Abruzzese heating up, Rifai impressing and more: Marlies Weekly
Photo credit:Steven Ellis/DailyFaceoff
By Nick Barden10 months ago
Meet the AHL’s hottest team at the moment: the Toronto Marlies.
Strength is definitely not a problem for a youthful team like this one as they’re currently undefeated since the calendar shifted to 2023, with eight-straight wins, tying a Marlies record.
More importantly, Toronto broke their record for most consecutive road wins in a season, now sitting at 10 after defeating Laval on Saturday.
Let’s discuss this week’s games, beginning with Wednesday’s game against Belleville, which the Marlies won 6-5 in a shootout. Toronto led for a majority of the game but the Senators didn’t give up, scoring two goals in the third period to send it to overtime, and then the shootout.
Marlies captain Logan Shaw was the only scorer in the shootout, giving the Marlies yet another win.
Friday night saw another close game between Toronto and Belleville, though the Marlies just edged the Senators out 4-3. The same occurred on Saturday afternoon in Laval as both teams played incredibly well forcing the shootout. The second for both teams this week.
Again, though, the Marlies found a way to grind it out. Adam Gaudette scored on his attempt and then Shaw, similar to Wednesday, was the player who scored the shootout-winning goal.
It’s been a fascinating season for this Marlies team and it seems like Marlies head coach Greg Moore and Marlies GM Ryan Hardy have really created something special.
“With the amount of young guys that we have, they’re doing a fantastic job of making sure that they’re mentally ready,” Shaw told Marlies play-by-play commentator Todd Crocker on Saturday, “and whether that’s to start a game, start a period or if we get down, they’re still there to fight.”
Nick Abruzzese heating up quick
The 23-year-old didn’t have the fastest start to his first AHL season, but he’s beginning to find his game now.
Abruzzese, in his last four games, has eight points. If you’re looking for a longer stretch, he also has 12 points in past eight games. The 23-year-old is now tied for second in AHL rookie scoring with 31 points in 39 games.
He’s on fire.
“His confidence is at a good place right now,” Moore said of Abruzzese to Crocker on Saturday. “Off that faceoff, it was a heck of a release, I think it really surprised the goalie.
“And then getting that puck in the slot there, in the bumper position on the power play, to get around that and be able to get that off the way he did, and pick his corner, was really impressive. Just his compete and his ability to get pucks back, and his defensive play has really increased lately.”
Marshall Rifai continues to impress
Rifai might not be putting up the points but he’s doing a lot of the things you don’t see which is making him an impressive defender for Toronto.
What makes the 24-year-old a special player is his great skating. Rarely does he lose a foot race or get beat on the outside. The 24-year-old also brings a level of physicality, too, that’s appreciated by the team.
Some say Rifai reminds them of former Maple Leaf, Travis Dermott. Both are great skaters and can move the puck up the ice very well. The 24-year-old has spent a majority of the season as one of the Marlies’ top-four defencemen.
Rifai is continuing to improve, and with more confidence comes better play at the AHL level, which’ll make him and the Marlies an ever-improving team.
Maybe he gets a NHL contract by the Maple Leafs at the end of the season? We’ll have to wait and see.
Erik Kallgren on the up?
It’s been a rough go for Kallgren at the AHL level to say the least. But the good news is, the goaltender could be turning a corner.
The 26-year-old played two games this week, winning both of them in the shootout. His save percentage might not look the best — an .870 through 10 games — but Kallgren is coming up with big saves at big moments in the game when the Marlies need it.
“His skill set lends to being strong in shootouts. He’s a phenomenal skater, he’s really patient.” Moore said to Crocker on Saturday. “He has the personality of just being calm and waiting for the player to make the first move.
“Huge saves in the overtime to get us to the shootout and then a great job shutting the door.”
Kallgren won his two games this week and there might be more where that came from as Toronto heads out west to play Abbotsford and then Manitoba.
Logan Shaw is leading the Marlies in every way
If there’s anyone who’s having a very impressive season, it’s the Marlies captain.
The AHL All-Star has been lights out all year long, yet he somehow continues to up his level of play. Last week, we discussed his five-point night, and well, the 30-year-old followed it up with six points in the three games this week.
With Michael Carcone, the AHL’s current points leader, up in the NHL, Shaw is technically the AHL’s top scorer. His 48 points in 39 games has him four points up over the next best players in Matthew Phillips and Alex Barre-Boulet.
The 30-year-old is leading this Marlies team in every single way possible and I expect that to continue for the rest of this season.
Final note: Joseph Woll — after a win on Friday — continues his winning streak which is now at 11-straight games to start the season.
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