The Toronto Marlies lost the sixth game of their past seven on Friday night playing against a division rival, the Rochester Americans (Buffalo Sabres affiliate). The Amerks arrived with two ex-Marlies on their roster, Seth Griffith and Stuart Percy who both got points in the 2-0 Amerks victory.
Andreas Johnsson - Miro Aaltonen – Kasperi Kapanen
Dmytro Timashov - Chris Mueller – Trevor Moore
Rich Clune - Frederik Gauthier – Colin Greening
Kerby Rychel - Ben Smith – Jeremy Bracco
Rinat Valiev – Vincent LoVerde
Calle Rosen – Michael Paliotta
Andrew Nielsen – Justin Holl
Scratched/Injured: Dermott, Brooks, Dupuy, King
The Marlies had a shuffle of goaltenders before the game. With Calvin Pickard called up to the Leafs to play in their game in Denver against the Colorado Avalanche, the Marlies made a call down to Florida and brought up Cal Heeter from the Orlando Solar Bears to replace him. He would sit as backup for this game, with Sparks once again in net.
Linus Ullmark started in net for the Amerks.
The game started rather slowly, with neither team getting good scoring chances or even many shots. The Amerks regularly went for the dump-in play on their attacks, while the Marlies were trying for controlled entries. This resulted in constant turnovers for both sides, either at the blue line, or behind the net.
When the Amerks finally sustained some pressure, Garret Ross sent Sparks scrambling to make a stop, and it was a big one.
The Marlies finally got a cycle going in the attacking zone but Kapanen lost an edge and fell leading to another few minutes of trading puck turnovers.
Even on their first power play opportunity it was a long sequence of turnover after turnover at the blue line, either because the Amerks could pick off the puck with a poke check, or a pass would be flubbed or whiffed on a shot.
Johnsson finally broke through with some of his fancy moves, but he also lost it as he got close to the net.
It looked like the period would end with no goals, but then Rosen took a late hooking penalty, and the Amerks scored with only 35 seconds left in the period.
No surprise it was the two ex-Marlies who scored and got the points.
There were no goals in the second period, but the pace of the game slowly picked up, and there were some Marlies scoring chances.
Kapanen and Bracco had two on an early power play which were foiled by Ullmark, and Clune had a shot go off the crossbar.
Valiev took a boarding penalty which seemed a rather weak call to me. It looked more like the Amerks player simply fell on his own at the boards, or coincidentally slipped when Valiev showed up. In any case, they killed off that penalty well.
For the Amerks, Percy came close to scoring his own goal but was stopped by Sparks.
The Marlies had two power play opportunities in the third, but were not able to convert. There was a great chance from Rychel, setup by Mueller in front of the net, but Ullmark was really on the ball this game and robbed them.
Kapanen had another chance with a clear shot right off a faceoff, but it went high.
The game was wrapped up for the Amerks with a second goal with about three and a half minutes left in the game.
Griffith, of course, got an assist on it.
Every time I go to a game, Kapanen gives the crowd one of those heart-stopping moments where he awkwardly slams into the boards at high speed and looks for a few moments like he’s injured... but it always turns out he’s fine — or at least can still play — so far.
Sparks commented that the mood in the dressing room remains positive despite the team’s recent slump. “The guys are positive. [The] guys want things to turn the other direction, but, you’ve got to do something to change that tide,” but he also appears to think the team needs to align themselves still further in that positive direction, saying “adversity is never a bad thing if you use it in the right way. We’re creating more of it than we need to.”
Sparks pointed a finger at the decline in the effectiveness of the Marlies power play and penalty kill as an important factor in their recent loses. Sheldon Keefe further emphasized that, saying “the area that’s been a real issue for us has been special teams, and generating offence consistently.” The Marlies have had only one powerplay goal in the past seven games.
Keefe added that if your special teams falter you need to have goals at even strength, and those haven’t been coming as often as needed in most games lately either, with eleven goals at even strength in the past seven games. In four of those games, the Marlies scored only once, or not at all.
The Marlies next game is on Sunday the 31st at 3:00PM in Ricoh Coliseum against the Belleville Senators.