For the first time in what feels like forever, the Toronto Marlies are on a winning streak! From December 21st when Greg Moore took the job as Marlies head coach, the team had gone 5-13-2. The last time the Marlies had won two in a row, it was almost exactly two months ago when they swept the San Antonio Rampage at home on the weekend of December 7th and 8th.
But they are back in the winning column now after a dominant 4-0 shutout win over the Rochester Americans on Saturday, followed by a responsible 5-2 victory over the Laval Rocket on Sunday.
In recent games, the Marlies have had to rely mostly on Mason Marchment to do a lot of the scoring for them. He scored three of the four goals by the Marlies in the 7-4 collapse against the Belleville Senators on Friday, and twice, including the game-winning goal against the Amerks. And while he scored the opening goal in this game, he was far from alone as the Marlies got primary points from all four forward lines and three defense pairs. Yes, a full team effort.
Greg Moore praised his entire team after this game, highlighting the high-quality play by all six of his defensemen and all the penalty killers. The PK held the Rocket 0/6 and only five shots on goal. Kasimir Kaskisuo only had to face 27 shots in this game, despite his team leading for 59 minutes. He stopped 25 of them for the win.
The Marlies are slowly finding a roster that they think can work. The second line with Agostino, Brooks (and before him Nic Petan), and Marchment have really played like a bonafide first line — mostly on the back of Marchment’s goal scoring.
The “first line” was the third line after Pierre Engvall moved up to the Maple Leafs. They got some results on the back of a hot Aberg, but they never really showed off a dominant game. I don’t like MacMaster that high in the lineup, but considering Petan and possible Kalle Kossila are injured, he’s probably the best they got.
On defense, Kivihalme is at the helm of this group and has been doing an amazing job. Hollowell has impressed, too, slowly moving up the lineup and onto the first pair this weekend. Gravel was called up a couple weeks ago to the Leafs, but it became apparent after that he hadn’t yet healed from his injury. Saturday was his second game after missing 34 (!) with injury.
And once again, Kaskisuo got the first and third games of the weekend, while Woll played only the second game. Hopefully that changes after Woll’s masterful shutout.
Egor Korshkov - Tanner MacMaster - Pontus Aberg
Kenny Agostino - Adam Brooks - Mason Marchment (fire emoji)
Darren Archibald - Tyler Gaudet - Matt Read
Giorgio Estephan - Hudson Elynuik - Scott Pooley
Teemu Kivihalme - Mac Hollowell
Kevin Gravel - Michael Kapla
Kristians Rubins - Joseph Duszak
First Period - The Tall Boys
The Marlies had a really good start to the first period. They were aggressive and confident with the puck, and they were rewarded almost immediately. On the second shift of the game Kivihalme took a faceoff win from Adam Brooks and threw a low, sharp shot to the net. Marchment was right in front and buried the rebound for his sixth goal in three games.
Next up, Joey Duszak made a really sweet stretch pass up to Korshkov, who scored on the breakaway with a slick move. I really liked Duszak’s heads-up play as he brought the puck up the ice. He didn’t rush and saw where the play was headed before sending a perfect pass up the middle to Korshkov.
On Korshkov’s side, he lifted the stick of the Laval defender just as the puck was coming to him. That, and the deke, really show off the kind of hands he has for a big guy. It was really useful to him when he was going on that goal streak at the start of the season and it looks like it’s come back now. Korshkov is a smart and deft player at the offensive blueline, we knew that in his first game with the Marlies and it’s remained true till now.
The funny part about this third goal was that the shift in the offensive zone was starting to break down and it looked like the Marlies were going to need to regroup in the neutral zone. But then all of a sudden Rubins jumps in from the blueline, toe drags a defender, and snipes cleanly into the top corner for the Marlies third straight goal. This was his second goal of the season on 38 shots. Rubins is not an offensive defenseman, and no one should expect him to provide any offense at any level, but it’s at least good to know he can do that once in a while.
3-1 (Cale Fleury)
Cale Fleury got the Baby Habs back into the game with a good individual effort deking through Pooley and sniping on Kaskisuo from the faceoff circle. Jesperi Kotkaniemi got the assist because he’s not in the NHL and winning the Selke Trophy. Ryan Poehling is down here too, with 12 points in 26 games.
Not much happened in the second period in terms of scoring — which is a massive positive for the Marlies — so I mostly spent the entire period watching Kivihalme and Hollowell play hockey. Both play a very similar style, with Kivihalme looking like the more polished version of the youngster.
I really love the way they both skate; it’s very fluid and purposeful, not very much extra movement that wastes energy unlike some other players on this team I could mention. Kivihalme is really consistent when it comes to being in the right position and moving at the right speed in order to cover his space. He and Hollowell play off each other really well, rotating and covering like they’ve been playing for a while.
I noticed that Hollowell sometimes spins the long way when turning around to skate backwards and that can leave him missing some of the play that he has to reacquire. Kivihalme doesn’t have the same problem as he always seemed to be watching the play and keeping everything in front of him.
I really like Kivihalme. He plays a really poised and smart game that reminds me of Jake Gardiner a lot, though not to the same 1LD degree Gardiner turned into in his career. Kivihalme looks floaty, but I think that’s just bias from how he glides on his skates, he’s never had issues with getting lost in the zone and leaving someone wide open. The strength and separation speed are there without question. On offense, Kivihalme is a really engaged defenseman. He’ll jump up in the rush, but do so responsibly (he’s no Tyson Barrie) and actively coordinates with his partner to be in strong play-making positions. He’s definitely elevated Hollowell in this area.
Do you know who Teemu Kivihalme reminds me of? Jake Gardiner.— Hardev Lad (@HardevLad) February 9, 2020
Now I'm off to go cry for a while.
In terms of actual action in the second period, the Marlies spent a lot of the period on the penalty kill. On the bright side, they managed to keep the Rocket to five shots throughout the period with some very strong penalty killing work. With Duszak in the box for slashing, the Marlies held the puck for the entire first minute of the kill, with Kivihalme, Hollowell, Marchment, and Brooks doing a great job after that limiting the quality of chances against in the second half of the kill.
Unfortunately, when Duszak came back on, the Marlies got their signals crossed at the bench and got caught with too many men on the ice. Then right off the proceeding faceoff, Gravel nearly made it a 5v3 when he shot the puck over the glass. He was lucky to not get a penalty, but after seeing what the Canadiens did against the Leafs on Saturday, it was a lot of unnecessary momentum being given to the Rocket. Luckily, they came out of the period all clear in terms of goals.
For the first time in what felt like forever, the Marlies had the lead and they weren’t budging.
On the PK, Kasimir Kaskisuo has a great leg save from a point blank shot from the slot, keeping the score at 3-1 Marlies. pic.twitter.com/ayj7VeHx8l— Wipe the slate, clear the canvas part 2 (@RodBlanchard) February 9, 2020
In hindsight, this was a crucial goal for the Marlies at a crucial time in the game. The Rocket were starting to come on in the third period, especially on the power play. That’s when MacMaster and Read won a lost faceoff in the Marlies zone and pushed the puck up and out into the middle of the ice. From there, it was all Matt Read, who showed off some of that vintage NHL skill. Not bad for a 33-year-old.
4-2 (Matthew Peca)
Matt Peca scored late in the third period to make things interesting, but that was as far as the Rocket got to the Marlies as the home team did an amazing job winning puck battles and keeping the puck out of the zone as much as they could.
5-2 (Aberg - ENG)
MacMaster had a chance at the empty net with a minute and a half left in the game, but he just missed the net. Aberg didn’t miss, sealing the game with almost exactly a minute left in the game. And that’s all she wrote.