The past fortnight saw the Toronto Marlies continue their recent trend of inconsistent play, particularly on the road.
Saturday, November 19 – St. John’s 2 vs. Toronto 1
Toronto’s perfect home record was broken by St. John’s, though the main feature of the game was the Marlies‘ inability to generate scoring opportunities despite owning the lion’s share of possession.
Toronto opened the scoring early through Kasperi Kapanen on the powerplay, but were unable to build on that lead through the first or second periods. The Icecaps capitalized on two errors in the middle frame to turn the game on its head.
The Marlies were unable to beat Charlie Lindgren in the St. John’s net. Despite holding the visitors to one shot in the final period, they registered only seven of their own.
Sunday, November 20 – Toronto 3 vs. St. John’s 0
Toronto bounced back with a strong defensive performance and eventually ground down the IceCaps on the following day.
Charlie Lindgren was once again excellent between the pipes, but he had no answer to a blast from Andrew Nielsen three minutes into the third period. A Byron Froese powerplay goal provided an insurance marker before Brendan Leipsic sealed the deal by firing into an empty cage. Garret Sparks made all 19 saves in Toronto’s fourth shutout of the season.
Tuesday, November 22 – Albany 3 vs. Toronto 1
On what Tobias Lindberg labelled “the worse ice I’ve ever played on,” Toronto fell to their second consecutive defeat on the road in Albany. The officials almost called the game off twice, once before the game started and then again after the first period. Both sides agreed to trudge on, but the Albany Devils adapted and handled the conditions far better than the Marlies.
In an evenly-balanced first period, Toronto took the lead thanks to a fine individual effort from Byron Froese. From the moment the puck dropped for the middle frame, the Devils outworked and outplayed the Marlies, tying the game through 40 minutes. Toronto’s penalty habit — they took seven in the game — came back to bite them as Albany struck twice in the third period to take a deserved 3-1 win.
Friday, November 25 – Syracuse 5 vs. Toronto 4 (OT)
This road loss may well have been the most frustrating this season for head coach Sheldon Keefe.
His charges were outstanding in the first period — a 2-0 Marlie lead after 20 minutes could have been at least doubled if not for some outstanding goaltending.
Toronto ran into penalty trouble early in the second frame but netted a shorthanded goal thanks to the sheer determination of Rich Clune. Syracuse quickly struck twice on the powerplay and then once at even strength to tie the game in the space of six minutes.
The Marlies regained the lead with a powerplay goal of their own but gave up that advantage inside a minute later. The Crunch were only denied a regulation thanks to Antoine Bibeau, who made 15 saves during the third period, making amends for a weak third Crunch goal.
After Toronto missed a series of gilt-edged chances in overtime, Syracuse notched a deserved winner to claim the extra point.
Saturday, November 26 – Toronto 4 vs. Utica 1
The first ACC game of the season saw the Marlies get back on track. Facing a confident Utica team that had won four straight entering the game, Toronto limited Vancouver’s affiliate to just 23 shots on net over the 60 minutes.
Tobias Lindberg and Trevor Moore put the Marlies up 2-0 on their opening four shots and Toronto never looked back. With 17 shots on goal in 20 minutes, a Brendan Leipsic powerplay goal was all the Marlies had to show for their superiority in every facet of the second period.
Jeff Glass, making his Marlies debut, had his shutout attempt spoiled by a Utica powerplay goal in the third period. Any thoughts of another Marlies collapse were put to rest, however, after Colin Smith put the finishing touch on a swift passing play three minutes later.
After going .500 through their last five games, the Marlies have dropped to third in the North Division, with Albany and Syracuse rise overtaking them in the standings. That brings into focus the importance of divisional matchups: Toronto are currently 5-5-1-1 against North Division teams, with three of those victories coming against Utica on home ice.
Toronto’s home form remains strong at 7-1-0-0, the second best record in the league. The road woes continue, however, with just three wins in nine games.
The Marlies special teams also continue have an unbalanced look to them. The powerplay has connected four times on the last 22 occasions and remains one of the best in the league. Conversely, the penalty kill struggles continue, allowing as many goals against in the last two weeks. The PK now sits 24th in the NHL at 78.2%.
Perhaps most concerning is that the Marlies are taking far more penalties than they are drawing, with a disparity of eleven through 17 games.
– Brendan Leipsic may have seen his points streak snapped at seven, but he continues to lead the Marlies and the entire AHL with 22 points. He’s only failed to hit the scoresheet twice in 17 games.
– A pair of goals for Kasperi Kapanen over the last five games puts him at nine on the season. That makes him the joint Marlies leading scorer and places him tied for third overall in the league. It also matches his 2015-16 total, achieved in 44 games.
– Byron Froese scored 18 goals in 46 games for the Marlies during the 2014-15 season and put up three in four outings before the recall by the Leafs to start last season. He was a little slow getting out of the blocks back in the AHL this time around, but he is now tied with Kapanen for third in the league having scored four over his last six games.
– Frederik Gauthier sustained what appeared to be a wrist injury in the second game against St. John’s. He’s missed the last three games and there’s no timeline on his return.
– Rookie defenceman Travis Dermott has not played in the month of November, but he was back skating yesterday in a no-contact jersey.
– Tobias Lindberg missed two games against St. John’s because of injury but returned with some purpose, helping himself to two points in the Utica encounter. He’s found some early chemistry on the right wing next to Andreas Johnsson and Colin Smith.
– Colin Smith has been somewhat of an enigma this season. Often one of the better players on the ice, he has not produced much offense to show for it. A mixing of the lines produced three points at the ACC, breaking a six-game pointless streak.
– Andreas Johnsson also broke his five-game slump with a pair of points versus Utica. He continues to miss the net when presented with good scoring chances, but it’s of some comfort he‘s still finding those positions on the ice.
– Antoine Bibeau is 0-3-1 since recording a shutout in Wilkes-Barre Scranton. At fault for one goal in Syracuse, he’s otherwise been in good form but hasn’t received much support from those in front of him over the last four starts.
– After recording his first shutout of the season, Garret Sparks has been suspended indefinitely by the Toronto Maple Leafs for violating team policy. His status is due to be revaluated by the team this week according to Sheldon Keefe. He participated in practice on Tuesday, skating with the scratches, but wasn’t made available to the media according to Dhiren Mahiban.
– Jeff Glass took advantage of his opportunity to play and didn’t let Toronto down in what was his first professional regular season outing since last February. With a hectic schedule upcoming for the Marlies, he’s due to see some action should Sparks remain on the sidelines.
– Josh Leivo returned to the Toronto Maple Leafs after his extended conditioning loan expired.
– Cason Hohmann was called up from Orlando but was subsequently released from his AHL contract by the Marlies. The right winger has since signed for the Charlotte Checkers.
– Taylor Doherty was released from his PTO and has returned to Orlando.
– Defensemen Willie Corrin and Ty Stanton and forwards T.J Foster and Chase Witala have all been recalled to Toronto from Orlando. All of these players are yet to feature for the Marlies.
– Daniel Maggio and Mason Marchment were sent to Orlando after receiving no ice time with the Marlies so far this season. Both have made an impact with the Solar Bears, who are currently unbeaten in regulation under new head coach Drake Berehowsky.
Tuesday, November 29, 7:00 pm EST – Lehigh Valley @ Toronto Marlies
Friday, December 2, 7:05 pm EST – Toronto Marlies @ Rochester Americans
Saturday, December 3, 7:05 pm EST Hartford @ Toronto Marlies
Sunday, December 4, 7:05 pm EST – Hartford @ Toronto Marlies
Toronto Marlies Player Stats – November 29