The Toronto Marlies have officially clinched a spot in this season’s Calder Cup Playoffs. It didn’t take the Marlies quite as long as the Leafs to finally get the ‘X’ beside their spot in the standings, but it was still long enough for Coach Sheldon Keefe to show some frustration with his team.
Keefe was quite blunt about his team’s performance after their 3-0 loss last week to the Hershey Bears, saying “It’s game 71. We’re a team that has still not secured itself a playoff position. The way we played today, we looked like a team that doesn’t want anything to do with the playoffs.”
That all changed the next day with a big win against the Utica Comets where they finally clinched their playoff spot. For the record, it was a shorthanded goal by Adam Brooks which sealed the deal. This was his 20th goal of the season.
The Marlies spent much of the final months of last season on top of the entire league standings. It sure helped having players on the roster like Travis Dermott, Trevor Moore, Andreas Johnsson, Kasperi Kapanen, and Frederik Gauthier, all of whom appeared in last night’s Maple Leafs playoffs win against the Bruins.
This Marlies season has certainly had some ups and downs.
The arrival of the Leafs 2018 first-round NHL Draft pick Rasmus Sandin has been a success, as has the evolution of fellow Swedes Timothy Liljegren and Pierre Engvall on the team.
Not enough can be said about Jeremy Bracco stepping up as a play-maker to a point he is usually ranked number one for assists in the entire AHL this season (at the time of writing he’s one behind T.J. Tynan of the Chicago Wolves.) He was recently awarded for this accomplishment with inclusion on the AHL First All-Star Team.
Also, we shouldn’t miss that Bracco has scored 21 goals of his own this season.
This Marlies season was also marked with adversity. If you watch post-game pressers for any NHL team these days you’ll know that’s a very fashionable term for hockey organizations to throw around. It’s sometimes used to describe anything which would give even a minor disadvantage to a team.
By all accounts, The Marlies have faced the reality of adversity far above any other season in recent memory. Injuries struck the defence corps hard and fast, with all of Liljegren, Rosen, Borgman, and Sandin spending time out from the game; all at the same time for a brief stretch of games. Forwards Marchment, Brooks, Greening, and Mueller also missed time this season. Marchment in particular was out with broken collar bone at a time when the team was getting desperate to lock down a playoff spot. The Marlies also lost Carl Grundstrom in the trade that brought Jake Muzzin to Toronto, and goalie Calvin Pickard who was claimed off waivers.
It was a long season, but, with those obstacles now overcome, the Marlies are headed to the playoffs, but they still have to close out their regular season with two games this weekend. The first is set for 4:00 p.m. on Saturday against the Belleville Senators, and the second at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday against the Cleveland Monsters. Sunday’s game will be the traditional Fan Appreciation Night.
The AHL Calder Cup Playoff schedule will be released a few days after the last games wrap up this weekend. The Central Division is being a pain in the butt with only one team yet to actually clinch one of the four playoff spots. Here in the North Division, the last spot is still up for grabs between the Senators and Monsters, but we know for sure the Marlies will play the Rochester Americans and the other Nylander. The Amerks will have the home-ice advantage, so playoff games will start in Rochester, though the AHL has changed up the normal game sequence to accommodate team and venue owner requests before, so don’t start making travel plans quite yet.
In any case, this is the last weekend before MARLIES PLAYOFFS!!!!11!!!