After a rough 5-2 loss Wednesday, the Toronto Marlies still sit with a 2-1 game advantage over the Utica Comets. Game three wasn’t pretty. The Comets scored three goals against the Marlies in the first period alone. Garret Sparks was pulled after only 14 minutes in the game and replaced with Calvin Pickard. Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe said it was more about protecting Sparks after letting in three goals on three shots, saying, “I’m not gonna fault him on any of the goals, but I had to make a decision there.”
Indeed, Sparks didn’t deserve the blame for those goals. You can see here one allowed goal was the result of a clearing attempt by Justin Holl that goes horribly wrong.
.@ColeCassels19 picks off a pass and makes no mistake on the breakaway to extend the lead to 3-0!#EmbraceTheChase #TORvsUTI pic.twitter.com/Q3XsJ5Y89J— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) April 25, 2018
Sparks worked hard to earn the first two wins of the series over last weekend, but it did seem unusual he would start again in a third game so soon, especially on a road trip. However, it is the playoffs, and that’s the kind of thing coach tries out. Obviously, it didn’t work out this time.
The Marlies have no reason to panic, though. They have another two games to get a win and move on to the second round. Their next game is Friday at 7:00 PM in Utica.
Now that the Maple Leafs are eliminated it allows certain players who were with the AHL team for the season but called up to the big club recently to return and join them in their playoff run. Specifically, Travis Dermott, Andreas Johnsson, and Kasperi Kapanen are all eligible to return.
Note that it’s up to the Leafs to assign these players to the AHL to join the Marlies. It’s always possible for circumstances to arise in which they choose not to do that. The first is injury. Now is the time where we hear about injuries to players they have played through and now require surgery or, simply, rest.
Johnsson was a participant in the AHL All-Star game this season and he made the AHL’s first All-Star team. He earned 54 points in 54 games played with his tenacity on the puck and drive to make plays like in this video of a goal in February.
Having even just Johnsson back would be a tremendous boost to the team, never mind Kapanen and Dermott coming with him.
With the next game on Friday night, I suppose it’s possible for the Leafs to turn around and assign players to the Marlies in Utica that quickly, though more likely they will let them have a breather for another day after the heartbreaking loss in game seven.