For a while, it was all going so well. The Toronto Marlies were picking up easy points, tough points, good points, bad points. Just... lots of points, points that they weren't getting at the start of the year as they hung out in the American Hockey League's basement. But now, as the points start to really count and the playoffs become even more attainable, the team hit the brakes. Not in a totally tragic way, but going 1-1-1 is something the team could've stood to avoid at the moment.
Toronto 1 vs Chicago 2 (Wednesday)
This game started off pretty well for the Marlies. They generated some solid offensive pressure, and a few minutes in, Viktor Loov made an intelligent pinch to pick up his sixth goal of the year. Unfortunately, that lead lasted about 45 seconds, as Joel Edmundson quickly scored an equalizer for the Wolves. A waved off goal delayed Toronto's misery a little bit, but late in the first period, Magnus Pajaarvi scored to give his team the lead.
From there, the goals dried up. Personally, I blame the fire alarm that played throughout the second period, though going zero for five on the powerplay was likely the bigger issue. "Our old nemesis, the special teams, didn't do the job for us." said head coach Gord Dineen after the game. "I don't know if its that lack of urgency, we sometimes take too much time. Our entries have been fine, we get set up. Its a matter of when we have pucks in shooting position, to get pucks to the net." Despite increased pressure in the closing minutes, the Marlies weren't able to restore a balance and ended up losing this one in regulation.
Toronto 4 @ Lake Erie 3 (Friday)
This game had the potential to get ugly. While the Marlies were once again bailed out by an overturned goal, the Marlies had an extremely bad start to the second period. Michael Schumacher (not the racer, I swear) picked up a goal for the Monsters five minutes into the period, and within the next five and a half, Andrew Agozzino followed up with powerplay and shorthanded tallies.
The Marlies needed an answer, and it couldn't wait until the intermission. Thankfully for them, Josh Leivo provided it, picking up his eleventh of the year with three minutes to go in the second. That pressure carried into the third, as TJ Brennan wired a slapshot to close the gap a bit. This all lead to a nail-biting conclusion, and with just a minute left in regulation, Byron Froese tied the game. In overtime, William Nylander set up Stuart Percy, who then fired a pass into Matt Frattin's skate for the rather surprising and unorthodox game winner.
"Willie kind of pulled up, hit Stu on the backside, and I just tried to get positioned on my defender." said Frattin of his overtime tally. "It went off the skate, and eventually found the back of the net, which was nice."
Toronto 2 @ Grand Rapids 7 (Saturday)
For a while, the Marlies looked pretty good for a team that had played in another city the night before. While the fifth overall Griffins opened the scoring through a goal from Tomas Nosek, the Marlies kept the pressure on and actually outshot their opponents in all three periods. However, Anthony Mantha added some insurance just 26 seconds into the second, giving the Marlies their second mutli-goal deficit to work on in as many nights.
Ryan Rupert plugged the hole a little bit a couple of minutes later with his fifteenth of the season, and William Nylander picked up a goal as well, but in between them, Nick Jensen snuck one home to keep this from being tied up.
The wheels really fell off in the third period. After a boring start, Marek Tvrdon made it 4-2, and Jeff Hoggan added insult to injury to widen the gap even further. The Marlies opted for an empty net with over five minutes to go, but ended up putting Christopher Gibson back in. This didn't do them much good as Mark Zengerle and Kevin Porter added two additional goals.
Finally, this happened.
The penalty list for this one was long, including a roughing minor to Brad Ross, a fighting major to Sam Carrick, and an ejection to Josh Leivo for, well, fighting in the other team's bench. Nonetheless, the Marlies actually gained a powerplay out of it, but couldn't convert. Eventually, the buzzer put the team out of their misery and ended the game.
Player of the Week
I'm going to go with Matt Frattin. It's really crazy to think that he's 27 years old now, and a veteran for this team, but he's definitely not wasting a roster spot. His line (along with Froese and Nylander) was the drive factor behind the comeback against Lake Erie, not to mention the fact that he scored the OT winner. He also threw a three shots on net against Chicago, and picked up an assist in Grand Rapids. Overall, he had three solid games and deserves the recognition for them.
Who's Hot, Who's Not?
Christopher Gibson is not. You'd have to guess that his start streak is going to come to an end, after allowing 12 goals on 80 shots this week and getting pulled in the lone win. That's an 0.850 save percentage and a single point earned, for those counting, and probably implies that he needs to take a breaks.
William Nylander is hot. A goal and two assists over the three games appear to be confirmation that he isn't streaking, but rather is starting to fully grasp the American Hockey League. He's been producing at near point per game rate for a while now, which has to excite you.
Brendan Leipsic finished the week hot. He's had a rough go of late, but setting up both goals in the loss to Grand Rapids was a silver lining for both himself and his team.
TJ Brennan is.. getting there. He finally scored his first goal since rejoining the team (on his birthday, no less), and took five shots against the Griffins. Can't really declare him fully there yet, but this is what the Marlies were looking for from him.
Sam Carrick is not. Some guys take momentum from their NHL call-ups back down with them, but Carrick doesn't appear to be one of them. No points on the weekend.
The Marlies play three games over the next week, including their last two home games of the regular season. Tuesday night sees them take on the Adirondack Flames, who trail Toronto by just one point in the standings at the moment and will surely be eager to leapfrog. On Friday night, they head to Rochester to take on the Amerks, followed by "Fan Appreciation Day" on Saturday afternoon. Tuesday and Friday's games are 7PM's starts, while Saturdays will begin at 3PM. This may be your last chance to see the team live this year if they don't catch fire, so take advantage of the opportunity while its there!