‘We’re a damn good hockey team’: Marlies set for third-round matchup against Rochester Americans
Photo credit:Thomas Skrlj/Toronto Marlies
By Nick Barden14 days ago
The Toronto Marlies dunked their foot into the playoffs nearly two weeks ago, and now they’re ready for the next challenge that’s coming their way.
After a 7-2 loss in Game 2 against the Utica Comets, it looked as though Toronto might not be ready to swim to the deep-end. But two-straight wins in New York proved that they’re not only prepared, they’re primed for whatever challenge comes at them.
Next up is the Rochester Americans, who Toronto will face in a five-game series for the AHL’s North Division crown.
“There’s a big focus on, really, what we’re doing,” Marlies head coach Greg Moore said ahead of Game 1 on Thursday, “and making sure our players, which I feel in the room have really bought into what it takes to win in the playoffs.”
Toronto has been a team where all season they’ve done what it takes to win. Aside from a blip towards the end of the year, the Marlies have been one of the AHL’s best clubs all season long.
What stood out most about their first series was how every player stepped up. There wasn’t a single person who didn’t contribute throughout the four games against Utica.
It was a full team effort.
“That’s what you want,” said Marlies defenceman Marshall Rifai on Wednesday. “We have a lot of good players in that room and we feel really confident in the group we have, so that’s kind of what we expected.”
They’re going to need that same type of effort against Rochester, who’s a great offensive team. If Toronto can win puck battles, not allow the Amerks to have Grade A chances, playing solid defensively, and pounce on opportunities to hit the net, they’ll have a better chance at what they want.
A ticket punched to the next round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.
“For us, the ultimate message is: ‘Can we replicate that selflessness and commitment to the structure that we had in, especially the two games in Utica?’ I think if we stick to that recipe, we have a really good chance.” Alex Steeves said.
One of the most important players, and stories, to this Marlies team is Erik Kallgren. After two games in Toronto where Keith Petruzzelli allowed 12 goals, Kallgren came in and looked like a goalie who was on a mission.
The 26-year-old, as we know, had a difficult regular season. 10 wins and nine losses through 24 games — while posting a subpar .883 save percentage — made it seem like it might’ve been the end of the road for him in Toronto.
However now, Kallgren played some of his best hockey, helping the Marlies when they needed him most. And now he carries a stellar .945 save percentage — through two games — into the next round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.
“He looked calm and settled, in a playoff atmosphere.” Moore stated about Kallgren’s play. “His skating allows him to get to pucks quickly and get his feet set, square to pucks. I really liked his mentality and his attack approach to the games that he came in and played.”
This next series for Toronto will have an all hands on deck approach, as it was in the second round against Utica. Except this time, there’ll be no rust to shake off, no first playoff game gitters, just all hockey.
The Marlies have plenty of confidence and belief in each other. It’ll be up to them to show it in the third round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.
“I think we’re a damn good hockey team when we play the right way and play for each other.” Steeves said.
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