The meteoric rise of the Toronto Marlies over the past few months has been a fun story to follow along with, but these last few weeks in particular have been nuts. All of the heavy artillery players seem to be hitting the net with total precision. Points have been gained where they shouldn’t be and dropped in disadvantageous areas. Even as they started closing in, things seemed unlikely.
But the wins started piling up. Not only have the Marlies squeaked into the playoffs, they’ve jumped into the seventh seed.
Toronto came out guns blazing to open this one, and eventually, it played out to their advantage. With five minutes left in the first period, Jack Rodewald’s first professional point turned into Greg McKegg’s career high 22nd goal of the season, giving the Marlies a 1-0 lead. Early in the second period, the firsts continued, as Erik Bradford opened up his professional account to widen the gap, quickly followed by Matt Frattin, who potted his team-leading 26th of the year.
The Marlies weren’t done, however. Midway through the second, Byron Froese set up William Nylander, who netted his fourteenth of the season. For a while, it seemed like that would be all she wrote, but the Wolves still had some fight left in them. Jeremy Welsh snapped Antoine Bibeau’s shutout with a shorthanded goal, and Robby Fabbri picked up his first professional goal just a few minutes later. Chicago, desperate to come back, started pulling their goalie relatively early, and with a minute to go, TJ Brennan capitalized on it, scoring his twelfth and wrapping up the regular season for his team.
This entire team. I know its a cop out, but you have to give them credit for what they’ve done over the past few games, and really, the past few months. I don’t think anybody realistically expected this, including the group that carried it out. So lets give them all credit for now, until we inevitably chase them down with a comically oversized microscope.
Ladies and gentlemen, its time for playoff hockey. The Marlies will take on the Grand Rapids Griffins in the first round of the playoffs, beginning on Saturday afternoon. The Griffins, presumably to save on travel costs (this is a legitimate AHL concern), have opted to give Toronto the first two home games and take Game 3, along with 4 and 5 if necessary. We’ll have a full series preview at some point this week.