The Toronto Marlies woke up bright and early on a Wednesday to play the Manitoba Moose at 11am in front of several bus-loads of children in the more-than-annual School Day game. The Marlies came out hyped on sugar and rode an early two-goal lead to a 4-3 victory over the Winnipeg Jets affiliate.
Pierre Engvall only had two assists on the night, but it felt like he had one of his best games in his new role in the top-six, it was definitely his best game as the second-line centre. He was first star of the night with his line combining for two goals, including the game-winner.
Sheldon Keefe made no changes to the forward lineup between Monday afternoon and Wednesday morning, except one.
Martin Marincin has been sick for the past few days, which is why he missed the game on Monday against the Syracuse Crunch. He was in the lineup on Wednesday morning on the third pair with Steve Oleksy. Andreas Borgman remains out with an injury.
Trevor Moore - Adam Brooks - Jeremy Bracco
Dmytro Timashov - Pierre Engvall - Michael Carcone
Tanner MacMaster - Brady Ferguson - Gabriel Gagne
Colin Greening - Josh Jooris - Griffen Molino
Calle Rosen - Vincent LoVerde
Rasmus Sandin - Timothy Liljegren
Martin Marincin - Steve Oleksy
Carcone - Brooks - Moore - Bracco - Rosen
MacMaster - Engvall - Ferguson - Timashov - Liljegren
Brooks - Moore - Marincin - LoVerde
Jooris - Greening - Rosen - Sandin*
*With Engvall and Timashov subbing in. Sandin was generally only given the final 30 seconds of each kill.
Two minutes into the game, Oleksy and Skyler McKenzie collided knee on knee. Oleksy was given a two-minute penalty for kneeing while McKenzie had to be helped off the ice. He could barely move himself, so it doesn’t look good, but hopefully he has a speedy recovery. I didn’t see any malice in Oleky’s hit.
On the kill, Brooks and Moore were able to break up a shot and get loose for an odd-man rush that quickly turned into a breakaway for Moore. The 24-year-old deked left-right but couldn’t get the puck on target.
With Justin Woods in the box for holding (you can’t make this stuff up), the Marlies went to the power play and scored. Bracco made a great cross-zone pass from the point on the right side of the ice all the way to Carcone at the side of the net on the left. Carcone picked up the puck on his forehand before he spun and chucked the puck up and over the left shoulder of goalie Eric Comrie for the first goal of the game.
Later in the period, the Marlies got a goal much more flukey than the first. Following an Engvall zone entry, Timashov grabbed the loose puck and tried to set up LoVerde for a one-timer on the weak side of the ice. The puck was a little too far in front of the veteran defenseman so he circled back and tried to repay the favour to Timashov, but instead saw his pass deflect off a stick in the slot and sail past Comrie into the open net.
Not only did the Marlies leave the first period with a two-goal lead, but they were ahead of the Moose 14-7 in shots. It was a great period for the team, as well as the hoards of children in the audience. I think they really enjoyed counting the clock down to zero!
Five minutes into the second, Liljegren was at the offensive blueline, but had the puck get caught up in his skates. Jimmy Oligny grabbed the puck, went the other way, and made an arena full of children very sad.
With Brady Ferguson in front of the net causing havoc, Gabriel Gagne took a lazy shot from the point and the puck somehow found its way in, giving the Marlies their two-goal lead back in the second period. The goal (assisted by MacMaster and Marincin) is the sixth of the season for Gagne. He’s been a decent middle-six forward for the team since he came over in the Morgan Klimchuk deal.
Right near the end of the period, the Marlies extended their lead. Timashov and Carcone did some great work moving the puck back and forth in order to get it in front of the net to Engvall. From there, the big centre/winger used his reach to try and beat Comrie on the backhand while holding off a defender behind him. They fell and the puck slipped out for Carcone to sneak in and pot home for his second goal of the game.
It looked a little shaky at the beginning of the period for the Marlies, but they battled back from giving up the first goal of the period and threw home two of their own to extend their lead heading into the third. The Marlies are up 24-15 in shots and the kids are happy.
Also they played Baby Shark between breaks
Then in the intermission, the kids with phones showed them off.
The Marlies started the third period on the power play as a result of some rough stuff after the final buzzer in the second. They got a two-man advantage when the Moose took a puck over the glass penalty less than a minute in. One thing I gleaned from the PP was that Bracco, Carcone, and Rosen all shifted around the ice in order to give each other different looks. Bracco was at the side of the net, the half-wall, the top of the point, the corner of the point, and even in the slot all within one minute of the 5-on-3.
If the Marlies are a place where the Maple Leafs experiment on concepts, this is definitely one that I hope they adopt. Moving Mitch Marner, Nazem Kadri, and Morgan Rielly, or William Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen, and Jake Gardiner into different parts of the offensive zone only help make the Leafs more unpredictable.
The next half-period was pretty stagnant, with a side of this:
BREAKING: Michael Clutchinson has, indeed, arrived. pic.twitter.com/Gxk4XkprSB— Mike Stephens (@mikeystephens81) February 20, 2019
Then this happened, and oh my god. Engvall has been so amazing for the team, especially in his responsibility as the new second-line centre. The guy just can’t catch a break and have his scoring meet up with his actual production.
Pierre Engvall just got his entire world shattered on this save-of-the-year candidate from Eric Comrie pic.twitter.com/l4GcHN8XQy— Mike Stephens (@mikeystephens81) February 20, 2019
Then the kids (and honestly myself included) got bored of the game and decided to start doing synchronized party activities instead.
With over three minutes to go, the Moose pulled their goalie and off a forward faceoff, Logan Shaw was able to find a loose puck behind Hutchinson to tap in the goal to make it interesting.
The Moose scored again with 1.0 seconds left in the game. At this point, no one really cared, including Keefe and the players after the game. At the end of the day, they got the win.
After The Whistle
- Michael Carcone praised the ease of playing with Pierre Engvall and Dmytro Timashov, who are both also left wingers. “They’re both offensive guys, Pierre’s so strong, and ‘Dima’ is so skilled that we can read off each other. Pierre can, I guess you can say, pick up the play a little bit and carry the puck, which is nice. Makes my job a little easier.”/
“It’s a strange line,” said head coach Sheldon Keefe after the game. “All three of them have great ability to skate and carry the puck, pressure the other team. We like that, and we like a lot about that line together, especially since it allows Jooris and Greening together on a line.”
- Sheldon Keefe continued on the track of watching Engvall’s evolved play, especially as of as a result of all the injuries and trades the team has faced. /
“This year we’ve been trying different things with Pierre to try and make him a more versatile player. The way he skates, the way he shoots the puck, the tools he has offensively he’s always brought to the table. Whether it’s penalty kill time, whether it’s playing on a checking line (which he did throughout the playoffs last year and different times this year), and now playing centre. It’s these types of things that we want to do to put more tools at his disposal, so as his career progresses, he can fill more roles.”
- Rasmus Sandin had a lot of fun in the post-game scrum. He spoke about his chemistry and relationship with Timothy Liljegren. They skate together and workout together on off-days. They speak Swedish with each other on the ice sometimes on a “whichever language comes out first” basis. It’s a really cute clip especially by the end when Sandin talks about how he’s been living alone since he was 15 and how he knows how to cook homemade swedish meatballs. Unfortunately, the Marlies cut it short on their Youtube channel./
Keefe then finished off with his own thoughts on the Sandin-Liljegren pair.
“I like that we have two young guys with skill and really good hockey sense. I think those two guys today moved the puck extremely efficiently. At times, they made mistakes, but mistakes are part of our programme. That’s part of it. For them, finding their way and figuring out what works and what doesn’t as they adjust to the pro level is key.
“They look comfortable on the ice, there isn’t much more I’m too concerned with. I think part of it was out of necessity given the injuries we had (Borgman and Marincin). We went with it and it seemed to work well on Monday and again today. We changed it up in the third period just to add a little more balance so we could use all six of our people on defense. They’re two young players with a lot of ability, especially when you get them up there in the offensive zone.”