The Marlies kicked off a two-game weekend on Saturday against the Laval Rocket, a team they have defeated five of the six times they have met so far this season.
The game at the Coliseum in Toronto included a large contingent of Rocket fans who bussed in together from Quebec, plus the general group of Habs fans living in Toronto who reliably show up for these games. It made for quite a fun atmosphere with rival chants going on through the game.
We have a full contingent of Laval Rocket fans here at the Marlies game. This is gonna be a fun one. pic.twitter.com/scrCrsfKqb— Pension Plan Puppets (@PPPLeafs) February 25, 2023
It was an atmosphere the Marlies took advantage of to win the game 3-2 in regulation.
The new-look lines post-departure of both Adam Gaudette and Mikhail Abramov as minor pieces in the recent big trade with the St. Louis Blues have stabilised around a core of Shaw, Abruzzese, and McMann at the top, all of whom feature prominently on the first power play unit, also with Alex Steeves and Noel Hoefenmayer.
Semyon Der-Arguchintsev remains one big piece sitting out while he recovers from a concussion, now at about two weeks, so I hope he is better soon.
Cayden Primeau started in net for the Rocket. He is the son of Keith Primeau, and the nephew of one-time Maple Leaf Wayne Primeau.
The Rocket disappointed their fans in attendance and couldn’t stop the Marlies, though Cayden Primeau put up a valiant effort with the final shots-on-goal tally at the end going 49-21 in favour of the Marlies. Primeau did a lot of hard work. Here’s what he missed:
Graham Slaggert put the Marlies up 1-0, scoring the only goal in the first period.
HARD WORK PAYS OFF 💪👊 pic.twitter.com/UIvjUO2SJs— Toronto Marlies (@TorontoMarlies) February 25, 2023
Zach Solow was in on this one and had a fantastically fun narration of the play as “The puck was just kind of in the slot, underneath the goalie. I was just poking away at it, just trying to get it loose, then the puck squirted [out] to Stoner, and he made a great pass out to Slags, and Slags did the rest. We were jacked. We were jacked up!”
It was the second assist for the Florida native in his five Marlies games this season when called up from the Newfoundland Growlers. More on that later.
The first period ended 1-0 for the Marlies. William Trudeau (no family relation to the PM) scored at 8:04 in the second period to tie the game. Trudeau is a defenceman drafted in the fourth round of the 2021 draft by the Habs, and he looks at a high level to be playing well above his draft position. He could be one to fight for a spot at Habs training camp next season.
Next up the Marlies had a power play goal by Bobby McMann and it was a perfect setup by Nick Abruzzese who saw the path open up to get it across the slot.
WHO ELSE— Toronto Marlies (@TorontoMarlies) February 25, 2023
STAY HOT BOBBO 🔥 pic.twitter.com/WcyoTW1YK2
Max Ellis capped off the scoring for a 3-2 Marlies win, and this was another wonderful setup for the goal, this time by Dryden Hunt.
MAX ON THE DOORSTEP 🚨 pic.twitter.com/DkWKFiW4OE— Toronto Marlies (@TorontoMarlies) February 25, 2023
Post-Game Thoughts and Comments
Zach Solow made such a great impression in this game, as he has for most games where he has been called up from the Growlers. This isn’t his first AHL stint, but now with the Marlies lines disrupted and holes needing to be plugged, he has stepped up and become an efficient and useful tool in the Marlies box for many different situations, something which he is deservedly proud of. “When you come here, you got a little wet feet, and you’re nervous,” but he noted the leadership group has made it easier; “the older guys kind of took everybody in, including myself, and just made the transition really easy,” adding “I’m glad I can bring positive energy to the table.”
The energy was acknowledged by Greg Moore who echoed how much he likes what Solow brings to the team “[laughing] Great energy! He’s a really fun person, he works really hard, and he works hard does all the team stuff and then you get some moments where he gets the puck and he pulls up on the entry and you can tell there’s a lot of skill.”
It sounds like Solow is on the Marlies radar for the long-term, with Moore adding “even when he’s not on the ice he’s adding positively to our team, and he’s been a really great call-up for us.”
Bobby McMann continued his goal scoring tear in this game and in his expanded role for this season.
He’s the spine down the middle that holds everything together — Greg Moore on Bobby McMann on the power play
Saturday’s goal by McMann was his 15th in 15 games. He has taken several steps forward each season, and now with each game is cementing himself as a high-octane player that can be relied on in high-leverage situations where one goal will make a huge difference in the momentum of the game.
Greg Moore agreed about that role, specifically on the power play, saying, “He’s the spine down the middle that holds everything together. Obviously he can shoot the puck, but it’s even more so on the retrievals and keeping pucks in from that spot to support all four corners.” McMann now has 18 goals and 8 assists in 27 games this season.
For the record, since it’s that time of year, the L.A. Kings were scouting this game, which is notable since the Leafs aren’t in town, so they chose to come to this game specifically and not because they were here to see the Leafs anyway, but they could have been looking at the Rocket, not the Marlies. So take this info with many grains of salt.
The Marlies next game is today against the Syracuse Crunch at 4:00 p.m. at the Coliseum. There is another school day game next Wednesday where they will face the Rockford Ice Hogs in front of thousands of kids from the Toronto Catholic District School Board.
Now with several players repeating the line “we’ve got targets on our backs”, they clearly understand things can change quickly in the final quarter of the season, and there’s lots of teams which could still bump them out of first place in the division in the coming final 20 games and cost them that crucial first round home-ice advantage.