Too good to wait. Due to the Calder Cup playoff format, the top two teams point wise in the American Hockey League, will meet in the second round. The Toronto Marlies 54-16-5-1 (114 points) and Albany Devils 46-20-8-2 (102 points), were destined to play each other and it will happen in the North Division finals.
Across six regular season tilts, the two clubs were fairly even. Toronto held the series advantage, going 4-2-0-0. Each squad won two apiece in regulation, while Toronto won two contests in overtime. The Marlies also outscored the Devils by a margin of 17-10. The Marlies were tops in AHL goal scoring during the regular season, netting 294. Toronto also boasted the third best (.750) points percentage in AHL history. Conversely, the Devils allowed the second fewest goals in the AHL, yielding only 167. Albany’s .671 points percentage ranked third in Albany AHL history. As NHL players go, 21 Marlies spent time with the Toronto Maple Leafs and 14 Devils spent time with the New Jersey Devils this season.
Toronto holds home ice advantage in the series, though they win just about everywhere, winning 27 games apiece, both home and away. Albany also won 27 at home, sporting the best home winning percentage in the league, while winning 19 on the road. On special teams, Toronto ranked tenth (17.4%) on the power play and twelfth (84.0%) on the penalty kill. Albany ranked eighth (18.3%) with the extra attacker and third (87.2%) on the penalty kill.
Toronto advanced by virtue of a first round sweep, (3-0) of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
— American Hockey League (@TheAHL) April 29, 2016
Albany moved on after vanquishing the Utica Comets in four (3-1).
— American Hockey League (@TheAHL) April 30, 2016
Defenceman Connor Carrick paced the Marlies in scoring in the first round. Carrick’s seven points are tied for first among AHL postseason scorers. In registering those seven points, Carrick helped cap off Toronto’s first round series sweep against Bridgeport, with a Game 3 hat trick.
Left Wing Reid Boucher topped the Devils in first round points. Boucher’s six points rank third among AHL playoff performers. Like Carrick, Boucher has also netted three goals, one of each variety, even-strength, power play and short-handed.
In net, the Marlies’ Garret Sparks leads all AHL goalies with a 1.000 save percentage in the postseason. For the A-Devils, Scott Wedgewood’s .922 save percentage ranks fifth.
— American Hockey League (@TheAHL) April 29, 2016
As we look forward to their second-round bout, first we take a look back at their regular season contests:
Oct. 17, at Toronto, Marlies 3, Devils 2, OT:
Albany led the majority of this one but Toronto came out on top. All-Star Mike Sislo notched the first of his eventual league best 14 power play goals, besting Antione Bibeau late in the second, putting Albany up 2-1. Yet, Toronto would knot it up late in the third and All-Star and Eddie Shore Award winner T.J. Brennan beat Yann Danis in the extra session, netting the first of his tied for club best 25 tallies on the season.
Oct. 18, at Toronto, Devils 3, Marlies 2:
Albany first victory of the season, handed Toronto its first loss of the campaign. Special teams were instrumental in the A-Devils win. During the second period, Jim O’Brien registered a short-handed marker, while Sislo tallied on the power play. In the third, a two-on-one saw Paul Thompson hit Blake Pietila for the eventual winner, besting Sparks. Matt Frattin and Kasperi Kapanen recorded goals for the Marlies but Danis made it all stand up.
Nov. 1, at Albany, Marlies 3, Devils 2, OT:
Three’s a trend. Three games, all three ending in a score of 3-2, each decided by a single goal. Much like the previous contests, the story was not how you start but how you finish. Although Albany’s special teams were on point again, Toronto cashed in at crunch time. Both clubs exchanged markers in the first frame. Boucher opened the scoring with the extra attacker. Then, Andrew Campbell struck back. Sislo would strike back on the power play but Mark Arcobello would counter. After things tightened up, a wide open, three-on-three overtime provided Arcobello with a quick path to the net, finishing off the Devils in easy fashion 20 seconds into the extra session.
March 1, at Toronto, Marlies 4, Devils 0:
An early bird special, 11:00 a.m. start, saw the Marlies crush the Devils. Bibeau stopped all 24 shots sent his way, recording his first shutout of the season. Frederik Gauthier got the Marlies on the board, scoring from the slot in the first. Then, Tobias Lindberg doubled the lead on an odd-man rush. Lindberg would also score on a slapper in the second. Capping off the scoring was Arcobello in the third, netting the only short-handed goal yielded by the A-Devils all season.
March 13, at Albany, Devils 3, Marlies 2:
Back at Albany for another early but matinee (3:00 p.m.) start and yet another one-goal, 3-2 result. Following a scoreless first, Brendan Leipsic got the Marlies going, beating Wedgewood, a minute into the period. In the same frame, the Devils came to life on the strength of two Raman Hrabarenka power play tallies, within a span of two minutes and 30 seconds, besting Alex Stalock. Early in the third, Eric Faille notched the equalizer for Toronto. With the clock winding down, newcomer Nick Lappin potted one home with 39.5 ticks on the clock, for the eventual decider.
April 10, at Albany, Marlies 3, Devils 0.
In their final regular season meeting, the A-Devils were wearing camouflage and all 35 of their shots disappeared into the equipment of the Marlies netminder Bibeau. This time around it was Toronto taking advantage of the extra-man advantage. After a scoreless first, power play markers by Faille and Richard Clune made the difference and buried the Devils. Zach Hyman notched an empty netter for good measure and capped off the victory.
Michael Gwizdala covers the New York Islanders for The Hockey Writers. Michael is also an Associate Producer at WNYT NewsChannel 13. Additionally, Michael was once a Media Relations intern for the AHL Albany River Rats. Michael is a graduate of The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY.