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Marlies Recap: Jeremy Bracco assists in Toronto’s 5-1 win over Laval Rocket

Garret Sparks makes what would be the save of the season if it was against an opponent that was good.

Jeremy Bracco celebrates a Toronto Marlies goal against the Laval Rocket in the first period
Credit: Thomas Skrlj

The Toronto Marlies concluded a home-heavy month with a 5-1 victory over the Laval Rocket.

Jeremy Bracco led the way with three assists, including setting up both the game-tying and game-winning goals. Garret Sparks stopped an incredible 38 of 39 shots for the win and made the first of two great plays that sealed the deal for the Marlies in the third period, the latter being an unassisted end-to-end (and around the net) rush by Andreas Borgman to put the Marlies up 4-1 at the time.

Forwards

Pierre Engvall - Derian Plouffe - Trevor Moore

Dmytro Timashov - Chris Mueller - Ben Smith

Colin Greening - Miro Aaltonen - Kyle Baun

Jean Dupuy - Brady Ferguson - Jeremy Bracco

Defense

Calle Rosen - Justin Holl

Andreas Borgman - Timothy Liljegren

Andrew Nielsen - Vincent LoVerde

Garret Sparks started in net for the Marlies. He is 6-1-0 in his last seven games heading into this game, his only loss coming in relief on Saturday when he let in one (bad) goal after coming in cold for Calvin Pickard. He has a .937 save percentage in 39 games — no one has been better in goal than Sparkie.

First Period

Brady Ferguson has been good in his first few games with the Marlies but he is not without blemishes. Getting used to the decrese in time and space is his biggest issue, two games into his AHL career. Keefe has noted he didn’t expect Ferguson to have the skill he showed on the power play in his first game. His keen decision making along the boards has been something that has stood out to me, along with a pair of soft hands he likes to use in the offensive zone.

Pierre Engvall has been a magnet for chances in his young career with the Marlies. He nearly finished a cross-crease pass on the power play but got the stacked pads treatment from Montreal Laval starting goaltender Charlie Lindgren, who came across brilliantly.

*the shots were actually 1-6. Your boy can’t read, clearly.

PP1: Timashov - Mueller - Smith - Rosen - Ferguson

PP2: Engvall - Aaltonen - Moore - Bracco - Liljegren

0-1

Dmytro Timashov got called for a tripping penalty, if you want to call it that. Four seconds into the kill, Chris Terry — who took a tripping penalty four minutes earlier — blasted a one-timer from the point and scored the game’s opening goal. Matt Taormina (shout-out Syracuse) got the the first assist, Adam Cracknell got the other.

1-1

Pierre Engvall continued his point-per-game pace with the Marlies after beating Charlie Lindgren five-hole on the power play (Anthony Beauregard was called for hooking). It was his second goal in his first three games since coming over from Sweden, and he threw in an assist in his first game on Saturday for good measure. The 21-year-old’s goal was assisted by 18-year-old Timothy Liljegren, and fellow 21-year-old Jeremy Bracco.

After One

After getting drop-kicked 1-6 in the shots department to start the game, the Marlies used two and a bit power plays to give them a 11-10 lead in shots after 20 minutes. Jeremy Gregoire took a slashing penalty with 14 seconds left in the first, and the Marlies were able to create a chance with the little time they had. Lindgren kept his team in it, which is fitting with former Toronto Maple Leaf James Reimer only a few blocks away with the Florida Panthers in town.

Second Period

In the second, I especially noticed Jeremy Bracco’s increased awareness in the defensive zone. He’s learned where he needs to be in the best position possible to be an outlet for his defensemen, and if need be, bail them out when they get cornered. An example of this that stood out to me was when Liljegren was in his own zone on the power play.

Liljegren whiffed on a puck, got turned around, and was about to be eaten alive by the two Laval forecheckers until he saw Bracco come over from the slot and be available in the right place at the perfect time. There are more than a few offensive wingers who would already have blown the zone, looking for Liljegren to throw up one of his great breakout passes, but instead Bracco was in the defensive zone covering for his teammate.

Pierre Engvall has been using his overly long stick to great effect on the forecheck and in his own zone in this game. On the forecheck, Engvall stretched as far forward as he could so he could poke check the Laval player the whole time around the back of the Rocket net at full speed. Magically, Engvall was able to keep up the whole time despite being in a terrible skating position.

Pierre Engvall takes a shot on Charlie Lindgren
Credit: Thomas Skrlj

On the defensive side, Engvall has what coaches love: an active stick. It’s constantly in motion and constantly in the way of whoever has the puck on Laval. On one shift in particular, his efforts direcrtly negated a shot on Sparks from a good position. Encouraging stuff.

After being asked about this post-game, coach Keefe gave a different spin on Engvall’s play. “We’d like to see Engvall use his size a bit more to get to the net.” The Marlies — and presumably the Leafs as well — clearly see that there is more Engvall can give than just being a really tall speedy winger. “The goals he’s scored have come on the power play and he’s getting shots along the flank. But at even strength he can get to the inside and can use his size to protect the puck a little better.”

The Marlies had a better start to the second than the first, but they are still getting out-shot...

2-1

Just as I was typing the above, the Marlies scored! With Jeremiah Addison in the box for hooking, Trevor Moore grabbed the puck from just inside the blueline, streaked down the right wing and cut towards the middle of the ice. It was just enough to get away from a Rocket stick before sniping on Charlie Lindgren, far corner.

Moore has really stepped up for the Marlies in the absence of Kasperi Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson from the top line. For a 22-year-old in only his second season in the AHL, this is as good a time as any for Moore to show what moore [I see what you did there. - Acha] he can do in an increased role. #Opportunity.

Once again, Jeremy Bracco and Timothy Liljegren got the assists on the power play goal. Those two have been shot-generating machines on the power play.

3-1

Vincent LoVerde got a goal for himself not too long after Moore’s tally. From the corner, Jeremy Bracco saw LoVerde barreling down middle of the slot from the blueline and fed him a perfect pass that Vinny blasted home to give the Marlies a two-goal lead. Bracco now has three assists tonight and six in as many games. It’s taken him the better part of the season to get his legs under him in the AHL, but now that he has, he looks unstoppable in the offensive zone.

On the play, Brady Ferguson got his first point in the AHL, a secondary assist on a 3-1 goal against the Laval Rocket. Sexy. Jokes aside, his work on the play really turned it from nothing into something. The puck was about to leave the zone until Ferguson cut it off and sent it around to a waiting Bracco at the opposite corner. Ferguson then made a bee-line to the front of the net and provided a screen at the perfect time for LoVerde’s shot. It was great to see him get that first point out of the way, his hard work definitely hasn’t gone unnoticed among the Marlies coaching staff.

After Two

The Marlies continued to get outshot by the Rocket, six shots to Laval’s 15 in the second period alone for a grand total of 25-18 after two periods. Despite the disparity in shots, the Marlies have been getting pucks towards the net and making good on the chances they did get. Two goals later and the Marlies carry a comfortable lead into the third period.

Third Period

Derian Plouffe has had a quiet first two periods and it appears he has shifted to the third line with Colin Greening and Kyle Baun to start the third period. The 5’10” 23-year-old Niagara University graduate has looked encouraging in a bottom-six role but it appears a top-line assignment was a little much for him. For now, Miro Aaltonen, you’re up.

Another player who has not yet been in the spotlight this game is Garret Sparks. For save #31 on the night, Sparks changed that. Sparkie sprawled to his right to stop a shot only to have to dive back to his left to stop Jeremy Gregoire with a disgusting glove save. The game felt like it froze for a second with Sparks laying on his back, his glove creeping up off the ice while Gregoire set up for the shot. The Laval #37 elevated the puck but Sparks matched him, snaring the puck with his trapper. Incredible.

4-1

Andreas Borgman did this one all on his own. Literally, it was unassisted. Zone entry, drove to the net, head up to make a play, saw opportunity down the slot, finished. That’s what we like to see! This goal by Borgman coupled with the save from Sparks really looked to be the final nail in the coffin for Laval.

Borgman has not been as good as we all expected him to be after coming down to the AHL after nearly four months as a rookie defenseman in the NHL. His start has been slow, this was only his first goal in nearly a month, but the reminder that his raw skills and his ability to be great when he wants to be is still there is encouraging to see.

Sheldon Keefe acknowledged Borgman’s disappointing play but shares some insight into what the issue is and what is being done to mend it.

I don’t think he’s found his groove here in this league. We haven’t met frequently but recently we’ve been talking a little bit about that. We think he can play better. It’s tough mentally to come down from the NHL. Not only are you making adjustments to play in the league but you got a lot of other things on your mind. We’re hoping he can clear his head a little bit. Hopefully this goal tonight is a step in the right direction.

5-1

Captain Ben Smith sealed the deal with a shorthanded goal assisted by Colin Greening. Points for two players who played hard when down a man as well as at even strength all night. Love it.

After the Whistle

Keefe clearly had something he wanted to say right off the bat when he started his post-game interview. Keefe has lamented for a good portion of the week that the team has been getting a little too comfortable at home.

We just need to turn the page and get out of this building. It’s just not normal to play so many games at home. We haven’t been in a hotel in over a month and I feel we got a little too comfortable here. It gets stale. When you’re on the road too much that gets old too. We just need a change.

Keefe repeated once again that he wants his guys to play against top teams, that playing bottom-feeders have dulled the team’s edge needed come playoff time. The Marlies have a whole host of people at Ricoh on a daily basis. Fedor Gordeev has been unofficially training with the club (he’s too young to play in the AHL), Mason Marchment is still healing from his concussion that is apparently “coming along really well. He’s starting to feel a lot more like himself, he’s just got to go through the protocol.” according to Keefe. It will be interesting to see who goes to Manitoba and who stays back to train with the skills and development coaches.

We’ve got a lot of people around here which is why we’re talking a much smaller group with us on the road. It’s fun to be on the road, be together with your group. We get to play five straight games against teams that are in the playoffs. It’s an exciting challenge for us. We’re excited to get to the airport tomorrow (Thursday) and get going.

We’re trying to find a little continuity in our group here. Thats one thing we’re anxious to have in this next little bit. We’ve moved a lot of people in and out of the lineup both on forward and defense and we want to settle that down as we go on the road. The more we find continuity in our group the better we’ll play.