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Toronto Marlies fall 5-3 to Comets on Sunday

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The Marlies took their fourth loss in a row Sunday, but they have faced adversity like this before.

Lucas Kschischang

The Marlies season is not off to the best of starts. After winning the Calder Cup last season, they now sit at the bottom of the AHL North Division (as of end of Sunday). It’s not the start any team wants in any season, but especially one who has a tough act to follow.

However, the season is very young, and they have faced stretches of losses like this as recently as a year ago. In December 2017 the team took what was a fantastic start to the season into some choppy waters, losing six of seven games at the end of December and falling way back from first place of their division.

They recovered from that. It started while out on their annual Boat Show road trip, and continued when they returned to Ricoh Coliseum. They won the division, won the Conference, and then finally won the Calder Cup.

For now, the Marlies are best to focus on the process, and there’s lots now being diligently learned about it from these four lost games.

Marlies Lines Sunday

Dmytro Timashov - Sam Gagner - Jeremy Bracco
Griffen Molino - Adam Cracknell - Trevor Moore
Pierre Engvall - Josh Jooris - Colin Greening
Emerson Clark - J.J. Piccinich

Calle Rosen - Timothy Liljegren
Andreas Borgman - Vincent LoVerde
Ryan Sproul - Jordan Subban
Andrew Nielsen
(the defense pairing were fluid again because of playing with only 11 forwards)

Kasimir Kaskisuo / Jeff Glass

Kaskisuo started in net, and Jeff Glass replaced him when Kaskisuo was injured (more on that below.) You may remember Glass as famous for making his NHL debut last year at the age of 31 after spending a decade as a journeyman goalie in the minor leagues and in Europe.

The Comets started with the undrafted and just turned 22 year-old Ivan Kulbakov in net. This was only the 10th AHL game played for the Belarusian (are there any other Belarusian goalies in the NHL or AHL right now?)

The Goals

I’m going to cut my commentary down to only the goals here. Overall, the game can be summarised succinctly as endless breakout failures. There were often times the puck was turned over three or four times consecutively in the neutral zone. When they Marlies could break through the Comets appeared to clear it quickly. The reverse was usually true too.

However, the main reason I will keep this brief is everyone wants to know about some other things in this game which I will get into after this.

The game started quickly on a line that would rack up points and scoring attempts a lot that night. After opening the game by making it his mission to land a big hit on every single one of the Comets players. Then he scored a goal after a face-off at the dots in their zone.

Or did he?

It was announced as a goal for Cracknell, and he celebrated like he scored it, but they later re-credited the goal to Trevor Moore. It’s really hard to tell from the clip, but after watching it about 50 times I think I can see where the puck was deflected very slightly by Moore.

In any case, that line had some great moments through the whole night.

This was an interesting game in that special teams were seen few and far between. Only two were called, one to Nielsen for tripping and one on Borgman for assimilating. Both were in the second period. There were no penalties at all in the first or the third.

The Marlies killed off those penalties, but by the end of the second period, Utica had scored three goals, including one by Reid Boucher, his eighth of the season. He now leads the whole AHL in goals and points. He’s 25 years old now, but has found only limited NHL success, scoring only 20 goals in 132 games since being drafted by the Devils and making his debut in 2013.

The third period had a mini-comeback by the Marlies with first Engvall getting a goal.

The Marlies were now trailing 4-2, with just maybe enough time left to tie up the game. That hope died with this unfortunate flub by Nielsen, which led to an empty net breakaway for the Comets.

Cracknell finally got an actual goal, and this time he was the one who deflected a shot in, but it was too late to pull off a win.

The Marlies lost this one 5-3.

Post-Game Thoughts and Comments

That Engvall line was good! Engvall himself had eight shots on goal in the game, and there were a few of those that were real high danger attempts.

Borgman looked impressive too. It’s not like we didn’t know he is capable of NHL level play. We’ve seen it. What interested me is how offensively focused he is right now. I recall him leading a breakaway on the Comets’ net where he simply bowled through all their defensce. He played low toward the net quite a bit. It was a contrast that to Timothy Liljegren who played high and away from the net more than I recall last season where he had a role more like Borgman played out on Sunday. All of this could simply be some game to game adjustments because of their current injury situation.

As Sheldon Keefe noted after the game, “anytime you have the number of injuries that we do, everyone kind of shuffles up the lineup and the roles change.” There’s a lot of new pairings and new linemates they need to fit with right now. “Guys need to settle in to those [new] roles,” added Keefe.

The Marlies now have four days off to tend to injuries, and there are many.

The obvious important one was taken by their top goalie Kaskisuo. At first we thought he was winded on this play, only needing a few seconds to recover. After about thirty seconds passed it was clear something was very wrong.

It was time for an ice scraping by the Marlies crew so he had a break anyway, but he still didn’t get up off the ice while they started working. One of the officials skated over, likely to ask “Are you OK?” The answer was clearly a sharp “No.” The trainer was immediately called in and it became apparent Kaskisuo was still down because he couldn’t actually stand up on his own. He was helped off the ice and back to the locker room, appearing to have great difficulty moving his legs.

We know injuries are difficult to project. We’ve all had one of those muscle strains or pulls where it hurts like hell immediately, but then goes away after a night’s sleep.

After the game, Sheldon Keefe said he had not yet had an update on Kaskisuo’s condition, but they have time to make assessments and not panic about the backup goalie situation. Eamon McAdam was called up all the way to the Leafs to back up Garret Sparks last night because of a minor injury to Frederik Andersen. McAdam could simply flip back to the Marlies instead of going back with the Growlers if needed. A loaned player from another AHL team is another option for the Marlies.

We’re still waiting to hear more about how Emerson Clark is doing after that nasty hit, and there’s several other players out with injuries already too. There are practices the rest of this week so there will be some news about who is out and in soon.

Next Game

The Marlies head to Rochester Friday night for their first game of the season against the Amerks (Sabres affiliates). It will be the first time this hockey season the Leafs organization will see a Nylander on the ice.

See what I did there? A. Nylander...

On Saturday the Marlies will be back at Ricoh Coca-Cola Coliseum (it is going to take me months to remember that name change) where they will play against the Hartford Wolf Pack at 3:00 p.m. See you then!