The Toronto Marlies opened their season on the weekend with a win and a loss against the Manitoba Moose. The two games were really filled with both highs and lows, the 2-1 win Saturday was great fun, while the 5-0 drubbing on Sunday, was, well, not so much fun. Through both games we learned a lot about some new and returning players on the team. Here’s a quick look at who stood out to me on the weekend.

Nick Robertson

The big news for the organisation was the loss of Nick Robertson in Sunday’s game. Robertson went down by the boards next to the Moose net while trying to retrieve a loose puck. He was obviously in immediate pain, though what was wrong wasn’t clear until he tried to stand up and couldn’t put any weight on his right foot. An update after the game by Greg Moore didn’t shed much light on how bad things were. More information should come out today.

In Saturday’s game he was playing with Josh-Ho Sang and they looked stellar together. The setup of the pass on this goal was amazing. I really hope he can come back quickly, but I am worried that it’s a bad injury. We should know more in the next 24-48 hours.

Josh Ho-Sang

What a debut for a GTA-born player at home in his city. He scored twice in his first game with the team, but more than that, it was how he connected with his teammates that was what impressed, as noted above about Robertson.

Ho-Sang looked like he has played with Robertson for years, yet it’s only been two weeks or so. He described the chemistry between them as natural, saying “Robby is such a smart hockey player,” adding extra praise for his work ethic too. “He’s one of the last guys off the ice every day; one of the first ones on. He’s always always working. If you’re a Leaf fan you should be very excited.”

Ho-Sang showed his shot is on point too in his second goal on Saturday which was a clean shot in the net from way out through traffic.

Josh sat out for Sunday’s game. Moore said it was a “maintenance day” which usually means he was a bit banged up with some bumps and bruises.

In any case, he’s clearly a hit with the fans already.

Erik Källgren

There he was, stuck out for the fifth goal of the game and I couldn’t help but feel bad for him. He was doing the best he could, and that was pretty good. Even with a 5-0 loss on Sunday, he finished the weekend with a 0.914 all-situations SV%. It’s far too early to draw any conclusions here, but I don’t think you can put blame on him and say he turned into a pumpkin for that second game of the back-to-back. He made a lot of big stops when the defence was at a total loss to stop the attacks from the Moose. The loss Sunday isn’t on him.

That being said, it would certainly feel more comfortable to have Michael Hutchinson available to take those second games of the weekend matches, or the first game, but that is simply not an option now since he’s been called up to the Leafs with Petr Mrázek out injured. Källgren is being thrown to the wolves... or in this case moose. Let’s call it a trial by fire... though the Heat have returned from their temporary home in Calgary back to California for this AHL season, and the Marlies will not play them at all this season, so let’s just say there’s a lot more hard work ahead than expected for him, but there’s no relief from that in the near future.

By the way, it’s pronounced “shall-gren,” in case you hadn’t actually heard anyone say it yet out loud.

Quick Notes

Kirill Semyonov, the Leafs free agent forward signing from the KHL, was heavily involved in most of the goals on Saturday, and had a lot of scoring chances on both days, including some breakaways that were all dashed by the Moose goalie in shades of Mikheyev, but he still looked very good out there from a tactics point of view. He knew what he should be doing, which, many of the Marlies players on Sunday looked like they had no idea what they were supposed to be doing.

Joey Anderson was excellent on the penalty kill, one of the few highlights of Sunday’s game. He disrupted multiple Moose plays during their 5-on-3 attack on the Marlies net with some genuinely creative plays, all over a long shift, which I’m sure seemed ten times longer to him. He’s also still quite a physical player, which we had seen already. I was quite impressed. He wound up at #14 on our summer Top 25 Under 25. I voted him in at 12, one above Nick Abruzzese, but the rest of the panel’s votes averaged out to put Anderson one behind Abruzzese and two behind Kokkonen, with which I still disagree. I think he should now be even further above Abruzzese, and that through this season he has potential to join the exclusive group of Marlies players that have to keep an overnight bag packed at all times to be ready for an emergency call up to the Leafs.

Game Lines and Highlights

Here are the recaps of the games courtesy of the Marlies YouTube channel.

Note the lines for Sunday were quickly shuffled after Robertson was injured. The Peterborough Pete’s teammates of Pavel Goglev and Semyon Der-Arguchitsev were reunited for the back-half of the game.

Next Games

The Marlies will be back for two more home games next weekend, this time hosting two different teams from the US. The Rochester Americans (Buffalo Sabres affiliates) will be here on Saturday, and the Cleveland Monsters (Columbus Blue Jackets affiliates) will be here on Sunday. Both games are at 4:00 p.m.. Indeed, most weekend home games this season start at 4:00 p.m. in a change from the 3:00 p.m. starts of recent seasons (before the pandemic).