Toronto Marlies Report: Jan. 30 – Feb. 1

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Photo courtesy of Christian at TSGphoto.com

The Toronto Marlies came into this January 30 – February 1 stretch with a three-game road trip on tap in the southern states. The Marlies squared off with the Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton), San Antonio Rampage (Florida), and the Texas Stars (Dallas).

This was a week to forget for the Marlies, who won one of three games and suffered a 6-0 blowout in one of the losses.

Game Summaries:

Marlies (3) vs Barons (5)
Marlies Goal Scorers: Abbott (2), Brennan
Marlies Assists: McKegg, McLeod, Carrick, Kozun (2), Abbott

The first period saw another slow start for the Marlies, something I brought up as an issue in the previous report. The Marlies committed some turnovers and iced the puck too many times, hemming them in for extended shifts. About half-way through the period, after several icing calls, the Marlies led a rush up ice. Greg McKegg took the puck around the net and tried to centre out front for Spencer Abbott. The Barons recovered, went on the counter-attack, and who else but former Marlie Captain Ryan Hamilton scored off a give-and-go to put OKC up 1-0. That would be the only goal of the first frame.

This second period was a fun one to watch, featuring two goals from both sides, some scrums, and a Sam Carrick scrap. Despite the good effort in the second period, the Marlies still would need more in the third, trailing 3-2 after 40.

The third period started with Steve Spott juggling his lines in an attempt to get things going. McKegg also did not return for the third period. Things started getting chippy near the mid-way point of the period, when the third line of Brad Ross – Kenny Ryan – Tyler Biggs dumped the puck and went in deep to retrieve it. Biggs was run from behind and crashed into the boards face first, staying down injured, while Ryan and Ross got involved in some scrums. After the madness subsided, the refs took a few minutes to sort the penalties out, with several penalties going both ways and the OKC player receiving a game misconduct.

The ensuing play started at 4 on 4, where Brandon Kozun made a beauty pass in the offensive zone from the opposite corner to an undetected T.J. Brennan, who crept in from the left-point. Brennan took a few strides in and sniped the tying goal. With eight minutes left in the third, Korbinian Holzer took a costly kneeing penalty. The Barons scored the game winner at the tail end of the powerplay. After a couple of failed clearing opportunities for the Marlies, the Barons buried a rebound off a point shot to make it 4-3. The Barons later added an empty-netter for a 5-3 OKC final.

Marlies (4)(OT) vs Rampage (3)
Marlies Goal Scorers: Kozun (2), Biggs, D’amigo
Marlies Assists: Abbott (2), Brennan (2), Kozun, Broll, Carrick, Yeo

It was “Pink In The Rink” night in San Antonio (pink ice is a first for me). Defenceman Dylan Yeo and goaltender Garret Sparks stepped into the line-up, and some line changes were necessitated by the McKegg call up.

A mistake by Yeo just over a minute into the game gave the Rampage a breakaway and a goal for an early 1-0 lead. Andrew MacWilliam dropped the mitts shortly after, standing up for Petter Granberg while trying to reverse the momentum. The Marlies soon had two separate man-advantage opportunities at 5 on 3 but failed to capitalize. At the tail end of the second 5 on 3, the Rampage iced the puck, at which point Sparks came out to play it and got burned. A bobbled play saw the puck get in behind him, where a Rampage player picked it up and deposited into the empty-net for a 2-0 shortie. Biggs dropped the gloves with less than a minute in the period and won a convincing decision in the bout. This was an action-packed first period.

The Marlies received their third 5 on 3 PP early in the second period and finally capitalized. Abbott and Brennan worked the puck up top before sending it down low to Kozun; Sam Carrick did his job in front of the net creating havoc, allowing Kozun the space to walk in and snipe his first as a Marlborough. Nice shot. The temperature of the game was a simmering boil for much of the night and it boiled over at the end of this period. Brad Staubitz was sent into the bench on a hit before Smithson obliterated someone from behind into the boards; all of this causing a huge scrum and earning Smithson a game misconduct. The period ended 2-1 for the Rampage.

In the third, the Marlboroughs lost an offensive zone faceoff after killing off a David Broll tripping penalty. The Rampage began an attack up ice, one that looked contained and nonthreatening before Brennan made the inexplicable decision to leave a Rampage player alone and open in front of the net. Predictably, the puck found the open player in-front, giving Sparks no chance and increasing the Rampage lead to 3-1.

The Marlies were looking to respond and shortly thereafter they did just that. Broll made a great toe drag between a defender’s legs behind the opposition goal before sending a perfect pass to Biggs in the high slot; Biggs rifled a hard shot into the net to make it 3-2. The comeback was on with 13 minutes to go.
It took until the one-minute mark, but the comeback was complete after Carrick entered the offensive zone on the wing and threw a shot on net; the puck bounced off the post right onto the stick of Jerry D’Amigo, who scored to tie it up at 3-3.

This game needed OT, where the Baby Buds earned a PP right off the hop. On the ensuing man advantage, a tic-tac-toe passing play by Brennan to Abbott to Kozun resulted in Kozun scoring into the yawning net and a Marlies overtime win.

Marlies (0) vs Stars (6)
Marlies Goal Scorers: N/A
Marlies Assists: N/A

Not too much to speak about in this game. The Stars scored one in the first, three in the second, and two in the third. The Marlies’ PK let in three goals on 11 chances, and the team was out shot by 30 (49-19). This was the third game in three nights on the road. It showed. The team was also missing McKegg and Josh Leivo; a couple of others were also reportedly suffering from the flu.

Notes:

– Not a great week overall for the Toronto Marlies. I’ve spoken about the bad starts for a couple weeks in a row now. Against OKC and San Antonio, the Marlies were behind early and chased the game the whole time. While they came back in San Antonio, a positive considering the circumstances, constantly falling behind early is not a sustainable formula for accumulating wins. Up until recently, the Baby Buds were one of the best teams in the AHL when it came to starting strong. Hopefully they can turn it around quickly here and get back to previous successes. The main issues with regards to the slow starts have been penalty troubles and turnovers, both correctable bad habits. I’d be much more concerned if the team was coming out lacking in energy.

– Despite a bad set of games for the team, Brandon Kozun had a pretty good week individually with five points in three games, including his first goal and assist as a Marlie. Despite his small stature, he’s not hesitant at all to get physical. He’s fast, which helps him on the forecheck, and when he goes in he throws some pretty hard hits. He’s definitely well suited to be an F-1. He’s a strong distributor with good vision as well. He made a beautiful pass to Brennan on the 3-3 goal against OKC. In a 4-on-4 situation, he had all the OKC players watching him and spotted Brennan sneaking down from the point, sending him a cross-zone pass right on the tape. He scored his first goal as a Marlie against San Antonio on a snipe over the goalie’s glove hand on the PP. Speaking of which, almost all of his points have come on the PP up until this point. I want to see him generate some offense at evens, and I’d like to see him go to the net a little more often. All in all, though, this has been a good start to his tenure in Toronto.

– I’m going to get a comment on the Stars blowout out of the way. There were only four guys who weren’t minuses on the night: McLeod, Granberg, Carrick, and Kozun. The Marlies couldn’t blame Drew MacIntyre at all in this one. The team at least showed a bit of heart in this one by staying physical throughout the game. Ryan, Brennan, Ross and Devane all dropped the gloves and showed they cared. Jerry D’Amigo was probably Toronto’s best player in this game. He was still driving the net hard and going all out, even when the team was down 5-0 in the third period. It’s good to see that from a leader and vet on this team. This game needed to be flushed and forgotten.

– It was nice to see Tyler Biggs get back into the lineup during this set after coming off an injury. I listened to an interview recently where I heard Biggs compared to Jordan Nolan and Dwight King in Los Angeles. I thought that was a great comparison and find Biggs to be similar to both players. He’s one of those guys who can slot in all over the line-up, play centre or wing, and bring a north-south game. He’s good on the PK and forecheck. He showed off his hard shot when he scored from the high slot against San Antonio, and exhibited some pugilism when scoring a decisive win in a scrap in the same game. He’ll never be one to put up big numbers, but given a couple seasons to develop he should end up an effective NHLer who can be versatile and potentially successful in a couple of different roles.

– I really like the Stuart Percy – Petter Granberg pairing. They have good chemistry together, they’re both strong positionally, and they read off each other extremely well. They’re both smart players and the rest of their respective abilities seem to complement each other. Granberg is the more physical defenceman while Percy has more offence to his game. They’ve been the third pairing for the most part, but Steve Spott is starting to give them more minutes. Against the Rampage, they were the second-pairing defenders on the PK as opposed to Brennan and Kevin Marshall.

Stuart Percy, especially, makes smart plays defensively. He never panics when crowded. If he doesn’t have a direct outlet, he’ll simply make an area pass to a location where one of his teammates can retrieve the puck. In the OKC game, he displayed his poise when the boards were taken away as a passing option behind the net. He simply skated in front of his goalie into the crease, dangled an opposing forward, skated up until an outlet presented itself, and made the pass. You have ice in your veins when you can make plays in such dangerous areas and with such confidence.

TJ Brennan is just the opposite defensively. There are times where I just have no idea what he’s thinking. He seems to lack awareness. He didn’t cover anyone on the 2-0 OKC goal, floating into the high slot into a no-man’s-land situation. In the third period of the same game, he had another moment of skating around covering no one, leading to a great chance for the Barons. He had another one of these bone-headed plays in the San Antonio game on the Rampage’s third goal. The Rampage were attacking off the rush; the forward went wide on the wing, where Yeo had him contained and not in a position to do much. There was another forward coming down the middle of the zone directly in front of Brennan. If Brennan had continued skating backwards as he was doing it would have been a nothing play, but for some reason he decided to leave the middle lane to go to the corner and help Yeo, leaving his man open directly in front of Sparks. Needless to say, the puck got to the slot and a goal was scored with both Marlie defencemen covering the passer.

– And yet the guy still racks up the offense, stringing together three points in the three games. If he doesn’t improve on the defence he’s destined to be a PP specialist in the NHL at best.

– The first goal against OKC was a clean faceoff win that got sent back to the point for a goal. The Marlies are starting to get good at these set plays. They scored two goals last week in the same fashion, with clean faceoff wins going back for point-shot goals. McKegg and Carrick have been surprisingly good on the dot this season.

– Three more games, three more announcers surprised with Toronto’s physical play. You would think by now the word would have spread around the league. Andrew MacWilliam dropped the gloves again this week. It seems like he’s becoming more comfortable in that department. He threw a massive open-ice hit in the San Antonio game as well, sending his man airborne in the second period.

Dylan Yeo got into a game during this weekend, his first in a while. It wasn’t a good outing for him besides grabbing a second assist on one of the goals. On one play he had a puck chipped behind him when trying to hold the offensive blueline; the forward got a breakaway goal out of it under two minutes into the game. He took a few bad penalties, as well, and took a big hit behind the net once. He was probably feeling rusty; hopefully next time out he can bounce back.

I’m pretty confident in saying this is a playoff team despite a bad weekend. With that said, I’d make two changes to this team:

  1. For one, the fourth line is not good enough for a long playoff run. Jamie Devane is the only good piece on the line. Smithson is horrible and so is Staubitz. Smithson is just so lacking as a player outside of faceoffs. Maybe he will be pushed to the press box when everyone is healthy. With Staubitz, it’s an almost-guaranteed two bad penalties per game. He can’t be such a liability when he offers so little else. It would be nice to acquire an upgrade on him, as well. The fourth line played a lot this weekend, with it being a 3-in-3 on the road, which got me really thinking on this.
  2. The other change I’d make is to bring in one more solid stay-at-home defenceman. Kevin Marshall is just not cutting it. I’d be surprised if he’s back next season. He gets lost in coverage often for a defensive defenceman, and he doesn’t bring any offense to make up for it. His main asset is his toughness. In the playoffs I might be worried about him, and the Marlies could get exposed if there’s an injury to a defenceman or the Marlies lose some D to call ups. Maybe adding Matt Finn at the end of the season will be enough, but I’d like to see a minor-league deal to bring someone in at some point this season.

Toronto Marlies Scoring

PlayerGPGAPTS+/-PIMPPSHGSOGSH%
T.J. Brennan48203151-57211016512.1
Spencer Abbott451238509106010211.8
Brandon Kozun
MCH
TOR
52
43
9
13
10
3
25
19
6
38
29
9
2
1
1
50
38
12
3
1
2
1
1
0
116
96
20
11.2
10.4
15
Greg McKegg38111930010506616.7
Josh Leivo34101323-210306615.2
Sam Carrick4461521118412956.3
Jerry D'Amigo3111617212115420.4
Carter Ashton (X)1410515614325518.2
Wade MacLeod315101521100915.5
David Broll443101305820535.7
Peter Holland
NOR
TOR
12
10
2
8
5
3
4
4
0
12
9
3
5
4
1
22
22
0
3
1
2
0
0
0
33
23
10
24.2
21.7
30
Trevor Smith (X)7481246302218.2
Korbinian Holzer474812-54720458.9
Stuart Percy4411112-12600541.9
Troy Bodie (X)17448-1920449.1
Brad Ross39527-125920608.3
Kory Nagy1616741000214.8
Tyler Biggs39516-528014810.4
Kenny Ryan25235-63800238.7
Kevin Marshall34145-34400342.9
Andrew MacWilliam38055-76500270
Petter Granberg472241620002010
Jerred Smithson27134-23100234.3
Jamie Devane33213-565001711.8
Mike Duco1012302300119.1
Dylan Yeo110222100090
Brad Staubitz36022-96700350
GoaliesGPMinsWLSOLSOGAGAASVSSV%
Christopher Gibson3178:03:00210051.68870.946
Drew MacIntyre362142:14:00211221892.499850.917
Garret Sparks11586:45:005500282.862740.907
  • Burtonboy

    Petter Grandberg is +16. No other dman even remotely close .

  • Great Dane

    Burtonboy He most be close to ready to play for the Leafs

  • Burtonboy

    Thanks for the write up Daniel . Keeps us in touch with the Marlies for sure

  • ProfessorRance

    Great Dane Burtonboy  Fransons spot!

  • Great Dane

    Brennan is clicking at > 1 ppg

  • Mind Bomb

    Thanks Daniel,  Will Percy be ready Next year for our 3rd Pairing, or do you think Granberg, I cant see Ranger getting resigned but we still have our 6 D in

    Gunnar-dion
    Riely-Gleason
    Gardiner-Franson

    If your Nonis, can we take out Gardiner for Percy ?

  • Burtonboy

    Great Dane Burtonboy  Not likely this yr unless there is an injury . I would bet he makes a hard push for next season though

  • Great Dane

    ProfessorRance Great DaneBurtonboy Something like that. Gardiner – Granberg would probably work out fine next year

  • Mind Bomb

    Great Dane   For or against ? :_)

  • ProfessorRance

    Great Dane ProfessorRance Burtonboy  I’d be happy with that pairing baring a trade or ufa signing.

  • Darkside Beleafer

    Mind Bomb Great Dane Yes

  • Great Dane

    Mind Bomb    Well – Nonis was to make a choice soon, because Finn is also pushing in the OHL and Nilsson will come over from Sweden.    

    Kind of a problem – but a very good problem.

    If and I say if that Percy, Granberg and let us add Brennan as well are ready next year in the mind of Nonis, then it could be that he should trade both Gardiner and Franson.
    This sounds crazy, but the Leafs are sooooooo stacked on the defense that something has to happen. Gardiner and Franson would be give a juice return.

  • Alec Brownscombe

    Great Dane Mind Bomb  You have to wait until the hand is forced, though. There is certainly a lot of pieces in the pipeline and a lot of potential, but the last thing I’d do is described the Leafs as stacked on defence at the moment. With time, they might be.

  • Xxxxxnew

    I would love one more Gleason in our lineup to compliment our offensive Dmen but after watching him with the Leafs I’m beginning to think he’s a rare commodity in the role he plays.

  • Great Dane

    Alec Brownscombe Great DaneMind Bomb Agree – but that problem could be on our hands sooner rather than later.

    This is actually a quite new situation for a Leafs fan to deal with. LOL

  • Burtonboy

    Alec Brownscombe Great Dane Mind Bomb  Building NHL quality defense takes time. It’s been a slow arduous process for the Leafs  but we might be seeing some light at the end of the tunnel

  • Xxxxxnew

    We’re stacked with hope but not many no-miss guarantees back there.

  • Great Dane

    Burtonboy Alec BrownscombeGreat DaneMind Bomb And BB that is much appreciated.

    Finally the days having absolutely nothing to trade is over.

  • Great Dane

    Xxxxxnew There is never any guarantees out there.   But if another GM comes with an offer that Nonis couldn’t refuse then I would fell comfortable with the prospects that we have on the system to do the trade.
    That would be the case 4 years ago.  Then we had only Schenn – but he got traded at the right moment.

  • Belfour20

    Really love how much depth we have on defense with our prospects.

  • Xxxxxnew

    So it’s just four years since Dion was traded from Calgary, which means with the half-season lockout he’s put in just 3.5 years worth of games in Toronto. Seems like he’s been with the Leafs a lot longer.

  • TheCanucksnaphook

    Thanks for this Marlies update…I love hearing that Biggs is doing well again.  A 4th/3rd liner with ability to move up is fine with me

    Biggs-Bolland-Clarkson

  • http://yushkevich.wordpress.com/ Jsn212

    Great article, I definitely agree that some minor upgrades for a significant playoff run for the Marlies might be in order. Your comments on Kevin Marshall I definitely agree with and thought that perhaps it is time for the Spott to consider bringing Zack Yuen back up from the Orlando Solar Bears and give him a shot to see where he is at, his stats at least speak of pretty solid play. Heck, perhaps they can borrow Blake Kessel who may be able to add some additional offense to that D-core.

  • Jon5200

    Since he got here i have always liked big Mac….Andrew MacWilliam…..imho he could develop into a Gleason type of player…….

  • http://yushkevich.wordpress.com/ Jsn212

    Belfour20 two words, Connor Brown :)

  • TheCanucksnaphook

    Jon5200  Hope so.  You HAVE to have a few of these nasty beasts on your blueline.  Gleason is a fairly mobile guy who makes such solid decisions with the puck.  I love him.

  • Burtonboy

    TheCanucksnaphook Jon5200  Much as I like McWilliam he has a long way to go to fill Gleason’s skates . 1st round pick and former Olympian and its obvious with the way he plays

  • dlb eh

    Mind Bomb
    Gunnar (L) -Phanuef (L)
    Rielly (L) -Gleason (L)
    Gardiner (L) -Franson (R)
    MacWilliam (L)
    Percy (L) – Holzer (R)
    Finn (L)- Granberg (R)
    Yuen (L) – Nillson (R)
    I don’t think we’re so deep that we’ll have to send a bunch to the ECHL next year.  I wanna upgrade still.

  • Belfour20

    @Jsn212 Belfour20  And thats about it really. I do like him though.

  • dlb eh

    Burtonboy
    when the other team breaks out of their end, Granny heads to the bench for a change 😉

  • Burtonboy

    dlb eh Burtonboy  Yeah right

  • Belfour20

    Burtonboy TheCanucksnaphook Jon5200  Andrew Mac is one of my favorite prospects in the system right now besides Granberg. Both are hard hitting defenders too!

  • dlb eh

    Belfour20
    Leivo has a lot of upside too.  he isn’t obvious at times, but the puck still seems to find him a lot, and when he has the puck he makes some real high end plays.
    couple years away still, but …
    yeah.  we’re mostly hoping the young defensive prospects work out, along with the role players who might be great fillers one day for the Leafs (reliable, physical, cheap)

  • Burtonboy

    Belfour20 Burtonboy TheCanucksnaphook Jon5200  Good prospects and I will be very happy if they turn out as good as Gleason.

  • dlb eh

    Burtonboy
    he’s inconsistant.  he’s the player you want playing next to Pronger.

  • TheCanucksnaphook

    Belfour20 Burtonboy TheCanucksnaphook Jon5200  Granny does have excellent upside.   Kronwall-esque?

  • Burtonboy

    dlb eh Burtonboy  Not the impression I get from the few games I’ve seen and all the write ups I’ve read. Do you watch a lot of Marlies games?

  • dlb eh

    Burtonboy
    i’m just Fentoning around

  • Jmessih

    Story with Dion visiting the sick little boy, and making his dream come true, before a sad ending. Was posted earlier, may have gone viralish the Leafs Twitter account posted it. https://twitter.com/MapleLeafs https://twitter.com/MapleLeafs/status/433700329444478976
    Leaf captain’s enduring kindness to a little boy. Read more: http://t.co/8dLDa1kD0l via https://twitter.com/TorontoStar https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Leafs&src=hash https://twitter.com/search?q=%23NHL&src=hash

  • Jon5200

    Burtonboy TheCanucksnaphookJon5200yep…thats exactly why i said, “he could develop’…….i think he has the tools but still has a ways to go……….

  • BBirde

    Jmessih  Start reading that and keep reading through with a smile until the last few sentences…

  • HeatherRickAkin

    Such a good writeup, and especially so because its hard to find much ink on the Marlies . Man, Smithson must have something on someone important . He absolutely is a terrible player, yet because he wins the odd faceoff, he gets called up. He is just a replica of that useless giraffe Steckel .  Its pretty clear that the Marlies who may become Leafs are blueliners . Other than Leivo , I doubt any of them become Leafs , with all due respect to Biggs and D’Amigo . Maybe there will be a surprise ?  Carirck ?  I doubt Brennan ever gets a look , but  Daniel seems to see Percy and Granburg as guys with upside, and everyone seems to like MacWilliams  “take no prisoners” game style . And yeah, Matt Finn may get there too. Wonder if the Isles would be interested in some of the Leaf defence depth , and maybe Reimer, for Ryan Strome .

  • Greg Fenton

    TheCanucksnaphook Belfour20 Burtonboy Jon5200  which one

  • traNsplantEdneWfie

    Jmessih  I can’t read stories like this. :(

  • Burtonboy

    dlb eh Burtonboy  Ohhhh I never would have guessed as I don’t read his posts

  • Zep2

    Jon5200  Id be happy if he turned into a solid  crease clearing  3rd pair guy. More than that would be a huge bonus for the team

  • TheBlueTruth

    Given that it is a slow Leafs news day, I will share what a great trip I had to Tampa and Toronto to see the Leafs. As some of you know I live in Halifax and make one trip per year to see the Leafs play a couple of games. Our seats in Tampa were amazing just 12 rows up from center ice but in TO we had pretty poor seats…. that is until this amazing usher started talking to me as I watched the warm up. Not only did she send my wife and I down to watch the Leafs come out of their dressing room to start the game she said come to see me after the first period. After the first period she lead us to two seats at center ice 6 rows back…we had better seats then Liewickie. It was so cool.
    While in Tampa I met JVR and had a chat with Clarkson but that usher was the coolest person I met by far!
    While in TO I bought a Clarkson Jersey, I never thought I would ever wear another jersey other than Sundin’s but let me tell you the way Clarkson treated the kids who were waiting outside the hotel in Tampa was amazing. When we chatted I told him when I saw him play in NJ last year I had hope the Leafs would sign him and that I know this year has been difficult but we were lucky to have him. Gleason and Dion were also amazing with the kids waiting but as much as it makes me sad Lupal just walked by them wearing headphones and did not even so much as glance in their direct. Not what I would expect from someone wearing an A.
    Have to say that as much as I have been frustrated with Fransen he seemed much better live, even had a couple of hits in the Tampa game. Clarkson is going to be just fine and amazing in the playoffs, he was so good live..the man never stop moving his legs and truly plays fearless…did mention my new jersey has 71 on it.
    Cannot wait for the season to resume and can wait for next years trip…Leafs are so great even the ushers are amazing.
    GO LEAFS GO!

  • TheCanucksnaphook

    Greg Fenton TheCanucksnaphook Belfour20 Burtonboy Jon5200  the good one.

  • Greg Fenton

    Belfour20  Personally, I don’t care if the system is “balanced” or not. I want them to have the best prospects they can possibly have. period. If that means they have a stronger group of D-men then forwards, nothing wrong with that.

  • Greg Fenton

    TheCanucksnaphook Greg Fenton Belfour20 Burtonboy Jon5200  As I understand Granberg doesn’t/isn’t expected to have that kind of offensive upside.