I was (un)fortunate enough to be at the Ricoh Coliseum to watch the Marlies take on the Griffins in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals.
Toronto got off to a good start, as Joe Colborne hit Carter Ashton with a pass in the neutral zone and he walked over the blueline, putting a wrist shot between Petr Mrazek’s legs 4 minutes and 15 seconds into the game.
Moments later, Drew MacIntyre made two huge saves to preserve the 1 goal lead, as a Griffin player beat Morgan Rielly wide.
The Marlies were cycling the puck around in the Griffins end when Zigomanis hit McKegg with a pass in the slot. McKegg pulled the puck around the Mrazek on his backhand and put on a nice show of skill as he put the the puck on his forehand and attempted to sneak it between Mrazek’s skate and the post, but just missed.
After that close call, the line of Zigomanis, Hamilton and McKegg continued to control the play in the Griffins end and looked really good together.
In the dying seconds of the 1st, Zigomanis won a faceoff back to Paul Ranger and he closed out the period with another weak wrister that beat Mrazek 5-hole, barely trickling over the line with just 3 seconds left on the clock.
The Marlies were outshot 10-8 in the first period. Although the scoreboard showed a 2-0 lead for the home team, the game was actually quite even, with both team getting their fair share of chances.
The back-and-forth play continued into the second period, until Ranger took a slashing penalty a few minutes into the frame and sent Grand Rapids to the PP. I’m not really sure with he was thinking, as the Griffins had just missed the net with a shot and he decided to slash the ankle of a Grffin breaking towards the net, taking his legs out and going to the sin-bin for 2 minutes or less. The Griffins didn’t waste any time, as Tomas Tatar took a pass in his own end, carried the puck through the neutral zone and went around Mike Mottau wide before beating MacIntyre over the glove with a nice wrist shot (just 21 seconds into the PP).
Toronto responded very quickly, as an aggressive fore-check by Spencer Abbot forced the Grffins’ d-man to turn the puck over. After D’Amigo sent the puck into the slot, Will Acton unleashed a one-timer past Mrazek.
The back and forth play continued for the rest of the 2nd period, with nothing much happening, although Greg Scott did deliver a beautiful open-ice hit and laid out a poor Griffin at the red-line.
Immediately after killing off another Ranger penalty, the Marlies iced the puck and forced Eakins to call a timeout, which could have been very useful later in the game.
FYI, the Griffins once again outshot the Marlies, this time by 6 shots, as they brought the game total up to 22-13.
Zigomanis took a high-sticking penalty early in the third, but the boys were able to kill it off and bail him out.
A few minutes before the mid-point of the period, D’Amigo was caught with his head down and was caught in the chin with a shoulder. To be fair, he never had the puck and the Griffin player that made the hit was called for interference.
D’Amigo went to the dressing room to get checked out, but returned shortly after and took to the ice for the final minute of the PP, carrying the puck up the ice and getting off a nice wrist shot that was deflected over the glass.
After killing off the penalty, Grand Rapids seemed to have all the momentum and Jan Mursak deked Ranger out of his jockstrap before beating MacIntryre blocker side with a great backhand shot.
Less than 30 seconds later, the Griffins won a faceoff in the Marlies end and scored off what seemed to be a broken play, as a shot from the high slot was partially blocked. However, the puck dribbled into the low slot where a a Griffins player made a nice backhand pass to Tatar, who scored his second of the game to tie things up at 3 apiece.
The score remained that way for about another 5 minutes, but I guess the hockey-gods were watching out for Grand Rapids, as shortly after that MacIntrye went post-to-post to make a brilliant save on a cross-ice pass. However, he directed the rebound right into the slot, where Glendening was battling for space and knocked the puck home.
MacIntrye was pulled for the extra attacker, but the Marlies weren’t really able to get any chances as the time ran out on their season.
– Paul Ranger didn’t seem to have his A-game last night and on multiple occasions held onto the puck far too long, before ultimately turning it over.
– Even though he was a -2, Korbinian Holzer had a very solid night, playing a physical game, while also moving the puck well. I wouldn’t mind seeing him given a chance for a more manageable third defence pairing spot.
– Morgan Rielly is an unbelievable skater, however he didn’t see the ice much in the third period. Didn’t make a ton of sense to me considering he is probably the team’s best offensive defenceman and they were tied for the last 9 and a half minutes and were trying to tie things up for the last 4 minutes of the game. I suppose it was an experience thing.
– With all that said, while we’ll have to see how he looks at camp with another off-season under his belt, judging on last night alone he could benefit from another year with the Warriors.
– Jesse Blacker didn’t seem to get many shifts in the early going, but started to get used alot more as the game went and and never really looked out of place. I for one am expecting him to have a bright future.
– Carter Ashton knows how to use his size and is very strong in the corners. He scored 3 goals in the Marlies final 4 playoff games. He could use more time with the Marlies, but I think he could be a decent third line winger down the line.
– Joe Colborne could take some lessons from Ashton, as last night again he didn’t seem to realize just how big and strong he is. We all know, and have seen in spurts, that he could be a force if he ever learns to use his body. I think another year in the AHL wouldn’t hurt him, but that will depend on whether Nonis re-signs Bozak.
– Like I said earlier, the Zigomanis, Hamilton and McKegg line looked good and I hope the two veterans return next season. As for McKegg, I hope he can make the NHL someday, but I have a feeling his career trajectory will be very similar to his two linemates.