It’s been a busy time for the Marlies lately with a lot of things happening, not many of them good.
Kasperi Kapanen was injured in a game against the Crunch, and he’s out indefinitely and was seen on crutches and wearing a medical support boot on one foot. Naturally, he was withdrawn from the AHL all-star game, and he was replaced by a player from Utica so, Brendan Leipsic is the only Marlie going.
The Ricoh Coliseum is hosting the boat show, so the Marlies are on the road for a few games.
The Marlies last game at home was a loss to Rochester, and that put them last in their division with a points percentage of .446, fourth worst in the league. Hartford is last, which is the only consolation they had going in to tonight’s game.
On the periphery, the Marlies have made some player moves. They called up Tony Cameranesi, who has been good as the fourth line centre, and after two games with both Viktor Loov and Rinat Valiev scratched (no explanation has been given), they made some other moves.
Eric Faille (F) was recalled from the Orlando Solar Bears. Willie Corrin (D) was recalled from a loan to the Brampton Beast of the ECHL. Daniel Maggio (F) and Ty Stanton (D) were sent down to Orlando.
Brooks Laich, who was injured in some way, is back in Toronto and skating. Milan Michalek has not appeared in several games and may have been injured also.
Lately, Sheldon Keefe has been playing his younger prospects and sitting Rich Clune and Marc-André Cliche. the difficulty facing the team right now, however, is that with both Frederik Gauthier and Kapanen out of the lineup they are missing half of their top PK unit. The other problem is they’ve been losing.
Kapanen was also a key part of the power play and one of the few reliable five-on-five scorers. The team needs offence most of all, so they grabbed Seth Griffith off of waivers in an interesting gamble. If any other team had made a claim—even an unsuccessful one—they would have had to keep him in the NHL. Since no one did they are allowed to send him to the Marlies. He will be a welcome addition to the team whenever he joins up.
The lineup against Hartford, provided by Todd Crocker was:
Leipsic Froese Timashov
Rychel Findlay Faille
Johnsson Greening Michalek
Moore Cameranesi Clune
Garret Sparks had the start.
Only one of the mysteriously absent defenders was back for the game, so a lot of young rookies were sharing the ice with Andrew Campbell on the night of his 600th professional hockey game.
The return of Clune and Michalek seemed promising too. The Marlies have a problem where the tough guys like those two can gain the offensive zone, but no one is scoring any goals. But at least when they are in, there is some zone time.
The promotion of Dmytro Timashov to essentially take Kapanen’s place in the absence of Griffith was also promising, and also potentially dangerous for that line. Colin Smith was scratched, and he has not been living up to the season he had the previous year. He has chemistry with Johnsson, but they aren’t getting points.
The lineup looks like a good blend up front and the best they could do on the blueline.
The Marlies got the thing they needed the most to open this game, an extended period of offensive zone time. Against Hartford defence, they could control the puck, cycle and shoot at will. The pressure created a penalty call on Hartford and the Marlies power play, even without Kapanen, still has some big weapons.
None is bigger than Andrew Nielsen’s point shot, and he got the first goal of the game very early.
Unfortunately, as soon as the play moves the other way, the Marlies’ weaknesses are exposed. There are a lot of them. The Wolf Pack peppered Sparks with shots and evened up the shot count fairly quickly.
It stayed even, as they traded ends, both teams looking barely able to cope in their own zone.
Nielsen took a penalty and Tony Cameranesi had a short-handed breakaway that just never got going. He seemed to be outskating his own feet.
A few minutes later, Colin Greening took the puck in on an easy rush, dropped it perfectly for Nielsen, and he had an even-strength goal, and two on the night. 2-0 Marlies.
Hartford came right back, netting an easy goal on a misplayed puck out of the corner. Steven Fogarty had no trouble with a wide open net.
Sparks made a desperate save on a two-on-one that Loov misplayed, and then got lucky when the rebound went over the glass.
There were several other chances for the Wolf Pack to tie it up, but the Marlies had their chances too.
Just as the period ended, Dmytro Timashov drew a penalty by pouring on offensive pressure. The Marlies would start the second where they played the best—with the man advantage.
The period ended with the Marlies with a bare lead in shots on goal at 13-11, and a thinner lead where it counts, 2-1.
That work of Timashov paid off big with a power play goal only a few seconds into the game. Andreas Johnsson, who usually plays in the slot area on the power play, followed the play over toward the Goalie’s glove hand, a spot he camped out at in Sweden for a lot of his power play goals. He easily tipped in a shot by Froese. 3-1 Marlies.
The wheels seemed fully off for Hartford when Rich Clune handed a centring pass to Trevor Moore, who sent it right past Brandon Halverson. He chased Halverson from the game, and made in 4-1 Marlies.
But as we learned in the first period, as soon as the Marlies are in their own end, it unravels. The Wolf Pack got a shot off on Sparks, and the rebound was picked up, carried out past some fairly indifferent checking by William Wrenn and others. The centring pass to Boo Nieves gave him an easy shot to make it 4-2.
Timashov drew another penalty and the Marlies were having to reset the power play several times. They carried the puck in, lost it on an errant pass and Hartford got another two-on-one. They made a similar play to the previous goal, shooting the puck at Sparks, and then Mat Bodie took the rebound around behind the net and passed it out for Nieves again for an easy look at the wide open net. Sparks never got back in position after the first shot. 4-3 Marlies.
The Marlies were still on a power play, and Brett Findlay scored seconds after the faceoff. 5-3 Marlies.
All of that took seven minutes of the second period.
The Marlies picked up another power play and Leipsic had a chance at a wide open net of his own, but a Wolf Pack defender was there to save the day for Mackenzie Skapski.
Kerby Rychel got busy behind the Hartford net and made the theme play of the night, a centring pass out to a wide-open man in the slot, and Findlay had two on the night. 6-3 Marlies.
The shots on goal at the end of the second were 23-22 Marlies, and Sparks might have wanted at least one of those goals back, but he was the clear difference maker.
Findlay got his third goal of the game early in the period off of a pass from down low that he took while open in the right circle. Hartford simply could not clear the slot or maintain coverage on the Marlies. 7-3 Marlies.
No one in this game seemed to have heard of score effects. The same track meet, up and down game continued, and the shots stayed even for the whole game. The only concession to the four goal lead was a slowing of the pace.
Campbell took the Marlies second penalty, and their discipline in not taking any chasing the play penalties paid off in fewer opportunities for the Wolf Pack. They could do themselves a lot of favours by keeping that up.
The Wolf Pack hadn’t given up, though. They got a point shot with a minute left, and Rychel made the odd choice to try to go down and block it. He wasn’t successful, and it was 7-4 as a final score and the shots on goal were 30-28.
Rychel had a great game, shooting up a storm and getting four assists and five shots on goal on a line with two Orlando Solar Bears. Two of the best, mind you, but still, they weren’t his regular linemates.
Johnsson looked dangerous, and seemed to do well with Greening. Leipsic looked supersized levels of dangerous, and the fill-in by Timashov on the top line succeeded offensively.
Moore and Clune played great together, and they were fast and energetic with Cameranesi as the fourth line.
No one on defence was anything other than tolerable. Nielsen and Travis Dermott both shot the puck a lot, but defensively they look like rookies with a lot to learn. Loov has stopped being the reliable player he used to be, and he should have been head and shoulders above a team like Hartford.
The bottom line is the Wolf Pack are not a good team, and their goalies were not having a good night. The loose and dangerous style the Marlies played would have seen them seriously in trouble against even an average team.
There’s skill there, a lot of interesting chemistry was revealed up front, but the framework of the team isn’t enough to make them competitive.
Add in Griffith and Valiev, subtract a couple of the weaker links, and you might have something. It will still be lace on the blueline, but there would be some cannons up front to compensate.
The boat show trip continues with a game tomorrow night in Bridgeport.