After a successful first week at home, the Toronto Marlies went back to work at Ricoh Coliseum, taking on the Albany Devils. The fun thing about this matchup? While the two teams face each other six times this season, the two haven't faced each other in four years.
Not a single player on this year's Marlies team played in that game; only Nazem Kadri even remains in the organization. It just goes to show you how odd the AHL's travel-tailored scheduling can be sometimes.
Anyway, the gap between Saturday's reunion and their next matchup was less than 24 hours, meaning a weekend of fun hockey. Here's what went down:
Toronto vs. Albany (Saturday, 3-2 Win)
This game started off with some initial momentum from Toronto, but when things weren't working out, RIch Clune tried to shake things up by dropping the mitts with Chris McKelvie. It didn't go as planned; not only did the whistle negate a scoring chance, but a point shot from Dan Kelly found its way to Corey Tropp's upper body and into the back of Antoine Bibeau's net just seconds later.
Toronto responded before the period could close. Justin Holl and William Nylander got together on an indirect give and go play, which ended in the 19-year-old Swedish Albertan banging home his second of the season. With Viktor Loov in the box, Mike Sislo capitalized with a knee drop one-timer to restore Albany's lead, and for the bulk of the game, it looked like they'd retain it.
Late in the third period, the Marlies desperately needed a goal, and by pulling Antoine Bibeau, they created a makeshift powerplay. TJ Brennan took a shot that ended up behind the net, but it bounced into a perfect spot for Byron Froese to clean up and tie the game. Brennan's stick became a focal point just a few minutes later in overtime, as he finished off an odd-man rush with Connor Brown to give the Marlies a win that seemed to be too much to ask for just minutes prior.
Toronto vs. Albany (Sunday, 3-2 Loss)
This game had the bulk of its action compressed into the span of a couple of minutes. While the Marlies appeared to be in a good spot with an early second-period powerplay, their failure to set up correctly after the draw led to an odd-man rush that Dan Kelly and Jim O'Brien turned into a shorthanded goal.
Toronto responded back quickly, though. William Nylander stripped Yann Danis of the puck behind his net, leading to an opportunity for Matt Frattin to tie the game, and just a minute later, Kasperi Kapanen fired an absolute howitzer of a slapper to give Toronto the lead. Five minutes later, though, Sislo scored a goal that was oddly reminiscent of the one from the night before, leading to a winner-take-all third period.
It didn't go the way the Marlies wanted it to. Paul Thomson and Blake Pietila collaborated on another odd-man rush that once again got the best of Garret Sparks, leading to what became an extremely low event third period. Try as the Marlies did, they weren't able to muster up more than six shots in the final frame, none of which could find the back of the net.
Fancy Stats to Date
Per our friends at CHLStats, the Marlies have taken a Fenwick dip, but still remain among the best in the league. Through four games, Toronto has an estimated 57.63% Fenwick-for, which ranks them in fifth in the AHL. Their all-situations PDO has more or less evened out at this point, thanks to slightly below average shooting (8.571%) and slightly above average goaltending (0.905).
Player of the Week
TJ Brennan essentially went from having one of his quietest games every with two minutes left in the third period to last second hero and overtime hero in the blink of an eye and followed that up with an assist and a couple of shots on goal on Sunday. Beyond that, he appeared very confident with the puck throughout the weekend, constantly and comfortably moving play into the offensive zone.
Who's Hot, Who's Not?
Matt Frattin is hot. The veteran was out of the rotation on Saturday but took a whopping seven shots on Sunday, including a goal that he didn't quite get all of his stick on, effectively throwing a changeup into a half-open net. You take those when you can get them, though.
Connor Brown is hot. He picked up an assist in both games, including on Brennan's overtime winner on Saturday. His vision is put on display nearly every time he hits the ice, and he's continued to prove that this season.
Casey Bailey is not. Bailey finally played in his first game with the Marlies on Sunday, and minus a couple of decent drives to the net that didn't lead to shots on goal, he wasn't overly effective. He might just need to get into his groove, but it wasn't the greatest of starts for him.
Frederik Gauthier is not. He's clearly one of the weaker skaters on the team, and if he's not perfectly in position, it shows. He's still young enough to turn that around, of course, and he's barely started in his first pro season. He only played in the Sunday game, had no points, but had a shot on goal.
The Marlies now head to New York for their first road trip of the year, taking on the Rochester Americans, Binghamton Senators, and Lehigh Valley Phantoms over the course of the weekend. All of these teams are in the bottom third of the league in estimated possession, so as long as the Marlies stick to their game, it shouldn't be hard to keep control of these games. Fatigue, if anything, will be the biggest factor.