Still grinding through a road trip that involves buses, not jet planes, the Marlies hit Hershey and Lehigh Valley (cough Allentown cough) this weekend to play two of the Atlantic division teams. They hit them hard.
On Saturday, the Marlies rolled over the weaker Hershey Bears for a score of 4-1. Goals went to Dmytro Timashov, Ben Smith (2) and Mason Marchment. Remember those names, they’ll be important later.
The full highlight pack is worth a look since Hershey has some decent lighting and cameras.
Garret Sparks had the win Friday night with Smith and Marchment each getting three points.
Smith and Marchment play the Marlies fourth line. They played that night as wingers to Adam Brooks, and Sheldon Keefe notes here that Smith doesn’t play on the power play and doesn’t get offensive assignments, and yet, he’s the guy, along with Marchment, who are hot right now.
Sunday, and the bus pulled into Allentown for a game against the top team in the Atlantic featuring the AHL’s top goal scorer, Danick Martel.
Martel opened the scoring with a goal, his 13th of the year, but after that it was all Marlies. Calvin Pickard was in net, and he got the win in a 5-1 victory.
Goals went to: Chris Mueller, Trevor Moore (2), Ben Smith and Nikita Soshnikov.
Mason Marchment had two assists.
Pickard, who held the door against a flurry of offence in the second period talks after the game:
Smith is now atop the Marlies points list with 12 points, good for 13th in the AHL, and Marchment is second with 11 points.
Sparks is atop the goalie list with a save percentage of .943, and Kasimir Kaskisuo, on loan to the Chicago Wolves, is fourth with a .937. Pickard, with four starts now, has moved up to 18th with .915.
But what about the prospects? Enough of the AHL Gretzky known as Ben Smith.
Jeremy Bracco got in his fourth game Sunday and registered one SOG. To say he’s had a slow start is an understatement. Timashov, who is only a few months older, is fifth in scoring with eight points and is a regular member of the lineup.
Timothy Liljegren (who left Saturday’s game early and is “not too bad” per Sheldon Keefe) and Andrew Nielsen are the top defenders on the team with five points each.
Andreas Johnsson and Soshnikov have nine and eight points each, respectively, and are ticking along as regular top nine wingers. Along with Smith and Marchment, they are the backbone of the Marlies offence.
The question marks for performance go to a trio of centres not named Smith. Miro Aaltonen has four points in 11 games. Frederik Gauthier has two points in eight games as he comes back from a bad injury, and Adam Brooks has two points in nine games, while his most frequent linemates lead the scoring for the team.
Calle Rosen, with three assists in five games has also been good.
Winning is fun, but the Marlies are getting their points from a very small group of players. Time should bring more out of the rookies, but some of the regulars like Kerby Rychel and Kasperi Kapanen (before he was called up) seem absent most of the time from the scoring lists.
After this weekend’s games, the Marlies lead the North division with a points percentage of .750. They play a Wednesday game in Wilkes-Barre against the Penguins and then two next weekend in Binghamton, which is where you find the Devils these days.