The Marlies looked like a car that hasn’t been turned over in a while.
Following a training camp with only a handful of regulars and no practices before having to play three games in four nights in three different cities, there were a few jumps and jitters before settling into a nice hum for the remainder of the game.
The Marlies gave up two goals within the first five minutes of each period and couldn’t come back late, despite throwing 20 shots at Jean-Francois Berube’s net in the third period alone. They lost to the Monsters 5-3.
Before the game, the Toronto Marlies unveiled their 2018 Calder Cup Championship banner. 12 of the players who helped the Marlies hoist Mr. Calder were in the lineup to start this new season.
And a Periscope of the montage, followed by my extremely immature face, for your viewing...? Viewing.
Carl Grundstrom - Chris Mueller - Sam Gagner
Dmytro Timashov - Adam Cracknell - Trevor Moore
Pierre Engvall - Josh Jooris - Jeremy Bracco
Emerson Clark - Colin Greening - JJ Piccinich
Calle Rosen - Timothy Liljegren
Andreas Borgman - Vincent LoVerde
Andrew Nielsen - Jordan Subban
Kasimir Kaskisuo will get the net for the Marlies in the home opener. Both goaltenders from last season, Garret Sparks and Calvin Pickard, are in the NHL so the starters role has fallen to Kaskisuo. KK was the fifth goalie in the organizational depth chart last year, but with the loss of Pickard and McElhinney, he has been bumped up two spots into the third position. Kaskisuo won the first game of the season
Jeff Glass, who is on an AHL-only contract, will back up Kaskisuo tonight, and for the foreseeable future. He posted a .838 save percentage in a 7-5 loss on Saturday night to the Binghamton Devils in his only piece of action for the year.
The Marlies didn’t get off to a great start in this one. The play all started when a Cleveland defenseman cut in front of Bracco, who was trying to dump the puck in so his line could leave, and intercepted the pass.
This forced Cracknell and Timashov (who had just come on the ice) to go in deep and try and recover the puck. I think Timashov could’ve stayed back in this scenario, but he didn’t and it left a gaping hole behind them.
Going back the other way, Nathan Gerbe centered the puck for Ryan MacInnis, who beat a helpless Kaskisuo. Subban and Nielsen were there, and they had Moore helping, it was honestly too much against the Monsters’ top line.
I’ll let Scott Wheeler take it away for this goal against. Pretty much nailed it.
Sam Gagner with an absolutely atrocious defensive-zone turnover, and the Monsters walk the other way and make it 2-0. Justin Scott with a rip.— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) October 8, 2018
With Calvin Thurkauf in the box for Cleveland, the Marlies power play got to work. It was a little shaky early, with Subban having to “accidentally” knee-check a Cleveland penalty killer who was on his way for a break. But they would get the puck back and Mueller would grab a slick pass from Timashov and rip home the Marlies’ first goal of the game. Great screen in front of the net from Monsters forward Justin Scott.
Timashov makes another gorgeous cross-ice pass. This time, it sets up Chris Mueller for a powerplay goal pic.twitter.com/DqDqiM2vUv— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) October 8, 2018
With only a few minutes left in the first, the Marlies give up a dagger. Michael Prapavessis breezed by LoVerde, and simply sniped a shot on Kaskisuo, who definitely should have had that one, or at the very least one of the two before. I think Marlies fans were spoiled with Sparks and Pickard last year. Hopefully Kaskisuo isn’t a downgrade on both, but he appears to be after two games.
Positives. The Marlies power play looks good! Subban is almost a specialist in working as power play from the blueline, and Timashov looks to have taken a step forward in his confidence offensively. He’s jumping forward into space a lot quicker now. I’ve liked Borgman all weekend, and he’s been proving me right.
Despite @MarkUKLeaf’s tweets at me about him, I haven’t noticed Bracco at all, and when I do notice him, he’s either late defensively, or not quite being good enough to finish plays offensively. It’s still early in the season, so I’m not going to hold it against him too much, a lot of Marlies have been bad tonight. I guess you can say I have high expectations.
1-4 and 1-5
The beginning of the second could’ve been renamed “Wow! How old is Zac Dalpe again? Oh.” period. Dalpe, who is all of a sudden 28-years-old, got the Monsters two goals within the first five minutes of the game. First, he sent a rocket from the point past everyone on the ice while on the power play. No one had a chance of stopping that. Then, he beat Engvall to the inside, and tapped home a great pass from Tommy Cross (named after Mr. Hilfiger) at the end of a Rosen interference penalty.
Tommy Cross made a great play to set up this PP goal. Engvall, who is being tested on the PK, doesn't do a great job of tying up his man in front pic.twitter.com/UnruEUWZ0W— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) October 8, 2018
Gagner has been the de facto leader of the Marlies in this first weekend of play. When the team is at it’s worst, he’s always been able to find a way to score and breathe some life into the team. I’m certain he saw the 5-1 goal by Dalpe and just decided in his head that he was going to score on the next shift. A perfect shot to the top corner from the far wing later, and the Marlies are back within three.
Just as the Marlies started to get some momentum going the other way, Andrew Nielsen stepped in and decided he wanted to lose his cool, again. With the Monsters in the Marlies zone, a battle along the boards ensued. Nielsen wrapped his arms around his man and took him down. He then proceeded to “make sure” his man stayed down with a pair of cross-checks.
The Monsters clearly didn’t like it, and as the play continued the other way and eventually stopped, several Monsters confronted Nielsen and got into a scuffle. When the dust settled, Nielsen was the only player to take a penalty.
Rosen started to look really good in the two shifts before his goal late in the second. He was quick, and aggressive offensively. He pushing nice and high, and using his feet when he needed to. He had a big rip on the power play that just went wide. He would eventually be rewarded with a goal when Subban teed him up for a blast from the top of the left faceoff dot.
The crowd erupted with Rosen after he scored, as the Marlies suddenly felt back in the game again at the end of the second. The Marlies out-shot the Monters 9-7 in that period, and looks good for longer stretches than they looked bad. Low bar, I know, but baby steps here.
Bracco hits the crossbar on the PP here. He later whiffed on a puck when he had an empty net. He could easily have four points or so through three games. Instead, he has zero. pic.twitter.com/VrJJu30FmU— Kevin Papetti (@KPapetti) October 8, 2018
Analysts like Kevin and former managing editor Scott Wheeler have apparently liked Bracco’s game so far this season, and I feel inclined to go by their word. He’s been able to get chances; he’s helped Engvall look a lot more dynamic offensively than Greening and Frederik Gauthier did last year, and he hit a crossbar in the last period, but I just quite haven’t seen enough from him. I don’t see him making any more of a difference than any of the other forwards on the Marlies.
Grundstrom, too, but I’ve noticed that he’s working on shoring up the other parts of his game, and he’s had to turn into a third-wheel with Mueller and Gagner making magic together. Both those guys are players have the talent and opportunity to really take a step with the Marlies. It’s just going to take time before we see it, I guess.
How’d the start of the third period go, Bob? Not great, Steve, not great.
Chris Mueller down and in some discomfort. Play blown dead. He heads straight to locker room. Marlies can’t afford to lose another centre (Brooks is already hurt).— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) October 8, 2018
Despite the loss of Mueller, the Marlies kicked it into high gear for the third. They pushed hard to keep the Monsters away and were widely successful. The shots 12 minutes into the third were 14-0, including a couple great chances by Moore, Engvall, Bracco, and Gagner on a power play mid-way through the frame.
The Marlies went for a big push at the end, they pulled Kaskisuo with over five minutes left, benched Nielsen and the fourth line, and ended up putting 20 shots on Berube’s net in the third period alone. But at the end of the day, Berube stopped a games worth of shots in one period, and finished the game with a .925 save percentage on 40 shots.
After the Whistle
- Sam Gagner raved about how “first class” the Leafs, and especially Marlies facilities have been since coming over from Vancouver. The change has been weird to say the least, but the fact that he was able to play games right away helped with his transition. Three goals and five points in three games is a pretty good introduction to a new squad.
- Rosen, Greening, and head coach Sheldon Keefe all made it known that the opening schedule for the team has been, well let’s say shit, to say the least. Three games in four nights for a team that’s barely had any practice time as a group. They will have a solid school-week’s worth of practices at the MasterCard Centre (for hockey excellence) before they have to play the Utica Comets twice on the weekend.
- Housekeeping: Adam Brooks and Mason Marchment remain injured, along with Rasmus Sandin, but he’s not on the official roster and the Marlies are remaining very mute about his present future. Justin Peters has been released from his PTO, while forward Eric Selleck, and defenseman Kyle Cumiskey remain with the group.
- Something that is not injured, but just as depleted is the Leafs’ goaltending depth. Currently, the depth chart goes: Frederik Andersen, Garret Sparks, Kasimir Kaskisuo, Jeff Glass. Freddy is in October, forgiven. Kaskisuo and Glass combined for 15 goals against on 108 shots over the loing weekend, good for a .861 SV%, and Sparks gave up six goals on 31 shots (.806) in his only game over the weekend. It’s still early, but if things remain on this path, something’s going to change.
- When asked about Borgman’s game, Keefe reiterated that it’s been hard for Borgman to transition from the NHL to AHL, and that he comes into this year looking for a fresh start. The Marlies and Leafs have to know what they have in him, and are just keeping him down so that he gets settled in his role before coming up./