery for VandeVelde.
10:02Â â€“ The Marliesâ€™ Aucoin snuck behind the Schultz/Marincin pairing andÂ receivedÂ a breakout pass, but Schultz wheeled back and cut him off before anything could happen. A good play for Schultz, who I think was the defenceman who misplayed Aucoin on the first goal.
10:03Â â€“ Teubertâ€™s stick breaks, and chaos ensues around the crease. Itâ€™s now 2-0 Marlies on the play. As with the first goal, I believe I caught what happened but Iâ€™ll wait until the end of the period to confirm.
10:04Â â€“ A hard shot from the slot off a weird bounce beats Roy cleanly. That will do it for Roy, who had a clear look at the shot and really should have had it. 3-0 Marlies.
10:05Â â€“ This is turning into a rout. There was a long shot from the point that Danis kicked out, but the defence failed to adequately cover the crease and a Marlies forward scored from point blank range. 4-0 Marlies.
10:07Â â€“ Jake Gardiner rushes in on left wing and Colten Teubert canâ€™t keep up, so he goes for the bear hug. The Marlies head to the power play.
10:08Â â€“ Thatâ€™s it for the first. Now Iâ€™ll try and get replays and more detailed descriptions of the scoring plays.
10:09Â â€“ Eberle calls the first period â€œembarrassing,â€ and says the Barons are â€œgetting beat all over the ice.â€
10:15Â â€“ Reviewing the 1-0 goal. All three Barons forwards (Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins and Hall) were trapped deep as the play started back toward the Barons zone; this left Justin Schultz and Martin Marincin facing a 3-on-2 rush. Nugent-Hopkins got back to the zone in time to do something but floated ineffectually rather than picking a check. Schultz cheated to the middle to handle the puck carrier and gave Will Acton lots of room on his side of the ice, and then couldnâ€™t get back in time to prevent a good shot. Roy should have had it â€“ it was a shot from a good area, but it wasnâ€™t especially hard or fast and he had a clear look, but there was lots of blame to go around on the play.
10:20Â â€“ Reviewing the 2-0 goal. This was just an ugly, ugly sequence as the Baronsâ€™ NHL line was thoroughly outworked for the entire shift leading up to the goal. On the goal itself, Colten Teubert got caught running around a bit, but then took Paul Ranger behind the net, which should have been fine because three Barons â€“ Taylor Fedun, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins â€“ were clustered in the crease area versus just two Marlies. Fedun took his man away at the side of the net, but Nugent-Hopkins and Hall watched from the crease area as a totally ignored Nicolas Deschamps took the Ranger pass and scored from right in front of Roy. No chance for the goaltender here; this one is on the forwards (and to a lesser extent Teubert).
10:24Â â€“ Reviewing the 3-0 goal. This one is on Curtis Hamilton. Alex Plante lumbered around ineffectively â€“ Mark Arcobello beat him to a loose puck at the back of the net and played it up to Hamilton, who had time to do something with the puck. Instead, Hamilton allowed the puck to be taken off his stick by Kenny Ryan, Plante closed the gap with Ryan too slowly to be able to do anything, and Ryan beat Roy cleanly. Roy had a good look at the shot, but itâ€™s hard to put a lot of blame on him for that one.
10:30Â â€“ Reviewing the 4-0 goal. This essentially comes about after Justin Schultz is left in a 2-on-1 situation in front of the crease. Martin Marincin and Chris VandeVelde were both patrolling the area right in front of Yann Danis moments earlier, where they bumped into each other accidentally. Both responded to the bump by moving away from the net and into the slot. Schultz took Joe Colborne right in front of the net (Schultz has shifted to the left side of the net here, though heâ€™s the right side defenceman, because heâ€™s the only guy back for the Barons), but that left Greg Scott alone almost n the blue paint; when the point shot crept through there was nothing anybody could do to stop him. Schultz was tied up with Colborne; both Marincin and VandeVelde had been pulled forward when the puck went to the point. Danis is pretty much blameless on the play, Schultz deserves some fire for committing to Colborne with nobody else around, but Marincin gets most of the blame for leaving his position to wander around aimlessly. The bump with VandeVelde seemed to throw him and VandeVelde is far from perfect here, but Marincin getting sucked into no-manâ€™s land is the biggest problem.
10:33Â â€“ Nugent-Hopkins stopped on a backhand shot; I still donâ€™t know how that didnâ€™t go in. It was a bit of a sloppy shift for the Oilers line but they created a glorious opportunity off a broken play there.
10:35Â â€“ Yann Danis stops Joe Colborne at point blank range; Colborne snuck in behind Plante and Danis was forced to make a great save.
10:36Â â€“ Justin Schultz with a nice pokecheck on a Kenny Ryan rush; Ryan fell flat on his backside and the puck went out of danger.
10:38Â â€“ Teemu Hartikainen draws a tripping penalty with a partial break where he bulled toward the middle of the ice.
10:40Â â€“ A great shot by Schultz leads to a rebound; Jordan Eberle skates in tight with the puck but Rynnas manages to stop him. Once again, the Oklahoma power play looks great but they arenâ€™t quite able to score.
10:46Â â€“ 3-on-2 rush for Toronto. Marincin made a great play to knock the puck away, but the trailer picked it up and got a good shot anyway. Marincin didnâ€™t like the way the Marlies rushed the net after Danis made the save, and took a penalty for going after one Marlies forward (didnâ€™t catch the number).
10:48Â â€“ The Barons are out shooting Toronto 18-13 heading into this penalty kill.
10:52Â â€“ Magnus Paajarvi just playing keep away in a now 4-on-4 situation. Goes for a skate here, a skate there, doesnâ€™t allow the Marlies the puck but doesnâ€™t do much with the possession either.
10:56Â â€“ A little bit of revenge for the Baronsâ€™ NHL line. A gorgeous passing play on the power play makes it 4-1 Marlies.
10:56Â â€“ Hall finished the play off; primary assists go to Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle. The nicest goal of the morning.
11:02Â â€“ That was a much better second period, although there were some ugly moments. The game is now 4-1 Marlies. Things seem heated between the teams â€“ Iâ€™m not sure if itâ€™s a product of the score (guys like Hall are involved in hostilities) or last yearâ€™s playoffs.
11:06Â â€“ Reviewing the 4-1 goal. Just nice puck movement all the way around; Ryan Nugent-Hopkins made the final pass to a streaking Hall in front of the net and Hall just touched the puck home for a goal. Whatever else can be said about the NHL kids in this game, theyâ€™ve been superb on the power play.
11:23Â â€“ Some faceoff statistics, courtesy of the Barons play-by-play crew: Chris VandeVelde has gone 6-for-9, Nugent-Hopkins 4-for-9, Arcobello 9-for-14 and Lander 7-for-11.
11:24Â â€“ Tyler Pitlick with a nice rush down the left wing; it was a solid play and he blew by Paul Ranger but he couldnâ€™t quite cut into the middle for a scoring chance. He did manage to draw a penalty, though.
11:26Â â€“ A weird start to the power play; the Barons couldnâ€™t gain the zone and seemed out of sync in their own end. Ultimately the puck wobbled into the offensive zone and goaltender Jussi Rynnas came way, way, way out of his net to freeze it.
11:28Â â€“ Mark Arcobello with a goal to make it 4-2 with just a second left on the power play. Tyler Pitlick made a nice pass to Martin Marincin on the side boards; Marincin took a hard shot and Arcobello was in place to put the rebound home.
11:29Â â€“ Marincin took three shots in maybe thirty seconds to close out the power play there, all of them good shots to take. It will be interesting to see what he can do running the first unit once Schultz is promoted to the NHL.
11:31Â â€“ Odd play. Nugent-Hopkins loses the draw (just outside the blue line) cleanly to Acton, who wins it back to the defenceman Mike Kostka, who promptly ices it.
11:32Â â€“ The Barons are going on the penalty kill. Taylor Hall got his stick in Joe Colborneâ€™s skates as the latter attempted to exit his own end with the puck, resulting in a tripping minor.
11:34Â â€“ 5-2 Marlies. A point shot on the power play was tipped in front of the net; not much else to say about that one.
11:37Â â€“ Lander with a quick stick to break up a hard pass. Landerâ€™s line is the only one that hasnâ€™t been scored against today.
11:40Â â€“ Hall is frustrated. He tried to split the Paul Ranger/Dylan Yeo pairing and couldnâ€™t quite do it; he ended up on his back. As he got back up he punched at Ranger. No penalty on the play, but the frustration was obvious.
11:42Â â€“ Another scrum in front of the net, as the line of Paajarvi, Lander and Hartikainen mix it up yet again. Theyâ€™ve easily been that Baronsâ€™ best even-strength line on the game.
11:43Â â€“ Great pass from Nugent-Hopkins to Eberle; Eberle fired the puck quickly and it went off first goaltender Jussi Rynnas and then the crossbar before heading over the glass.
11:48Â â€“ The Barons were headed to the power play, and with the goalie pulled for the extra man defenceman Jordan Henry tried to carry the puck into the Marlies zone. As he pulled up to the blue line, Marlies rearguard Korbinian Holzer hammered Henry with a hip check; Henry went down and stayed down for a minute. Predictably a scrum ensued, as Dane Byers went after Holzer immediately. Henry looks okay; it was a big, tough, clean check by Holzer.
11:50Â â€“ Barons power play results. It looks like Mike Zigomanis took the initial minor, and that Byers and Mark Fraser will both be penalized. Interestingly Byers is sitting in the box, but it seems that Fraser has been ejected from the game.
11:51Â â€“ Byers and Fraser both got roughing minors and 10 minute misconducts.
11:52Â â€“ Carter Ashton, killing the penalty, takes a hooking minor. Lengthy 5-on-3 coming up.
11:53Â â€“ Eberle robbed at the side of the net by Jussi Rynnas; the 5-on-3 is nearly over.
11:54Â â€“ Rynnas tried to head to create a break by asking for water prior to the Marliesâ€™ defensive zone draw; a little transparent perhaps but the sort of thing that needs to be tried.
11:54Â â€“ Another 5-on-3. The Marlies take a bench minor; it isnâ€™t clear why but the commentators are guessing that Dallas Eakins is getting it for yapping at the referees. Apparently Eakins has been tossed from the game.
11:55Â â€“ It looked like Nugent-Hopkins had just scored; it will probably be reviewed but the referee waved it off immediately.
11:57Â â€“ 3:16 left in the game, and the Barons have a two-man advantage for almost a full minute yet. The Nugent-Hopkins shot is till under review; the AHL live feed has yet to supply a replay. The Nugent-Hopkins shot is ruled a goal, making it 5-3 and giving the Barons a 5-on-4 power play.
11:58Â â€“ The Nugent-Hopkins goal was a nice shot from the side of the net with the 5-on-3 advantage; it must have just squeaked across the line.
12:00Â â€“ The Barons pull their goalie and score on the 6-on-4 advantage. They shave enough time to tie this game. Eberle tallied his seventh of the year with a hard low shot through a crowd.
12:02Â â€“ 5-5! With the goalie pulled the Barons score again, with Nugent-Hopkins slapping the puck over the line on a broken play.
12:06Â â€“ A deflected shot goes high and catches Paul Ranger, who is lying on the ice and in some difficulty. The score is still 5-5; overtime coming up.
12:10Â â€“ Back and forth here in the extra frame, but no great chances so far.
12:12Â â€“ Shout-out to the Cult of Hockey on the Baronsâ€™ official feed. Right now theyâ€™re reveling in the fact that colour guy Doug Sauterâ€™s prediction â€“ that Toronto might blow this 4-0 lead â€“ turned out to be true. Absolutely need to enjoy that kind of prediction!
12:13Â â€“ Barons on the 4-on-3 penalty kill now. VandeVelde, House and Teubert out for Oklahoma.
12:15Â â€“ Danis makes a big save after Colten Teubert failed to clear the puck; finally the penalty killers get a break.
12:16Â â€“ Lander gets a quick cameo, and then Nelson goes right back to VandeVelde and House.
12:17Â â€“ Jake Gardiner scores moments after the penalty to Alex Plante (hooking) expires; the Marlies walk away with a 6-5 win despite blowing a 5-2 lead in just over three minutes in the third period.
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.
As in, Red Dawn. Get it? Yeah, I’m not a fan of the title either. It was either that or “Dallas”, but I don’t have the time tonight to write a complicated and funny Marlies metaphor piece that ends with Bobby Ewing appearing and telling us the Leafs’ disastrous previous season was all a dream. Much as I’d like to.
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.
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.
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.