The Toronto Marlies opened their season with two victories over the Manitoba Moose on Thanksgiving weekend.
It was an encouraging start in which the Marlies won both games, outshot the Moose 76-53, and carried 66% of possession in score close situations.
New Marlie captain Andrew Campbell and Byron Froese scored in both games, William Nylander started his season with a multi-point game, and Josh Leivo had a three-point game on Friday.
Lines from Games 1 & 2
Richard Clune – William Nylander – Connor Brown
Richard Panik – Byron Frose – Zach Hyman
Brendan Leipsic – Sam Carrick – Josh Leivo
Nikita Soshnikov – Frederik Gauthier – Matt Frattin
Note: Kasperi Kapanen had the flu
Andrew Campbell – Rinat Valiev
Stuart Percy – TJ Brennan
Viktor Loov – Justin Holl
Game 1 Goalie: Antoine Bibeau (21/24, .875 SV%)
Game 2 Goalie: Garret Sparks (27/29, .931 SV%)
The Marlies started this game brightly, generating three first period powerplays starting with a hit to the head call on Julian Melchiori against Matt Frattin, which led to JC Lipon and Frattin dropping the gloves.
On the third powerplay, the Marlies found their breakthrough after a nice rush up ice to gain the zone by Connor Brown, sidestepping one and finding Richard Panik in the slot. Panik swivelled and found a trailing Nylander for his first of the year just 13 minutes into the AHL season. Non-credited assist went to Zach Hyman for paying the price in front, causing chaos in front of Connor Hellebuyck.
The top line was back out and hungry for more, but got caught on the 1-1 Moose goal. All three forwards were a little gung ho on the forecheck: Nylander took a bad line on the play, deciding to go around the back of net, and was caught when the puck went up the boards. With the puck gone, Clune finished his check with both Nylander and Brown in deep. The Moose attacked with numbers and found the open man, Brendan Kitchton, for a one timer that beat Bibeau.
William Nylander was flying to start the 2nd period. A rush up ice backed the D off before he ripped a hard shot on goal; shortly after, after another dart into the offensive zone and a won puck race, he put one of his nine shots on goal from his knees.
The Froese, Panik and Hyman line fed off the early momentum with a great shift right after. After a good battle down low and set up by Richard Panik, Zach Hyman put the puck on net and Byron Froese finished the rebound to make it 2-1 Marlies.
The Marlies extended the lead on a shift from the Leivo, Carrick and Leipsic line. Leivo and Carrick got in on the forecheck quickly and retrieved easily, before Leivo kicked it to the point, where captain Andrew Campbell snapped home his first goal as a Marlie.
The lead was back to one just 15 seconds after the Marlies took the 3-1 lead. Frattin got a piece of the puck after a pass back to a Moose defenceman pinching down into the slot, but he didn’t stop on the puck and swooped by, leaving former Leaf Jay Harrison time to beat Bibeau from top of the circle.
The second period also featured two big hits from Viktor Loov, which is becoming his trademark. The first came off a pinch by Loov five minutes into second period, when backed into the target Kronwall style and flattened the guy. Just a few shifts later, Loov dropped Thomas Raffl at the offensive blueline as Raffl skated full speed into the Marlie zone.
With a minute to go in the second, the Marlies restored their two-goal lead on the powerplay. With a PP unit of Leivo, Frattin, Leipsic, Frose and Brennan on the ice, a nice feed across the slot from Leipsic found Leivo on the backdoor, while Froese took the goalies’ eyes away. Hellebuyck was hopeless on the play.
There was a late scare with the 4-3 goal off a redirect in front late in the third, but the Marlies spent little of the remaining 1:50 in their own zone. Connor Brown turned a puck over in the o-zone with a relentless pursuit and the Marlies killed some time off the clock. When it entered the Marlie zone, Leivo got the puck out quickly, and Carrick won a battle in neutral ice and deposited the puck in the empty net.
Game 2 – Marlies 3 vs. Moose 2 (SO)
Shots: 42-29 Marlies
The Marlies fell behind eight minutes into the first period after the Byrone Froese, Zach Hyman and Richard Panik line – which was consistently effective throughout the weekend – conceded an easy zone entry and Stuart Percy lost his man, JC Lipon, in front.
It was against the run of play in a first period dominated by the Marlies. They outshot the Moose 20-6 and had a prolonged powerplay in the middle of the first period as the Moose took three consecutive penalties. Eric Comrie looked excellent in turning away all 20 shots.
Garret Sparks answered in the early 2nd with a couple of key saves at a time when a second goal against the run of play might have demoralized his team. Not long after, the Marlies took to the powerplay and found their breakthrough.
The Marlies iced a PP unit of Brown, Froese, Nylander, Leispsic and Brennan, in Jim Hiller’s four-forward, one-defenceman diamond set up. The goal of the formation is to outnumber the opponent at the net front and it worked to perfection here, resulting in a one timer goal in the slot off the stick of Byron Froese, assisted by Brendan Leipsic and TJ Brennan.
Five minutes later, the Marlies took the lead on a shift by the Frederik Gauthier, Nikita Soshnikov and Matt Frattin line, which had a good second game. Gauthier got in on the forecheck and applied pressure, causing a turnover Andrew Campbell hopped on for his second in as many games for the Marlies. Assist went to Matt Frattin; non-credited assist to Gauthier for causing the turnover.
The Marlies should’ve padded the lead on a couple of occasions, including a Connor Brown breakaway at the end of the second. Stuart Percy found Brown with a two line pass out of his own corner with pressure coming at him from two directions, but Brown couldn’t beat Comrie through the five hole.
The Nylander line generated a few additional chances, including an occasion when Nylander was in the clear and Rich Clune took a bad interference penalty at the offensive blueline to kill the play.
The Marlies were outshot 12-5 in the third, and perhaps were a little guilty of being content to play without the puck and preserve the lead. The Moose tied it up with under two minutes remaining and the goalie pulled. A big rebound was kicked out by Sparks, while four Marlies were puck focused and lost sight of Ryan Olsen in front.
After a strikingly low-chance 3-on-3 overtime period, Garret Sparks shut the door on five Moose shooters in the shootout before Byron Froese capped an impressive weekend with the lone shootout goal and game winner.
- I thought this was a nice first shift of the game from Gauthier on Saturday (#23):
- Gauthier didn’t touch the puck on the play but helped create Andrew Campbell’s goal in game #2, and he also set up Matt Frattin for a goal scoring opportunity on a 2 on 1 late in the second period of the first game. Keefe used him on the second unit penalty kill, where he used his reach to be disruptive in passing lanes. There was a penalty kill sequence in the second game where Gauthier put his long reach to good use with long sweeps in the neutral zone; he broke up a play twice and would’ve had a little break in on the Moose net if he could’ve settled the puck down. By my count, he lost more faceoffs than he won, but I expect that to improve. I thought his line with Soshnikov and Frattin was quite effective in game #2. In short, Gauthier’s doing a lot of things well, and we’ll have to see if his offensive game can evolve as the season goes on. He could’ve had a point or two over the weekend with some luck.
- No TOI stats are available in the AHL, but Keefe appeared to be using the Valiev and Campbell pairing the most through two games. Impressive for a 20-year-old first-year AHL defenceman. Thought Valiev had a great weekend – skated well, showed poise with the puck, moved the puck well and had good gap control defending off the rush.
- The top line of Nylander, Brown and Clune verged on dominance at points in the first game. As we saw last season, AHL defencemen are crapping their pants on Nylander’s speed with the puck, backing right off and giving him tonnes of space to work with. Perhaps more impressive, he’s no longer easy to get off the puck in the tough areas (for those who might rewatch the games, see his battle down low at the six minute mark of the third period). Clune fits in all right, better than you would perhaps picture, as his speed is far more passable at this level. He even worked a nice give and go with Nylander that put Nylander in alone on the goalie in the second period, but Nylander fumbled the puck.
- That Nylander, Brown and Clune line was having one of its weaker shifts of the game late in the second, as it was bogged down for a sustained period of time, but just like that, after Clune took a hit to make a play and get the breakout underway, Brown and Nylander busted it wide open into a 2 on 1 in the flash of an eye. A nice save save by Hellebuyck prevented Nylander’s second of the night.
- Also in that game, Nylander had a deke swatted off the goalline after a nice zone entry and pass by Rinat Valiev to open some space for him through the right side of the offensive zone. That first game easily could’ve been a three goal, four-point night for Nylander. He had his giveaways throughout, but when they’re of the creative variety they’re easier to swallow.
- Nine shots on goal from Nylander in a single game is a crazy number and quite uncommon. If you go through the game logs for all the of the top 12 point producers in the AHL last year, and looked up all of their SOG totals for each game, out of all of those games played by those dozen top players, there were only two in which someone had 9SOG or more.
- Froese, Panik and Hyman had a number of effective, hard-working shifts cycling the puck in the offensive zone. Good looking second line so far.
- Nice to see Leivo open the season with three points in two games after the way his 2014-15 season ended followed by his early cut from Leafs training camp. Needs a big start to the season to get back on the radar for the big club.
- Going back to last season including playoffs, Froese has 48 points in 53 games as a Marlie.
courtesy of CHLStats.com
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