Hockey starts in the morning with the European playoffs still going on, and today is a crowded schedule. I began at 11 am with the Marlies who are playing an early start, a so-called school-day game, which means the screaming in the stands will be higher pitched than usual.
The Marlies magic number is 5 (number of points needed to clinch), and they sit atop the North Division. The standings are tight, and the IceCaps, today’s opponent, are currently in third with a magic number of 12.
The Habs called up Charlie Lindgren to start last night’s game, so the Marlies will not face the IceCaps’ best goalie, which makes the game less difficult. The Marlies are winning a lot lately, but mostly in close games. They added some good experienced players in the last two months, the kind that still have game, and the balance on the team is finally just about perfect.
[10:30 am] Todd Crocker gets things going with the lineups. Garret Sparks is starting for the Marlies, so the game is beginning on a positive note. I will play this one in the background like radio while I do other things.
[11:21] Marlies getting a PP chance. They play no D on their first unit. Not sure if that’s totally unique, but must be rare.
[11:22] Andrew Nielsen plays on the second PP unit, so there really isn’t any D there either. Cough.
[11:34] Tony Cameranesi is back up on the team and looks good, as he always does. Can’t see how he’s not a regular Marlie next year.
[11:39] Nielsen with a good hit on Tanja and Nicola Eisenschmid’s brother, who is the IceCaps player that just seems to bring out the snarl in the Marlies.
[11:40] A blocked shot springs Max Friberg on a breakaway, and Sparks is beat worse than Rinat Valiev was on the play. 1-0 bad guys.
[12:26] Somewhere in there Charles Hudon, scored, and I tuned in just in time to see the Marlies get on the board with a GOAT shorty, which was lovely, but is the most I’ve noticed him in months. 2-1 bad guys.
[12:42] Cal O’Reilly made some good moves with Seth Griffith in the O Zone and the result is a Justin Holl goal. 2-2.
[1 pm] It’s evening in Sweden, and Frölunda are starting their second game of the semifinals in a few minutes against Brynäs. They lost the first one due mostly to a bad start, so a good start will be important today. Johan Sundström is finally back in the lineup, and having last year’s MVP on the ice should provide a boost.
[1:10] Frölunda aren’t on the ice yet, but Brendan Leipsic scored a beauty for the Marlies to open the third period. 3-2 good guys.
[1:23] Leafs pick Carl Grundström got stuck in the corner battling for the puck, and he kicked that perfectly out onto his man’s stick for a scoring chance. More than one way to pass the puck.
[1:30] Grundström with two good scoring chances. Felix Sandström in net for Brynäs is just too good.
[1:39] Sigh. I feel like the only person who thinks cute little Rasmus Dahlin is more negative than positive. Tried a first week in the NHL, Marner-esque drop pass that almost went horribly wrong.
[1:43] Casey Wellman! Frölunda opens the scoring, and they rolled through the first period dominating play. Meanwhile, the Marlies must be done ... 5-2 for the good guys, with two goals by Kerby Rychel. He had a very non-invisible game this time with a lot of shots. Marlies are very close to clinching a playoff spot now.
[2:21] This was just destined to be. Dahlin nets his second ever playoff goal to make it 3-0. Wellman had set up Carlsson for the earlier one. Dahlin has an amazing offensive ability, so he got away with some really bad defensive play and gets a goal. Maybe he is worth it.
[3:10] Wellman got another goal, and this game is very Leafs-like in that they are rolling four lines, nearly, and any of them can score. It’s not a surprise that one line is finding all the chances. Frölunda let in one late in the second and it is 4-1. Frölunda has the game in total control and just needs to run down the clock.
[3:30] Final score was 6-1 with Wellman getting a hat trick out of it, and Frölunda a feeling like they’d relearned how to score. Next game is Thursday.
[7:00] The Boooins are taking on the Lightning tonight and that game goes first, so I’m starting there. In the meantime Sweden played Finland for the right to face Canada in the semifinals of the Women’s IIHF World Championship. The final score there was 4-0, in no surprise. The other quarterfinal is Russia vs Germany tonight, so I’ll try to keep an eye on it.
[7:05] Tampa is playing this game with 17 skaters, so don’t give me any tears over injuries, Ottawa. FYI: don’t talk to me about clinching scenarios either, I am 100% cheering for Tampa here.
[7:07] GCL served up a silent interview with Victor Hedman while the arena announcer was the only sound on in the background. Oddly, it was no less illuminating than if you can hear the interview clichés.
[7:09] For me, TD Garden is that scraggly bit of dead stuff by the office building downtown, and we are underway in Boston.
[7:15] Who wants it has been determined. Tampa with a tough forecheck off the drop.
[7:20] Boston able to get some zone time, but Tampa can break it up fairly easily.
[7:25] Tampa is making a lot of passing errors that Boston is not capitalizing on. They don’t move fast enough.
[7:30] Game has sped up, and Boston with a huge chance from Krejci that is half blocked and then stopped by Vasy.
[7:35] Hedman took a puck off the face. If he’s out of the game, the Lightning will win for sure. When they lose a guy, they win. Spooky.
[7:40] Hedman back on the ice, and maybe the Bolts can get through the neutral zone and get some offensive zone time. Boston’s attempts to capitalize on his absence were very tepid even if it was their only push of the period. Game is 0-0 with less than five minutes left in the first. Time to flip to Toronto.
[7:41] Caps with the first SOG, and McE is giving up the rebounds like Easter candy.
Wow, this game is faster. Way, way faster. And the Leafs lob the puck into the O zone and it’s icing. I hate this tactic.
Wilson and Matt Martin hugging. Awwww.
[7:45] Leafs are an elite corps of pickpockets who get pulled over by the cops every time. They get the puck in the N zone and then pffft in the O zone.
Lars Eller, a rat of great skill, gets Martin to take a holding penalty. I think taking penalties against the Caps souped up PP is dumb, but hey, what do I know?
Whoo hoo. That’s a stroke of luck. Backstrom gets a high sticking call off the face off. 4on4 is way better.
[7:50] Leafs played 2F and 2D on the 4or4, and they always had one D very aggressive offensively. The Caps played it very safe, D hanging back at the blue line.
[7:55] Furious pace and the Leafs palying with very active D. Roman Polak chugged in and zipped behind the Caps net to smush a guy. McE is keeping the rebounds to the boards, and the Leafs are clearing them, and so far, so good. But the Caps are heating up too. That’s not good.
[8:00] The Matthews line does their thing: Matthews forechecks, Hyman digs, Nylander makes like a shark. They get a chance out of it, but I love watching them.
[8:05] Caps start with the puck behind their own net, whip it down ice, avoid icing and the third line plays like some team’s first lines, and Lars Eller shows the other thing he can do: shoot the puck. McE just looked baffled by the play, and no one else did anything defensively smart. 1-0 bad guys.
[8:10] More 4on4, and Leafs are playing the three up, one back system again.
[8:15] That period is done, and Ottawa is one up on Detroit, and there is no score in the Bolts-Boooins game. I could watch this panel, but no, I’m getting ice cream and flipping to the Bolts game.
The Leafs were fine as long as the Caps were a little sleepy. They can’t count on them tiring out as this game wears on, so the Leafs have to find another gear.
[8:15] Yay, back in Bolts land just in time to see some Boooins guy celebrating a goal he likely did not deserve. Tough night all around. And Marchand was bad at the end of the first, spearing on Dotchin? No! That’s a shock. Game misconduct for Marchand, and suddenly Dotchin is the wronged man.
[8:25] Good play at both ends leads to a Bolts flurry in front of Rask. Backes tries to squash Yanni Gourde after the whistle because he’s like that.
[8:35] Bolts just put out five guys and three of them are Syracuse Crunch players, but they are just slicing through the Bruins attempts at defence like nothing. If they could actually score...
Halfway through the Russia-Germany quarterfinal, is it 1-0 Russia. Germany hanging tough.
Leafs are back at it, so back to Toronto.
[8:40] Leafs with an offensive flurry making Grubauer work for it. Marner can zip through any traffic.
Bozak centring the fourth line, and they get some zone time. Toronto tilting the ice a little more in their favour.
[8:45] Boston has scored again as their second period ends, and that’s a big hill to climb for Tampa.
Aggressive O zone work leads to a PP for Toronto. Let’s hope this one lasts longer than five seconds.
[8:50] Eller draws a penalty on Marner and that’s the PP over. Leafs had good chances, but Marner got played there by a master.
Caps on the PP and Johansson somehow misses an open net, but the Caps just kept passing it and congratulations to Kevin Shattenkirk on your first goal as a Washington Capital. I blame Fulemin. 2-0 bad guys.
[8:55] The game is just over half over, and the Leafs are down by an amount they’ve blown themselves many times. Will they respond to this with an all-out effort? Or will they call this one a day?
Bad news is that Boyle will not return to the game with an upper body injury.
[9:00] Leafs going on the PP on a foolish penalty by the Capitals. This is the open door, Leafs, walk through it.
Ottawa is up 2-0 on Detroit, and in a shocker of epic proportions, the Germans have tied it at 1-1 after two periods against the Russians.
Leafs struggle to get set up on the PP because they struggle with zone exits and entries. Eventually they get there and Bozak has a sweet chance that turns out to be the only chance.
[9:05] Babcock continues to double shift centres into the fourth line rather than shortening the bench. It’s working well.
Kuznetsov with a one on no one and he never gets much of a shot off. Easy save for McE.
[9:10] Second period comes to an end with the Leafs having dragged the shot differentials back to even, but they have no goals to show for it. The heat map shows that the Leafs are getting a lot of their shots from way out in the weeds. The Caps are not letting them get in deep. The Leafs are doing fairly well in return at limiting chances, but McE has had to work hard.
[9:20] Germany scores! 2-1 over Russia. If this holds, this is the greatest upset in years in women’s hockey and no one will see it because USA Hockey put this tournament in nowhere Michigan.
[9:30] Five minutes to go and Russia takes a penalty. Leafs are back at it, but they can play without me for a few minutes. Germany are being so tentative and conservative, Tanja Eisenschmid dumped it in from the neutral zone on the PP.
[9:35] Russia pulls the goalie with less than two minutes on the clock, but it’s no good. The Germans turtled, blocked shots, and they held them off. Russia is out of the medal round, and Germany plays the USA on Thursday.
Grubauer might be beating the Leafs tonight, but Jennifer Harss is the real hero German goalie on the day.
[9:40] Back with the Leafs, they are spinning in circles in their own zone, not finding their way out.
Boston has beaten the Bolts 4-0, and that was a noble run, Tampa, an example to all, most notably yourselves, that injuries aren’t the excuse, they’re just the hill you have to climb. The chances now of the Leafs, the Bruins and the Senators not being the three teams to sort out the last three playoff spots is minuscule. Ottawa won their game 2-0 tonight.
[9:45] Leafs had two decent rush chances and then Jake Gardiner just batted a puck to no one, except a Caps player was there and that was the easiest 3-0 anyone has had in a while.
Don’t watch this video if you’re a fan of Gardiner. Just don’t.
The Leafs have now called this one a day. All that’s left is the grinding out of the last 10 minutes.
[10:00] Tom Wilson with a goal to make it 4-0 Washington. That’s, what to say about that? Why, bless his heart.
[10:05] The Leafs use a PP in the last few minutes to spoil the Grubauer shutout. Marner makes it 4-1 Caps. You don’t get that video because goals like that don’t matter.
Leafs need to put this one behind them and focus on Thursday’s game against Tampa. They can clinch it with a win, and a win would wash the taste of this one away nicely. They didn’t look completely outclassed in this game at the beginning, but you need to score something to beat a team, no matter who the team is, and it was their offensive pressure that wasn’t up to the task this time. When it fails, the Leafs fail.
Give yourself a gold star if you actually read this all the way through.