The Marlies suffered their third straight loss to the Belleville Senators in this yearly tradition, losing 3-2 in regulation to the Ottawa affiliate. In fact, the Marlies haven’t won on Boxing Day since the first time they started this tradition in 2015, where they beat the St. John’s Ice Caps 5-2.
Kenny Agostino and Adam Brooks (on the power play) scored for the Marlies, but the holiday feast still seemed very much apparent as the Marlies gave up the opening goal early and were lacklustre defensively on the power play and penalty kill, giving up a PPG and a shorty in the second. The Marlies tried to mount a comeback in a third period where they were down for the full 20 minutes, but they couldn’t score before running out of time.
Jeremy Bracco left the game with two primary assists, giving him 21 assists on the season, which is first on the Marlies and seventh in the league. Joseph Woll stopped 24 of 27 in another strong effort. He probably would like the first goal back, though.
As a student in his fourth year at York University, my past month has pretty much been consumed with studying for my (hopefully) second-last set of exams ever. I am very grateful that PPP lets me take time off from hockey in order to put school first, and I hope my marks show that off.
The only downside comes in the fact that I pretty much miss a month of games. For the Toronto Marlies, that meant nine missed games, a myriad of player movement (including a PTO!), and of course a new coach. I missed a lot, so it was really good to have the Christmas break to catch up and the Boxing Day classic at Scotiabank Arena to jump right back in.
This game was interesting for me as I felt like I was able to come back to this team with a fresh set of eyes and as little recency bias as I could bring, a lot like the Marlies new coach, Greg Moore, as he coached his second game in the AHL in this one.
The holiday break came right after Moore’s first AHL win, a day after returning from a road trip with the Leafs, and is now followed by three games in as many nights this Thursday to Saturday. The team hasn’t had any practice time with their new coach so they’re largely playing the old system with a few tweaks implemented through many video sessions.
The players say Moore is a very simple coach to understand and the changes he’s working to make haven’t been difficult to do on the ice. The team’s next big break will be four days between January 5th and 10th before the trip south to Texas. That trip consists of nine games in 21 days in five different cities. Two back-to-backs and a three-in-three in there, too. The grind never ends in the AHL.
Egor Korshkov missed his fifth straight game with a leg injury, meanwhile Kalle Kossila skated in his second game of the season on the second line. He received some nice praise from a muted Bracco after the game, but it looks like he’s going to need some time to gear into mid-season form.
On defense, Martin Marincin has replaced Rasmus Sandin on the first pair while the young Swede kicks international butt at the World Juniors. The game started with these pairs, but after a tough first period from the third pair, they were split up, with Teemu Kivihalme skating with Jordan Schmaltz and Joseph Duszak with Ben Harpur.
Kivihalme had another great game, his ninth straight in the 2LD position. His position looks about as locked in as Sandin, Liljegren, and Marincin ahead of him.
Nic Petan - Adam Brooks - Pontus Aberg
Kenny Agostino - Kalle Kossila - Jeremy Bracco
Mason Marchment - Hudson Elynuik - Tanner MacMaster
Nicholas Baptiste - Tyler Gaudet - Matt Read
Martin Marincin - Timothy Liljegren
Teemu Kivihalme - Joseph Duszak
Ben Harpur - Jordan Schmaltz
It was a bit of an awkward start to the game, as Woll lost sight of the puck as it was being played behind the net, allowing Sens prospect Josh Norris to bat home the loose puck at the side of the net. I think Woll thought the puck had gone to the front of the net, but it bounced off Kossila’s skate and stayed in that area of the ice.
This goal to tie the game was pure class from Bracco, who had pressure around him, but stayed calm and made a perfect pass to Agostino. Great vision by him to understand where the play was going and sharply reverse it. For Agostino, this was his 16th goal of the year and 12th even-strength goal, both of which he is the Marlies team lead in.
Brooks spoke after the game that he thought the Marlies really struggled at not giving up scoring chances in the first and that the team was sluggish at creating offense themselves. He was pretty much bang on.
Game 29 stats from the first period. #Marlies vs Belleville Senators— Hardev Lad (@HardevLad) December 26, 2019
Scoring Chances: 7-9
Goals: 1-1 (Agostino 👻)
Back and forth period. The Marlies got some great chances for themselves, but the chances against were more self-inflicted than the Sens being good.
It was a better start to the second than the first as the Marlies came in more organized and looked pretty good when they earned an early power play. Brooks was at the side of the net and just... slid the puck under goalie Joey Daccord, who was slow to cover the bottom of the net. An almost easy goal that put the Marlies in a good position.
And things were looking good in the second, until the last five minutes when the Marlies gave up two goals on special teams. MacMaster had gotten into a scuffle with Filip Chlapik between whistles, and with both in the box for roughing, Aberg got called for a trip. With only seven skaters on the ice, Drake Batherson had lots of space to feed Jordan Szwarz for a backdoor pass from the wing to the opposite side of the net.
I couldn’t find any video of the play, but think of every goal Bracco set up for Chris Mueller last season but from the left wing to the right side of the net.
Aberg gets caught for a trip on Josh Norris. Was definitely a trip, but the dive was pretty comical.— Hardev Lad (@HardevLad) December 26, 2019
The Sens score on the 4v3, Jordan Szwarz at the side of the net as Marincin can't beat the pass and check the stick.
Things later fell apart a little more than the Marlies would’ve liked as the Sens picked off a turnover in the neutral zone early in a power play for the Marlies and simply walked through their skaters before defenseman Jack Dougherty roofed a backhand on Woll. The power-play units never show any effort on defense and it never fails to make me mad. You’re not entitled to the puck, you have to want it to score!
The Marlies were better on preventing scoring chances in the second. Their only problem was that two of the three chances went in the back of the net. One was a power play goal, fine. The other was a shorthanded goal, not fine.
Second period stats. #Marlies vs Belleville Senators— Hardev Lad (@HardevLad) December 26, 2019
Scoring Chances: 5-3
Goals: 1-2 (Brooks 👶 (PP))
Better defensive effort. Makes it easier when Harpur-Schmaltz aren't on the ice for a third of the time. Special teams (PPG and SHG against) are the difference.
The third was a somewhat exciting period, with the Marlies getting a pretty good chance every few minutes. The pressure was building as we reached the final five minutes of the game, but within a minute of Kossila and Agostino combining for three shots in 10 seconds, Marchment took a needless tripping penalty while battling a Senators player near the benches.
It didn’t need to happen, and after a mature start to his season at the end of November, this was a return to Marchment’s old reckless behaviour. If there’s one thing he needs to clamp down this season for a shot at next year’s NHL roster, it’s his discipline. I hope this was just a one-off, but there isn’t much benefit of the doubt left with Marchment. I’m hopeful, nonetheless.
Score effects were a big aspect of the third period as the Sens played a more conservative game and focused on defending the lead rather than trying to score themselves. That said, that Marchment penalty near the end was a really nice way of killing two birds with one stone.
Third period stats. #Marlies vs Belleville Senators— Hardev Lad (@HardevLad) December 27, 2019
Scoring Chances: 10-3
Marlies tried to mount a comeback in the third, but a late penalty from Marchment kind of took the wind out of their sails. Two more games in the next two nights to make up for it.
This was the first of a three-in-three for the Marlies during this little stretch between Christmas and New Years. The team travelled to Laval right after the game at Scotiabank Arena so they could arrive in time for the first of two games on Friday and Saturday in Quebec.
In terms of spares (which will be necessary by Saturday), the Marlies have five extra forwards if you include a potentially healthy Korshkov. The defense is a little more shallow as Marincin could be called up to skate for the Leafs at any minute. Jesper Lindgren, Kristians Rubins, and the injured Kevin Gravel are the only extra defensemen on the trip. I guess they could fly in Mac Hollowell if they really wanted to.
The Marlies play the Rocket tonight at 7:30 while the Leafs are on the ice in New Jersey and they play them again at 3:00 tomorrow.