The Marlies spent last weekend on one of those long AHL bus ride road trips. It started with a tour of Upstate New York (but not steamed ham country), with a 5-1 win Friday night against the Binghamton Devils, and then a 5-2 win Saturday night against the Syracuse Crunch.
It was a great start to a three-in-three weekend. Unfortunately it all ended on a sour note. On Sunday the Marlies faced the top team in the whole AHL, the Charlotte Checkers, and they lost 5-0. It was a felt like a blow after Friday and Saturday, but winning those four points in the first two games was still a victory.
Since the Checkers are outside the Marlies’ division it took some sting out of the loss. The AHL playoffs are heavily weighted to best-of-division matchups, and the Marlies are still clinging on to a points percentage which might get them in to the playoffs in 2019.
Marlies Lines Sunday
I really don’t want to talk much about a game the Marlies lost 5-0, but I have to note it wasn’t an ugly loss. This wasn’t like the Oilers team losing to the hapless Kings, but there aren’t many highlights I would think of sharing here. Dmytro Timashov had a penalty shot, but posed little challenge to Checkers goalie Alex Nedeljkovic. Over the whole game Nedeljkovic turned away 34 shots on goal. I noted former Stanley Cup Champion Scott Darling was dressed to watch the game as a backup, which seems like an indication of a very dysfunctional goalie situation in Carolina, but it’s not like a Maple Leafs fan can talk to other teams about that right now given the whiplash of up-and-down moves.
As a final note about the Checkers, Martin Necas looked fantastic. The 2017 NHL Draft pick was quick and zippy and on the ball all game. Why he is not up with the Hurricanes who are desperately chasing a playoff wild-card spot is beyond me.
Andreas Borgman has been out with a concussion since December 19. Marlies staff confirmed to me his recovery has progressed to a point he was able to join them on the road trips, and he is participating in practices, though still in a ‘no-contact’ jersey.
Steve Oleksy left Saturday’s game part way through with an undisclosed injury, though he was still second star of the game.
Steve Oleksy earned second star of the game despite not returning after an early game injury. He had the GWG at 19:24 of the first period. It was his second goal with the @TorontoMarlies in 8 games.— Todd Crocker (@HockeyCrock) January 6, 2019
Marlies coach Sheldon Keefe said he still didn’t have any timeline for Oleksy’s return, saying, “You would call it day-to-day at this period.” Oleksy was a former Marlie who was re-acquired back in December for Adam Cracknell.
Pierre Engvall humorously admitted he didn’t see much of the World Juniors because his cable package didn’t include TSN, so he was only able to watch when visiting buddy Carl Grundstrom. This reminds me of way back when Korbinian Holzer was on the Maple Leafs and he noted he didn’t talk much to his parents because it was too expensive on his Rogers phone plan to call back to Germany.
That being said, Engvall was definitely a positive factor for the Marlies in this game. The very tall Swede was surprisingly quick and agile. I checked my notes and sure enough had seen that in the 2018 Calder Cup playoffs, but hadn’t seen much of it since then. On Sunday he was playing with a sense of urgency like it was a playoff game. I noted that about him since the last playoff series. “I just thought Pierre Engvall kind of found his game and was really pushing. I thought he was a dominant player,” said Keefe about Engvall’s effort in the game.
No one mentioned Dmytro Timashov post-game, but despite the penalty shot fail, he looked extremely energetic — just like Engvall, zipping around the ice and showing some great skating abilities.
Finally, Chris Mueller (why hasn’t he been named captain yet) demonstrated his ability and devotion to literally go digging for pucks in the Saturday game.
Mueller picked up his 500th AHL point.
The Marlies face the Utica Comets Wednesday night at Coca-Cola Coliseum at 7:00 p.m.