The Marlies faced-off against the Rochester Americans in back-to-back games in Toronto this weekend.
The Marlies are still very likely to make it to the Calder Cup Playoffs, but, like the Maple Leafs, home-ice advantage is still up in the air. The Marlies are chasing the Amerks in the division standings, so two straight losses this weekend put the possibility of passing them to get the home-ice advantage a little further out of reach.
Even if you’re only travelling to Rochester from Toronto, never mind actually playing in the games, it can be quite tiring (trust me, I’ve done it,) and when you then factor in how the first round of the playoffs in the AHL is a best-of-five series, home-ice advantage can make a huge difference, but there’s still eight games to go, so it’s not at all settled yet.
Rather than focus too much on those games the Marlies lost, let’s take a look at some of the major events impacting the team on the weekend.
The Marlies Lines
What jumps out on those lines to Maple Leafs fans is that Calle Rosen is back. He has been much talked about lately as a call up to the Leafs given their slew of injured defenceman, such as Jake Gardiner and Travis Dermott.
Not only was Rosen back from his foot injury, he was back like he had never left. The first thing I noticed was how he was back to taking shot after shot on goal in this game, getting five on goal in total.
There were times when the Marlies had a cycle set up in the Amerks zone where it was as though every player was conditioned to find a way to pass it to Rosen, or to Liljegren first who would then flip it to Rosen, who would finally make the shot toward the net.
Rosen stands fifth in scoring by defenceman in the whole AHL, and is ranked even higher on a points-per-game basis.
Meanwhile, we still are wondering about the return of another defenceman, Andreas Borgman. He found the time to sign an extension recently, but he has had a slew of injuries this season, and he is has now missed some more games with a reported concussion.
Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe split up the goaltending duties with Michael Hutchinson starting on Saturday and Kasimir Kaskisuo starting on Sunday. The Amerks stuck with their regular starting goalie Scott Wedgewood for both games.
I have to say Kasimir Kaskisuo has performed below my expectations this season, but that’s possibly because I set my expectations too high. I know he has often been out for games with out having the top Marlies players in front of him because of some injuries, but he sure looked scrambly at times.
I sure wouldn’t put Sunday’s “it was 4-1“ loss all on him though. Like the original moment that immortalised that term, the Marlies allowing the Amerks score three straight goals against at even strength over the third period was a team effort. The OT goal by the Amerks was mere icing on a cake of their domination after the end of the second period.
Meanwhile Michael Hutchinson sits out there with his contract going UFA at the end of this season. Kaskisuo’s runs through all of next season and then he is an RFA with arbitration rights, per Cap Friendly.
I have to mention Jeremy Bracco, because everyone is mentioning Jeremy Bracco. It’s that time of year where even a playoff run by the Leafs doesn’t stop people from spending the time to draw up fantasy lineups for the next season and slot in the top players on the Marlies. Bracco is legitimately one of those top players. If you have followed the Marlies recaps this season you will have seen him be a fantastic playmaker on a lot of goals by Chris Mueller, often on the power play, but he also can take advantage of opportunities to score on his own, like he did this weekend.
We’ve talked enough about how the AHL ability to score or generate huge numbers of primary assists doesn’t always translate to the NHL—see Griffith, Seth—but you will never know for a particular player until the guy gets his tryout. Bracco certainly deserves one, but it will likely have to be next season, barring some emergency because of catastrophic injuries to some Leafs wingers, which, please, no, don’t let that happen!
I am including this section solely for this GIF because everyone loves young Rasmus Sandin making his big hits. If you want many more Sandin highlights, and there’s some every game, follow Kevin on Twitter!
Sandin with a big hit pic.twitter.com/9BF3jfS7KG— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) March 23, 2019
It was a rough game on Sunday with both center Adam Brooks and defenceman Vincent LoVerde getting hit hard enough to have to leave the game and not be able to return (though in both cases the officials did not stop the play which was stupid). Both hobbled off the ice and back to the dressing room under their own power; the hobble part being bad, but the on their own power being at least hopeful.
As usual, Sheldon Keefe said he had no updates on their status after the game. There is expected to be a practice later this week; there may be an update available then, or we will find out more on Friday if they are playing, or after that game if they are not playing.
Brooks has been on a tear after a slow start to the season, and it would be a shame for him to be left out for even a few games, never mind some of the playoffs. This comes right as the team finally has Chris Mueller back from his injury. This half of the season has been really rough on the team. There’s still no expectations of Mason Marchment being able to return for the playoffs either.
The double loss to their potential playoff opponent definitely had the team a bit rattled. Keefe said they played well in the second period, but went downhill in the third to the point he said the team “ran out of gas, started to panic, and just chased the game and try and let the clock run out,” adding to that hardship has been the ongoing injuries and constant deflation of their momentum in the middle of a game. “We’re just trying to survive here as we’ve done for the last few weeks. We’re trying to survive the game and we weren’t able to do so.”
Keefe said he had to use Rosen much more than he wanted for his first game back because of the injury to LoVerde. Rosen took it in stride, saying “we [defenceman] had to play a lot, but it’s fun for us. But it for sure got tough in the third period.”
The #leafs plan to recall Calle Rosen after he plays another game for the Marlies next weekend, per Mike Babcock.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) March 25, 2019
It has been reported that Rosen will likely play in the Marlies next game and then will be called up to the Maple Leafs for Saturday. Again, at this time of year all these plans are subject to change at a moment’s notice before the start of any game.
The Marlies will play Friday night in Utica against the Comets, and then have a quick turnaround to play back here in Toronto on Saturday for a rare 7:00 p.m. start for Canadian Armed Forces Night.