The final two games of the month of January also represent the remaining pair before the AHL All-Star break. It also means this is the final Pre Game Meal before February, so please enjoy!
The Maple Leafs home opener is always a game that holds a few more special moments than most of the rest to follow over the course of the NHL season in Toronto. For the Marlies organization, it was extra special. 11 of the 20 players that made up the Maple Leafs home opening roster had spent playing time with Toronto’s own AHL franchise. The Marlies have produced many solid NHL players over the years, but perhaps recognized at its fullest on Monday was the impact an AHL team can have on an NHL franchise. The names of Scrivens, Fraser, Kostka, Holzer, Kadri and Komarov played game one with the Marlies this year, translating into the 1st home game with the Leafs just 3 months later.
The Marlies have limited the competition to only 45 shots on goal over the last two games, the most recent of which went to overtime. Despite losing 3 of their top 6 defencemen to the Maple Leafs and another 2 to injury, Toronto have been able to keep their defensive system in tact and have succeeded in keeping most of the pressure at the other end of the rink. The addition of Mike Mottau has been a welcomed one, among other things, adding veteran presence to to the blueline. Also, Corey Syvret and Ryan Grimshaw have stepped in from the ECHL looking seamless in their transition. Certainly easier said, or printed, then done, the coaching staff and players deserve a lot of credit for maintaining the pace. Some call it life in the AHL, I call it hard work.
Toronto faces Lake Erie and Wilkes-Barre before the AHL All-Star break. When playing the Monsters, it is not only a divisional battle, but one that tests the true work ethic of both teams. Each team has won a game and lost a game, with Colorado’s farm team sneaking out an extra point in overtime. Lake Erie have rattled off 7 wins in their last 9 games, including 3 straight entering into play Friday night. Positioned two points behind Toronto, the Marlies will not only play for revenge in the season series, but further separation in the standings.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have also been rolling hot, lately. 4 straight wins have put them within striking distance of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. 3 of those 4 straight wins were produced by ending up on the positive side of a 1 goal games. The only other match-up of the season between the Maple Leafs and Penguins affiliates resulted in a one goal outcome, of which Toronto out shot Wilkes-Barre 32-25, but could not win the game. The Penguins first face St. John’s and then Rochester before entering Ricoh coliseum, when the Marlies aim to even the season series and go into the stoppage well over the 50 point barrier.
The next two Marlies broadcasts can be found on AHL Live via theahl.com Thursday at 7pm and Saturday at 5pm.
Thanks for checking out the latest blog and I’ll see you in February!