Tonight was the Toronto Marlies’ first step in defending the Calder Cup. Well, sort of – only nine of the team’s twenty skaters and goalies tonight were among the group that played in that franchise-defining Game 7 against the Texas Stars a year ago. All the same, it’s their trophy to try to hold onto, and their careers to try to further, and they started that push with a bang, defeating the Utica Comets by a score of 7-3.
There’s a lot of pretty goals here from the Marlies if you’re seeking them. After a sub-optimal start sparked by a Reid Boucher first-minute goal, Toronto turned their game in the back 40 minutes. Jordan Subban opened the Marlies’ 2018/19 account with a bomb from the point, Pierre Engvall went bar-down, Trevor Moore made a mess out of Richard Bachman twice in one-on-one situations, Carl Grundstrom showed off his deceptive release, Timothy Liljegren picked a corner in a way we haven’t really seen from him before, and Josh Jooris added an empty-netter to go with all of that to seal off the game.
Carl Grundstrom – Chris Mueller – Sam Gagner
Dmytro Timashov – Adam Cracknell – Trevor Moore
Pierre Engvall – Josh Jooris – Jeremy Bracco
Emerson Clark – Colin Greening – Griffen Molino
Calle Rosen – Timothy Liljegren
Andreas Borgman – Vincent LoVerde
Andrew Nielsen – Jordan Subban
Powerplay 1: Gagner – Mueller – Grundstrom – Timashov – Liljegren
Powerplay 2: Moore – Cracknell – Engvall – Bracco – Subban
Penalty Kill Forwards: Greening, Jooris, Moore, Cracknell, Engvall, Timashov
Penalty Kill Defencemen: Rosen, Liljegren, Borgman, LoVerde
Scratches: Adam Brooks, Rich Clune, Mason Marchment, JJ Piccinich, Sam Jardine, Rasmus Sandin
The Game Flow
- Admittedly, this wasn’t the Marlies’ most composed game – not horrifically surprising given that it’s the first contest of the year, but you could see that players were still getting (re-)acquainted with the system, forming chemistry, and shaking off some rust; due to the size of Leafs training camp, most of this group had only one preseason game or less with the Marlies coaching staff before getting to work.
- One of the things I noticed in the playoffs last year was that there was a strong commitment to getting the correct players out for faceoffs in the offensive and defensive zones, should they still be able to fit the bill. You noticed that tonight, and especially so with Chris Mueller; a player you can rely on in either zone, but also someone you can expect to win you 71% (15/19) of your draws some nights when you put him in a position to succeed.
- The Marlies didn’t really mix and match their defence very much, save for a tangle up or two after some special teams shifts. The Calle Rosen – Timothy Liljegren pair played the most tonight and it wasn’t hard to see why; everything Rosen was touching turned into a quality play, and Liljegren was his dynamic self in the offensive zone. Rosen led the team in shots on goal tonight with five.
- Also firing on all cylinders was Jordan Subban. While he and Andrew Nielsen were the worst pair on the team by shot metrics, Subban himself was making all sorts of plays; trying to skate out the puck whenever possible, looking for opportunities to pass or shoot, pretty much anything he could to try to tilt momentum in his favour in a building he once called home. His two points tonight already bring him about 15% of the way to his totals last season.
- Beyond going snipeshow in the second period, Pierre Engvall was positively noticeable throughout. In his first go-around with the team, he seemed overly timid, but you can tell that he’s become less shy about mixing it up with his opponents. There were a few moments of pushback where I couldn’t believe I was looking at the same player from spring 2017.
- Sam Gagner made his Marlies debut. He was fine, playing on the top line and on the powerplay, but not really doing much of anything that truly moved the needle.
- Kasimir Kasisuo stopped 43 of 46 shots. While a fair few of them were chucks at the wall by the Comets towards the end, he was still very composed from beginning to end, which isn’t easy to do when you give up a goal in your first few seconds.
- The Marlies, who are 6-1 in openers since 2012, set a team record for their most goals in a season debut. League-wide, though, they weren’t even the best this year; Bakersfield pumped Stockton for eight in their home opener this evening.
- The Marlies’ next game comes tomorrow afternoon, against the Binghamton Devils. I’ll be taking at BMO Field getting my last look at Alphonso Davies before he heads to Europe, so expect the recap for this second game to come on Sunday.
This first game’s post is a teaser of what you’ll get throughout the season if you are subscribed to The Faceoff Circle. I’m going to continue to leave standard game coverage as fully public this year, as the Marlies are a big part of my niche, but manually recorded data will be locked behind the paywall. The below chart is what you’ll get every night; you’ll get to see a player’s underlying shot metrics, how many unique shifts they took, how many shifts were started in the offensive zone compared to the defensive zone, and their Game Score (note: this AHL variant that I created on the spot tonight does not use blocked shots).
A subscription to The Faceoff Circle costs just $5 a month or $25 per year, and includes on-demand access to this data and the ability to read all my articles on all topics across the site. It will also support what should amount to hundreds of hours of additional labour over the course of the year to obtain this data and present it properly. You can sign up for the site using this link.