Toronto ends regular season on high note with goals from key players: Marlies Weekly
Photo credit:Christian Bonin / TSGphoto.com
By Nick Barden7 months ago
A disastrous game for the Toronto Marlies on Saturday was followed up by a confidence-boosting win the next afternoon as the team now looks ahead to the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Game 71 of the season was a 7-2 loss to the Belleville Senators, Toronto’s 11th defeat in their last 12 games.
Following the game, a visibly frustrated head coach Greg Moore said the team lacked “passion,” and needed “more care for wearing the sweater.”
“I know this team’s frustrated and I know that they care,” Moore said, passionately, “but they just gotta start showing it. They gotta stop talking it and just do it.”
The message was sent on Saturday, and coming into Sunday — although they’re the top team in the North Division and have already clinched a playoff spot — it still felt like there was a lot on the line.
And the team treated it as so.
The first period concluded following a huge power play goal with 11 seconds left scored by Joseph Blandisi, who’s playing in his third game since missing nearly a month with an injury.
There were a lot of goals in this game, but there were a hell of a lot more penalties. Both teams combined for 103 penalty minutes, with six 10-minute misconducts being handed out.
Nearly halfway through the second period, Marshall Rifai took a hooking penalty, giving Belleville a chance to get back in the game.
Instead, it only pushed the Marlies further ahead.
Marc Johnstone started the shorthanded scoring, beating Jorian Donovan to the puck before finishing it on the breakaway.
His 9th goal of the season showcased the character and determination that the 26-year-old has brought to this Marlies team all season long.
“(I) finally scored on a breakaway, it took 72 games, so it feels pretty good.” Johnstone said with a smile after the game.
“It’s pretty fitting that he’s the one to score that end-to-end goal on the penalty kill at the end of the season.” Said Blandisi.
Speaking of Blandisi, he followed up the 26-year-old’s goal with a shorthanded goal of his own. One that also featured Johnstone, who tallied a secondary assist.
That was Blandisi’s 15th goal of the year as he finishes the regular season with a career high in goals, assists, and games played.
Both goals from Blandisi define what he means to this Marlies team; an important leader who brings a ton of heart and energy.
“From a human element, it’s a personality and a voice that we were missing, energy that we were missing.” Moore said of Blandisi.
“He’s obviously a (alternate) captain and leader of our group, and also he demonstrates that on the ice with how passionate he is, how competitive he is.
“He gets under the skin of other opponents, he’s hard to play against, and then he makes some really good plays with the puck as you saw tonight.”
Going back to Johnstone, he finishes off the regular season with nine goals and 13 assists in 69 games — a career high in his professional career. Throughout the year, Moore has praised the 26-year-old’s play, even calling him one of the Marlies’ “most consistent players this season” on Sunday.
“He’s a champion.” Moore said earnestly of Johnstone. “He’s the type of player that you need to win championships.
“He does anything and everything for the team. Every decision he makes on and off the ice is for the team. He’s one of the most selfless people that we have in the room.”
Also scoring goals on Sunday were Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, Nick Abruzzese, and Alex Steeves. The goal for Steeves, in particular, was only his second goal in the last 22 games.
That could be a confidence booster for him as the Marlies approach the playoffs.
“He’s certainly been on my mind,” said Moore discussing Steeves’ goal scoring.
“He’s been an offensive guy for us for two seasons now and you’re always trying to get your offensive players feeling confident. and feeling the back of the net, so I was trying a lot of line juggling and putting him in different scenarios to try and spark that for him.
“I’m glad he felt the back of the net today and he can carry that into the playoffs.”
Toronto finishes the regular season atop the AHL’s North Division with a 42-24-4-2 record. With where they’ve finished in the standings, the Marlies have a first-round bye as they await one of Laval or Utica in the second round.
Their playoffs will begin on April 27th inside Coca-Cola Coliseum at 7PM. Toronto will play two home games before travelling to the away side’s building for two games, if necessary.
It’ll be a lot of fun in Toronto with both the city’s NHL and AHL teams headed to the postseason.
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