When we last left the Marlies, they were taking on Utica at home.
Since then they've gone on a road trip to some exciting parts of America.
March 11 in Portland
Their first road game was in Portland to face the Pirates, the Florida Panthers affiliate. This was their "what do you mean, we're a depleted team?" game. Most interested observers had assumed that with William Nylander, Nikita Soshnikov and Zach Hyman with the Leafs, the Marlies would struggle. What this failed to take into account was the return of top-scoring forward Mark Arcobello and helpers Josh Leivo and Bendan Leipsic, all of whom had spent at least a few games away, not to mention Colin Smith, acquired in the Shawn Matthias trade, who is an excellent centre.
There is another new face, right-handed defenceman Taylor Doherty, and this game marked what I believe is the first time all year the Marlies had three righties and three lefties in the game. Part of the Leafs organization's efforts this year have been filling the missing pieces on D with handedness in mind. You should expect that to continue.
The Marlies are a very few wins away from being the first team to clinch a playoff spot, and the Pirates are sitting in the middle of their division and have a chance to just barely make it in. Usually that means the underdog comes ready to knock over the big shots who've rolled into town.
They really gave it their all, and the shots were 12-12 in the first period, but it was also 3-1 for the Marlies. They went on to absolutely destroy the Pirates 9-2, and it is rumoured, ran off with a treasure chest full of gold too. Arcobello and Connor Brown each had 4 points on the game. Antoine Bibeau got the win.
March 12 in Providence
The Marlies hopped over to Providence the very next day, as you do in the AHL, to face the Bruins. The Bruins are firmly established in a playoff spot and have Frank Vatrano, an amazing player having a great year. He's made it into the top 20 in scoring in even fewer games than Arcobello.
The Marlies kept Vatrano to one secondary assist, which is a feat of some kind, but unfortunately the Bruins also have some other guys who can play well too. Even more unfortunately, Arcobello was out sick, as we learned by the closest you get in the AHL to an official injury report:
Arcobello is out with some sort of itis. #foodinreverse— Todd Crocker (@HockeyCrock) 12 March 2016
Antoine Bibeau got the loss, but he faced down a penalty shot in overtime, and made 35 saves on the day. The Marlies, particularly in the later stages of the game, tried to ride that lead and left him to fend for himself.
March 13 in Albany
Next up on the 3-in-3 trip was the Albany Devils. The Devils, the third place team in the league right now, are suffering from the trickle down effect of the injury in New Jersey to Cory Schneider. Their usual starter, Yann Danis is up with the big Devils. Scott Wedgewood got the start in his place.
Alex Stalock made his second start for the Marlies, and he had an interesting game unfold in front of him. Arcobello was still out, but the Marlies are not without depth. Brendan Leipsic scored first, just into the second period, but the Devils tied it up and then doubled that with two goals by Raman Preshrank. The Devils outshot the Marlies thoroughly in the third period and despite Éric Faille's tying goal, the Devils winning goal in the last minute of play seemed a little inevitable given the way the two teams were playing. 3-2 Devils.
Next up, the Marlies host Lehigh Valley at home and well rested on Friday. The Phantoms have played themselves right out of playoff contention, and the Flyers have mined the team for anything good they can use, including Andrew MacDonald. It may be an interesting game.