The Marlies had another tough loss on Saturday against the Rochester Americans (Buffalo Sabres affiliate). Losing another game is tough for the Marlies, as it’s the sixth loss in the past ten. While their stellar winning record which led them to the top of the AHL is deteriorating, they still are not in serious jeopardy of falling out of first place in their division. Other teams in the conference are on the way up, however, just as the regular season is winding down.
Saturday was the seventh of eight games the Marlies play against the Amerks this season. They have won four of those seven games, but have now lost two in a row: 7-4 last week and 4-1 on Saturday. The two teams appeared to be quite physical on the ice, and this could be the beginning of a playoff rivalry with a possibility of a first round match-up.
Marlies Lines Saturday
Andreas Johnsson - Ben Smith - Dmytro Timashov
Trevor Moore - Chris Mueller - Jeremy Bracco
Colin Greening - Frederik Gauthier - Kyle Baun
Mason Marchment - Adam Brooks - Rich Clune
Andreas Borgman - Vincent LoVerde
Martin Marincin - Justin Holl
Andrew Nielsen - Timothy Liljegren
Not playing: Max Novak, Calle Rosen, Jean Dupuy.
Injured: Miro Aaltonen
There is no update on Aaltonen or when he may return.
Linus Ullmark was in net for the Amerks and Calvin Pickard for the Marlies.
You can tell there is a rivalry between these two teams as the game was immediately fast and hard hitting. Clune opened up the first period with a fight against Dalton Smith. It started mid-play and there was no indications it was coming when suddenly gloves and sticks flew in the air and they really went at each other.
The Marlies had quite a bit of difficulty getting any kind of quality scoring chances. For example, Borgman stole a puck and passed it forward to Johnsson who started a rush, but made a drop pass at the blue line when he ran out of space (the same move Nylander does from time to time). It ultimately wound up being passed up again to no one in particular, and the Amerks got a good breakout on the return.
In fact, the Marlies didn’t even register their second shot on goal until just after the halfway mark of the period.
The Amerks opened up the scoring a few minutes later. A stretch pass from out from the Amerks zone up to Justin Bailey caught Nielsen and Liljegren by surprise, and Bailey was already well past them before they figured out what was happening. They were too far behind to catch up as you can see here:
The Amerks added a second goal later in the period on a power play when Nielsen was in the box for interference.
The Marlies came out for the second period looking much better than in the first. The Amerks helped them out by taking a quick penalty, and the Marlies had some great chances on the power play, including one of those messy scrums in front of the net where the puck is loose and everyone is whacking at it. Ullmark was able to keep it out every time.
It happened again a minute later, with Brooks getting robbed by Ullmark. It’s difficult to see exactly what is going on there but Brooks explained “He made a big save with his pad, and then I got a piece of it out of the air and he grabbed it there too.”
“It’s just one of those plays where you are around the net and trying to put it in, but it doesn’t seem to be hapenning,” added Brooks referencing that he has gone a long time without scoring a goal.
The Marlies had another power play which didn’t look as good as the earlier one. They were quick and good at getting into position, but made few actual shots, none that were scoring chances. It ended with a weak Nielsen shot from the blue line which was easily stopped by Ullmark,
The Amerks scored in the dying seconds of the period to make it 3-0, and leaving the Marlies looking rather deflated.
The Marlies established some momentum early in the third period with this nifty goal by Johnsson.
That was Johnsson’s 24th goal of the season and keeps him above the point-per-game rate with 52 in 51 games.
The Amerks gifted the Marlies some space to score again, with long-ago Leafs draft pick Andrew MacWilliam taking a double-minor penalty, but, again, the power play was weak, and Ullmark stopped the few shots that did make it through to him.
Pickard was pulled form the net, and the Amerks prompty scored on it to win the game 4-1.
“Not very good.” - Sheldon Keefe’s full response when asked to summarise Saturday’s game.
Keefe was obviously not happy after the game. When asked to summarise the game by the Leafs Nation Network reporter he responded simply “not very good,” leaving everyone hanging through several seconds of awkward silence before they realised he wasn’t going to add anything until someone asked another question.
Fortunately, he did expound on other topics, including that he thinks the power play is improving as the season goes on. “The power play has never been a strength of ours as a team. Actually, I think we’ve started to see signs of life from our power play here of late,” however, he noted Saturday didn’t have those signs of life, “the four minutes in the third period when we have some life and momentum in the game, and we’re getting going; it did nothing but suck all the life and the momentum right out of the hockey game.”
The Marlies are in Belleville to play the Senators Sunday starting at 3PM. We’ll be there!a1 `|\aw4
Here is Saturday’s game highlight pack.