Several seasons have passed, yet, “it was 4-1” still hangs over Toronto.
While the Maple Leafs organization as a whole has clearly moved past that night, it’s still out there in the memory of fans. That loss to the Boston Bruins in game 7 of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoff has become a meme across all of NHL fandom. To this day, nearly four years after that game, “it was 4-1” alerts are tweeted out, and hand wringing comments appear on SB Nation hockey sites when a team finds themselves in a position to lose a game which they were earlier winning 4-1.
On Saturday the Marlies had their own “it was 4-1” moment. In a game at the Air Canada Centre vs. the Binghamton Senators, the score was 4-1 for the Marlies at the end of the second period.
The Marlies lost the game 8-4.
While in this case it wasn’t a playoff game, and the long-term damage is mostly confined to bruised egos, you can’t do that in Toronto and it not be a big deal.
This game started and ended with Antoine Bibeau in net. Backing him up was Kasimir Kaskisuo, who played the previous day at the start of this back-to-back match-up. That previous game, by the way, ended only about 18 hours before this one started. It was an incredibly short turnaround time. Could that have had an impact? Maybe, but it should have impacted both teams the same way.
The Marlies started out as strong as they had the previous day. Kasperi Kapanen was great, at one point working the puck through the legs of a defender to generate a scoring chance.
The Senators took some dumb penalties and that’s when the Marlies started scoring.
First up was Kerby Rychel.
Next was Travis Dermott.
That face-plant by Senators’ goalie Chris Dreidger is quite something. That’s what Friday’s effort felt like from the Senators’ Matt O’Connor (yes, that Matt O’Connor). It’s what it felt like in the first two periods Saturday.
Until the end of the second period it again looked like the Marlies would sail through to victory against a team that is close to last in the AHL Eastern Conference.
I wrote down a fair bit about this game that would normally wind up here, like Seth Griffith continuing to basically assist on every single Marlies goal (he has 28 assists in 26 games played now); and trade pickup Mike Sislo adding a lot of offensive power to the team, but all that went out the window after the third period.
Goal after goal after goal.
Here's 11 seconds of awesomeness. pic.twitter.com/iOETHdbAG4— Binghamton Senators (@SenatorsAHL) March 18, 2017
With the Senators piling up goals, it was not a surprise taunting began, and tempers boiled over. There was a near line brawl. Max McCormick pulled an ugly stunt jumping in as the third man in a fight involving Andreas Johnsson, but he ending up taking down a linesman instead who was trying to keep a tense game situation from spiralling out of control.
Third Period Brawl
|M. McCormick||10:00||Game misconduct - Third man in (46.16)||16:14|
|K. Rychel||10:00||Game misconduct - Instigator (last 5:00) (46.12)||16:14|
I wouldn’t mind if McCormick was suspended for a game because of what he did, but it wound up that Kerby Rychel was the one suspended; automatic by the AHL for taking an instigator penalty in the final minutes of a game.
I also give high marks to Rinat Valiev at that moment. He’s a tough guy, with a bit of a short fuse. He’s been ejected several times this season, including for a second fight in a game, which is not allowed in the AHL. He could have easily jumped in and escalated the situation, but instead he was calm, cool, and collected, and stayed out of it. That’s a good sign of maturity and character.
Post-game, Keefe had some harsh words for the officials, pointing out missed calls a missed offside, and adding “It’s a back to back game for the officials too.” Normally, I would think that a weak excuse to bring up, but, I’ll give it a pass here. While he is never very animated post-game, Keefe looked like a deer in the headlights then, yet to really absorb seeing his team scored on five times in six minutes only a few minutes earlier.
The obvious question was asked of Keefe why he didn’t pull Bibeau for Kasimir Kaskisuo? Keefe explained that with everything happening so fast, it was a really difficult call for him to make. “I obviously thought about it. I didn’t think it would be the right situation to put a young guy like Kasimir in. I wanted to rely on [Bibeau]; give him a chance to find his way out of it. Obviously, it didn’t work out for him or us, but there was a lot more going on in the game.”
Kaskisuo is actually older than Bibeau, though Keefe is likely talking about pro-experience here. Also keep in mind that the Friday game in which Kaskisuo started had finished only about 18 hours earlier, so he was likely still worn out from that.
The defence pairings started with Campbell and Nielsen together, while Valiev (second game back from a long absence due to injury) played with Holl. Oleksy started with Dermott. The pairing were changed up few times during the game, with some new combinations on penalty killing units. While Valiev was out injured, Campbell usually played with Holl, so it was interesting to see a change made. Keefe indicated he is deliberately experimenting. “We’re trying to get Valiev going, and we’ll see how he settles in. I’m certainly not locked in on anything at this point. We’ll continue to move things around until we find something that works.”
Even for the best teams, games will inevitably go sour from time to time. It happens. That’s sports. The magnitude of this turn of fortune against a team the Marlies had defeated the previous day 4-2, and had handled very well through two periods, requires some reflection, but it’s not the end of the world for this team. They continue to hold fast at third place in the AHL North Division.
Keefe emphasized the path forward from this is clear. “It’s a big slap in the face for us. We will do all that we can to make this a productive experience for us and to be better for it.”
The Marlies can put this game behind them quickly. The next game is tonight vs. the Rochester Americans in a rare Tuesday night match at Ricoh Coliseum. The game will be broadcast on TSN2.