It was a must win for the Toronto Marlies, and the urgency and desperation was visible from puck drop.
A much-needed tone-setting shift off the opening faceoff by Trevor Smith, Carter Ashton and Sam Carrick got the ball rolling for the Marlies in this one, as a hard forecheck followed by a cycle and penalty draw led to the first of three consecutive Spencer Abbott powerplay goals.
On the ensuing powerplay, Abbott, stationed on the point, wristed one past Nilstorp with Josh Leivo playing screen, marking the 11th straight playoff game in which the Marlies have opened the scoring and Abbott’s first goal of the playoffs.
This time the Marlies sustained the pressure throughout the first period. A good battle by TJ Brennan in the corner of his own zone frustrated Kevin Henderson and drew a retaliatory roughing penalty, sending the Marlies back to the powerplay.
Abbott’s second PP goal of the period came on a rebound springing off a point shot by who else but Brennan, who continues to do it all for the Marlies in these playoffs.
The Marlies outshot the Stars 11-6 in a big pushback period as far as this series went, as the desperation was visible in the Marlie effort and they were able to string together some positive shifts of offensive zone time on the cycle.
Abbott completed his natural hat trick five minutes into an evenly-played second period, with his best goal of the bunch coming on a 5 on 3 man advantage. A shot-fake sent the penalty killer to the ice before Abbott cut to the middle and ripped one into the wide open side, as Nilstorp, forced to guess due to the presence of Leivo’s posterior in his face, had dropped on the initial fake.
The Marlies made their third-period shutdown effort look fairly routine; they allowed just 10 shots despite taking three penalties and the Stars pulling their goalie for much of the final 7 minutes, holding their blueline effectively and clogging up the slot. MacIntyre, for his part, came up with a couple of big saves including a particularly important sprawling toe save on Curtis MacKenzie with 13 minutes remaining.
Jerry D’Amigo scored his sixth of the playoffs (tied with Brennan, Holland for the team lead) on an empty netter from the neutral zone after Kevin Marshall broke up a Stars zone entry at the blueline.
Unfortunately, Drew MacIntyre’s shutout was spoiled after Andrew MacWilliam attempted a ring-around the boards with little pressure on him; the puck didn’t get out and it led to Radek Faksa’s 4-1 goal with a minute and a half remaining.
- Three unofficial assists for Josh Leivo in this game as he provided an effective net front presence on all three Spencer Abbott goals. Leivo was buzzing in this game, ripping shots throughout including three on goal and a couple of near misses. One of his best efforts of the playoffs.
- Peter Holland, clearly above AHL hockey, added two assists in this game to take his playoff totals to 6 goals, 6 assists and 12 points in 8 games. Holland’s puck protection, soft hands and playmaking ability stand out as NHL tools on an AHL rink. An NHL shot was also full display in the first period when he beat Nilstorph clean from the circle and rang the cross bar.
- Holland has 22 points in 22 games between the end of AHL regular season and playoffs, giving him 136 in 151 in his AHL career. Those are really solid numbers. The Leafs have a nice piece here.
- Despite another healthy lead before the game was half over, the Marlies held the Stars to just 28 shots, their lowest total of the series thus far. MacIntyre came up big when asked as he has all season, but it was a commendable defensive effort from this group to contain the Stars attack for, really, the first time this series, and without Korbinian Holzer to boot (Dylan Yeo played in his stead).
- Holzer is not expected to return in the next couple of games due to the lower-body injury.
- Spott liked the effort from the fourth line of Smithson (in for Biggs, scratched), Ross and Ryan, indicating he’ll keep them together for next game.
- You hate to see a guy like Spencer Abbott, who has ripped it up for the Marlies all season, get blacklisted as a permanent AHL all-star who can’t crack an NHL roster. It would nice to see him make some noise at camp next Fall, but tearing it up on the powerplay in the AHL doesn’t necessarily beget a future NHL career (12 of his 20 goals came with the man advantage so far this season + playoffs). Without high-end wheels, at his size it’s difficult to create those same openings in the NHL. Full credit for rising to the occasion as one of the offensive leaders of this team, nonetheless.
This was a good response by the Marlies, one that ensures this will be a long, hard-fought series at a minimum. They’re one of the youngest teams in the AHL and they’re going toe-to-toe with the AHL’s very best regular season team in the Conference Finals. On a night when the Habs kissed their 2014 Cup hopes goodbye, it’s nice to have a few things to smile about in Leafland.
Steve Spott Post Game:
Adjusted from original. Clears up alot of contracts to sign NCAA free agents like Burke used to do. Allows us to possibly draft Ritchie,Fabbri using our pick and if landing 9th pick from WPG. Insulates Kadri, Holland with more crash and bang forwards. If team doesn't gel right away and finishes low, they can land a very good pick in 2015 and also have FLA's 2015 1st.CAPGEEK.COM ARMCHAIR GM ROSTERBozak,Franson,McClement,Biggs, to BUF for Stewart,StL 2014 1st, BUF 2015 2nd. Clarkson,Raymond,Holzer,StL 2014 1st to EDM for Gazdic,Moroz,EDM 2nd. Lupul,Bolland,Kulemin,Gunnarsson to FLA for Gudbranson,FLA 2015 1st. Gleason half salary,Gardiner,Reimer,Brennan,Ross to WPG for Bogosian,2014 1st. Signed Stastny,Callahan,Moulson,Downie,Komarov,Engelland.
James Van Riemsdyk ($4.250m) / Paul Stastny ($6.000m) / Phil Kessel ($8.000m)
Matt Moulson ($4.000m) / Nazem Kadri ($2.900m) / Ryan Callahan ($5.000m)
Steve Downie ($3.000m) / Peter Holland ($1.000m) / Chris Stewart ($4.150m)
Luke Gazdic ($0.800m) / Leo Komarov ($1.500m) / Carter Ashton ($1.000m)
Colton Orr ($0.925m)
Dion Phaneuf ($7.000m) / Zach Bogosian ($5.143m)
Erik Gudbranson ($4.000m) / Morgan Rielly ($0.894m)
Paul Ranger ($1.250m) / Petter Granberg ($0.800m)
Deryk Engelland ($0.600m) /
Jonathan Bernier ($2.900m)
Drew MacIntyre ($0.700m)
Mike Komisarek ($0.000m)
Mikhail Grabovski ($0.000m)
RETAINED SALARIES (2.88% of upper limit)
Tim Gleason ($2.000m—50.00%)
CAPGEEK.COM TOTALS (follow @capgeek on Twitter)
(estimations for 2014-15)
SALARY CAP: $69,500,000; CAP PAYROLL: $67,812,024; BONUSES: $950,000
CAP SPACE (22-man roster): $1,687,976
I saw two hab fans wearing their jerseys when I was sitting at a stop light yesterday...I smiled at them and said...I guess this is the last night you get to wear those eh?? They yelled something and I drove away with the Leaf logo on the back of my truck.....haaaaaa
Of these 3 Leafs...which one is the most likely to be traded before the puck drops next season??
Not that 3-4 games means much...but the habs really weren't that much different of a team without Price...I figured they would be roadkill without Price...but Tokarski played very well...not incredible...because he didn't have to be...just solid...and it was almost enough.....
The Habs were 24th in shots-for and 23rd in shots-against this season. Price dragged their asses into the playoffs. They aren't good. And price can't maintain that save percentage long-term. He just had a great season.
Haven't seen a Spott interview before. Seems like a soft-spoken, intelligent guy who speaks well of his players.
Delusional hab fans now saying their team will be a Stanley cup contender for the next decade....I wouldn't be surprised if they missed the playoffs next year
@Yaknowwhat went to the bar last night saw i girl in a habs jersey and then i yelled out "woooo Rangers!!"
@Yaknowwhat I put a small Rangers flag in my Habby neighbour's mailbox this morning....hee hee :)
@Yaknowwhat Most likely? Gardiner
@Yaknowwhat Franson ;)
@Yaknowwhat I will be very surprised if any are traded, myself.
@Yaknowwhat The Rangers are a very beatable team
Habs defense jump on the loose pucks and rebounds fast, he was giving up some whoppers, Rangers just did not capitalize.
@DWCMLHS .927 Does not seem that unattainable for a goalie like price going into his prime. I can see him hovering around .920 for the next few years.
Just as a comparable Rask has a career .928 SV% in 196 NHL games and their about the same talent wise IMO with Boston having better D in front.
@DWCMLHS I thought that too....but they threw a kid in net and the team was still able to compete...perhaps the "Price affect" has been exaggerated for them..
@Mcost61 Any place or tweeters in particular?
It's funny. When he was first named Marlies coach a bunch of friends in Kitchener who are huge Knights fans were telling me how much they hated him.
@Mattmark It's the Kitchener Rangers culture. I spoke with their new guy Troy Smith and he's the same way.
@Yaknowwhat "I wouldn't be surprised if they missed the playoffs next year" That's exactly what I've been saying. They basically beat one team and it took 7 games and poor refereeing to do it. Not to mention it was a perfect match up for them because their speed was too much for the Bruins.
Carlyle gave Gardiner the second most minutes on the entire team last year, so I'm sure he would be reluctant unless we got a huge upgrade.
Rask is the best goalie in the league. He can post higher numbers long-term than Price can.
Price is a career .917 goalie. Above-average, but over-rated.
@Xxxxxnew I can't contradict them based on press clippings and one interview. I know there's no pleasing everybody, though.
@DWCMLHS True enough..but still kind of interesting..
It was the same sort of stuff you always hear. He benched somebody they liked, played the wrong goalie, didn't call a time out blah blah blah. I think fans just get tired of coaches after a year or so.
@Xxxxxnew Coaching must head the list of jobs for masochists.
My brother coached teams from peewee to junior for over 35 years and recently finally quit because increasingly parents have become lunatics. On one of his last teams (in a league where kids aren't going on to pro or even college) he found out four or five of his players had regular sessions with personal "coaches" hired by their parents, who were basically teaching them stuff which was counter to the teams's system. One kid kept skating out his zone before his team had the puck. His private teacher had been telling him that's how you get breakaways.
@Yaknowwhat @Mattmark @traNsplantEdneWfie There's certainly a difference between one guy lugging the puck, with the other four watching him to see how he does, and a coordinated defense-transition-attack effort in which five guys are moving at top speed all the time, and always seeming to arrive just exactly when and where they're needed.
@Mattmark @Yaknowwhat @traNsplantEdneWfie True that Matt....that's one thing that drove me crazy about the Leafs....our transition game was non existent....you watch the good team...as soon as they gain position its like a switch goes off....the players and the puck start moving up the ice right away...many times this catches the other team of guard and leads to a odd man rush and a good scoring chance....our "break out" and transition game consisted of getting hemmed in for 5 minutes ..finally gaining position and flipping into the neutral zone....so the other team could set up and take another run at us...lol...
@Yaknowwhat @Mattmark @traNsplantEdneWfie Good teams are more than the sum of their parts. In hockey, you're always playing offense and defense at the same time, so what we call 'transition' counts for a lot. So does positional play.
We've been playing defense in our own zone like we never heard of the cross-ice pass, always reacting too late and pursuing the puck from what seems like five miles away, instead of anticipating puck movement and being right on top of an opponent when the puck arrives. From what I've seen of other teams in the past few weeks, it doesn't have to be that way!