Toronto Marlies vs. Rochester Americans – Game 2

Toronto Marlies vs. Rochester Americans – Game 2

Photo: Marlies.ca

It was another 4-3 game in which the Marlies gave up a two goal lead and Jerry D’Amigo scored twice, including the game winner in the final minutes. In many respects it was like watching the same game as Thursday night’s. Did we mention that Zigomanis scored and Foligno, Verone and Brennan were the same Rochester goal scorers from Game 1? All that matters from the Marlie perspective is that it was the same result and they now hold a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.

An announced sell out crowd of towel wavers provided a good atmosphere, particularly in the final moments following the D’Amigo winner. Onto the notes:

-For whatever reason the Marlies have let up on those – cliched, but true – always dangerous two-goal leads, but you can tell when it comes down to it, and when the Marlies need to score the next goal, they seem to believe in the game plan and that they’re capable of pulling it out. Winning a game despite giving up a two goal lead – and giving up leads in the third on both occasions – is not as easy as the Marlies have made it look the last two games. That type of resilience and abiding belief in their abilities should help take them deep in these playoffs.

-Carter Ashton had his bell rung, by Dallas Eakins’ description, in the second period, losing his helmet on the play. Once Ashton left the game, Eakins turned to D’Amigo for double shift duty. If he’s out, the logical replacement would be German forward Marcel Mueller, who has been patiently awaiting his chance at playoff action. Have to feel for a guy like Mueller. He had his ups and downs but his near-50 point season helped the Marlies get into  this position only for him to sit out the opening two playoff games at home. Not fun, but as Eakins put it, professional hockey isn’t always fair.

-Every time Frattin is engaged physically, he creates. Too often he’s content to pull up for shots and play a bit of a finesse game. In one way  it’s nice to have that simplicity Frattin brings to the game when he’s shooting willingly and often, but nobody is mistaking Frattin for Kovalchuk and he has to have an edge to his game to be consistently effective. Yesterday I was reminded of when Frattin was recalled around the deadline, following his first significant stint in the AHL, and he went out there and crashed and banged every shift and made things happen. This time physical contact quite literally led to offense as he bulldozed the Rochester player off the puck, walked in on David Leggio and generated a rebound for a Dechamps goal on the Marlies’ 3rd tally. It left me wanting more, and at the same time it was a tantalizing taste of the potential of this player. The Leafs could certainly use more of the physical Frattin in their top 9 if he can bring it with consistency.

-Frattin also played set up man on D’Amigo’s one timed winner in a goal similar to Frattin’s one timer off of a similar feed from Colborne. Just another similarity to note.

-Kadri has played well for a pointless player, and not just with the puck. He’s evidently found his way under the skin of more than a few Rochester players and his chirping around the players benches drew the ire and a roughing call out of Marcus Foligno, which the Marlies scored on – not the only scrum Kadri played a central role in. His pest quality is an understated tool in his toolbox and it has more value than most would think, especially in playoff series when temperatures run high – provided he’s smart about it, which he was yesterday.

- Offensively, Kadri had a couple moments of brilliance yesterday, and on one sublime individual effort he was probably unjustly robbed of a goal. Really tough to conclusively tell if it went in without an overhead cam. Without video review in the AHL, the call on the ice is king. It would’ve been more contentious if the Marlies didn’t pull it out, that’s for sure. Kadri’s next goal against Leggio is coming very soon. He’s playing great hockey and creating offensive opportunities consistently. As the old adage goes, if he wasn’t getting and creating scoring chances then there would be a problem, but he is, so it’s really just a matter of time before they start going in.

- Worth mentioning that Eakins has largely matched Kadri’s line in a power vs. power role. Nazem’s line has routinely lined up against Rochester’s best line with Marcus Foligno on it. Also, Eakins started Gardiner, Percy, Frattin, Colborne, Ashton for the game, they didn’t have a good shift, and got replaced 30 seconds in for Kadri’s line with Holzer’s D pairing.

-Jerry D’Amigo – a lesson in not writing off players based on a rough initial transition to the pro ranks. Much will be written about D’Amigo’s clutch heroics so far in this series – all of which is deserved as he’s got consecutive game winners late on in both games – and I don’t like expectations getting out of control, but as Gus Katsaros put it to Anthony and I, “how can you not love Jerry D’Amigo?” His goal came in the middle of a convo between Anthony and I about how impressed we were with him. He’s developing a complete game with a sense for the occasion offensively. As Anthony wrote, D’Amigo appears to have that quality of being able to elevate his play according to the stakes, as seen in his numbers in the OHL playoffs and with the American World Junior team. Expect him to compete for a wing spot on the Leafs‘ third line next camp. He just might be ready to be a full time third liner and penalty killer for the big club.

-Whether or not Jake Gardiner is bringing his best hockey to the table – and I don’t want to suggest this is an effort thing, as that’s a bold indictment, but keep in mind he is at the end of a full NHL season in which he played big minutes fresh off the 40-game college weekend schedule – he still brings such valuable mobility to an otherwise slow footed Marlies blueline. He’s on another level and a Jake Gardiner at 70% is still easily the most talented defenceman on the ice.

-One other area Gardiner helps is the powerplay, which is 2 for 9 in the last two games .. 22.2% is an improvement over the 13% they produced this season (2nd last), but looking at its poor movement it’s easy to see why it has struggled. A back and forth between Zigomanis and Gardiner led to the first Marlies goal on the powerplay from high in the zone, but “back to the point to Gardiner” was a bit overdone, with not a lot going on down low to draw the D out and get them turning. It’s all too static with no opening of the lanes. Gardiner has primary assists on both of the Marlies’ powerplay goals in the series. Hey, if it works…

-Joe Colborne sliced his finger pretty badly, but played through it. Eakins didn’t sound totally sure he’d play next game. The big center wasn’t feeling well after the game and didn’t interview.

-Colborne picked up another assist last night. A lot of people were down on his point totals and point decline after the first month of the season, but we’re seeing once again – when he plays with high end players, he fits in and puts up points. Colborne’s not a dominating offensive force that drives a line’s production, but he’s a great complementary player to a trigger man. When Colborne had his hot month to start the year, he did it playing with Joey Crabb. When Colborne wasn’t scoring, he was playing in more of a third line role, but now that the Leafs have sent Frattin and Ashton back down he’s getting to play with better scoring options again and is starting to produce again. It’s no coincidence.

-Greg Scott appears to have emerged unfazed despite a brutal check from behind after beating out an icing call with 15 seconds remaining – an unfortunate result after a great effort by Scott. I found Eakins’ response to the hit interesting. He didn’t seem to get angry, but rather legitimately disappointed about lack of player-to-player respect in that instance. Eakins says he has instructed his players to hold up once an icing race is lost.

- Guys like Scott and Dupuis won’t be getting talked about too much because neither will be NHLers for the Leafs, but both are playing very good hockey and helping the Marlies win games. Scott took the big hit at the end of the game, and threw a big tone-setting hit of his own two minutes into the first, while Dupuis has been centering the third line and giving the Marlies critical minutes at key times in all situations.

- The third goal on Scrivens was pretty weak. With Brennan forced wide by Percy, there was no real excuse being beat near post. Promising that the Marlies have found a way to win without Scrivens bringing his best stuff as of yet.

Game 3 goes Monday in Rochester. Anthony will have a post up tomorrow morning breaking down his eight player list of future NHLers currently playing on the Marlies.