The Toronto Marlies completed the sweep of their three games in three nights weekend marathon with a 5-2 win over the New Jersey Devils affiliate Binghamton Devils.
Nikita Soshnikov scored the opening goal of the game in what might be his last with the Marlies. Colin Greening led the way with two goals, including both the game-tying goal and the 5-2 insurance marker. Andreas Borgman stepped up as the Marlies’ top pivot man after injuries to both Martin Marincin and Justin Holl and had himself a dominant game from the back-end that included his first goal in the AHL.
Andreas Johnsson - Ben Smith - Nikita Soshnikov
Dmytro Timashov - Chris Mueller - Colin Greening
Mason Marchment - Frederik Gauthier - Jeremy Bracco
Kerby Rychel - Adam Brooks - Rich Clune
Andreas Borgman - Calle Rosen
Rinat Valiev - Justin Holl
Martin Marincin - Timothy Liljegren
Garret Sparks gets the net for the second time in three nights. Calvin Pickard stopped 15 of 16 shots yesterday against these same Devils as the backup.
This is the last day of Nikita Soshnikov’s conditioning stint. Monday, Sosh’s fate will be decided.
Andreas Borgman doesn’t appear to be any worse for wear after taking what looked to be a rough elbow to the head from Mike Blunden on Friday night in Belleville. He will be in the lineup, playing with his old Växjö rival Calle Rosen.
The game kicks off with neither team really getting any dangerous chances. Five minutes in, the Marlies have a shot on net (arguably) and the Devils’ first shot came from center ice.
5:38 in, Freddy the Goat takes a tripping penalty in the defensive zone. The B-Devils are able to get a shot that rings the post but for the most part, the Marlies’ penalty kill units do a admirable job at keeping the play in the neutral and offensive zones.
Marlies penalty kill units today are as follows:— Hardev Lad (@HardevLad) February 11, 2018
Smith - Greening - Borgman - Marincin
Johnsson - Brooks - Valiev - Holl
Johnsson, Brooks, Borgman all learning how to PK at the AHL level
Ben Thompson takes a slashing penalty against Johnsson in the Marlies’ zone 8:21 into the opening frame, giving the Marlies a power play chance of their own. Bluntly stated, Toronto’s first power play unit is not only extremely intriguing from an organizational point of view, but it’s fun as heck to watch. It contains three exciting prospects — two of whom are rookies — the captain of the Marlies and former fourth-line center in Ben Smith, and easily the most interesting dilemma in the Leafs organization at this moment in time in Soshnikov.
Ben Thompson takes a slashing penalty, sending the Marlies to the power play.— Hardev Lad (@HardevLad) February 11, 2018
PP1: Johnsson - Smith - Soshnikov - Bracco - Liljegren
PP2: Marchment - Mueller - Rychel - Timashov - Rosen
Binghamton gets the first goal of the game, Michael Kapla shooting a seeing-eye wrister through a screen and past goaltender Garret Sparks. The “shutdown” group of the third line and second pairing that came onto the ice to start in the defensive zone seconds before take the “L” on the play.
Who would’ve guessed. Nikita Soshnikov gets the Marlies on the board, scoring his third goal since coming down for his conditioning stint. An incomplete zone entry here, a lucky bounce there, and all of a sudden Ben Smith finds himself with the puck at the top of the Devils’ zone, Soshnikov with him, and only one defenseman back. Smith waits for Sosh to gain a head of steam before saucing him a pass to an area that the young Russian buries with ease.
Andreas Johnsson earned a secondary assist on the play, his 42nd point in 44 games this season. Johnsson is so close to being a point-per-game player in his second AHL season, a feat that both Kasperi Kapanen and William Nylander were able to accomplish with the Toronto Marlies
The Marlies’ fourth line gets into the offensive zone and causes a little bit of discomfort for the Devils, both figuratively and literally. During a scramble for the puck in the offensive zone, Rich Clune falls into Binghamton goalie Ken Appleby, who gets up in some pain after the whistle. Clune looked like he was pushed in and it appears the referees agree as Brandon Baddock heads to the box for cross-checking.
The period ends with 44 seconds left in the Marlies’ man-advantage. The firsrt period shots had the Marlies on top 13-11. The Marlies may have started in their own zone (7) more often than in the offensive zone (4) but they did a good job of getting the puck off the draw and getting out of the zone.
Borgman and Rosen come out of the break with a really fun shift. First, Borgman takes the puck at his own blueline, steps around a forechecker making him slide several feet on him behind, and feeds Chris Mueller for a decent scoring opportinuty. Next, Borgman dummied the same winger into going after a loose puck in the neutral zone before letting it slide past him and to partner Calle Rosen. Rosen then ripped a three-line breakout pass to a streaking Mason Marchment. Unfortunatly, Marchment was unable to finish.
Jan Mandat picks up a rebound near the right face-off dot against the fourth line and beats Sparks clean. Jeff Veilette then jokingly asked whether any of the Marlies deserved an assist for giving the puck right to Mandat.
Head coach Sheldon Keefe looked like he had lost favour with his bottom three forward lines by this point in the game. They were down, not getting many chances past a well-defended neutral zone, and frankly looked tired.
Keefe decided to shift Jeremy Bracco up to the second line with Colin Greening and Chris Mueller and somehow immediately gets rewarded with a goal. Colin Greening picks up a pass from Chris Mueller after some nice rotations along the boards, see’s that he has a step on his defender, comes down on Appleby, and finds a hole on the short-side to tie the game. Mueller gets the lone assist on the goal.
The Marlies come all the way back to take the lead on the power play. Rychel joins the first unit at the end of a too-many-men bench minor to the Devils and taps home one of the easier goals he’ll ever score.
After five laterals in the neutral zone later, the Marlies break through the Devils’ defenses and set up in the offensive zone. Timashov fires a laser across the ice to Mueller who throws the puck towards Rychel’s skates in the blue paint. Rychel finds the puck beneath him and finishes the chance.
Borgman reads the play coming from behind the Devils’ net and jumps up to intercept a pass from the Binghamton defenseman. Borgman ignores Mueller’s call for a pass and elects to shoot himself. His shot hits the goalie’s chest but squirts loose long enough for Borgy to pop home his own rebound as he skated across the face of the goal.
Calle Rosen might be jealous, he’s played in 40 games, taken 95 shots, and has zero goals. Borgman already has more in 38 fewer games and 91 fewer shots.
The Marlies explode for three goals to the Devils’ one. The shots also favour the Marlies in the second period (15-8) as well as in the game (28-19). The even-strength zone starts are a little more even for this frame, but the Marlies still out out ahead (5-4).
With Holl not on the bench to start the period because of his injured face, the Marlies had to make do with three rookies (Borgman, Rosen, Liljegren), stay-at-home defenseman Rinat Valiev, and “wily vet” Martin Marincin. Unfortunately, their most experienced rearguard would get hit with a puck in just the wrong spot on his right foot while trying to tie up a Binghamton attacker in front of Garret Sparks. Once the play died, Marincin didn’t appear to be able to put any pressure on his foot during his attempt to drift back to the Marlies bench.
Marincin’s absence for several minutes left Borgman-Valiev and Rosen-Liljegren in somewhat of a scramble to hold the fort. Thankfully, MarMar would eventually return for a skate during a commercial break to test his leg and felt healthy enough to stay for the ensuing faceoff.
Colin Greening gets his second goal of the game after sniping on Ken Appleby off the rush. Freddy the Goat and Rinat Valiev get the assists on the goal.
With 3:33 left to play in the game, the Marlies attained a three-goal lead on the third night of a 3-in-3. Aren’t numbers fun?
As the seconds ticked down, Keefe felt “concerned” about whether his group would be able to hold their composure after 180 minutes of hockey over one weekend, so he called a timeout with three minutes to go so that the boys could “regroup”. This proved to be a perfect strategy. The Devils appeared to be gaining steam up until that point, but with the timeout and defensive reset, the final minutes of the game did not feel like one where the lead would be affected in any way.
After the Buzzer
Nikita Soshnikov either doesn’t know what his future with the organization is, or he’s not telling. I guess you can’t blame him, his boss is Lou Lamoriello after all.
If the AHL is nothing else, it’s at least developmental league for NHLers. Tonight, the Marlies had Borgman, Johnsson, and Adam Brooks all taking regular penalty kill minutes. We’ve seen it with Connor Brown, Zach Hyman, and more recently Kasperi Kapanen, and Travis Dermott. This is a skill that, once you learn in the AHL, Mike Babcock will trust you with at the NHL level.
We also know that the Leafs organization made a concerted effort to play Travis Dermott on his wrong side (the right side) in order to have that as an option at the NHL level. This is not the case for Borgman (yet). In a game where two defensemen got injured and no one had a consistant partner, Borgman was not played on his right side. He started the game on the left with lefty Rosen on the wrong side, but mid-game it appeared that the Marlies didn’t like that setup and put Borgman with two defensemen who are much more comfortable on their wrong side in Marincin and Valiev. Rosen was sent to play with righty Liljegren.
It might happen eventually, but for now, Borgman won’t be learning to play the right side like Dermott before him. It will be interesting to see whether Rosen gets a run of games on his wrong side, now that he’s had a few months to get acclimated to North American hockey.
One last thing, Craig MacTavish along with scouts from these teams were in attendance for this game. Does it mean anything? Probably. Will we know what it all means before the trade deadline, or before we find out what will happen to Soshnikov? Probably not. But it’s still fun to speculate nonetheless.