The Toronto Marlies closed out 2018 with a 5-4 in overtime win against the Charlotte Checkers where Michael Hutchinson started his first game in net for the Marlies since being acquired from the Florida Panthers.
Hutchinson’s night was exciting at the beginning, as the Marlies jumped out to a 4-1 lead, but he was forced to stand on his head as the Marlies collapsed in front of him, allowing the Checkers to force overtime. Sound familiar? Hutchinson’s Panthers teammate James Reimer could probably recognize it. But unlike the Leafs in 2013, Chris Mueller clawed back the win in overtime off an incredible rush shot to send the fans at Coca-Cola Coliseum into 2019 on a happy note.
Before we talk about that game, can we reflect on 2018 for a minute?
2018 was a year that saw the team achieve both of its primary goals: winning a Calder Cup Championship, and graduating players and personnel to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Beyond Travis Dermott, Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson, Frederik Gauthier, Justin Holl, Martin Marincin, and Garret Sparks; the team also saw Kyle Dubas and his loyal player development and management staff step into the Maple Leafs’ front office. That success cannot be ignored, as the Leafs move into an era of what they hope are championship-winning years. It goes without saying that a lot of what Kyle Dubas, his staff, and players learned in the AHL will be the core of what the will look like going forward.
In roster news, Trevor Moore was called up to practice with the Maple Leafs before the game, so he was not available for the Marlies. The Leafs used York University goaltender Alex Fotino at practice on NYE with Kasimir Kaskisuo back with the Marlies. He was a healthy scratch in this game..
On defense, Stefan LeBlanc has moved himself up from the Newfoundland Growlers into the top-four of the Marlies defense. He clearly won’t stay there for the rest of the season — he will have to make room for Andreas Borgman and Rasmus Sandin when they return — but his play has warranted AHL ice time in the future.
Dmytro Timashov - Chris Mueller - Jeremy Bracco
Carl Grundstrom - Josh Jooris - Sam Gagner
Mason Marchment - Adam Brooks - Michael Carcone
Pierre Engvall - Colin Greening - Morgan Klimchuk
Calle Rosen - Vincent LoVerde
Stefan LeBlanc - Steve Oleksy
Sam Jardine - Frank Corrado
On a somewhat-broken zone exit, Gagner got a favourable bounce with the puck in his feet and sped past Jake Bean for a breakaway. From there, it was elementary. Corrado and Grundstrom picked up the assists on the goal.
WATCH: @89SGagner opens the scoring with a beautiful finish. #MarliesLive pic.twitter.com/GEp61Ggiyw— Toronto Marlies (@TorontoMarlies) December 31, 2018
While his teammates were off on a change, Bracco saw that Oleksy had jumped up into the forecheck, so he teed up the veteran defenseman for a scary one-timer past Alex Nedeljkovic for his first goal of the season and first in about 10 months.
WATCH: @StevenOleksy fires one home from the top of the circle to put the Marlies up 2-0. #MarliesLive pic.twitter.com/Is8mWF9feI— Toronto Marlies (@TorontoMarlies) December 31, 2018
With Roland McKeown (tripping) and Dennis Robertson (cross-checking) in the box, Bracco once again set up a veteran for a goal. This time, it was Mueller in front of the net (aka his office) taking a pass from the corner and redirecting it into the net.
It was this goal that pulled Nedeljkovic from the starter’s net. Scott Darling took over 14:04 into the game after the 22-year-old prospect (who’s a week away from his 23rd birthday) let in three goals on 13 shots.
WATCH: Chris Mueller bangs one in on the doorstep to give the #Marlies a 3-0 lead. #MarliesLive pic.twitter.com/D4kfv2vJmQ— Toronto Marlies (@TorontoMarlies) December 31, 2018
With the Marlies still on the power play (Robertson for cross-checking), Saku Maenalanen poked a loose puck past Brooks at the offensive blueline, breezed past him, and scored a pretty goal on Hutchinson, his first goal against on his new team. I can’t stress enough how stark the difference in speed was from the 5’10” Brooks to the massive frame of the 6’3” Maenalanen. And it’s not like Brooks was caught flat-footed at all — he was just too slow.
Not a lot went right in that first period but this beauty by Maenalanen was one of them. pic.twitter.com/UeRyit1KJL— Charlotte Checkers (@CheckersHockey) December 31, 2018
Just as the Robertson penalty expired, Timashov set up Carcone with a great pass through the slot. It wasn’t considered a power play goal, but it basically was. Carcone has been great for the Marlies following the promotion of Moore. He’s been a very hard worker and has picked up three points (2g, 1a) in his five games since Tyler Ennis’ injury.
WATCH: Michael Carcone finds the back of the net to put the #Marlies up 4-1. #MarliesLive pic.twitter.com/ElQ0xNYk2r— Toronto Marlies (@TorontoMarlies) December 31, 2018
As the period game to a close, Steve Oleksy and Derek Sheppard got into a spirited fight at the Checkers blueline. Remind me never to make Steve Oleksy angry. Also, Tom Sestito who?
Shortly after the goal Steve Oleksy drops the gloves! great tilt #MarliesLive pic.twitter.com/MU8Abp5Ug1— David Nestico (@davidnestico200) December 31, 2018
First period over. The Marlies were all over the Checkers in that period.— Frosty the SnowLad ☃️ (@HardevLad) December 31, 2018
Shots after one were 17-8!
The Marlies were clearly overwhelmed in the first half of the second. They allowed 11 shots to their four, and the team was really scrambly in their own zone all throughout the period, and especially for former Marlie Greg McKegg’s goal.
Nice finish to give us some momentum going into the third! pic.twitter.com/rjla7y02ko— Charlotte Checkers (@CheckersHockey) December 31, 2018
By the end of the period, the Marlies had brought the shot differential back up to 25-20 in their favour, but at that point, it showed that the Marlies weren’t going to run away with the game, unlike what the first period showed.
The Marlies really took a step off the gas in the second period. Their power play was bad, and some of the forwards were just a step too slow in their own zone. The second period shots were 6-12, which is about as bad as the first period shots were as good.
For the first half of the period, the Marlies basically just let the Checkers come at them and tried to hold the two-goal lead they had. With 9:31 left in the third, they gave back one of their two-goal cushion. The Marlies were having to chase after rebounds all game, and once again on this one, they were too slow to react to Zach Nastasiuk standing at the far post for an easy tap in.
Mueller and Sheppard (who fought Oleksy in the first) got into a scuffle at the Checkers blueline, and both were sent to the box for roughing. Barely five seconds after play restarted, McKegg got his second goal of the game, tying it at fours.
It was 4-1.— Frosty the SnowLad ☃️ (@HardevLad) December 31, 2018
Three shifts into the overtime period, Mueller burst into the zone, turned on a dime towards the middle of the ice, and beat Darling with a perfect shot to the top corner of the Checkers net. Make that two goal for the team leader in points.
WATCH: Mueller with the OT heroics as the #Marlies edge the visiting Checkers 5-4. #MarliesLive pic.twitter.com/na46KtLg7o— Toronto Marlies (@TorontoMarlies) December 31, 2018
After the Whistle
- Despite giving up four goals, Michael Hutchinson had a great game. The Marlies really struggled as a team in front of goalies who put them down early, forcing the skaters to always be chasing the game. Hutchinson did an amazing job of stopped some really big chances early in the game, allowing the Marlies to jump out to a 4-1 lead. From there, as Sheldon Keefe explained in his post-game comments, the skaters really failed to get the job done. They collapsed in front of Hutchinson a lot and forced him to make a lot of tough saves; three of which got past him.
- A few notes from his play, Hutchinson was a little slow at moving from post to post. It forced him to scramble back instead of looking and feeling more controlled. Whenever the puck was behind the net, he was a little jumpy in terms of which way to go, and that worried me as a fan. The reason why I noticed that part of his game is because the rest of his play was very calm and composed. He looks very within himself and confident, which translated in a lot of really good rebound control. /
- Head coach Sheldon Keefe had some strong words about his team in the latter two thirds of the game. He was really not pleased with how the team sat on their heels and allowed Charlotte to control the game./
And finally, the Game in Six: