While most of our eyeballs will tonight be on the Maple Leafs playing the Capitals in the second game of their Stanley Cup Final Playoffs series, the Toronto Marlies will also be in action. It’s the final game of the AHL regular season, which ends today for all teams.
The Marlies have had a wild season, falling at one point all the way to the bottom of the AHL North Division standings, then rising back up to the top. Their roster has been shuffled many times from injuries, call-ups/downs, and trades. Just look at the number of goalies who have played for the Marlies this season (from HockeyDB):
Antoine Bibeau: 32 games
Garret Sparks: 30 games
Kasimir Kaskisuo: 6 games
Karri Ramo: 3 games
Jhonas Enroth: 3 games
Jeff Glass: 2 games
I bet you forgot about the Karri Ramo and Jhonas Enroth experiments!
Again, the Marlies have already clinched a playoff spot. Win or lose tonight, they are in the race to win the Calder Cup. There’s nothing but pride on the line tonight... at least for them.
With the North Division standings so tight, tonight’s game against the IceCaps will have a huge impact that ripples across the whole division to other teams as well. There’s a lot of possible outcomes for several teams in division, depending on the results.
Let’s look at some scenarios from the AHL Playoff primer:
St. John’s clinches a playoff berth on Saturday with:
(a) a win vs. Toronto, OR
(b) a Utica regulation loss at Syracuse, OR
(c) an OTL/SOL vs. Toronto AND a Utica OTL/SOL at Syracuse
Utica clinches a playoff berth on Saturday with:
(a) a win at Syracuse AND a St. John’s loss (reg/OT/SO) at Toronto, OR
(b) an OTL/SOL at Syracuse AND a St. John’s regulation loss at Toronto
Let’s break this down a little further:
First and foremost, the IceCaps (Canadiens) really need a win tonight. If they lose in regulation, and Utica wins, they’re done. That also means they are permanently done. The team is packing up and moving to Laval next season. It will be a sad end to AHL hockey in Newfoundland.
However, if they lose in OT, there’s still a chance. It depends on what happens in the Syracuse Crunch (Lightning) vs. Utica Comets (Canucks) game. If the Comets lose in regulation, they IceCaps are in no matter what. If they lose in OT, and the IceCaps win in OT, the tie breaker goes to the IceCaps.
To add to the drama, the games are starting at different times, with the IceCaps game first, and the Comets 60 minutes later. If the IceCaps lose they have to sit and wait to find out their post-season fate in what will be high drama.
There’s still something on the line for the Marlies tonight.
A win means they will be AHL North Division champions. I know, I know, that’s not a big deal, it’s just bragging rights, but, that’s something to savour, at least until the playoffs start. They deserve to give themselves a pat on the back for that.
However, if the Marlies lose, Crunch can snatch that title away from them with a win. The Crunch have been fierce rivals and it was the Crunch’s Jake Dotchin who badly injured Kasperi Kapanen earlier this season. It’s all the more reason to care about the Marlies winning.
Playoff match-ups are also to be decided tonight. If the Marlies win, and Utica loses, the Marlies play the IceCaps in the first round. If the Marlies lose, and the Crunch win, The Marlies will face the Comets in the first round.
Confused yet? I won’t even go into the OT/SO loss possibilities. The point is keep an eye on the Marlies game tonight as it will be a wild end to the AHL regular season.