The Marlies had a busy three-in-three weekend before they leave for the annual boat show road trip. The team’s recent rough stretch continued with the Marlies winning only one of the three games.

Hardev has your recap for Friday and Saturday’s game and Species has some thoughts on Sunday’s game.

Friday @ Syracuse (8-2 loss)

Marlies Lines

Darren Archibald - Kalle Kossila - Pontus Aberg
Kenny Agostino - Nic Petan - Jeremy Bracco
Egor Korshkov - Hudson Elynuik - Nicholas Baptiste
Tanner MacMaster - Tyler Gaudet - Scott Pooley

Mac Hollowell - Timothy Liljegren
Kristians Rubins - Jordan Schmaltz
Ben Harpur - Joseph Duszak

Joseph Woll
Kasimir Kaskisuo

This game was garbage from puck drop to final horn. The Marlies got scored on in the first minutes and couldn’t face forward for the rest of the night because they were too busy watching the Crunch bury pucks in the back of their net.

Here is every single goal the Marlies gave up and why they were trash. Call it a video session, or even a Marlies Fan Reaction; what I would give for Steve Dangle’s video camera and lungs.

Number one. Right away, the Marlies have all three forwards caught deep — this is within the first minute of the game, by the way, without any support. Duszak and Harpur give up so much of their zone to the Crunch, allowing Gemel Smith to avoid Harpur and breeze by Duszak before roofing it on Woll.

Number two. HOW DO YOU LET DEFENSEMAN BEN THOMAS DANGLE YOU LIKE THAT??? Wow, I’m already yelling. This must be what Dangle feels like. I talk to Crunch fans on a regular basis and they say he sucks at literally everything, and yet he is able to do THAT to the Marlies. Thomas has 12 goals in 247 career AHL games and this was one of them, my God.

Number three. Yes, we truly love to see two Marlies trying to glide around on their edges without a care in the world while Taylor Raddysh SHOULD be taking a contested shot in the slot. Both Gaudet and Liljegren have their feet wide and static. STOP AND START, DON’T GLIDE. Liljegren takes a massive arc as he realizes Alex Barre-Boulet is not skating into the corner, leaving the shooting lane wide open. Veteran Tyler Gaudet is just spinning. Move. Your. Feet. You’ll. Get. There. FASTER.

Number Four. Wow, another power play. I hated Liljegren on this play too. He tried to get away with a stick lift, but the moment he and Ross Colton disconnected, Liljegren was on the wrong side of the play and unable to help his team win the puck. Colton was able to skate over to the right side of the net and bang home the rebound while Matt Read tried to cover three guys at once.

Number five. Another Liljegren blunder. His pass got picked off by Danick Martel, who was off on a one-on-one against Petan. I’m sure the puck going at a weird speed just handcuffed Petan, who looked awful on this play, but I don’t have much sympathy for a shorthanded goal that is also the fifth goal against in a game we are not even halfway through yet.

Number Six. The Marlies are getting 2020 booed.

Number seven. That fellow was Jordan Schmaltz, Mo. He’s the guy who tried to jump in on a 2v2 battle along the boards before realizing he had to backtrack because Rubins was already there. As he scrambled, ABB snuck into the back door and buried an easy play. I don’t have much to blame on Kossila here, his job was covering the slot.

Number eight. Hollowell gets bullied off the puck way too easily. Duszak is too afraid to go in and stop someone in blue from doing literally anything. Kossila chasing the guy behind the net, leaving the front open. And Bracco skating mohawk circles for fun as Otto Somppi literally scores while looking like Jar Jar Binks. A fitting way to end a game.

After the game, head coach Greg Moore had a lot to say about the effort from his team and joked about throwing out the video. I couldn’t disagree with him more. Don’t throw it out. LEARN FROM IT.

Saturday vs. Rochester (5-2 win)

Marlies Lines

Pontus Aberg - Kalle Kossila - Jeremy Bracco
Kenny Agostino - Tanner MacMaster - Egor Korshkov
Garrett Wilson - Tyler Gaudet - Matt Read
Rich Clune - Hudson Elynuik - Scott Pooley

Teemu Kivihalme - Timothy Liljegren
Kristians Rubins - Jesper Lindgren
Ben Harpur - Mac Hollowell

Kasimir Kaskisuo
Joseph Woll

Saturday was a surprising win over the North Division leading Rochester Americans. Despite the score, there were still plenty of red flags to be seen all over the ice when it came to the Marlies play.

The Marlies scored two goals early from miscues in the defensive end from Rochester. Kalle Kossila got his second of the season from a turnover by the Amerks that gave Jeremy Bracco an easy passing lane to Kossila in the slot. Kenny Agostino earned his 18th when he and Pontus Aberg connected on a counterattack on the rush.

While the Marlies really struggle to create offensive chances for themselves through consistent build-up and executing plays, they have enough individual talent to convert when the opponent does a lot of the work for them.

I thought the Marlies were really passive in their commitment to their system and decision-making. They were sloppy and slow; every group of five felt disconnected. Think back to the Trevor Moores of the world. Unrelenting all over the ice. Moore is the kind of player that never turns his brain off, is always working at 100% all over the ice. The Marlies were the complete opposite of that in the first two periods. They were making cheap and easy plays far too often and they didn’t do anything with the puck whenever they got it.

The Marlies had an eight-minute stretch at the beginning of the second where they looked like a good team, Hollowell especially. However, that disappeared as the group gave up 12 straight shots to end the period, including a goal. Hollowell specifically was disappointing to me. He’s not there defensively in terms of his speed against opposing forwards and doing anything to take the puck back when he gets there. He was beaten around the outside way too often in this game and almost looked lost in the offensive zone. Heck, he made Ben Harpur look good!

The third period was weird because it was the difference-maker in the game, and yet it almost didn’t feel earned. The Marlies scored three goals within the span of three and a half minutes in the second half of the period to gain a lead and extend it towards the win.

The first goal was a complete solo effort from Kalle Kossila, going end-to-end before driving the net, falling, and roofing his shot over Andrew Hammond before celebrating like he’s Bobby Orr. It was a great goal full stop.

Once that goal went in the Amerks started taking more risks. I said after the second period that not once did I see them without three players back on defense against a rush. They were always on the right side of the puck... until the end of the third when they gave up two rushes against Aberg and Korshkov, both of which were converted.

And that was the game. The Marlies didn’t out-play their opponents, but they got the win by a few individuals taking advantage of mistakes and Kossila having a breakout performance in the blue and white. I know winning is important, but when a development team doesn’t have the skill or structure to play better, they won’t develop players, and in turn, won’t get better. I want to see these guys playing well and winning, because sucking every night is not fun, despite the occasional win.

On the bright side, Teemu Kivihalme was really nice to talk to!

Sunday vs Lehigh Valley (4-2 loss)

Marlies Lines

Egor Korshkov - Kalle Kossila - Pontus Aberg
Darren Archibald - Tanner MacMaster - Jeremy Bracco
Garrett Wilson - Tyler Gaudet - Nicholas Baptiste
Giovanni Fiore - Matt Read - Scott Pooley

Teemu Kivihalme - Timothy Liljegren
Kristians Rubins - Jesper Lindgren
Ben Harpur - Jordan Schmaltz

Joseph Woll
Kasimir Kaskisuo

A game against the Phantoms was a nice break from recently seeing only other teams from the North Division. They came in to Sunday’s game on a six game losing streak so you knew that slump was going to be busted, right?

The Phantoms started Alex Lyon in net. They had Morgan Frost playing too, who looked pretty good, by the way. I haven’t followed the Flyers roster moves recently, so I wasn’t aware they had returned him to the AHL again until I saw his name on the roster before the start of the game. Apparently it only happened December 29th, but he had played with the Flyers for 18 games. Frost was selected for the AHL All-Star Classic later this month so maybe he will move back up to the NHL when that is over.

Sheldon Keefe often said “when you play three games in three days, funny things happen,” and Sunday was the third game in three days for both teams. It’s always a problem recapping these third games because both teams are out of gas, and the play can get sloppy and disorganized at times.

The Phantoms got on the board quickly in the first period, despite a promising start for the Marlies when Morgan Frost took a very early  penalty. The Marlies power play unit had a strong lineup or Korshkov, Bracco, Aberg, Kossila, and Liljegren but could make nothing of it

Sometimes these games wind up with frayed tempers and lots of fisticuffs, but this one looked rather sedate until the Phantoms started scoring and realised they could snap their losing streak and got a second wind which carried them through to the end of the game for a win.

The Phantoms got two in the first period where the Marlies couldn’t consistently execute any offence.

The second period was an unremarkable one on the score sheet. Though a few interesting things did happen as the Phantoms shot tally tracked up higher and higher over the Marlies.

About eight minutes in the net comes off, and I know there’s times where the they don’t blow the whistle because of the defending team has possession and such, but Alex Lyon was left there while play continued in the opposite end to re-attach the net post to the plug and he made a comically no-effort attempt to do so. It wasn’t a surprise when the net simply came off again a minute later, but it also wasn’t funny that was conveniently when the Marlies had a breakaway with a shot he might not have stopped.

I saw they re-drilled the hole in the second intermission but maybe just stop the game for a few minutes and do that? They do that in the NHL from time to time.

Aberg did take a penalty toward the end of the second and the penalty kill was actually pretty good, with even a short handed chance after the Phantoms drilled one of their own accidentally with a slapshot (he was fine).

The third period started with another

A little bit of hope was restored by Timothy Liljegren and this really nice goal. This is the Lilly we want to see on the Leafs next season.

And Fiore added another. He doesn’t have the heaviest hockey toolbox to draw from, but he can shoot the puck. Indeed, he had three shots on goal and several more that were missed in this game and he finally got one of those in there, his first with the Marlies since he left the Arizona Coyotes organization when they mutually agreed to terminate his contract in December.

Woll did his best to keep the Marlies in this one including one standing-on-his-head save after the Marlies gifted the puck to the Phantoms right in their zone. Morgan Frost ultimately sealed the Phantoms win when after Woll was pulled from the net.

So, there’s a lot of gray area in this game given the circumstances, but you can say there’s circumstances about all of them and the number of losses is piling up.

Sunday’s word of the day for Greg Moore was process. He commented that he was happy with the process itself, but not with the team’s lack of consistency in executing it. “They’re going through a process. I’m happy right now with what the process is. We have the right guys in the room. They’re saying the right things. They’re doing the right things,” he said about the game.

The Marlies have gone through a bad December and January before and turned it around. A favourite Keefe word was “adversity” and how overcoming that as a team through their process was important. This time the adversity is from within; a transition to a new coach and regular shakeups to the roster by the Maple Leafs borrowing players.

But you would think something has to change soon as the team drifts down the AHL standings. Consistency and a sense of urgency is obviously an issue. The Friday blowout which got Hardev in a rage was a failure on both parts. Moore added that he felt “pockets of time” were great in the game on Sunday, but pockets of quality play don’t get you far in the brutal AHL playoffs, regardless if the players are “saying the right things.”

Speaking of the standings, here’s where things sit as of today.

The team is now heading out to Texas for two games each against the San Antonio Rampage and the Texas Stars in Austin. After Texas they will head east to Carolina to play the Checkers. It’s a long road trip while the Coliseum is turned over to the Toronto International Boat Show.

Perhaps they can come together and head back to Toronto with a series of wins. They defeated the Rampage in back-to-back games earlier this season here in Toronto, and it would be a great way to to find opportunity in the adversity to do that in their territory.