Marlies Weekly: A strong start from Nick Robertson as injuries take an early toll
Photo credit:(Photo by Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff)
By Bennett Jull1 month ago
The Toronto Marlies opened up the 2023-24 season last weekend with back-to-back home games. They took three out of a possible four points and we saw some standout performances. The lineup was different both nights and will continue to look different going into back-to-back home games once again today and tomorrow.
In their first game of the season, the Marlies hosted Rochester. They started off well and amassed a 4-1 lead going into the third period. Unfortunately, the wheels came off, and they gave up four straight goals, including the overtime winner. There were some impressive performances, and although they didn’t pick up both points, the Marlies controlled the game for large portions.
Logan Shaw led the way on opening night recording two goals and two assists. Three of his four points came on the powerplay, where Toronto looked lethal. He wasn’t the only Marlies forward that had an impressive night, as Bobby McMann put up three points, and Nick Robertson had a couple of assists.
Marshall Rifai took exception to a questionable hit to the head of Josiah Slavin and managed to earn 17 penalty minutes on a single play. That type of thing can go a long way, and I’m sure the Marlies were happy that Rifai stood up for his teammate. Speaking of good teammates, Joseph Blandisi missed this game. He may have been still feeling the effects of his preseason injury, or perhaps the Marlies had to account for the AHL veteran rule. Regardless, his presence was sorely missed, and the Marlies were certainly happy to get him back in the lineup for their game the next day.
On Sunday they hosted a strong Utica Comets team, with numerous first-round draft picks including lottery picks. Utica dressed a familiar face in the net, as Erik Kallgren manned the pipes for the Comets in his return to Toronto. Kallgren didn’t fare too well, as the Marlies jumped out to two goals in two minutes, and four goals in the first period, and he was subsequently chased.
The aforementioned Blandisi had a strong impact on the game, with two primary assists that earned him the team belt in the locker room after the match. The first assist was one of the prettiest setups you’ll see and the assistant captain showed why he is imperative to this team’s success.
The only Marlie to eclipse Blandisi’s strong performance was none other than Nick Robertson. Robertson had two goals and an assist, which gives him five points through two games. Alex Steeves also chipped in with a pair of assists, and he certainly looked strong in game two of the opening weekend. Martin Jones was steady in net, and overall the Marlies controlled the game rather well.
Pontus Holmberg had a goal and an assist, and his steady/consistent play through the first two games clearly appealed to the Maple Leaf’s brass. Holmberg has been called up and looks set to make his season debut tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Sunshine State.
Roni Hirvonen took a stick to the eye on Sunday, and while it appears he’s dodged a long-term major injury, he won’t feature for the Marlies later today. He was rushed to the hospital following Sunday’s game, and we wish him a full recovery. Kyle Clifford received a game misconduct following a 1st-period fight, making it back-to-back games with fighting majors/misconducts for the Marlies.
Starting later today the Baby Leafs host back-to-back home games versus the Charlotte Checkers. With both Hirvonen, Holmberg and possibly Bobby McMann (day-to-day) missing, I’m looking forward to seeing which forwards get an opportunity. Both Martin Jones and Keith Petrzuzelli have made their debuts, and this weekend might be the perfect time to give Dennis Hildeby his first start of the season.
Another Saturday is upon us. Fortunately, both the Maple Leafs and Marlies play today, and the Marlies have another again tomorrow. Let’s hope both squads play well, and nobody gets hurt. I’ll be watching to see if there are any debuts in the Marlies lineup, and I’m very excited to see Holmberg play in the NHL again.
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