Photo Credit: Christian Bonin/TSGPhoto.com
Regardless of what happens in the Toronto Marlies’ last week of the season, they’ll finish the season as the AHL’s best team this year and the franchise’s best team in history. In the last three-in-three run of 2015/16, the blue and white picked up five of a possible six points while icing a whole bevy of players.
Toronto opened up the weekend with a nailbiter of a win against the Lake Erie Monsters. While they initially fell behind within the first 90 seconds of the game, it took Connor Brown just six seconds to right the ship again and lead a three-goal run. The game had a scary pause late in the second period when Lake Erie forward Brett Gallant fainted on the bench; he’s since been cleared from hospital and is stable. Still, the Monsters rallied around the incident and ended up tying the game in the third period, but Mark Arcobello eventually played hero to the fans at Ricoh Coliseum.
The Marlies then hopped on a bus and headed to Syracuse to take on the Crunch on Saturday, and had a near-opposite result. Shane Conacher started the game off with his second goal of his pro career just 33 seconds in, but the Crunch responded with a pair of tallies over the next eleven minutes to take the lead. Arcobello struck in this game with his 25th goal of the season playing the role of equalizer, but Toronto eventually fell in a five-round shootout that saw only Joel Vermin defeat his opposing goaltender, who in this case was Kasimir Kaskisuo.
The weekend wrapped up with the league’s least-experienced team taking on the grizzled vets in Albany. While staying ahead of the Devils was no longer in doubt at this point, the Marlies spread the gap even further. Antoine Bibeau put up an obscene 35-save shutout to mask the fact that Toronto was outshot by nearly a 2:1 ratio in the contest, and Eric Faille, Rich Clune, and Zach Hyman all had shots find their way into the back of the net.
Points of Interest
- With the two wins and a shootout loss (their first of the season), Toronto’s record improves to 52-15-5-1 over the season.Their points percentage is now 0.753, not quite enough to hit the 0.769 of the 2009/10 Hershey Bears, but still spectacular.
- Not only have the Marlies clinched first overall, but they’ve also broken a single-season record for most points with 110. They passed the 2007/08 team, which was filled with veterans and non-prospects and played four additional games.
- Toronto’s goal differential has improved to +100, 47 ahead of the Grand Rapids Griffins. There’s nothing record breaking about this to announce, but it’s obscene all the same.
- Something I found very interesting was the player utilization showed by Sheldon Keefe and his staff this weekend. With a long list of players to choose from, the Marlies used 27 skaters this weekend, with only Shane Conacher, Andrew Nielsen, Colin Smith, and Tony Cameranesi playing in every game.
- On the subject of Conacher, he was one of a few ATO players to sign full AHL contracts for the 2016/17 season on Friday. Chase Witala and Mason Marchment also joined in on the action.
- Since they’re coming in on ATOs for the remainder of the year, those three players have the same playoff rights that Leafs draft picks coming from junior have; this means they can play if needed.
- Marchment (2 games, 0 points), Witala (2 games, 0 points), Nielsen (3 games, 1 assist), and Tyler Wong (2 games, 0 points) all played in their first games this weekend.
- A few players had multiple points this weekend; Smith (3 games, 1 goal 2 assists), Mark Arcobello (3 2 games, 2 goals), Brandon Leipsic (2 games, 2 assists), Rich Clune (2 games, 1 goal, 2 assists, and the C on his chest in Andrew Campbell’s interim), and Josh Leivo (2 games, 3 assists) led the way as veterans.
- Both goalies looked pretty solid overall. Kaskisuo stopped 22 of 24 in his game on Saturday with a 4-for-5 effort in the shootout, while Bibeau’s 3rd shutout of the year bumped him to 66 saves on 69 shots between Friday and Sunday.
- Things are about to get a lot more crowded on the roster, as William Nylander, Tobias Lindberg, TJ Brennan, Sam Carrick, Garret Sparks, Frederik Gauthier, and Andrew Campbell all return to the Marlies as of this afternoon.
- The Marlies return to the ice on Wednesday morning, when they take on the Hartford Wolf Pack in the last school day game of the season. Following that, they’ll close the regular seson off with a pair of home games against Rochester on Saturday and Sunday.