For those who are following the current Calder Cup Playoffs, it is hard to ignore the team out of Toronto. I mean, it’s hard to argue with a 10-2 playoff record and a commanding 3-1 series lead in the Conference Final.
For those watching the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s hard to ignore the powerhouse, that is LA.. seemingly walking through the top 3 seeds in the Western Conference.
The way this Marlies team has dominated its opponents, looks a lot like the way the LA Kings have dominated theirs. Gritty play, superior depth, and unrivalled goaltending.
Every player has a specific and important role to their team in order to go deep and dominate throughout a playoff campaign, but no role bigger than that of the goaltender. I remember the first time I saw Ben Scrivens play with the Leafs, his confident crouch with an ability to make unforeseen plays and highlight reel stops.. I couldn’t help but draw the comparison to the great Eddie Belfour, in his prime. Premature comparison? I still stand by it today. Personally, as much as I like James Reimer, I think Ben Scrivens is going to shine as a Leaf. I like his style and his quickness and ability to read plays and react.
That being said, Jonathan Quick is also a draftee of his respective franchise. His ability to steal games when the Kings are outplayed, resembles much of what Scrivens is doing for the Marlies.
Scrivens has posted 3 shutouts, a .942 save percentage, and a goals against average of 1.66 — staggering numbers to go along with the 10-2 record.
With last night’s 3-0 win over the Oklahoma City Barons, the Marlies put themselves one win away from a berth in the Calder Cup Final. Though the Marlies made a march to the Conference Finals in 2008, this team looks far more dominant. In 2008, the Marlies got passed the first two rounds in 7 games each, only to fall to the Chicago Wolves in the Conference Final in just 5 games. Much like the Kings, the Marlies have appeared to breeze through the playoffs in 2012, sweeping the first series and only losing two games since. And much like the Kings, the Marlies have a certain mojo in their game, a certain swagger in their stride, as if to know they’re the superior team and no one is going to stop them. With the way Scrivens is playing, I don’t see any signs of slowing down. They’ve set the cruise control to ‘full steam ahead’ and daring opponents to keep up.
Perhaps the best part of this whole emergence of the Marlies, is that there looks to be no signs of slowing down into next season. With the Leafs shopping around for an experienced goalie (*cough cough* Tomas Vokoun *cough cough*), it will appear to be either Reimer or Scrivens suiting up as a Leaf and the other as a Marlie. Jussi Rynnas is no slouch either, so maybe the Leafs’ goaltending situation isn’t as helpless as it may appear.
So what does this young, hopeful squad mean to the bigger picture in Toronto?
Now, I know the Kings fast-tracked their success with big signings, with the likes of Mike Richards, Jeff Cater, and even Dustin Penner.. but is it not within the realm of possibility that we could see an emergence in Toronto, at the NHL level, as we’ve so recently seen in Los Angeles? Let’s not get carried away and hail this Marlies run as the absolute turning point.. as stated, the Kings went out and made themselves contenders with big acquisitions. Yet, the Kings’ core pieces were developed through their own system. Guys like Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, and especially Jonathan Quick were all seasoned through the Kings’ developmental program and complimented with later acquisitions. Dustin Penner is a unrestricted free agent this summer.. Brian Burke won a Cup with him on his roster.. maybe you take a gamble?
Though it will take more than a gamble on a complimentary scorer to turn the Leafs around, they don’t appear to be terribly far from being the unthinkable.. a playoff team.