The Marlies won both of their games against the San Antonio Rampage this weekend. The Rampage made their first visit to Toronto in several years and didn’t get any points out of it with both Marlies victories complete in regulation time.
The Lines and Players
The Marlies had a sudden shift in their lineup to deal with for the weekend when the Maple Leafs called up Pontus Aberg to fill in for Andreas Johnsson. The Leafs also recalled back Nic Petan and Martin Marincin who had recently been sent down as well.
You can see there the lines were pretty stable, with swaps from Saturday to Sunday being Rich Clune in for Matt Read, and Ben Harpur in for Jordan Schmaltz.
Kasimir Kaskisuo started in net on Saturday and Joseph Woll started in net on Sunday.
The Rampage have some familiar names on their roster, notably ex-Leafs and Marlies defenceman Andreas Borgman. Borgman went to St. Louis in a trade for Jordan Schmaltz who is still with the Marlies.
Also on the Rampage are two ex-Leafs prospects from the 2014 NHL Draft that never made it far along in the Leafs system: J.J. Piccinich (4th round pick in 2014) and Dakota Joshua (5th round pick in 2014). It’s interesting to note the Leafs 7th round pick from that 2014 draft was Pierre Engvall, who was very recently called up to the Leafs from the Marlies and has a bright looking future with the team. Engvall and William Nylander are the last two players left with the Leafs organisation from that draft.
Two more familiar names on the Rampage are the one time highly-ranked 2012 NHL Draft pick Derrick Pouliot, whose career has since stagnated; and Jake Dotchin who is widely despised by Marlies fans for his misconduct on the ice which has injured several Marlies players over the years. He had a quiet weekend this time.
Saturday: Marlies 3 - Rampage 2
Sunday: Marlies 4 - Rampage 1
The Marlies looked much more cohesive compared to last weekend’s series against the Comets where broken passes and turnovers lead to a lot of breakaway scoring chances against, enough of which the Comets converted into goals that the Marlies lost one of the games largely because of it. This time they were playing and executing their game, but that still left a lot of work to their goalies to get the wins, especially on Saturday where Woll turned away 40 of 41 shots on goal. The only shot to get past him was on a penalty kill in the third period.
You can see how much work Woll had to do in Sunday’s game in this shot plot.
More importantly, that plot shows how low the Marlies offence was in comparison. The shot plot is all-situations, so it’s more remarkable given the Marlies had some power play opportunities, including some 5-on-3 time, and those were the only shots-on-goal generated. While they won the game 4-1, it wasn’t a runaway. The last two Marlies goals came at the end of the third period so score effects didn’t have a strong impact.
The Marlies power play didn’t work for the whole weekend. That’s a dangerous situation to be in for a team that’s also almost last in the league for penalty kill, presently at 77.8% (for the record, the Charlotte Checkers are once again number one with an absurd 92.7% PK—they’ve only allowed eight PP goals against so far this whole season.) Fortunately for the Marlies they also take well below the average number of penalties, but, that’s still a rate which needs to be offset by a strong power play, and theirs has been inconsistent this season.
Here’s my top three highlights from the weekend.
First, we have to include the teddy bear toss. Jeremy Bracco has been the bringer of bears for the previous two years, but this Saturday he only had an assist on the play with Kenny Agostino scoring the goal to unleash the bears.
There's the goal! Kenny Agostino gets the honour of sending out the bears this season. Bracco still gets an assist. His Bear Toss point streak stays intact. pic.twitter.com/umBN7fz6kM— Pension Plan Puppets (@PPPLeafs) December 7, 2019
The stuffed toys are collected and donated to families in need in partnership with the Yonge Street Mission.
Sunday was a day of first goals. Kristians Rubins and Rich Clune both picked up their first of the season.
It was nice to see Mason Marchment back in action at the Coliseum. The Marlies had five-on-three opportunities in both games, and Marchment was given a highly visible and important role both times as the front of the net guy on the first power play unit. He came close to scoring in both games. A.J. MacLean says his work was great, but he was unlucky. “I thought Mushy was pretty good. He had two in the crease that he missed five hole, and a third one Bracco hit him in the skates and it just didn’t go in the net. If it hit his skate another way he would have had a goal,” said MacLean.
New Head Coach Greg Moore will make his debut with the team in another few games. There is some organisational acclimatization in progress and reports that he is spending time with Sheldon Keefe.
Egor Korshkov was injured during the game on Sunday and did not return. There were no updates after the game about his status. Nothing obvious happened or was caught on camera so we will have to wait for more information.
The Marlies still sit on top of the North Division standings.
The Hartford Wolf Pack bounced the Providence Bruins out of first place in the Atlantic Division, but there were no changes to the top of the Western Conference with both the the Milwaukee Admirals and Tuscon Roadrunners retaining the top spots of their respective Divisions.
The Marlies are packing in a lot of games before Christmas. This week they will travel to Utica to play the Comets on Wednesday, then head back to Toronto for an important game against the surging Belleville Senators on Saturday. On Sunday they will have a rare visit from the Rockford Ice Hogs (Chicago Blackhawks affiliates).
I leave you with Rich Clune, who always gives the best interviews.