There’s no place like home, and for the Toronto Marlies, getting home has been a long time coming. Between the pandemic stopping the 2019/20 season and pushing back the start of the year, and the uncertainty of whether the province would allow the AHL to play games didn’t help either, forcing Toronto to play their first eight games on the road. But nearly a year after the pause button was hit, the Baby Buds were back, and in fine form, winning 4-2 over the Manitoba Moose in their home opener.
This game could have taken a very disastrous path from the opening seconds, as the Marlies found themselves on a 5-on-3 penalty kill just 36 seconds into the game. Adam Brooks was sent off for interference 15 seconds in, and it only took 21 after that for Nick Robertson to follow him for a hook. The good news for Toronto was that the penalty killing unit held strong, and when they couldn’t, Manitoba’s shots soared wide of the net.
Those two paid the team back in a big way a little further down the stretch. At about the eight and a half minute mark, Brooks picked up his third goal of the season, and a little over a minute later, with Skyler McKenzie in the box for the Moose, Robertson took in a pass from newcomer Alex Galchenyuk and beat Mikhail Berdin to widen the gap. Toronto continued to assert pressure throughout the period carrying the puck more fluidly, keeping themselves out of the box, and outshooting the Moose 12-3.
As the game progressed, so did Manitoba’s push, and it’s a good thing that the Marlies didn’t stop themselves at two goals. Toronto closed off a closely-contested second period with a shift that saw the Toronto bottom six dominate the offensive zone, capped off with Teemu Kivihalme picking him his third goal of the season on a pinch.
The third period was one of Manitoba pressure, as the Moose found themselves running out of time to catch up. Jeff Malott got them on the board early off of a misplay by Andrew D’Agostini behind the net, and when Joona Luoto blasted a shot while streaking down the wing with eight minutes to go, it created a tense few minutes for Toronto. In the end, the Marlies bent, but did not break, and Kivihalme was able to add an empty netter to close the game off.
Toronto ran the following lineup in today’s game:
Alex Galchenyuk – Kalle Kossila – Joey Anderson
Nick Robertson – Tyler Gaudet – Adam Brooks
Jeremy McKenna – Rourke Chartier – Justin Brazeau
Rich Clune – Colt Conrad – Scott Pooley
Calle Rosen – Martin Marincin
Teemu Kivihalme – Mac Hollowell
Kristians Rubins – Joey Duszak
Starting in Goal: Andrew D’Agostini
- In case you missed it, the Marlies kicked off today by announcing Rich Clune as their captain. As a nice gesture to him, they had him start with Tyler Gaudet and Adam Brooks. Which, in hindsight, makes the fact that Robertson sat out his scheduled first shift and still took a penalty 36 seconds in even funnier.
- Alex Galchenyuk played his first game for the Marlies today,. He looked really good to the yes, making many creative plays, taking three shots on goal, and looking to be effortlessly in control of the puck at times. He definitely looks like a player who will make his way back up to the NHL at some point.
- Of note, though – he did take Jeremy McKenna’s #12, moving the rookie to #41. This could indicate that the Leafs have plans for Galchenyuk to play with the Marlies for a little while, and not just for a game or two. Normally, you don’t just take another player’s number for a conditioning stint. I do suppose its possible that it’s a consistency thing, since his assigned Leafs number is also 12, but it’s a little thing that intrigues me nonetheless.
- Adam Brooks returned to the lineup after missing the last game of the Stockton series, and I thought he looked quite good in second line and penalty kill minutes. He played on the wing instead of his usual centre, which was a little interesting.
- Martin Marincin and Calle Rosen found themselves paired together on the team’s top pair, as Timothy Liljegren has been rewarded with some time up with the Leafs. It’s kind of funny to think that these were two AAAA+ players for the Marlies three years ago, and while neither have declined, they can still send them out today. Given the already decent depth behind them, it creates tons of flexibility. Marincin in particular was fun to watch today, as he gave us a glimpse of the surprisingly good dangler that he can be when he has some confidence.
- Andrew D’Agostini had a fantastic night, save for the mishap on the first Manitoba goal. Ultimately, he stopped 19 of 21 shots, continuing what has been arguably the best story for the team this season. A ninth consecutive start, most of them good, from a goalie who wasn’t remotely in the plans a few months ago is seriously impressive.
- Toronto’s next game will come on Wednesday night, in a rematch against the Moose. They’ll be overlapping with the Leafs, so expect to talk again on Thursday!