The Toronto Marlies have eight games left in their regular season as they fight their way toward a spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
We’ve previously looked at how the AHL will select and seed teams for the Calder Cup Playoffs format recently, but the important aspect of that process right now is that the playoff teams are selected and sorted by division only, there’s no Wild Card format like in the NHL, and in the Marlies’ North Division the battle to get those playoff spots is extremely tight, with no guarantees now which team will wind up on the outside looking in.
Let’s start with an update on the standings as of Thursday night.
The top five teams in the North Division will make it to the playoffs, and you can see immediately that while the Utica Comets have locked in the top spot and already clinched, and the Cleveland Monsters are all but eliminated already, the rest of the standings are really tight.
The Comets being the first to clinch is no surprise. Now affiliates of the New Jersey Devils—previously the Vancouver Canucks who finally moved their team closer to home in Abbotsford, BC—they won the first thirteen games straight of their season, setting an AHL record in the process.
Behind the Comets in the standings is a big mushy middle of teams with similar records by points percentage which fluctuates with each game. This is a nail-biting time where it’s entirely possible that the final playoff slot may not be decided until the very last game of the regular season.
As of now, the Marlies sit well positioned at fourth in the division, but the top three teams get to bypass a play-in round which is a scary best-of-three format where anything can happen, plus the winner of that series will probably face the Comets for the following round; that team previously mentioned which won 13 games in a row to start this season, so there is a great incentive for the Marlies to rise up the standings to third place or better to skip all that completely.
The second and third rounds of the playoffs are now best-of-five, with only the conference finals and Calder Cup Finals being best-of-seven this season.
New Faces and Goalies
The Marlies have added several new members in the past month with the first and easily most anticipated around these parts being Dmitri Ovchinnikov who has made a Fantastic Debuted.
Really nice to see #LeafsForever prospect Dmitri Ovchinnikov sniping goals like this. Been a bit of a rough year for him in Russia, now he's getting good playing time on the Marlies against healthy competition for him. https://t.co/8MXMHNCkEr— Mr. Knies Guy (@brigstew86) April 9, 2022
Several more players have joined the team in recent weeks, including some notable arrivals from the NCAA.
Slaggert spoke after the game on Sunday about his choice the join the Marlies, and join two of his former teammates from Notre Dame, Alex Steeves and Max Ellis.
As for the goalies, the Marlies have relied on Michael Hutchinson for the past few games, with Billy Christopoulos making a start too. Christopoulos was on loan to the Marlies while Joseph Woll has sat out injured, and Erik Källgren remains called up to the Leafs because of the alternating injuries of Petr Mrázek and Jack Campbell. Christopoulos has now been released from the team.
Don’t ask me about where Ian Scott is or his status now because I have no idea, and at this point I feel we should probably not ask and leave his privacy respected on that as obviously there is a continuing health issue beyond his recovery from the hip surgery that was disclosed in late 2019.
The Marlies Remaining Schedule
If you want to watch the Marlies play out the rest of the season, your options to see them live in Toronto are limited as only two of the final eight games will be played in Toronto. The first is today, Good Friday at 7:00 p.m. against the Hartford Wolf Pack, which is the Marlies only game left against a team from outside the North Division. The other remaining home game is on Sunday April 24 against the Belleville Senators; one of the games critical for the standings. All six other games remaining on the schedule played are on the road; one in Syracuse, two in Belleville, and three in Laval.
It’s a packed schedule through April 30, with a total of eight games in 16 days. At this point, all we know is that nothing about the playoffs is certain, and every one of these games is crucial for placement in the division standings, which is all the more reason to go and see the Marlies now. Like the Leafs, tickets are available and fans are welcome back at the Coliseum at Exhibition Place. Given the tight standings, playoff schedules and ticket sales will probably not be confirmed or available until the very last days of April, or even the first few days of May.