The Marlies came into this busy stretch, spanning January 20 to January 26, with five games on the docket; three games on the road to finish up a ridiculous seven-game road trip followed by two home-games on the weekend. The Marlies played, in order: Rockford Icehogs (Chicago), Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville), Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal), Chicago Wolves (St. Louis), and the Lake Erie Monsters (Colorado).
Here is your Marlies report for that week. I’ll be catching up on the most recent games in the days ahead.
Marlies (3) vs IceHogs(2)
Marlies Goal Scorers: McKegg, Abbott, Brennan
Marlies Assists: Brennan, Abbott (2), Carrick, Broll, McKegg
This was a boring start to the first period until around the mid-way point. After a Smithson slashing penalty was killed off, the fourth line got caught in their own zone. Bad coverage by the forwards led to a deflected point shot going in, giving the Ice Hogs a 1-0 lead through 20 minutes.
The second period was much more eventful. A Carrick scrap off the initial face-off set the tone for the period for the Marlies. The Marlies would score on a 5 on 3 PP and again off a counter-attack rush to head into the second intermission up 2-1 on the icehogs.
The third period saw, surprise surprise, a PP goal by TJ Brennan, putting the Marlies up 3-1. The IceHogs would add a PP goal of their own to make it interesting, but that was all. The Marlies forechecked, counter-attacked and held on to win 3-2. Solid victory.
Marlies (2) vs Admirals (3)
Marlies Goal Scorers: McLeod, McKegg
Marlies Assists: McKegg, Carrick, Abbott
A terrible start to this game for the Marlies. They were out-played and out-shot 14-3. The Marlies got into penalty trouble and could not establish a forecheck or O-zone time. On one of those PKs, a turnover in the d-zone led to the Marlies chasing on the PK; that almost always leads to a goal. The Admirals would capitalize, and finish the opening frame 1-0.
The Marlies won a tumultuous second period off the lone-goal scored in the period. McKegg found the opportunity to start a rush, gain the line coming in off the wing, cut to the slot, and fire home the tying goal.
The third period was plain ugly. The Admirals scored early into this one on a powerplay that carried over from the previous period. Shortly thereafter, the Admirals scored another power-play goal. The Marlies scored their own power-play goal at the end of the game, but it wasn’t enough to comeback in this win. This was an ugly game for a special teams standpoint; the Marlies were very undisciplined, and it’s rare to win a game taking over 10 penalties.
Marlies (2) vs Bulldogs (0)
Marlies Goal Scorers: McKegg, D’amigo
Marlies Assists: MacLeod, Brennan, Marshall
The first period started slowly and poorly for the Marlies. They took some penalties, and got outshot heavily in the first half. The momentum changed after a couple fights by Broll and Carrick. The Marlies would get a late period PP and capitalize, heading to the first intermission up 1-0.
The second period was a mirror of the first. The Marlies got outplayed for most of the period but played the role of opportunist, scoring a late period goal. D’Amigo scored a beauty while the Marlies were shorthanded. Kevin Marshall found D’Amigo breaking out on the left-wing, D’amigo received the pass, turned on the jets, took his d-man wide, got hauled down, and still managed to score. It was 2-0 Marlies after two periods.
The Marlies remained undefeated when holding the lead after two periods en route to Drew McIntyre’s first shutout of the season. After two sloppy periods, the Marlies got down to business and battened down the hatches when it counted.
Marlies (1) vs Wolves (2)
Marlies Goal Scorers: Brennan
Marlies Assists: McKegg
I had the pleasure of going to this game live. The Marlies first game back home after a long road-trip, usually these are trap games with slow starts, but the Marlies actually came in with plenty of energy. Things were going smoothly until a Wolves breakout pass found a forward right up the middle, splitting the D and ending in a breakaway goal. The Marlies replied on the powerplay, as McKegg won a face-off cleanly back to Brennan, who ripped his patented one-timer to tie it up at 1-1.
The lone second period goal stood up as the game winner. After the Marlies got into some penalty trouble, their penalty kill got caught chasing the play and lost positioning, leading to the game winner off a one-timer goal by the Wolves.
The third went scoreless as the Marlies dropped this one 2-1. Special teams were the killer in this one. The Marlies let in a PK goal and went 1/7 on the PP. Not a totally unexpected loss given it was the first game back home after a long road trip.
Marlies (3)(SO) vs Monsters (2)
Marlies Goal Scorers: Percy, Devane
Marlies Assists: Carrick, Brennan, Staubitz
The first period was a back and forth affair. The Monsters struck first and scored the opening two goals from point shots, before the Marlies replied in kind; a faceoff win by Carrick went straight back to Percy for his first pro goal, a one-timer that went bar down. The first period ended 2-1 Lake Erie.
The second period ended scoreless for both teams, but it was filled with some great chances at both ends. D’Amigo alone had two grade “A” chances while shorthanded, one of which hit the cross-bar.
The third period proved decisive for the Marlies. The Marlies had played a busy stretch of games by this point, so Spott decided to give the 4th line some more minutes and it paid off handsomely. Staubitz came into the 0-zone and rimmed the puck, while Brennan pinched in to keep the play alive. Devane went back to the point to cover up for Brennan in a responsible defensive position. The puck worked back to the point to Devane, who blasted it on net, and it took a deflection off a Monster player to even the score.
In the shootout, Spencer Abbott and newcomer Brandon Kozun scored, while MacIntyre stopped all shooters against.
I wanted to give my thoughts on the Crescenzi-Kozun trade. I’ve been a big fan of Crescenzi since he was signed and I saw him in his first rookie-tourney. His ceiling was never high, and he’s most likely 4th line centre in the NHL, but a great bottom 6 can separate a playoff team from a championship team. Crescenzi did all the good defensive things well: faceoffs, fighting, PK, forechecking, shut-down assignments, hitting. His combo of size and skating is rare, so needless to say I liked him as a player. Acquiring Kozun, who’s consistently put 20 goals and 45+ points, for Crescenzi, who has 2 points in 30+ games this season, in part speaks to Crescenzi’s value as a defensive centre. In saying that, the Marlies have several two-way forwards, and they also have a similar player in Gauthier in the system; moving something they have in abundance for something they’re lacking in in skill is a good move.
I was able to see Kozun live during the Chicago game. You could immediately see his speed and acceleration, and I was surprised by his willingness to hit. It’s also striking how small he really is. I have some thoughts on him, but I want to reserve judgement until I get to assess him for 15 games or so.
I mentioned Brad Ross a few reports ago for having a tough time this season. Last season, when placed on the first line with Colborne as well as on the first PP, Ross was very effective. He was the net presence, first in on the forecheck, he hit, scored a few greasy goals, and generally played that chippy style he was known for. This season he looks like a completely different player. He’s mostly played on the third line, but recently Spott has been doing his best to get him going. He’s received some second-unit PP time as well as some PK time. Despite the increased minutes he only had one legit scoring chance over the five games of this report. He used his stick to tip a puck past a defender on the PK and got a break-away out of it, but couldn’t capitalize. He’s been trying to keep his physical game going at least, and he completely destroyed a guy in the Milwaukee – a good penalty to take. I’m not sure what’s holding him back, but he doesn’t seem to have that jump, intensity or hunger in his game. Whether it’s a confidence problem, injury or whatever, he needs to turn it around or his leash might start to shorten with the organization. I still believe there’s a good player in there, but he needs to get going.
I’m still struggling with Staubitz on this roster. He doesn’t fight consistently enough, he takes bad penalties, doesn’t create offense, and he’s bad defensively. Against Rockford, he was the sole reason the IceHogs scored their first goal.
You have to love what MacWilliam brings to this team. He had a particularly great shift against Milwaukee. He stole the puck in the defensive zone, chipped it off the glass to his streaking winger, a cycle started, the puck worked back to him at the point, and he ripped off a hard shot. When Milwaukee recovered and started the rush the other way, he stood up the puck carrier at the Marlies blue-line with a huge hit, recovered the puck, and made a crisp first pass to his forward before peeling to change. He has been rock solid on the first pairing with Holzer all season, and now wears an A as a first-year pro.
Broll continues to be one of my favourites. He’s got decent point totals for a rookie and he picked up an assist in the Rockford game, but it’s his overall game that impresses. He’s good at chipping pucks out in his own zone, and chipping them in on the forecheck in the o-zone. He’s a smart player who makes the right decision 95% of the time. He’s not scared to block shots and his physical game has grown as the season has progressed. He turned the game around for the Marlies against Hamilton. The team was getting outshot and outplayed badly to start the game until Broll dropped the Mitts with Tinordi for the second time this season. Broll pummeled Tinordi the first time around, and he inflicted some damage on the second go around. You have to love his heart, because Tinordi is a huge kid and mean as hell. That fight turned the momentum of the game around and the Marlies rode the wave to a 2-0 shutout against a team chasing them in the standings.
Carrick continues to impress every week. His two-way game sort of reminds me of a grittier, less skilled version of Bolland. He picked up three points in these last five games, and scrapped twice. In the game against Rockford he showed his leadership as well; the Marlies had a bad start in the first period so he dropped the gloves to set the tone for the period on the opening faceoff. He had a few breakaways and point-blank chances as well, and put in his usual PK work. This kid was a steal as a fifth round pick.
I was curious to see who would take Crescenzi’s role on the team. It’s clearly Kenny Ryan. I’ve mentioned Ryan’s defensive game in previous reports. He’s back at centre now on the third line and doing well. He’s also taken over as the faceoff guy on the primary PK. He was flying against Rockford, showing off his speed by nullifying a breakaway on defense, and showing more hustle when he received an alley-oop pass from McKegg in the offensive zone in between three Icehog players. He beat all three guys to the puck and got hooked down to generate a PP.
On a team note, I think it’s safe to say the Marlies are the most physical team in the league. The Marlies suck every team into their style; they play the intimidation game, hit everything that moves, drop the gloves plenty, and engaged in post-while scrums. Other teams simply can’t deal with it and it’s hilarious to hear almost every visiting announcer surprised at how nasty the Marlies are.
The physical play is great 9 times out of 10, but on occasion it can hurt the team. In some of these games the Marlies just took way too many penalties (took 10 penalties in one game). At that point it ruins the flow of the game, tires the PKers and the goalie, and it keeps most of the top-6 guys off the ice. The Marlies have been disciplined for the most part, but it’s something to watch for, especially at the beginning of games as the penalties created some bad starts for the team this week.
Another team note: The PK has struggled a little during this stretch. It could be due to the sheer number of kills, but things start to crumble when players start to chase the play and get pulled out of position. Just like the Leafs, the Marlies play the triangle + 1 on the kill, and the +1 usually rotates to the strong side and forces while the weakside forward drops down to cover the seam. Problems occur when the two defenders or the weak-side guy starts to chase or cover up for the strong-side guy, and everyone gets pulled out of position. Once that occurs it’s a guaranteed goal or at least grade “A” scoring chance. If one guy makes a mistake, everyone else has to stay disciplined and resist the urge to cover up for the one guy’s mistake.
Quick shout out to Stu Percy. He’s been solid all season and he finally scored his first pro goal against Lake Erie. Bullet shot. I hope to see more.
Leivo only got into 2 of 5 games during this stretch. It’s hard to get scratch info in the AHL, so I’m not sure if he’s injured or not, but he was invisible in the games he was in. Something to keep tabs on.
As a final note, I wanted to touch quickly on D’Amigo. He got into 19 games with the Leafs and he looked like he belonged at that level. As with Ashton and Holland, he seems like he has no attitude problems after getting demoted. Against Milwaukee, he made a great area pass to Carrick to walk into a break-away. He scored a beautiful short-handed goal in Hamilton. In the Lake Erie game, he earned two chances while shorthanded and put one off the crossbar. This guy should be a bottom-6 forward in the NHL right now.