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Toronto Marlies Recap: regression befalls Baby Buds on road trip

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Breaking down the last four games of the Toronto Marlies season.

Joseph Woll of the Toronto Marlies
Credit: Thomas Skrlj - Toronto Marlies

The past two weeks have been midterm season (szn) at York University, so the site told me to take that time off to “study” and “get good grades.” Whatever. Now I’m back and caught up on all the video. Here’s a recap from the last two weekends of Toronto Marlies hockey.

After starting the season 6-0-0, the Marlies hopped on their bus and took a trip that went through Binghamton and Syracuse the first weekend, then Belleville and Laval this weekend. Looking at those four appearances it’s safe to say the results were less than ideal. The Marlies went 1-0-3 over the four games, including losing both games that were on the second night of the back-to-backs.

Let’s go through each game and pick out notable performances and events to analyze. I’ll try to keep each game recap short since I’m planning on a Marlies 10-Game Report this week which will cover team news such as the impact from injuries to key players like Adam Brooks.

3-2 OTL at Binghamton Devils

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Ahead of this game, the Marlies split up Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin. The speculation was that this was going to be a chance for Sandin and Liljegren to run their own lines, give each other the chance to take on more responsibility. I had been saying that I think Sandin does too much of the puck-moving work on his pair and it hasn’t allowed us to see what Liljegren can do in that part of the game. Alas, we only got one game of this experiment (which showed Liljegren to be quite good at moving the puck!) as the Marlies needed two strong pairs to match up against the B-Devils’ forwards.

The Marlies had a slow start to this game, giving up an early power play goal to the Devils before being out-shot and out-chanced massively in the first period. The Devils were completely in the face of Kaskisuo while the Marlies couldn’t break into the front of the net for any real chances. The Marlies did improve their shot quantity in the second, but the quality wasn’t there and the Devils extended their lead 2-0. In the third period, the fourth line woke up and scored two goals within the first seven minutes. First it was Darren Archibald with a great bit of effort to fight for space and score, then new call-up Zach O’Brien found the luck of the Irish with his first of the season from an awful angle.

All that took the Marlies to overtime, where Marian Studenic beat Matt Read wide, then beat Teemu Kivihalme to the slot, and scored. There wasn’t anything more you could say. The Marlies got out-classed on the goal.

Head Coach Sheldon Keefe admitted that his team was running on a bit of a high when it came to shot percentages and special teams. They were going to come down eventually, and this was the beginning of it. He did say that he liked his team’s effort to at least salvage a point. That will be a theme for the rest of this recap.

4-3 OTL at Syracuse Crunch

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Poor Joseph Woll. Coming into a net behind a tired squad against one of the deepest and most talented offenses in the AHL. The Syracuse Crunch gave nor quarter in this game, pounding the Marlies into the ice all game long. The Marlies got lucky with a power play in the first that the second unit (Pontus Aberg) converted on... One second after Dennis Yan came out of the box. Woll was strong in the period, holding the lead against 13 shots, but in the second the Crunch eventually overwhelmed the Marlies and put three on the board with 14 shots.

By the third, the Crunch had taken their Foote off the gas as they too had played twice in as many nights. This slowing of the pace allowed the Marlies to get back into the game. First with a goal from Garrett Wilson off a bad turnover by Dominik Masin, then from Gaudet, who took a nice outlet pass from Jordan Schmaltz for a breakaway.

Neither side could finish off the game in regulation, so they went to overtime where it’s safe to say it didn’t take long for Gemel Smith to find some space up the wing, deke, and fire the game-winner past Woll. You hate to see it, but Sandin got beat in embarrassing fashion there.

The Marlies took seven penalties in this game and were lucky to only give up one goal on it. It wasn’t at all surprising that a team who had played the night before and whose legs were on the more tired side would take hooking and tripping penalties, but they also took a rough and a couple of boards. Watching the game, this wasn’t a case of the Marlies trying to play dirty, I think the fatigue got to players like Archibald and Egor Korshkov, meaning they tried more reckless hits than they should’ve. Nevertheless, they should probably stop such acts in the future.

Regression was once again the theme for the Marlies, according to Keefe.

7-4 W at Belleville Senators

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A Win! Finally some good news. Well, not quite. After a week of practices, the fresh-faced Marlies with a brand new first line centre drove up to Belleville to play the Senators. It was a promising start to the game for the Marlies, Nic Petan scored his first goal of the season a little over halfway through the period, but penalty trouble got the team down. First, Alex Formenton scored with Archibald in the box, then Max Veronneau with Sandin in the box and less than a minute on the clock in the period. The Marlies had two scoring chances in the first 20 minutes, while the Senators had nine. Shots were 5-13 after one, too.

In the second, the Marlies sawed off the Sens in shots and scoring chances, with both sides scoring two apiece. This game was turning into a shootout. That period led into the third, where the Marlies absolutely came alive and the Sens had completely lost all the gas left in their tank. I’m not sure why the Sens collapsed and gave up four goals on 22 shots, while only creating four (4) of their own — they hadn’t played the night before — but they were no match for the Marlies, who came away with a 7-4 victory.

Offensively, Petan and Kenny Agostino both finished with two goals and four points, while Jeremy Bracco got his first of the season, with Aberg and Wilson each pitching in a goal as well.

The Agostino goal to tie the game was by far the best of the night. It was two cross-ice passes from Sandin, to Jesper Lindgren, to Agostino while the Marlies were on a change, perfectly through the seams of the Sens defense. And the best part of all, Rich Clune’s reaction right in front of the camera. He was pumped for the whole comeback.

And I guess I should throw in Bracco’s first of the season. It was a sick snipe. Clune once again losing his mind and flexing his muscles all over the camera.

6-5 OTL at Laval Rocket

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Once again, Joseph Woll on the second half of a back-to-back behind a team who has been known to give up some pretty high quality chances in high volume over the past couple weeks. This game was no exception as the Laval Rocket seemingly kept the Marlies at a 2:1 shot margin for the entire game. By the end of the night, the Marlies would have 33% of the shot share and 32% of the scoring chances. All of that was put on Woll’s shoulders and he handled it about as well as you could’ve asked.

The game started out well, however, with Egor Korshkov scoring his sixth goal of the season. There was a time where he was over a point a game (5 goals, 7 points in 6 games) but his offense completely dried up on the road trip because the team couldn’t get the puck to him at the front of the net.

Somehow, the Marlies exited the first period with a lead, despite trailing in shots 6-14. Sandin doubled that lead midway through the second, but shortly after the Rocket got one goal, then another, and the tide was quickly back in the Montreal farm team’s favour.

In the third, the two sides decided to get into a shooting match, except the Rocket were still doubling the Marlies in shots. Archibald, Bracco, and Aberg all scored for Toronto, while Lukas Vejdemo, and Charles Hudon (twice) started and finished the comeback in the second half of the period.

In overtime, the Rocket controlled the play, but couldn’t beat Woll. The rookie netminder was amazing in this game, especially with his lower body. He was effective in stopping attacks in front of the net with his pads and stick, his glove was working in this game, and his lateral movement was quite good. Alas, the game went to the shootout where the Rocket won on a goal from Alex Belzile.

Keefe acknowledged that his team was already heading into the game with a hand tied around their back, playing a fast and skilled team while on short rest. The decision-making in the neutral zone was definitely not great and it seemed like the Marlies couldn’t string a pass together without the puck bobbling on the recipient’s stick. All of this led to a difficult afternoon despite a result that was a little better than expected.