The Toronto Marlies regular season ended with a bang. The team played through a three-in-three series over the weekend with home and away games against the Laval Rocket, and their final game Sunday against the Belleville Senators.
The Marlies have already sealed first place in the league and home-ice advantage for the playoffs, but they still showed up to win all three games against some division rivals, neither of which will advance to the playoffs.
As is normal at the end of an AHL season the Marlies have brought in recent Maple Leafs draft picks from the NCAA, Europe, the CHL, and even some players on try-out contracts to be well prepared for a long Calder Cup Playoffs run.
The Marlies blew past the Rocket on Friday evening in Laval, and it didn’t take much work. The Rocket sit as the worst team in the AHL, ending their season with only 24 wins in 76 games. That terrible record comes despite having this season’s AHL scoring leader Chris Terry on their roster. Terry is one of those odd hockey players who never break into the NHL, despite huge success in the AHL. Drafted in 2007 he has been a consistent PPG average player in the AHL every season, but has managed only 152 NHL games in ten years.
Trevor Moore - Miro Aaltonen - Carl Grundstrom
Dmytro Timashov - Joshua Winquist - Kyle Baun
Rich Clune - Derian Plouffe - Scott Pooley
Erik Bradford - Brady Ferguson - Kristian Pospisil
Calle Rosen - Jesper Lindgren
Andreas Borgman - Vincent LoVerde
Andrew Nielsen - Jeff King
The Marlies started Calvin Pickard in net.
It’s the time of season where there’s an influx of players on ATO’s and it causes the lineups to change a lot, however the Moore-Aaltonen-Grundstrom line did stick together from the Friday game against Laval while all the others were changed. I would not be surprised to see that line featured prominently in the playoffs.
The Rocket picked up the first goal of the game, only two minutes in, setting a tone that didn’t look great for the Marlies. Pickard did look calm under pressure in net, despite letting in the first goal.
It was Pospisil who responded for the Marlies with some persistence in front of the net.
You may recall Pospisil from the Maple Leafs training camp in the fall. The undrafted, 21-year-old Slovakian turned heads with an impressive performance. He wound up signed to a two-way AHL contract and played for the Solar Bears most of this season where he earned 26 points in 51 games. His recall is for the whole playoffs so, expect to see more from him.
Pospisil wasn’t the only new Marlie making a good impression in this game. Pooley and Plouffe were great at setting up each other in front of the net. They do need to work on being ready to get rebounds from each other and not let those become a turnover and a rush by the other team.
Andrew Nielsen had some offence in this game, interestingly playing lower on the attack and the power play than at his normal spot by the blue line.
The Rocket tied up the game late in the first period with a goal by Beauvillier.
Aaltonen opened the scoring quickly in the second period, though it wasn’t close to his first good chance. Only three minutes into the first period Grundstrom moved the puck back behind him along the boards to Aaltonen who was waiting in the slot and got off a great shot.
Seriously. Watch that again. Did the Rocket even care that Aaltonen was there? Grundstrom is being backchecked by McCarron who simply gives up. Literally. He gives up and lets Grundstrom take control of the puck to go behind the net and do whatever he wants.
Adam Cracknell is a few steps behind Grundstrom and could have moved across to meet Aaltonen in front of the net, but instead decided “Meh, why bother? Lernout is there.”
Lernout decided to stand and do absolutely nothing.
If that play didn’t work out it’s not like the Marlies would have had much trouble from the Rocket defence recovering the puck. Aside from Lernout there’s only our old buddy Rinat Valiev on the other side of the net who is clearly in IDGAF mode covering absolutely no one. I hope those two NHL games were worth the demand to be traded!
Kyle Baun sure didn’t mind further embarrassing his old comrades by laying out Thomas Ebbing hard to give the Marlies some momentum.
The Lindgren-Borgman pairing didn’t seem to work out too well. They ceded the zone to the Rocket a lot, and let the play blow past them on several occasions.
The Rocket picked up a tying goal to end the second period.
However, the third period was all Marlies. They scored three goals in a row over only seven minutes.
The first was by Timashov, his 13th goal of the season.
Only 49 seconds later Erik Bradford added another.
Erik Bradford has played for the Solar Bears and the Marlies in the past. He has since bounced around the ECHL and this was perhaps a one off favour to the Orangeville native. He has since been released from his try-out contract.
Aaltonen added a third goal in the period to put the Marlies up 5-2.
Unfortunately, he didn’t get the hat trick, but Trevor Moore did seal the win with an empty net goal at the end of the game just before the Rocket countered with one more.
The Rocket finished their season with an embarrassing twelve straight loses.
Mason Marchment - Adam Brooks - Jeremy Bracco
Pierre Engvall - Frederik Gauthier - Kyle Baun
Rich Clune - Derian Plouffe - Scott Pooley
Josh Winquist - Brady Ferguson - Kristian Pospisil
Justin Holl - Jesper Lindgren
Martin Marincin - Timothy Liljegren
Andrew Nielsen - Jeff King
Ian Scott made his AHL and pro-hockey debut for the Toronto Marlies. The 19-year-old fourth-round pick in 2017 had a .897 save percentage in 50 games with the 32-27-9-4 Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL. His 1287 saves in 1435 shots against is 11th in the WHL in both categories.
13:20 into Scott’s AHL career, Holl gives the puck away in his own zone and allows Daniel Ciampini to beat Scott through the five-hole. the goal is unassisted and put the Marlies, who had been dominating the play up until that point, down in the first.
An offensive-zone faceoff win by fourth-line center Ferguson allows Nielsen to sift a point shot through the maze of bodies and past Senators goalie Filip Gustavsson. This was Nielsen’s sixth goal of the season and Ferguson’s fourth point in five games.
With Eric Selleck in the box for all the chaos he caused at 16:31, Pierre Engvall wires a shot past Gustavsson, breaking the water bottle behind the net! With the way the bottles are now held behind the center post of the net, seeing a nice celebratory spray of water following the goal was cool to see. Liljegren and Bracco get the assists on the PPG.
From the beginning of the game, Eric Selleck has been looking for a fight. He nearly gets his chance when Nielsen blows him up along the boards but Macoy Erkamps was the only player who received a penalty on the play.
As the period goes on the Belleville Senators are hacking and slashing away at the Marlies after whistles, looking for fights. At 16:31 they finally got their chance.
The second period of the MArlies vs. Senators is about to begin, though without Rich Clune, Eric Selleck, and Mike Blunden. pic.twitter.com/q5dDkaYQ5A— Pension Plan Puppets (@PPPLeafs) April 15, 2018
Ferguson hits Selleck almost into his own bench right at center ice. This draws a big crowd wherein Selleck and Mike Blunden both lose their, as Fulemin says, shit. They go after the Marlies, who crowd in front of their own bench, but fail to keep them out as Clune gets involved in the fray.
For his involvement, Clune receives an infraction reminiscent of the David Clarkson era: “fighting off the playing surface” which isn’t a 10-game suspension (I think) but is a 10-minute misconduct.
At the end of the day, Selleck, Blunden and Clune all get to take an early shower and the two Senators get to end their season on a
high brown note.
As the game progressed, the Senators decided it would be in their best interest to go after the Marlies’ young players. Liljegren, Bracco, Marchment, Brooks, and Pooley all would receive a hoard of tiny hooks and slashes and slew foots for the rest of the “game.”
The Senators held a slight lead in shots (11-10) after one period, which makes sense considering the Marlies have shown no interest in actually trying. Three players have been kicked out and I am actively looking for the “Sim Game” button.
All things considered, Ian Scott has had a decent AHL debut and he almost put a stamp on it when he made a toe save on Andrew Sturtz a few minutes into the second period. The play continued and Winquist takes a hooking penalty. The referees then go into the penalty box and announce that they are reviewing the Scott save to see if it crossed the line. After a lengthy review it is determined the puck crossed the goal line and the Senators have tied the game meaning the clock gets moved back 17:37 and the Winquist penalty gets erased.
This isn’t the
save goal that made it 2-2, but throughout the game, Scott has shown good movement and an active stick. He likes to stick-handle the puck behind the net and his poke-checks have been relatively effective.
At that point in the game the Senators were leading 10-17 in shots, but with the help of two power plays, the Marlies come back in the shot column and score another go-ahead goal on the power play.
The Marlies power play had been pretty sub-par for the majority of the season but lately it’s become one of the few ways that they can score. After some good work along the boards by Engvall, Marchment feeds Brooks from behind the net into the slot for a quick shot that beats Gustavsson.
The Marlies younger power play players, namely Brooks, Liljegren, Bracco, Marchment, and Engvall has been very impressive in the back half of the season. It will take them some time to be able to do the same at even-strength but it’s coming.
After brief stretch of play where the Senators were dominating in shots, the Marlies come crawling back and bring the shot differential to a respectable 24-27. No one has died, which is good to see.
Early in the third Nick Paul scores for the Senators on their 28th shot on net. They seem much more excited than anyone on the Marlies are. Ahh, I remember when the little things like that were such big achievements.
With less than three minutes left in the game, the Marlies are pushing hard to finish the game in regulation. The kid line comes onto the ice and is simply too much for the Senators to handle. Bracco, Brooks, and Holl all get chances at rebounds before a Belleville stick could get close, and on the third chance, Bracco ends the game with a bank shot off the goalie’s back for the game-winning goal!
After The Whistle
In a game where you’re playing a team with nothing to gain and nothing to lose with a roster just hoping to get out of the building alive, there are few areas where players or lines are able to shine. However, teenage goaltender Ian Scott had one such afternoon after making his AHL debut and stopping 30 of 33 shots for his first career win.
“I thought he was terrific,” said head coach Sheldon Keefe after the game. “It’s a difficult circumstance for a goalie to come in a game like this when you have a lot of our regulars not playing. We looked like a team that hasn’t practiced together. That’s tough on a goaltender, but I thought he was excellent. He looked confident to me, made a lot of great saves, and had to battle right to the end.”
While it is true that most of the lines looked like they had the cohesiveness of wet sellotape, the first line of Marchment-Brooks-Bracco played well in all three zones whenever they didn’t have to protect themselves from the barbarians that are the Belleville Senators.
When asked about the “chaoticness” of the game and if it was opponent specific, Keefe agreed, saying “yeah, I was expecting a pretty chaotic game, it’s how they’ve been all season.” At least now those 12 meetings are over and we can all move on to the playoffs.
The Marlies begin their Calder Cup Playoffs journey against the Utica Comets this weekend with games on Saturday and Sunday, both at 4PM. Remember the first round of the AHL playoffs is a best of FIVE series, not best of seven.
Every game counts and anything can happen.