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Marlies Sweep Crunch, Advance to Eastern Conference Finals

For the second time in the last three years, the Toronto Marlies will be advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals.

They’ve reached the third round in quick fashion, with it only taking them nine games to advance from round two, and their 7-2 record through the first two rounds speaks to their dominance during that span.

It only took them five games to knock out the Utica Comets in round one. And then in round two, the Marlies converted on their first four games, winning them all–and putting a swift end to Syracuse’s season.

Seeing the Marlies advance to the conference finals, so quickly, is attributed to a variety of factors.

Let’s dive into them.

Goaltending

As usual, Garret Sparks stole the show for the Marlies.

But alike last series, we also saw a cameo from backup goaltender Calvin Pickard, in round two. After standing on his head for the Marlies in game one, and game two (for which he logged 94:58 TOI in the team’s 2OT thriller), Garret Sparks was given a rest for game three.

Pickard came in and held his ground, saving 18 of 19 shots and occupying the pipes for the team’s commanding 7-1 lead.

Having someone like Pickard, who is of starting-calibre in the AHL, came in handy for the Marlies, big time. Having Pickard in the fold allowed them to have a healthy Sparks for game four, which turned out to be the deciding game in this series.

Recently-added star-power

The Leafs decision to return Andreas Johnsson and Travis Dermott, for one last Calder Cup run with the Leafs’ affiliate before next years inevitable start to their NHL careers, has payed dividends for the Marlies.

Andreas Johnson has recorded eight points through five playoff contests and he’s helped make the Marlies first line a dominant force. The Marlies first line, Andreas Johnsson-Miro Aaltonen-Carl Grundstrom,  could certainly pass as a third or fourth line, at the NHL level. They each ooze of NHL potential, and they’ve each had a very impressive postseason with the Marlies.

Travis Dermott, on the other hand, may not be producing that much offence (with two points in five games), but having one of the organizations best defenders playing down with the Marlies–has been a huge plus, as he’s taken some tough assignments,

Plus let’s not forget about Grundstrom, who has recorded six points through nine playoff games, while showing that he could very well crack the Leafs roster, come next fall’s training camp.

Determined Depth Players

As well as the Marlies big-name players have done,  the unheralded heros- Trevor Moore, Dmytro Timashov  Pierre Engvall and Frederik Gauthier- have put up big-time performances in big-time moments.

Trevor Moore, who’s nine points through nine games places him tied for first in AHL playoff scoring, has come up big, despite playing on the team’s “fourth line,” with Adam Brooks and Mason Marchment. Personally, I’m a big fan of Moore, and for him to have this kind of playoff outing is further proof that he could be a diamond in the rough amongst the team’s coveted prospects. He reminds me a lot of Zach Hyman. He is a good penalty killer, a good forechecker and at the AHL level, he can produce offence. Down the road, don’t be surprised if he cracks the Leafs bottom-six.

Dmytro Timashov has come alive these playoffs. With seven points through nine contests, while skating on the team’s second line alongside Chris Mueller and Ben Smith, Timashov has complimented the team’s top-six quite nicely, and if he carries this momentum through to next season–be it with the Leafs, or if they trade him, elsewhere—he could become a consistent top-six weapon, at the AHL level.

The team’s third line of Pierre Engvall-Frederik Gauthier-Colin Greening has been fantastic. Greening, as usual, has played well while cycling the puck, and as usual, has done a great job of keeping the puck in the offensive zone. Alongside him has been Engvall and Gauthier. Engvall continues to tear it up at the AHL-level, no matter what capacity he’s put in, and he’s recorded seven points through nine games. Gauthier, who scored the 2OT winner in game two, has seen an improvement in his offensive production, with seven points of his own, through nine games.

Who’s up next?

The Marlies will play either the Charlotte Checkers, or the Leigh Valley Phantoms in the conference finals. The Phantoms currently lead 2-1 in that series, and it’s safe to say the Marlies will have a lot of time to rest up, re-group, and prepare for the conference finals.

 

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