Your Toronto Marlies came into this week with three games on the schedule against the San Antonio Rampage (Florida), the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit), and the Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal). The Marlies were looking to bounce back after two previous up-and-down weeks. They did just that, winning 2 out of 3 games this weekend and nearly pulling off the come-back in the last game of the set.
A report on the loss to Utica on Sunday and today’s win over Texas will be posted in the next few days.
Marlies (5)(SO) vs Rampage (4)
Marlies Goal Scorers: D’amigo (2), Holzer, Ross
Marlies Assists: Abbott (2), McKegg (2), Brennan (2), Kozun
The extra-noisy school day game at the Ricoh was a rematch game after the Marlies won last week in San Antonio 4-3 in OT. Dylan Yeo, Cody Wade McLeod, David Broll and Josh Leivo (hip-pointer) were the scratches in this one while Mike Duco and Kory Nagy got a chance to play. The Marlies came out with some jump after two weeks of bad starts. They were on the body early, and quick on the forecheck. The first goal came around the eight-minute mark, when D’Amigo and Abbott executed a beautiful give-and-go play off the rush to score. The Rampage responded quickly after the Marlies struggled to chip the puck out of their zone. The Rampage forced a turnover and scored to tie the game at 1s. The Baby Buds continued attacking, though, creating some great scoring chances and generating a powerplay to end the period.
An action-packed second period was almost as active as the kids in the building. The Marlboroughs started the period with a PP and converted off a point-shot deflected in by D’Amigo, his second of the game. Duco scrapped Petrovic almost immediately after the goal after a Petrovc hit on Kenny Ryan, earning Duco the the instigator penalty. Four seconds into the ensuing kill, the Rampage scored off a well-executed face-off play and tied the game at 2-2. In the latter half of the period, the Rampage scored an odd goal after Toronto got lost in coverage due to some hesitation, giving San Antonio its first lead of the game at 3-2. Petrovic got into another tussle after this goal, this time dropping them with Sam Carrick. You’ll remember Petrovic as the defenceman on Florida last season who got into it with Nazem Kadri, leading to Mark Fraser getting ejected. In the TV time-out after the fight, MacIntyre got replaced by Sparks; I’m not sure why, but it may have been due to injury. Either way, all the action seemed to put the momentum back in Toronto’s favour as the Greg McKegg line responded with a 40-second offensive zone cycle shift that ended with a Korbinian Holzer goal from the point. The second period ended tied at 3s.
The Rampage got the scoring started in the third period with a shorthanded goal off a well-executed 2 on 1 play to go up 4-3. The much-maligned Brad Ross tied it back up for the Marlies with a hard shot on the powerplay after taking a crisp pass from TJ Brennan. That would be all the scoring in regulation as this game went to OT at 4-4.
No goal in OT meant the game was to be decided in a shootout. D’Amigo’s pretty goal as the 6th shooter was the decisive tally and a good way to cap off a solid night for Jerry.
Marlies (4) vs Griffins (1)
Marlies Goal Scorers: Brennan, Leivo, Kozun, D’amigo
Marlies Assists: D’Amigo, Abbott, MacWilliam (2), Nagy, Ross, Kozun, Brennan
It looks as if the Marlies are getting back on track with regards to starting games properly. They killed off a penalty, and had generated some good chances on two of their own PPs. Although Toronto didn`t score, they had some dangerous chances including a Ross breakaway and a Brennan shot that struck the post. Macintyre flashed his skill as well, making a save on a Griffin breakaway to finish off a scoreless first period.
Toronto came out firing in the second 20 with some quick-strike offence, scoring two goals in under five minutes off the sticks of Brennan and Leivo. It was a positive to see Leivo come out and score after being sidelined with a hip injury for seven games. He hasn`t lost the hands, that`s for sure. Abbott left the game in this period looking injured. The Marlies went to second intermission with a 2-0 lead.
The Marlies came out in the third period looking a little dopey. The Griffins got on the board early as Kevin Marshall didn`t take his man`s stick in front of the net; the pass went to said Griffin player, who scored to make it 2-1. Toronto recovered, capitalizing on a Grand Rapids pinch as Kozun sniped on a wicked shot to make it 3-1 Marlies. The Griffins pulled their goalie early, around the three-minute mark, and the Marlies eventually took advantage as the empty-net specialist Jerry D’Amigo scored the Marlies’ fourth of the night. Toronto beat the defending Calder Cup champs by a final score of 4-1 in a convincing victory.
Marlies (3) vs Bulldogs (4)
Marlies Goal Scorers: D’amigo, McKegg (2)
Marlies Assists: Leivo, Nagy, Smithson, Kozun, D’amigo, Brennan
Toronto came out strong in the first couple shifts of the tenth game this season against Hamilton. Some great forechecking work by Kozun, Nagy and Leivo led to a D’Amigo goal and a 1-0 lead for Toronto. The Bulldogs responded quickly with a great individual effort from Jared Tinordi and a conversion on a 5-on-3 powerplay. The Marlies went to the dressing down 2-1 after the first frame.
The Baby Buds had a glorious opportunity to get back in this game when D’Amigo was run from behind viciously while the Marlies were already on the powerplay. Toronto wound up with almost a minute of 5-on-3 time and another four minutes and change of 5-on-4 time. Unfortunately, the Marlies neither scored or generated many shots on goal, a turning point for the worse in this game. Hamilton earned a power-play of their own shortly thereafter, resulting from a MacWilliam holding call. In the latter half of the penalty, the Bulldogs scored off the rush when an innocent shot ricocheted off MacIntyre’s arm into the air and into the net, a goal McIntyre should’ve prevented. It was 3-1 for Hamilton after two periods.
At the beginning of this period, Andrighetto of the Bulldogs made an amazing play to expand the Bulldogs’ lead. Starting in his own zone, he dangled around Kozun, gained speed through the neutral zone, dangled around MacWilliam, and scored short side on MacIntyre. Hamilton took a tripping penalty about five minutes into the period, marking the beginning of an attempted Toronto comeback. The Marlies would convert nine seconds into the powerplay, when a Brennan shot was deflected and McKegg was there to put the rebound in top-shelf and make it 4-2. The Marlies started gaining some momentum; at about the mid-way mark of the period, Ross charged half way across the ice and almost took Dumont’s head off. After a Dumont and Ross fight ensued, it was easy to see the Marlies were energed as they continued to press. With 1:20 left in the game and the goalie pulled, D’Amigo fired a shot into a huge crowd by the net, where four Marlies were positioned, and McKegg was in the right spot again to deposit the rebound. Unfortunately 4-3 was as close as Toronto would get, as Hamilton held for dear life and took a 4-3 final.
I spoke about Brad Ross’ struggles last week. Well, he stepped up his game this week. He played a top-6 role for most of this week and picked up two points in three games (1G, 1A). His goal against the Rampage showed off a good shot. Trailing on the rush, Brennan found him with a nice pass before Ross scored from well out. He had a few more good chances in that game and could have added to his account. In the Grand Rapids game, Ross had a breakaway chance where he showed some speed but couldn’t convert. He was throwing the body all week, almost obliterating Dumont in the Hamilton game, just nearly missing on the hit. He dropped the gloves after that as well, something I like to see out of Ross. Further evidence of his agitation game: He drew three opposition penalties over the three games. His most exemplary work came in the Hamilton game, in the first period during a scrum; he gave a Bulldog a cheap-shot punch that infuriated him and drew a retaliatory penalty. This is what Ross is about: PK, hitting, fighting, a bit of offense, and some agitation. He`s now at seven points in 39GP (5G, 2A), which are not impressive numbers for the second-year Marlie, but if he brings a consistent effort like he did this week he could easily turn his year around.
Petter Granberg surprised me by joining the rush in the first period of the Rampage game. Biggs passed to Ryan on the wing; Ryan drove the net and threw a shot off the goalie`s pads, and the rebound went straight to Granberg who nearly scored. I`d like to see more of that from Granberg. He was his usual solid defensive self, and he had several big hits over the week. He`s got 2G and 2A in 47GP so far, and an impressive +16, but I think there`s a little more offence in him than he`s shown to date. I think we might see some more points as he gains more confidence in his game.
In my last report, I talked about the Marlie, previously one of the better starting teams in the league, having bad starts for two weeks straight. Toronto scored first in all 3 games this week, and generally looked to have way more energy from puck drop. They forechecked well and got on the body early, a key part of their game.
Jerry D’Amigo has been heating up recently, looking like a player who is determined to receive another recall after a 19-game cup of coffee with the Leafs. He put up four goals and two assists in three games this week. That gave him 11G and 6A for 17 Points in 31GP this season with the Marlies, on pace for 25+ goals and 40+ points over a full season. He’s firmly a top-6 player now in the AHL, and plays in all situations. He’s out there in front of the net on the PP, he’s been one of the best PK players in the league for a few years, he can shut down good players, he protects leads, and he’s a leader. His give-and-go goal with Abbott against the Rampage was a great play, and he was flying in that game and shooting the puck with confidence. To cap it off D’Amigo added the winner in the shoot-out. Some people might look at the empty net goals as a knock on him, but I love it. To be out there in those situations shows the coach’s trust in him, and he’s fast enough to capitalize on those chances. He also took a heavy hit from behind in the Hamilton game, a play that should be reviewed for suspension, and still came back to chip in on the 4-3 goal.
Something I noticed, and liked, about the Marlies’ penalty kill: They hold their blueline with all four PKers standing up and making it difficult for the opposing PP to gain a zone entry. If the other team has trouble getting into the zone and setting up, it greatly diminishes their chances of scoring and churns time off the clock. It’s something the Leafs should look at as it seems the opposition gains the zone at will against them.
It looks like Greg McKegg is becoming comfortable now in his second season as the no.1 centre and go-to guy for offence on this team. He had a good offensive week, putting up 2G and 2A. He now sits at 11G and 19A for 30Pts in 38 GP, fourth in team scoring with all the players above him playing significantly more games. He’s got good hands and can dangle – although not like Kadri, for example – but his strength is more as a possession player on the cycle. He’s got a lot of poise with the puck, he shields it well, and he always keeps his feet moving with it. He draws opposing players to him to create space; his linemates benefit from his vision and smooth passes. When he wants to score, he goes to the net and posts up, looking for rebounds and utilizing his hard shot. He’s not a flashy player, but he’s an effective offensive player. Lots of talent.
Speaking of McKegg, his line had a particularly good shift in the Rampage game when they were down 3-2 in the second period. After some fights and a goalie change, they had a 40-second offensive-zone cycle-shift that tied the game at 3-3 and completely changed the momentum of the game. It was probably the best shift I’ve seen from the Marlies all season. MacWilliam got the first chance when he came down the slot and received a perfect pass from McKegg. McKegg recovered the puck and dished to Kozun, who did a complete lap around the zone with the puck and dropped the puck back to Holzer, who came on from the bench and got a hard shot on net. McKegg again recovered the puck behind the net, brought it back up to the half-boards, and dished to Holzer at the blue-line; Holzer walked the line and let a shot off, with Duco in-front of the net screening, resulting in a goal.
Besides being a young team, it’s impressive that the Marlies are where they are in the standings considering their schedule so far. They’ve played 28 games on the road and only 20 at home. They’ve only got 11 road games left this season and are now 3 games into a 10-game homestand. This sets them up well to take a run at the conference title, creating a tough atmosphere at home down the stretch. They can gain a lot of confidence heading into the playoffs, where home-ice advantage is so important.
It was nice to Drew MacIntyre bounce-back in the Grand Rapids game after a couple losses, getting pulled once. He’s crucial to everything the Marlies want to accomplish this season, and he needs to be feeling confident.
It was good to see Josh Leivo make an impact this weekend after missing 7 games due to a hip injury. His goal against Grand Rapids was a goal-scorers goal and he was buzzing in the Hamilton game. The Marlies need his offence.
Another note on Granberg: He’s a real pain in the ass in front of the net. He battles hard, cross checks like an animal, and makes opposing forwards earn their ice.
Brandon Kozun is so fast…. I think he might even be faster than Raymond. I lost count how many times he took laps in the offensive zone with puck, and he finally scored a 5 on 5 goal. The more I watch him, the more I like the trade.
Kory Nagy and Mike Duco have been solid foot soldiers for this team when called upon. Both players got into the line-up this week and were effective. Nagy picked up two assists this week and one was without a stick. Duco created offence screening goalies and dropped the gloves, too. Not bad for some PTO depth guys.
A couple things hurt the Marlies against Hamilton. For one, three Hamilton goals were the result of bad neutral zone play. On all three goals, Hamilton was allowed to move freely through the neutral zone and gain speed to attack the blue line and net. The team needs to do a better job of slowing their opponents through the neutral zone and protecting their blue-line. The physical game wasn’t there as it usually is, either. I’m not sure what the cause of that was, but Sam Carrick not being in the line-up could have been partly to blame. Finally, not scoring on a 5 on 3 or a five-minute penalty hurt their chances; if they scored in those situations they probably would have walked away with at least a point in that game.