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The Toronto Marlies are Calder Cup Final bound; defeat Lehigh Valley Phantoms 3-1

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The Marlies sweep the second-best team in the league after sweeping the third-best team in the league.

Marlies celebrate a Game 2 win over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms
Credit: Christian Bonin

The last time the Toronto Marlies lost a game, Lou Lamoriello was the GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The last time the Toronto Marlies lost a game, Brad Marchand hadn’t yet licked Ryan Callahan. The last time the Toronto Marlies lost a game, Brian Burke was still with the Calgary Flames.

The Marlies have their first nine-game winning streak in the playoffs in franchise history after defeating the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on the road by a score of 3-1, sweeping them out of the playoffs in four games. It’s not like they’ve done this against scrubs, the two teams the Marlies swept, the Syracuse Crunch and Lehigh Valley Phantoms, were second and third in the league in terms of points this season. And they swept them. Four straight wins. Zero losses. What an incredible team Kyle Dubas has put together.

The Team

Forwards

Andreas Johnsson - Miro Aaltonen - Carl Grundstrom

Dmytro Timashov - Chris Mueller - Ben Smith

Pierre Engvall - Frederik Gauthier - Colin Greening

Mason Marchment - Adam Brooks - Trevor Moore

Defense

Travis Dermott - Timothy Liljegren

Martin Marincin - Justin Holl

Calle Rosen - Vincent LoVerde

Garret Sparks got the start once again. Why do I even bother with these, we all know what the lineup is and there hasn’t been a need to change it since game fi- you know what, we don’t need to even mention it. Oh, well, I guess it’s important to say that Calvin Pickard has gotten over his illness and served as the backup.

The Game

First Period

In an eerily similar way to the Syracuse Crunch series, after getting run out of their own building in game three, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms come out for the first period of Game 4 with a significant amount more vigour. They’ve come out in their black jerseys, carrying a more physical forecheck and dirtier plays all around.

The Marlies generally don’t play this way, but apparently Marchment missed the memo, as he is one of the few Marlies to respond with a big hit of his own in the early goings.

The Marlies have struggled to get any dangerous offensive chances for the majority of the first period beyond what the first line has been able to produce. This isn’t all bad, as the top trio leading the way for the Marlies has been a key factor in the success of this team. Johnsson, Aaltonen and Grundstrom as a trio have scored the first goal of the game in two of the three games against Lehigh Valley (all wins).

After One

After weathering a storm early in the first period, the Marlies settled into their game, finishing the period leading in shots 9-4. They also drew a penalty that gave the Marlies some great zone time.

Second Period

1-0

The power play assistance continued for the Marlies as the second period got going. First Lehigh Valley took a too many men penalty at 19:02, then 1:19 later, Reece Wilcox took a slashing penalty. Before the 41-second 5-on-3 power play for the Marlies could expire, Johnsson would receive a cross-crease pass from Mueller before one-timing the games opening goal home.

Johnsson would pay an unexpected price for his tally when Travis Sanheim cross-checked Johnsson hard into the chest as he celebrated his goal. Grundstrom rushed to his Swedish linemate’s defense as a scrum formed. Sanheim would not receive a penalty for his antics, surprisingly.

Despite the 3-0 series lead, and 12-5 score-line heading into tonight, Phantoms goaltender Alex Lyon has game-stealing capabilities. He showed off that game-stealing ability when he made a Save of the Year candidate on Greening when the big Toronto winger grabbed a fortuitous bounce in the offensive zone.

1-1

With Engvall in the box after taking a tough slashing penalty, the Marlies give up a power play goal to Sanheim to tie the game. Goalie Sparks got caught wandering too far to his right side, and couldn’t get back in time to take away any bit of the wide open net he left behind.

After Two

That power play goal was great, but the power play goal against kinda stunk. The Phantoms had a much better second period, tying the Marlies at nine in shots for the frame, but should be trailing heading into the final 20 minutes. At least the Marlies head into the third only tied.

Third Period

2-1

Andreas “It’s a joke they let me play in this league” Johnsson kicks off the third period by doing what he’s always done for the Marlies in the playoffs: lead. Johnsson grabs the puck from Aaltonen from along the boards, jumps towards the goal line before cutting back through a Phantom defender (he was invisible on the play, geddit) and snapping a bullet up and over Lyon. A scary — yet beautiful — NHL-calibre goal from a seventh-round pick in 2013.

The Marlies then decide to do what they always do best, and that is keep pounding the puck in the offensive zone despite having a lead in the third period. They out-shoot the Phantoms 10-5 for a large part of the third period, whittling the clock all the way down to two minutes before Lehigh Valley empties their net for the extra attacker.

3-1

T. Moore, arguably the most underrated forward on this stacked team, slams the final nail in Lehigh Valley’s coffin when he shoots home the series clinching goal from his own blueline. Moore nearly scored seconds before when his team had the puck in the offensive zone, but decided to bail and “get on the right side of the puck” defensively instead. Mike Babcock would be proud as he would still get rewarded with the goal.

And with that, the Toronto Marlies close out yet another series win, another sweep!

Looking ahead, the Texas Stars are currently leading Cody Franson and the Rockford Ice Hogs 3-1 in their series, but Rockford has a lead heading into the third period of their game at the time of the conclusion of the Marlies game. If the series goes seven games, the Marlies could have a break until at least Wednesday, May 30th. If it ends tonight, the final could start on Monday. Either way, the Marlies will get a few extra days off before kicking off the Championship series at home.