The Toronto Marlies have already clinched their playoff spot, and they know they will play the Rochester Americans in the best-of-five game first round, however the last place in the division is still to be determined, and both the Marlies final two opponents of the season are playing down to the wire to win that spot.
First up on Saturday were the Belleville Senators. It’s the time of year where there may be no specific advantage to winning a game for the Marlies, but playing against a desperate team is excellent preparation for the playoffs. Chris Mueller described the game as a “dress rehearsal to get ourselves ready for playoff hockey.”
While it was unfortunate they didn’t get the win, he felt it was good experience. “Playing a desperate team back-to-back [the Senators and the Monsters,] it’s going to do us wonders.”
The Marlies roster has been stretched out as usual at this time of the year with Leafs draft picks and others signed to try-out contracts as backup support for the team in the playoffs. There are now 31 skaters and three goaltenders, with a potential for a fourth if Michael Hutchinson returns.
Some of those players won’t see any ice-time, but they participate in the practices and get lots of time with the development staff in between watching the games. Especially notable would of course be Eemeli Rasanen, the Leafs second round draft pick in 2017.
I’m not going to write up a detailed recap of this game, as there’s really not anything new to tell about anyone on the team. Everyone there played as expected for an end of season game, and we’ve covered what we expect out of everyone in the playoffs.
We know the potential of the players now, so it’s no surprise when Jeremy Bracco scores a power play goal like this.
And it’s no surprise when Pierre Engvall holds possession of the puck while under a fierce attack to score a goal like this.
Timashov played some heavy offence and was not rewarded for it. Liljegren looked great and Sandin had a highlight reel pick-off of the puck from a Senators defender.
An of course, since it’s the Senators, there was lots of physical play, including a scene I can’t show you from a video clip because it was off-camera. Mason Marchment was tangled up with Andreas Englund for so long even he couldn’t figure out what was happening, “I literally couldn’t even hope to get my stick from him for up to a minute and a half. I’m not sure what was going on there.” Marchment wasn’t fazed by it too much, adding “It was fun though, it was a good battle.”
This wasn’t the first time they have mixed it up. It was in a game almost exactly one year ago that Englund went after Marchment the same way.
Marchment hits Englund to end the period, falls down, & Englund punches him in the head.— Mike Stephens (@mikeystephens81) April 15, 2018
Belleville seems to be targeting Marchment's head given his history of concussions. Pretty gross stuff.
After the game, Mueller had a positive outlook for the coming playoffs. With respect to their confidence he said it was “very high,” adding it has been that way for some time. “I’ve thought we’ve had confidence for a while now. Confidence that when we needed to solidify our playoff spot and we did that. We went into Belleville, played a really good hockey team and a desperate team, and we took care of business in their arena.” He summed up the mood of the team by saying that, “playoff time is the best time of hockey.”
But, there’s still one more game to play before that begins.
The Marlies face the Monsters (Columbus Blue Jackets affiliates) on Sunday at 4:00 p.m. It’s the last game of the season for both teams and a must win for the Monsters to make the playoffs.
As for the Marlies, it’s another dress rehearsal for the playoff games which start next week. Here’s the schedule.