The Toronto Marlies came home for the first time this season to two games against the Manitoba Moose (again) and two against the Stockton Heat (again). They beat the Moose twice, and lost twice to the Heat. After 12 games, the Marlies have four wins and two losses against the Moose, and two wins and four losses against the Heat. Their goal differential is oh so close to even (39-37, 51%) while their shots are a bit more on the good side (381-330, 53%). All of this puts them in third out of five in the Canadian Division. In this highly regularized season, the Marlies have been diligently mediocre.

Luckily starting this weekend, the Marlies get some different opponents — Laval and Belleville. D’oh!

On Monday, Alex Galchenyuk arrived on the scene and put together four points in his first four games with the Marlies. I never got the big hype about Galchenyuk coming, I think because I wasn’t in this sphere when he was drafted and only know his recent seasons, but I can tell the Marlies have a big, talented, and creative forward who is trying to spread his wings and get a little rhythm in his step. I could tell right away that all he wants is to create and have fun and be dominant. Auston Matthews has a similar drive, although his is more refined and carries with it an all-world talent.

I don’t know what Galchenyuk will be to the Leafs, I don’t expect anything at the moment, but right now the Marlies just want to give him an opportunity to be himself. Like the way we as fans push players like Marner and Nylander to be creative, despite their mistakes, Galchenyuk needs a similar treatment. Mistakes will come and go, but he’s here (on the Marlies) for his talent.

Before the week, Rich Clune was named the ninth captain in Toronto Marlies history, following in the footsteps of Ben Smith, Andrew Campbell (the original Soup), Troy Bodie, Trevor Smith, Ryan Hamilton, Alex Foster, Ben Ondrus, and Marc Moro. As an aside, can someone older than me confirm whether Erik Westrum was Marlies captain? Because EP and Wikipedia seem to think he was in 2007.

Clune is a six-year veteran of the Marlies — the longest team he’s been with consecutively in his career. This season has been the first in a while where he’s played every night. Lord knows he’s physically fit for the job and mentally prepared to lift this young team this season.

In Short

Game 1 vs. Moose (4-2 W)

After killing off an early 5v3 power play, the Marlies kicked off the game with two goals from Brooks and Robertson (ironically the exact players in the box together after the first minute of play). Kivihalme extended the lead at the end of the second with a wicked goal you must watch, before potting in the ENG himself for the win.

Game 2 vs. Moose (4-2 W)

The Moose were the better team out of the box in the first, and got to an early lead, but the Marlies started to find some momentum with their first power play unit that featured Galchenyuk, Robertson, Anderson, Kossila, and Rosen. They were on pucks quickly and their passing was sharp, leading to chances. They would score in the second, but it was Brazeau on PP2 that scored first for the Marlies, poking home the puck from the side of the net. Gaudet scored a brilliant clutch goal between the two power play markers, with Rosen getting a fun ENG at the end to seal the win.

Game 3 vs. Heat (1-5 L)

After a tame first period where the Heat were genuinely the better team, the Marlies gave up three straight goals in the second half of the second before getting one back themselves after great work from Marincin and Conrad. That wasn’t all of the fireworks in the period as both Clune and Pooley fought a guy on the other side (Pooley got a double minor for roughing after the period ended). The third saw the Heat pile on their lead for a 5-1 loss.

Game 4 vs. Heat (3-4 L)

This was a heartbreaking one. The Marlies had come from behind with two goals from Galchenyuk and Kivihalme early in the third, but two goals in the final three minutes of the game sent the Marlies to the showers with no points. The tying goal saw poor coverage coming back in transition from the top guys, and the game-losing goal came off a point shot from a failed zone exit. In my opinion, this was the one that got away as the team as the team really didn’t look engaged in the final few minutes when they had to hold the lead.

Injuries and a Transaction

Robertson is out day-to-day with an oblique muscle injury, I guess you could call it a middle-body injury. He missed Friday and Saturday against the hazardous Stockton Heat, hopefully he’s back sometime this week. Rasmus Sandin is still expected to be out for a couple more weeks at least.

Adam Brooks is also dealing with an injury to his wrist. He played all four games on the wing so he could avoid taking faceoffs.

The lone transaction this week was OHL graduate Zack Trott being released from ATO. Trott had no points on no shots in two games with the Marlies. I don’t think he was played very much and when he was on the ice there wasn’t much to take away.

Along with the whole company of OHL graduates the Marlies signed, I think Trott needed to spend his time in the ECHL. It’s a slower league and it’s a lot easier to adapt to the relentless pro game over there. Maybe that’s next year’s plan, or maybe some of them try the up-and-coming Canadian University hockey route.


The Forwards

With Robertson injured for the second two games of the week, Chartier moved up to play with Gaudet and Brooks on the second line. Brazeau then joined Chartier and Brooks (at centre) for the fourth game with Gaudet centring Clune and Pooley. The bottom six had rookies Jeremy McKenna and Bobby McMann each getting three games.

I liked McKenna on Monday, he showed some aggression in front of the net while trying to jam home a loose puck. I gotta say, his new #41 really suits him as it was Dmytro Timashov who used to wear that number.

As I mentioned earlier, Galchenyuk scored four points with the Marlies — a goal and three primary assists. All his points are worth watching as they all directly created goals and he showed a lot of vision and creativity on the passes. Check out his assist on Kivihalme’s goal in Game 4. Also, just check out that goal because it was an awesome play from Kivihalme. Galchenyuk’s goal was a nice snipe off the rush.

This season, Greg Moore reminded Tyler Gaudet that he could deke out four moose in a phonebooth, and with that lightbulb on in his head, he’s gone out and been an absolute monster for the Marlies. A goal and two points (all at even strength) in the first two games, and four shots skating with Clune and Pooley on the third line in Game 4. And while Gaudet may have been afraid of forgetting his defensive play, his play in his own zone has not waivered. At even strength, Gaudet has been on the ice for 12 goals for and only three against.

The Defense

Kivihalme’s goal at the start of the third in Game 4 was great, but his giveaway on the game-winning goal was very much the opposite. He had time and space behind the net to clear the puck to a forward, but he biffed it, leading to zone time against and the aforementioned goal.

Rosen and Marincin are a legit all-time defensive pair in the AHL. I know, I know, I gush about them every week. We all know that Marincin loves to eat up the slightly slower pace the AHL runs at compared to the NHL — his passes are cleaner, his movement is sharper and more confident, this is where MarMar gets to run wild. Rosen is the same way and always looking up for outlet passes to spring chances. They’re a big pair that uses their reach rather than their size to amazing effect. Both were on the penalty kill while Rosen took over from Liljegren on the top power play.

Riley McCourt got in the second game of the week and looked pretty good for his first career AHL game. He played on the third pair with Marincin (while Rosen was paired with the promoted Kristians Rubins) and looked relatively comfortable. He didn’t play much as Moore made sure Marincin and Rosen were on the ice together when he needed them.

The Goalies

The Marlies started slow in three of the four games this week and it was D’Agostini who kept them in all three after the first periods. While he hasn’t blow anyone away, he’s been a good starter for the Marlies and kept them in all the games they’ve been in. It’s mostly been on the offense to see if they can score three goals (the early threshold for a likely Marlies win).

Former Marlies and Growlers goalie Angus Redmond made his debut as a backup and with five minutes in the blowout loss. He’s been in quarantine since signing with the Marlies. I expect him to get some starts this season. Once Scott gets back, I don’t think Kai Edmonds will spend much more time with the Marlies. They just didn’t seem to want to give him a chance.

Game Highlights

Game 1 vs. Moose (4-2 W)

Adam Brooks (3) from Tyler Gaudet (6) and Nick Robertson (7)

Nick Robertson (2) from Alex Galchenyuk (1) and Kalle Kossila (1) (PP)

Teemu Kivihalme (3) from Scott Pooley (3) and Colt Conrad (2)

Teemu Kivihalme (4) from Kalle Kossila (2) (EN)

(It was an ENG, I have no video, what do you want)

Game 2 vs. Moose (4-2 W)

Justin Brazeau (2) from Tyler Gaudet (7) and Mac Hollowell (1) (PP)

Tyler Gaudet (5) from Mac Hollowell (2) and Adam Brooks (6)

Kalle Kossila (1) from Alex Galchenyuk (2) and Calle Rosen (3) (PP)

Calle Rosen (4) from Adam Brooks (7) (EN, SH)

Game 3 vs. Heat (1-5 L)

Colt Conrad (1) from Martin Marincin (1) and Calle Rosen (4)

Game 4 vs. Heat (3-4 L)

Rourke Chartier (1) from Joseph Duszak (4)

Alex Galchenyuk (1) from Kalle Kossila (3) and Teemu Kivihalme (3)

Teemu Kivihalme (5) from Alex Galchenyuk (3) and Mac Hollowell (3)