Back-to-back losses puts pressure on Marlies, Penguins

By Jared Clinton (@JPDClinton)

After streaking to the Western Conference Final, the Toronto Marlies are hoping they’re not going to start sliding their way out.

With eight straight wins to start the Calder Cup Playoffs, it seemed like everything was clicking for the Baby Buds. While they were bombarded in game one, they pulled out a victory over the Texas Stars to take the series lead, but their porous defense came back to bite them in game two.

The hope was, especially with a team that had been on such an amazing run into the Conference Final, the Marlies would bounce back in game three at the friendly confines of Ricoh Coliseum. However, following a trend from the first two rounds, the team with the ever-important third goal pulled out the victory — that goal coming off the stick of the Texas Stars’ Travis Morin.

Morin, the regular season points leader and league MVP, struck with the game-winner just under a minute after the Marlies drew even on a TJ Brennan tally. It was just Morin’s fourth marker of the playoffs, but it couldn’t have come at a bigger time for the Stars, who’ve now taken the series lead back from the Marlies.

After a rough outing in game two, Marlies goaltender Drew MacIntyre withstood all eight of the Stars’ shots in the first period before allowing a second period marker to Radek Faksa. After allowing 50-plus shots in each of the first two games, the Marlies tightened up defensively, allowing 30 attempts on MacIntyre in game three.

Across the ice, Stars’ goaltender Christopher Nilstorp held off the Marlies’ extra-man attack and sealed the victory for his squad.

For the Marlies, it will be absolutely pivotal to knock off the Stars in game four if they’ve got any hopes of staying in the series. The problem, however, lies in stopping a balanced Stars attack, and trying to create zone time and shot attempts. Through the first three games, Nilstorp has only seen 69 shots. MacIntyre, on the other hand, has faced 131.

Game four goes tonight at Ricoh Coliseum, with puck drop slated for 7 p.m. ET.

After two tight games, with each St. John’s and Wilkes-Barre pulling out a victory, the IceCaps offense finally exploded, while their defense held, with Michael Hutchinson earning the 30-save shutout.

Only down by two goals heading into the second period, the Penguins defense couldn’t hold fast. St. John’s capitalized, scoring early and often in the second frame, with goals coming from Eric O’Dell and Kael Mouillierat in the first seven minutes. Mouillierat’s marker, a goal coming on a 5-on-3 powerplay, gave the IceCaps an insurmountable 4-0 lead heading into the final frame.

With just a second left in the second period, Zach Redmond buried a Will O’Neill pass past Pens’ goaltender Peter Mannino, which signalled the end of Mannino’s night.

The fourth game of the Eastern Conference Final starts tonight at 7:05 p.m. ET, with the Penguins trying to take advantage of home ice and even the series at two games apiece.

Stars hand Marlies first loss of 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs

It may have taken until the Western Conference Final, but the Toronto Marlies have finally shown a crack in their armour.

The Marlies, who took game one from the Stars for their eighth straight victory, walked in to Cedar Park Centre on Monday looking to extend the streak and get one game closer to the Calder Cup Final. However, with their second 50-shot shot performance in two games, the Stars kept the Marlies at bay, doubling-up the visitors by a final score of 6-3.

It looked like it was going to be another tough night for the Stars after a goal by the Marlies’ Peter Holland goal tied the game at three, but a Chris Mueller marker less than a minute later put the Stars ahead for good.

In the third frame, Texas’ Scott Glennie buried a goal with under six minutes left in the period, before Travis Morin iced it for the Stars with an empty-netter.

After standing on his head in game one, Drew MacIntyre was absolutely bombarded again during the second game of the series. Asked again to stop 50-plus shots, MacIntyre allowed five goals, while turning away 46 attempts. The Stars, meanwhile, protected their net, allowing only 30 shots.

Stars’ goaltender Christopher Nilstorp, who had a rough outing in game one allowing three goals on 17 shots, bounced back with 27 saves.

Game three goes Wednesday at the Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto, 7 p.m. ET.

Stars welcome Marlies, hope to hand them first loss

By Jared Clinton (@JPDClinton)

If everything really is bigger in Texas, a Marlies win tonight — which would be their eighth straight — would certainly prove huge for the Maple Leafs farm team’s chances of advancing to the Calder Cup Final for the second time in three seasons.

The problem for the Marlies, however, lies in the trouble they’ve had with their opponent, the Texas Stars. In their last game at the Cedar Park Center, the Marlies were shutout by the Stars, 6-0, in one of their worst losses of the season.

Christopher Nilstorp, who got the start and the shutout in that contest, will be backstopping the Stars again, and he has seemingly had the Marlies number all season. Posting a 1.31 GAA and .949SV% against the Marlies in the regular season, Nilstorp only allowed four goals to the Baby Buds, and helped his team take three of a possible six points from Toronto in the three games he started.

The Stars’ netminder is going to have to look to slow down a Marlies powerplay that is on a torrid pace, moving at a 25% clip these playoffs, and hope to put the brakes on the streaking Peter Holland and Jerry D’Amigo.

A mainstay on the Marlies roster over the last three seasons, D’Amigo’s play has been inspired during these Calder Cup playoffs. The 23-year-old Binghamton native has registered a point in each game this post-season, contributing four goals and eight assists, and powering the Marlies to their unbeaten streak.

Holland, who was brought into Toronto from the Anaheim Ducks’ early in 2013-14, was a huge part of the Marlies sweep of the Chicago Wolves in the second round. In the sweep, Holland registered at least a point in each contest, racking up four goals and two assists over that span.

The Stars, who battled their way out of the first round with two consecutive overtime wins over the Oklahoma City Barons, make their way to the Western Conference Final after an impressive 7-1 game six defeat of the defending Calder Cup Champion Grand Rapids Griffins.

Regular season scoring champion Travis Morin has been impressive for the Stars, and will be called upon to make an impact if the Stars are to move on to their second Calder Cup Final.

It appears that this series could simply come down to a battle of which team can pot three in a night. Over the course of the playoffs, Texas has allowed two goals in seven of their nine games, with Toronto allowing two-or-more in five of seven.

Tonight’s contest kicks off at 8:30 ET (7:30 CT) at the Cedar Park Center.

Haydar leaves AHL for Germany

After 11 seasons in the AHL, Darren Haydar has signed a one-year deal with EHC Munchen of the DEL.

Haydar, who captained the Chicago Wolves last season, leaves the AHL as 14th all-time in points. In 774 regular season games, Haydar has registered 292 goals to go along with 496 assists — he’s 10th all-time in assists — putting him at over a point-per-game in the AHL, territory shared with some of the greatest players in AHL history.

Maybe the most notable offensive season of Haydar’s career came in 2006-07, when the 5-foot-9 forward put up an amazing 122 points in 73 games. That season, Haydar set career highs in both goals and assists with 41 and 81 respectively. He followed his regular season performance up with another 24 points (10-14) in 15 playoff games, but his Chicago Wolves fell short of a Calder Cup.

However, the following year, Haydar helped the Wolves to a Calder Cup Championship. With 27 points (12-15) in 24 playoff games, the Milton, Ont. native lead the way for the Wolves. The 2007-08 championship was the second of his career — he had won his first in 2003-04 during his sophomore season with the Milwaukee Admirals — and signalled the end of Haydar’s most productive years of his career, but he would continue to be nearly a point per game player.

The laundry list of honours heaped upon Haydar reads like those of a future AHL Hall of Famer: Two time Calder Cup Champion, 06-07 Sollenberger Trophy (Most Points), Les Cunningham Award (MVP), and First Team All-Star, 02-03 Red Garrett Award (Rookie of the Year), 11-12 AHL All-Star.

While there will be those that argue Haydar’s talent — in 23 NHL games he scored one goal and tallied seven assists — the fact of the matter is that he maintained steady production and stayed in the AHL while having veteran status for several seasons. He was a bonafide AHL star, something the league doesn’t have in droves, and, at 33 years old, it may be unlikely he comes back.

Haydar will join recently departed AHL forward Jon DiSalvatore in Munchen. During his career, Haydar suited up with the Wolves, Lake Erie Monsters, Grand Rapids Griffins, and Milwaukee Admirals.

Sens sign Lawson, Binghamton fills net need

Nathan Lawson has been around, and it looks like he’ll finally get his shot at a starting role in the AHL.

The 29-year-old Calgary native has been re-signed by the Ottawa Senators, and reports are that he will be slotted into the starting gig for the Binghamton Senators. Lawson, who had previously spent time with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and Hamilton Bulldogs, was inked by the Sens last year to back up Robin Lehner in the AHL. With Lehner getting the call to back up Craig Anderson in the bigs, and former Anderson understudy Ben Bishop shipped off to Tampa Bay, Lawson will move up the ranks.

Lawson, a keeper with 150 games of AHL experience, posted a 2.19 GAA and .938 SV% in 23 appearances last year with the B-Sens. In 2011-12, Lawson set a career high with five shutouts while a member of the Hamilton Bulldogs.

From the Sens, with an interesting note in the first paragraph:

His only appearance through the team’s first 34 games was a nightmare showing on Oct. 20. After Robin Lehner was ejected for fighting midway through the second period in a home game against Syracuse, Lawson entered with a 5-0 lead. The Crunch went on to score six straight goals to beat the B-Sens, 6-5.

Lawson had a lot of time to think about that appearance, not getting back between the pipes again until Jan. 12, the day the lockout ended. Lawson clearly felt comfortable as the No. 1 goaltender, finishing the season with a 12-6-2 record with 2.19 goals-against average and .938 save percentage and two shutouts in 23 games. He stopped 76 of 84 shots in the opening round of the AHL playoffs as the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins swept the B-Sens in three games.

Let’s hope he keeps those “nightmare showings” to a minimum this coming year.

Griffins let us back Between The Benches

The Grand Rapids Griffins, and their fantastic media staff, are bringing us another instalment of their web series that ran throughout the Calder Cup playoffs.

Their six part series, titled “Between The Benches”, ran for the duration of the playoffs, but just because the Calder Cup champion Griffins are currently in off-season mode doesn’t mean we can’t have a little more fun with the team. The newly released video follows the team as they ramp up for the playoffs.

From the Griffins:

With the regular season wrapping up, Jeff Blashill and the Griffins look to put their first stamp on the Griffins organization by clinching the Midwestern Division title for the first time in seven years, and still keep the pedal down going into what is sure to be a tough playoff series against the Houston Aeros.

This is the prologue of our six part series following the team with never-before-seen access on a playoff run.

Goaltenders Brust, Sabourin head overseas

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Barry Brust will be back in a European jersey in 2013-14.

Two veteran AHL netminders are heading to Europe, freeing up spots in their former organizations.

Barry Brust has reportedly signed a deal with the KHL’s Medvescak Zagreb after spending the last season in Abbotsford. Brust playing in 35 games last season, with a 2.50 GAA and .911 SV%. A Calder Cup champion in 2010-11 with the Binghamton Senators, Brust will be on his second stint in Europe after spending a year in Germany with DEL’s Straubing Tigers.

At 29, Brust hasn’t spent a ton of time in the NHL. His only taste of the big leagues was an 11 game stint in 2006-07 with the Los Angeles Kings. In his 11 games in the NHL, he posted a dismal 3.70 GAA and .878 SV%.

In addition to Brust, journeyman goaltender Dany Sabourin is also heading across the pond.

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Dany Sabourin will get a shot at a full-time starting role in Austria next season.

Sabourin, 32, has been a serviceable backup at every level. Over the last 11 years, the 6’4″ netminder has played in Johnstown (ECHL), Saint John, Calgary, Las Vegas (ECHL), Lowell, Wheeling (ECHL), Wilkes-Barre, Pittsburgh, Vancouver, Manitoba, Springfield, Providence, and Hershey.

After his three year tenure in Hershey — where he played in 78 games — Sabourin is headed to the Graz 99ers of the Erste Bank Eishockey Liga.

The Graduate: Bruce Boudreau

The Graduate is an American Hockey Blog feature that highlights a notable AHL alumnus, their career, and what makes them so special to AHL lore. It also happens to be the title of a 1967 film starring Dustin Hoffman, which has been praised by the American Film Institute. These things are not related.

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For most modern hockey fans, the lasting image of Bruce “Gabby” Boudreau includes a smattering of barbecue sauce, but the Anaheim Ducks head coach is an American Hockey League icon.

Boudreau, primarily a centre throughout his playing days, began his professional career in the 1975-76 season as a member of the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the World Hockey Association. Boudreau played a mere 30 games with the Fighting Saints, managing three goals and six helpers. The next year, Boudreau would make his NHL debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but his inability to stick with the big club would lead to the beginning of an illustrious minor league career. Continue reading