The Toronto Maple Leafs season is long over, but defenseman Jake Gardiner is still playing hockey, helping the Toronto Marlies as they vie for the AHL Championship. Nations’ reporter Andrey Osadcheko spoke recently with Gardiner about the Marlie’s Game Two victory, and what it’s like to be in the AHL post-season.
Obviously the win in Game 2 was big for the Marlies but everybody is focusing on penalty killing as well. Why were you able to kill 9 minor penalties let alone three 5-on3s tonight?
– It’s certainly something special. If we can kill penalties like this the whole run, we can go long way. Obviously we don’t want to take 9 penalties like we did tonight, but if we do and we’re capable of killing them off, it’s a good thing. Not only do you gain offense from them but energy too. Our defensemen work hard for us out there and of course [Ben] Scrivens did a great job as well.
You let a goal early in Game 1 and you did it again in Game 2. What was the difference that let you, as it turned out, score five consecutive goals?
– I think, as a team we just have so much confidence. We don’t let ourselves to let down if we allow a goal early in the game. Like I said, we gain energy from our penalty killing. We had a power play goal tonight, too. That was a great goal by Hammy (Ryan Hamilton). Special teams are huge for us right now.
The Marlies’ powerplay is trying to pick up steam. It must be nice to see one go your way.
– Yeah, it seems like it’s been a while. We had to switch a couple of things up and it worked.
What can you say about your goalie Ben Scrivens play tonight? He was a big reason you’ve managed to kill all those penalties as well.
– He was really solid. He’s been good for us all playoffs so far. He did some nice plays late in the 3rd period, he was really patient with the puck. I was yelling on the ice: ‘Great play, Scrivy!’ He did a lot of great saves and was good with the puck too.
The message from Marlies coach Dallas Eakins is to take one game at a time. However, momentum still exists. It’s nice to have that going on a road for three games. What’s your reaction to that?
– It’s huge. They took one from us a couple of nights ago and we plan to take a few games there.
You were paired with Jesse Blacker in Game 2 of the series. How’s that working out for you?
– It’s great. He’s a great player. Very fast and easy to play with. If you make a mistake, you recover from the other guy. He’s a good puck-mover and he’s also good defensively. I think we help each other out.
Do you feel a little bit like a mentor to him because you played quite a few games in the NHL this season?
– We’re only a year apart so I don’t know about that. I think we kind of learn from each other. I’m still learning too. He watches me, I’m watching him and we learn from each other.
How different is the series against Heat from the previous round where you were up against the Rochester Americans? What differences have you noticed between the teams?
– I think [the Heat] are more systematic. Their playing systems are a lot better than Rochester’s. Americans kind of ran around a lot and these guys tend to sit back. We just need to keep going right at them. And they will make mistakes.
Is it difficult for you to find motivation to play in the AHL. Certainly, you’re in the play-offs and you play for the cup, but at the same time you were just up in The Show.
– The way I saw it, it was kind of a second chance. Obviously nobody liked the way the Leafs season went and wasn’t happy about it, too. I think coming down and playing for the Marlies was a good thing. I’m excited to get it going. We got a good team. We have a good chance to make a run for the cup here.
You recently tweeted that you went to the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert with your teammate Matt Frattin. Whose idea was that?
– Actually, I think it was Kelsey Wilson’s. A bunch of the guys went to watch the concert. It was really cool.
Was it just for fun or was it some kind of a team-bonding event?
– A little bit of both. We had a few days off, so decided to go out and have a night for ourselves. We enjoyed the music and had a great time.
Is this the band you usually listen to?
– Not really. It just kind of was there. I don’t listen to them all that much, but they’re good. It was a good concert. We had a lot of fun.
(photo by Michael Miller)