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Marlies vs. Heat Series Recap: ending on a low note as cuts and call ups announced

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Leafs call up Liljegren as players begin to solidify their roles.

NHL: FEB 27 Maple Leafs at Panthers
SUNRISE, FL - FEBRUARY 27: Timothy Liljegren #37 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates prior to the game against the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on February 27, 2020 in Sunrise, Florida.
Photo by Joel Auerbach/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Toronto Marlies mirrored their performance in Manitoba with a four-game series split against the Stockton Heat in Calgary. The Marlies won the first two games thanks to a scoring spree, but paid for it on the back end as their opponents got up to speed and controlled the pace of play, beating the Marlies on the second leg. The final goal margin was 15-14 for the Marlies, with the shots tied, 120-120. Score effects and blowouts played their part for both teams. Let’s get into it.

In Short...

Game 1 (7-1 W)

It was a goal-scoring bonanza for the Toronto Marlies as they torched the Flames 7-1. For the majority of the competitive part of the game, it seemed like every shot the Heat took the puck somehow didn’t go in. While for the Marlies, any half-decent chance they got found its way through rookie goalie Dustin Wolf. It was his first career AHL start, in the Heat’s first game of the season. After this game I didn’t believe the Marlies to be an offensive juggernaut as much as they took advantage of an unfortunate situation on the other team.

Game 2 (5-1 W)

Former Marlies goalie Garret Sparks started the second game and gave up a four-spot to the Marlies through two periods. Sparks didn’t play in the series again, giving up a total of seven goals on 44 shots. Liljegren got into a fight with Finnish defenseman Eetu Tuulola after a heated battle in the corner that included Liljegren flipping Tuulola like a wrestler. Joey Anderson scored two in the game (including a short-side high snipe for his second of the year). Adam Brooks and Kenny Agostino each notched two points.

Game 3 (2-4 L)

Defensewinger Joey Duszak scored his second goal of the season right in front of the net to put the Marlies up early, but sustained pressure from the Heat (arguably from Game 1) eventually broke through for three goals by the end of the second period. Stockton kept Toronto at arms length for the rest of the game. The Marlies got six power plays in this game — including a 5-on-3 — but came away with no goals. The shots in the game ended heavily in Toronto’s favour, but that came from 20 scatter-shots in the third period where everything was thrown at the net without much sustained pressure or danger.

Game 4 (1-8 L)

This was the game where Stockton’s shooting percentage, and D’Agostini’s save percentage fell back to Earth, resulting in an 8-1 crater. Timothy Liljegren scored his first goal of the season to tie a naively close game at the time, but Stockton responded with two more goals in the first and five goals in the second to end the Marlies road trip on a sour note. Rookie goalie Kai Edmonds took the net for the third period, but only faced three shots as the Heat turned down the...well...heat. Colt Conrad fought a much bigger Martin Pospisil in a rah rah moment at the end.

Transactions

Liljegren and Agostino up, Marincin and Galchenyuk down

On Saturday, the Leafs announced that they had called up Timothy Liljegren and Kenny Agostino to the Taxi Squad, while moving Martin Marincin and Alex Galchenyuk to the Marlies. In his press conference, Sheldon Keefe made it clear that Liljegren was going to get into the lineup at some point, stating that this was the plan before his hot start through eight games with the Marlies. Agostino, who has long deserved a chance at the roster dating back to last season, joins Nic Petan as forwards on the Taxi Squad. It is unclear whether he’ll play or not.

In corresponding moves, Martin Marincin was sent down to the Marlies to replace Liljegren on the defense. Alex Galchenyuk — whom the Leafs acquired from Carolina for Egor Korshkov and David Warsofsky — is joining the Marlies in order to get him skating, learn the system, and hopefully find confidence so he can fight for a spot on the NHL roster. I’m not expecting him to be a great AHLer right out of the box considering how much the Leafs have preached going slow with him, but he should hopefully get there eventually. This will be Galchenyuk’s first go in the AHL, as the Canadiens put him right in the NHL after drafting him.

Five juniors cut from ATOs

Per the AHL, the Marlies also cut five undrafted prospects from their squad:

  • James Hardie (LW) - 0 GP
  • Cole McKay (RW) - 0 GP
  • Keegan Stevenson (C) - 1 GP, 2 shots
  • Dakota Krebs (RD) - 0 GP
  • Jeremy Link (G) - 0 GP

The remaining ATOs are forward Zack Trott and goaltender Kai Edmonds. Rookie Jeremy McKenna seems to have won the 4RW job, having played all of the last five games.

Because there was some initial confusion as a whole host of new players were signed to the Marlies at the start of the season, let me break down who’s left. Jeremy McKenna, Bobby McMann, Gordie Green, and Noel Hoefenmayer are all on AHL contracts signed last spring and still with the team (Hoefenmayer should be out of quarantine soon after playing in Wichita for a time). Pavel Gogolev was signed to an AHL contract at the start of the season and has yet to get in a game so far. It is unclear what contract Andrew D’Agostini is under, but he is of course here as well.

Performances

The Goalie

Andrew D’Agostini has performed outstandingly since starting the season with the Marlies. He’s played all but one period over the first eight games, and genuinely helped them win games. He and the team are 4-4-0 so far with D’Agostini sporting a .895 save percentage. It was much better before the eight-goal shellacking that he was left to suffer through.

I would think there was hesitation on Greg Moore’s part putting in a rookie goalie that’s never played pro before in the middle of that game, but that dilemma probably could’ve been solved with starts for Kai Edmonds elsewhere in the season. Moore has had a penchant for running one goalie dating back to last season with Kasimir Kaskisuo and Joe Woll.

The Defense

The three pairings have remained unchanged since Game 2 of the season. The first pair with Liljegren and Rosen took on the majority of the responsibility, with the second and third pairs of Kivihalme with Hollowell, and Rubins with Duszak sharing responsibilities and opportunities for fun.

Joey Duszak often ran as a secret forward, with one of the forwards coming back to cover for him. Rubins worked well in those rotations and showed the ability to break up opposition plays without much support from his right. Kivihalme and Hollowell are fast and dynamic and work best when they have the puck and can get it out of their zone before a forecheck can begin to cycle. When that fails, they remind me of Dermott and Holl a little bit. Both just feel a little unprepared when they have to go on defense.

The Forwards

Tyler Gaudet cycled into the top six in the latter two games, a reward for his stellar play this season. He and Robertson connected several times for great chances. It was nice to see him be the mentor that allows Robertson to grow. Chartier did this as well and wasn’t far from that line.

Kalle Kossila got his first game of the season on Thursday, he’s only gotten to play 14 AHL games in the past two seasons due to injuries and presumably a quarantine after coming back from Germany where he just got to play hockey and get his feet under him. He seemed comfortable on the ice right away, even feeding Clune on a 2-on-1 that Wolf stopped in the third game.

Jeremy McKenna played all four games on the right wing, and might have solidified his spot on the roster there for the time being. He was on the fourth line for the first three games and then on the third line as Elynuik got pushed down. It was hard to glean much from his game above the fourth line because, well, the Marlies sucked.

I want to shout out Colt Conrad for his performance as a jack of all trades this season. He’s been the 4C with penalty killing duties. Since joining the Marlies out of the NCAA, he’s been a tweener in the organization, mostly staying in the ECHL. Without the Growlers playing this season, he’s gotten an extended look and has shown himself to be a good guy who works hard and knows how to be. His effort and attitude have been a standout as he’s gained some fans among the Marlies-watchers.

Trevor Moore’s path to the NHL included being a pest to the coaching staff until they had to play him, he then found his scoring touch through injuries and the staff had no choice but to keep him there. Conrad has achieved step one of the same journey (including the NCAA time), but making that offensive step is a difficult one where lots of things have to go right. I liked Conrad when he showed up, he scored in the ECHL, and seems to have developed a pro game nicely. Where he goes next is up to chance — namely linemates and icetime.

Game Highlights

Game 1 (7-1 W)

Scott Pooley (1) from Tyler Gaudet (2) and Hudson Elynuik (2)

Kenny Agostino (2) from Timothy Liljegren (5) and Nick Robertson (3)

Tyler Gaudet (3) unassisted

Richard Clune (1) from Jeremy McKenna (1) and Colt Conrad (1)

Teemu Kivihalme (1) unassisted

Justin Brazeau (1) from Adam Brooks (2) and Calle Rosen (1)

Hudson Elynuik (2) from Joseph Duszak (3) and Tyler Gaudet (3)

Game 2 (5-1 W)

Richard Clune (2) from Calle Rosen (2) and Jeremy McKenna (2)

Joey Anderson (2) from Adam Brooks (3) and Kenny Agostino (4)

Joseph Duszak (1) from Kenny Agostino (5) and Adam Brooks (4)

Tyler Gaudet (4) from Scott Pooley (2) and Teemu Kivihalme (2)

Joey Anderson (3) from Adam Brooks (5) and Kristians Rubins (1)

Game 3 (2-4 L)

Joseph Duszak (2) from Tyler Gaudet (4) and Nick Robertson (4)

Teemu Kivihalme (2) from Nick Robertson (5) and Rourke Chartier (4)

Game 4 (1-8 L)

Timothy Liljegren (1) from Nick Robertson (6) and Tyler Gaudet (5)