We haven’t looked at the AHL playoff picture yet this season, so it’s time to check in. Unlike the NHL’s Eastern Conference, where it’s all done but the final order, the AHL is a much murkier picture.
The Marlies play in the North Division with six other teams. Their standings look like this today:
- Utica Comets (New Jersey) - .703 P% on 59 GP and 13 GR
- Laval Rocket (Montréal) - .582 on 55 GP and 17 GR
- Toronto Marlies - .561 on 57 GP and 15 GR
- Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay) - .557 on 61 GP and 15 GR
- Belleville Senators (Ottawa) - .553 on 57 GP and 15 GR
- Rochester Americans (Buffalo) - .548 on 62 GP and 14 GR
- Cleveland Monsters (Columbus) - . 475 on 61 GP and 15 GR
Games Played and Games Remaining adds up weird, doesn’t it? In the AHL this season, teams had some choice as to how many games they would commit to, so points are right out the window, and you must look at Points %. Games in hand thinking won’t work either.
To help out with this, the AHL produces a Playoff Primer, which is updated daily and tracks where teams are on the road to clinching. They use the good old magic number system to tell you how many points it will take to clinch a playoff spot. For the Marlies, that’s currently 27, out of a maximum available of 30. That’s not a mistake, it’s a sign the division is very congested as we can see above.
That number will get reduced when the Marlies win or when opponents at the bottom lose. For now, every team in the division can still make the playoffs. Most of the AHL is like that, still with only two teams in the Pacific having clinched playoff spots.
The Marlies have got where they are this year with a barely positive goal differential 190 - 188, and the second lowest number of regulation wins to Cleveland. They’ve padded their win column in overtime, but on paper look like they should come close to third in the division, where they are now.
This is the playoff format:
In 2021-22, the AHL will have 23 teams participating in the postseason.
All but the bottom two teams in each of the AHL’s four divisions will qualify for the 2022 Calder Cup Playoffs.
Home-ice advantage in all series will be granted to the team with the higher points percentage.
The first round will be best-of-three series. Division semifinals and division finals will be best-of-five series; conference finals and the Calder Cup Finals are in a best-of-seven format.
The divisions don’t all have the same number of teams, so that first round varies from division to division. The Pacific, with nine teams, has to whittle their seven qualifiers down to four with three separate first round series, while the top team gets a bye to the semifinals.
In the North Division, the top three teams get a bye, and the fourth and fifth team play off in the first round to decide the fourth semifinalist. If the playoffs were held today, Toronto would get a bye to meet the Laval Rocket in the semifinal round.
Unlike everyone else in their division except Syracuse, the Marlies will lose players to the NHL down the stretch, and into the playoffs. They just lost Carl Dahlström and Kyle Clifford to the Leafs for the trip to Boston. They will also be playing a rotation of Micheal Hutchinson, Keith Petruzzelli and Joe Woll (when healthy) in net.
None of the Marlies goalies have been excellent this year, not even their most regular starter, Erik Källgren. The current committee all come in at or very near to .907 in All-Situations SV%, which puts them all lower than 25th in the AHL for goalies with 10 games or more.
In terms of goals, the team is led by Joey Anderson (21), Alex Steeves (18), Bobby McMann (18), Brett Seney (16), Antti Suomela (14) and Josh Ho-Sang (14). The top points getters are: Seney (46), Joey Duszak (44), Steeves (37) and Anderson (35). The points producers don’t match the buzz producers this season, but Anderson would be called up on most NHL teams by now.
By points per game, Nick Robertson leads the team, as expected, with a rate that is 36th in the AHL for players with 10 games or more played. Seney is next at 46th.
The Marlies are not the elite team of old awash with top prospects, but they have very good depth, roll four good lines most nights, and have good, but not great, goalies.
If they lose players to callups or injury, they’ll struggle over their last four weeks of play, but if they just keep on keeping on, they will end up in the playoffs where anything can happen.
The team is way out west right now, getting ready for two games in Abbotsford, followed by a stop in Winnipeg on the way home. The next home game is April 6 vs the Crunch.