A stumble over the finish line saw the Toronto Marlies miss out on the North Division title by a single point at the end of the 2016-17 regular season.
After a playoff berth was secured on April 7 despite a loss in Utica, the Marlies took just four points from a possible ten to round out the regular season.
Despite the faltering finish, it’s the sixth straight season that Toronto has qualified for the post-season — a feat not seen as likely when they found themselves at the bottom of the standings in January.
Victory over Rochester was Toronto’s 24th on home ice this season (24-11-3 at Ricoh Coliseum), although they struggled against Rochester with an overall 4-5-1 record when facing their cross-border rivals. Toronto finished the year with winning records against Utica and St. John’s (5-3-0 and 7-5-0, respectively).
The worrying trend this week was that the Marlies failed to match the intensity of opponents in dire need of points to aid their playoff ambitions.
On special teams, Toronto allowed a power play goal against in four of the five games, with their opponents netting five times overall on 14 opportunities. Toronto‘s play with the man advantage was sporadic, registering at 13% while also allowing one shorthanded goal.
A rematch with the Albany Devils now awaits Toronto in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs, with the Marlies not quite the heavy favourites they were last season.
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– It’s been confirmed that Brooks Laich underwent surgery on his elbow and is currently rehabbing in California. It never worked out for him with the Marlies and it’s possible he was never fully healthy.
– Pierre Engvall and Jesper Lindgren were signed to ATO’s but neither has received game time. Defenseman Brenden Miller was recalled from Orlando but has also been on the sidelines.
– Seth Griffith led the way with five points in as many games this week. He remains ultra consistent production-wise, and he’ll need to be an offensive leader in any success Toronto has in the post-season.
– A pair of goals and assists for Brendan Leipsic hoisted him past the 50 point mark in 49 outings. He finished just three shy of last year’s points total despite playing 16 fewer games.
– Mike Sislo remains hot since joining the Marlies, netting a pair of goals to take his total to eight in just 18 games for Toronto. However, he sustained what appeared to be a wrist injury during the penultimate game of the season. It would be a big loss should he be unavailable for the Albany series.
– One positive offensively was that five Marlies defensemen found the net. Andrew Campbell, Justin Holl, Rinat Valiev, Andrew Nielsen and Steve Oleksy all found the twine. The latter led the way with three points in the last five games.
– Garret Sparks won just one of his three starts and wasn’t at his best in the pair of weekend games hosted in St. John’s. He had been excellent up until that point and still remains the team’s number one entering the playoffs.
– Kasimir Kaskisuo split his two starts but allowed a shocking goal against in relief of Sparks during the final game of the season after mishandling the puck while out of his net. It’ll be interesting to see whether Sheldon Keefe continues to roll with the rookie goaltender as his back-up or if he goes back to the out-of-favour Antoine Bibeau for Game 1.
Toronto Marlies Player Stats – April 18
|Cal O'Reilly (TOR)||C||15||0||8||8||0||4||0||0||26||0|
|Mike Sislo (TOR)||RW||18||8||8||16||1||8||6||0||34||23.5|
|Steve Oleksy (TOR)||D||20||3||6||9||3||39||1||0||36||8.3|
|Sergey Kalinin (TOR)||C||19||2||2||4||1||9||0||0||17||11.8|
Toronto Marlies Goalie Stats – April 18