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Marlies weekend recap: a win and a loss to the Checkers

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The Carolina Hurricanes affiliate made their first visit to Ricoh Coliseum in years on the weekend.

Christian Bonin - TSGPhoto.com

The Marlies hosted the Charlotte Checkers for back-to-back games this weekend. It was the first time these teams had faced each other in several seasons due to the Checkers’ move between conferences. Both started the weekend with 4-1-0 records, and both finished with 5-2-0 records.

On Saturday the Marlies earned a shutout, winning 4-0. Sunday saw a much different game on the ice, with the Checkers winning 6-4.

Saturday: Marlies win 4-0

Forward Lines:

Kerby Rychel - Miro Aaltonen - Kasperi Kapanen
Dmytro Timashov - Marcel Mueller - Trevor Moore
Colin Greening - Frederik Gauthier - Nikita Soshnikov
Mason Marchment - Adam Brooks - Ben Smith

Defensive Pairings
Martin Marincin - Timothy Liljegren
Travis Dermott - Vincent LoVerde
Rinat Valiev - Justin Holl

Garret Sparks in goal.

Saturday’s game was defined by excellent work in net by Sparks, and by the Checkers having a lot of difficulty getting control of the puck in their own zone and then being able to clear it.

First Period

I admit, I was a little late to the game (thanks, Lake Shore Blvd.,) however the first period started rather quietly. It appeared to mostly be two teams who haven’t met in years feeling each other out, and acclimating to each other’s offence and defence. This process seemed to go much faster for the Marlies than the Checkers.

The Marlies opened the scoring with a goal by Mason Marchment, his second of the season, and first of two in this game.

You could see the issues developing for the Checkers on a later shot from the point by Mueller. It was deflected by the goalie, but only to right in front of the crease. There was a loose puck for several seconds. Moore was there, but couldn’t put it away.

The only event that raised some questions about the Marlies handling the Checkers was the penalty kill near the end of the period which was for too many men. The PK units, especially the second, seemed to have a lot of trouble clearing the puck out from their zone. Marlies’ coach Sheldon Keefe touched on this at the end of the game, saying that the special teams’ performance was poor.

Second Period

Gauthier kicked off the second period with some nifty moves, carrying the puck in all the way from the Marlies’ zone to the front of the net by himself. He danced around a Checkers defender and set up another scoring chance.

Marincin had an opportunity too with a shot from the point which found Mueller in front of the net again, but he couldn’t get that one in.

The Checkers were by no means not getting their own chances. One breakaway chance by Warren Foegele actually turned into a rare penalty shot against the Marlies, which Sparks easily turned away.

The Checkers took a series of penalties in the period, starting with a charging call against Zach Stortini. Hmm. Where have I heard that name before? Yes, it is the same Stortini who gave Nazem Kadri a concussion in the lockout season with a blind side hit. He’s still doing it, but fortunately for Brooks, his was hit into the boards at an angle that missed his head.

Moore did get a scoring chance in the period, and so did Brooks; plus Timashov, and Rychel on power plays. But it was Marchment who would get the second goal of the game.

Marchment’s goal is probably the best example of the Checkers being disorganized and confused in their zone.

Marincin (52) starts with control of the puck. He’s open, but is quickly swarmed. His attempt to shoot on the net is blocked, but he gets control back long enough to make a pass. That’s when the Marlies take advantage of two Checkers that move out of position.

Liljegren (7) starts on the far side down low by the boards, playing like a fourth forward, as he often has this season. He is down on the ice to start, knocked over in a small collision by the Checkers’ Robertson (Leafs draft pick in 2011). Robertson abandons his coverage, and chooses to go over to the net.

Simultaneously, Marchment (20) crosses the ice, trailed by Checkers forward Nick Schilkey. Schilkey opts to stop following Marchment, and instead tangle with Marincin, who is already covered. Marincin quickly passes the puck to Liljegren, who is wide open, and then Liljegren passes to Marchment, who is also wide open as Schilkey was watching what Liljegren was doing instead of where Marchment was going.

The Liljegren pass to Marchment is perfect, and Marchment scores on a wide open net. Checkers goalie Jeremy Smith seems to have no idea what is happening.

This kind of sloppiness was prevalent throughout the game for the Checkers and regularly allowed the Marlies to set up scoring chances.

Third period

There were more examples of clearing issues for the Checkers in the third period. On one dump-in play by the Marlies, their goalie left the net to move the puck off to the corner, but there were two Marlies players arriving there chasing it, and only one Checkers defenceman trying to take control. Timashov was the first to arrive, and he picked it right off the goalies stick, and started the first pass in a chain with Moore where they almost created a scoring chance.

There were two more goals by the Marlies in the third period.

The first was by Timashov on a power play. What a shot here.

The second was scored by Greening, and, does he put it through all their legs? It looks like all the Checkers have no idea the puck has popped out behind them, and then he shoots it through the defenders legs, and the goalies five hole to get it in the net.

The Marlies won 4-0 and Garret Sparks picked up a nice shut out win.

So, Sunday’s game would be just as easy against this confused and disorganized Checkers team, right?

Sunday: Marlies lose 6-4

Forward Lines:

Kerby Rychel - Miro Aaltonen - Kasperi Kapanen
Dmytro Timashov - Marcel Mueller - Trevor Moore
Colin Greening - Frederik Gauthier - Nikita Soshnikov
Mason Marchment - Adam Brooks - Ben Smith

Defensive Pairings
Travis Dermott - Timothy Liljegren
Andrew Nielsen - Vincent LoVerde
Rinat Valiev - Justin Holl

Calvin Pickard in goal.

Hardev here to tell you that everything you heard from Species about Saturday was completely false. Mostly.

First Period

The Marlies started with a few early odd man rushes (3-2) but the Checkers goalie was up to the task and stopped them all.

Defense, specifically Holl, has been really good at jumping up in the rush.

Pickard gave up a rebound from a shot to his chest but covered it up immediately. Good blocking out from the LoVerde and Nielsen.

0-1

The next shift the same group allowed another point shot. The defense couldn’t control the rebound, and Zykov puts away the first goal of the game for the Checkers.

Side note: Pickard is only 6’1” but doesn’t look that tall in the net. Similar to Curtis McElhinney, he compresses his body, and makes his stature smaller.

There’s a great play by Holl on a 1-2 intercepting the pass. Nielsen got caught after his pass was taken away.

0-2

On another odd man rush, Holl blocked a pass, but the puck went right to Roy, who was wide open on a rush. Pickard had no chance. Second goal from that line. The next shift, Brooks drew a tripping penalty after some great work below the goal line.

There was some great movement from Nielsen, Timashov and Mueller on the power play. Greening saw a rebound, but couldn't get a stick on it.

Right off the faceoff the puck rolled through Alex Nedeljkovic's feet but he's able to squeeze the pads. Close call. Marlies were still down 2-0

Gauthier looked good. His stick handling looked much improved. He does not need to be the guy in front of the net in order to be effective.

Second Period

Before the second period began, the Maple Leafs signed Roman Polak to a one-year $1.1 million contract and the whole world exploded. The second period never started, Ricoh Coliseum is now a pile of rubble, and Kyle Dubas is nowhere to be found.

The Checkers defense has done a great job at blocking off the Marlies at their blueline. sometimes stacking 4 wide.

Marlies went on a 5v3 powerplay for 1:30 after penalties to Sergey Tolchinsky and Patrick Brown for hooking and politicking. The seam passes didn’t connect, and the Marlies’ first attempt fails. On the second attempt, Rychel gets a pass from Mueller, but his shot was blocked. Third time’s a charm?

1-2

As the penalty expired they sco-- WHAT DO YOU MEAN THEY’RE CALLING IT BACK FOR GOALIE INTERFERENCE?!

0-2

Sorry about that.. got a little excited. Back to the game!

Liljegren took a hard hit from DiGuiseppe (pizza guy) and was slow to react to the player coming out of the box. Fortunately he was offside so the play was blown dead.

Then there was a great reaction toe save from Pickard off a deflected shot from near the faceoff dot. He hasn’t been amazing, which is what I expect from an NHL backup goalie, but he’s been good enough.

Shorthanded, Kapanen and Aaltonen create a 2-1. Aaltonens’ tip hits the post and trickles through the crease and out the other end. As Fulemin puts it: extreme sigh.

1-2

Moore one-times a cross-crease pass from Nielsen and scored! His celebration? Dropping his stick because he broke it on the shot before hugging his teammates. Not bad for his first AHL goal of the season.

Third Period

2-2

The Marlies killed off a 5v3 powerplay for Charlotte, Gauthier was able to steal the puck from the defenseman and send it up to Soshnikov, who was streaking all alone on a breakaway. Soshnikov dangled Nedel out of his jock, which is fitting because it is Steve Dangle Podcast Night at Ricoh. Tie game!

Wesley was unable to contain Kapanen as he breezed by him after dumping the puck in, forcing the Checkers D-man to take an interference penalty.

3-2

The Marlies completed the comeback with a Timashov PPG!! The young Russian sniped from the top of the circle, top shelf, giving the Marlies the lead.

3-3

Aaaaaaaand they gave it right back, a Chelios point shot blast got by Pickard clean.

Pickard made a clutch save on a breakaway, keeping the score only tied. Apart from the 3-3 save you hoped he would save, Pickard has been solid this game, but I still think Sparks is ahead of him on the depth chart.

3-4

After Dermott took a penalty, the Checkers got three consecutive shots off; an initial shot, a rebound shot, and a second rebound shot. The last shot went in. Pickard was helpless on the play, and the defense was scrambling to cover their people in the slot.

With 11 minutes to go, the Marlies did not need to panic yet, but then the Marlies got into a scrum and Soshnikov took a double minor for roughing with extra minutes assigned for disputing the decision. The 5v4 man advantage turned into a 3v4 disadvantage. Note that is the second time this season they’ve taken extra minutes for disputing the decision on the ice. Relax, guys.

3-5

Shortly after the puck was dropped, Vykov sniped again on Pickard. The game was slowly getting out of reach.

Holl had a good end-to-end rush on the penalty kill (?!) and was able to get Nedel scrambling and without a stick. Unfortunately, he and Kapanen were unable to put the puck in the net.

The Marlies pulled Pickard with three minutes left on the clock. Timashov quarterbacked a few great chances and his teammate was able to get off a great shot, but Nedel was able to make a great save with his head, keeping the score

4-5

The Marlies pulled to within one goal again, with 2:01 left on the clock. Kapanen was left wide open at the bottom of the circle. After receiving a pass from Mueller and some great work along the boards from Rychel, he roofed a shot over Nedel. The Marlies were making a game of it again, pulling back within one.

4-6

Empty net goal by the Checkers.

Et fin.

Overall Thoughts

The Power Play

The Marlies had a power play goal on Saturday, but Keefe was not at all satisfied with their effort. “That’s kind of been the thing with our power play. It hasn't been very good all season for us, but it finds its way to get one.“

“Our breakout is a struggle for us right now,” elaborated Keefe on the specific issues they face. “Breakout has been an issue for us all the way through. [When] we win the faceoff and get set, I think we’re doing better in the zone.”

On Sunday, he thought they had improved, despite still only earning the one power play goal. “I thought our power play, and the adjustments we needed to make, we did them well. We’d like to have had more production in terms of getting it into the net, but the process was better.”

I know you!

In addition to those mentioned above, like Robertson and Stortini, there were other familiar names on the Checkers roster. Philip Samuelsson is indeed the son of Ulf Samuelsson who was the Checkers coach last season, but was promoted to the Hurricanes bench for 2017-18.

Another famous name belongs to Jake Chelios, son of Chris Chelios.

Then there’s Trevor Carrick, brother of long time Leafs prospect Sam Carrick.

Where in the world is Andreas Johnsson?

No one really cared about Johnsson being scratched on Saturday until Keefe was asked about it and gave a rather cryptic answer.

Johnsson was also scratched on Sunday. Jeremy Bracco was also scratched both games. He has appeared only in two so far this season.

Mason Marchment

Speaking of wingers, Marchment received high praise from Keefe post-game Sunday. He is a prime example of the new and improved development system the Leafs are implementing, including using the Orlando Solar Bears as a tool to help grow longer-term projects like Marchment. The words got the seal of approval from Leafs AGM and Marlies GM Kyle Dubas who re-tweeted the response from Keefe to Dhiren Mahiban’s question on Marchment’s development.

Up Next

The Marlies next games against the Checkers will be in Charlotte in January.

On Friday, the Marlies travel to Syracuse to play the Crunch for the first time since they eliminated the Marlies in last year’s Calder Cup Playoffs.

On Saturday, the Marlies are back at Ricoh for their first game against the Laval Rocket. This is the Canadiens affiliate which was formerly the St. John’s IceCaps. Thankfully, we no longer have to remember that ‘IceCaps’ is styled as one word.

The Marlies have Sunday off, and then head out for a long road trip as the Royal Winter Fair takes over Ricoh Coliseum. The next home game after that is on Saturday November 18 vs. the Crunch.