With two points out of a possible eight, this past week proved the toughest of the Toronto Marlies’ season so far.
Special teams and scoring were issues for most of the week before some significant lineup changes helped Toronto finish the weekend on a positive note.
Lehigh Valley Phantoms 4 at Toronto Marlies 1
The Marlies are glad the season series against Lehigh is over after allowing a combined eleven goals to Philadelphia’s affiliate over the two meetings.
The Phantoms played an astute road game last Tuesday, limiting the Marlies to 26 shots. The home team fell behind 1-0 after an evenly-balanced first period but responded on the powerplay courtesy of Andreas Johnsson in the middle frame.
The Marlies have struggled in third periods this season and the trend continued in this game, in part due to some penalty trouble. Lehigh outshot their hosts 14-9 and scored three unanswered goals in the final frame, putting some distance between the two teams on the scoreboard.
Rochester Americans 3 vs. Toronto Marlies 2
A second loss of the season to the Amerks saw the Marlies stumble out of the blocks, falling 1-0 behind after just 67 seconds and then 2-0 behind inside 12 minutes.
Viktor Loov’s first goal of the season was all the Marlies had to show for a second period in which they outshot the Amerks 11-4 and received three powerplay opportunities. Toronto controlled the first four minutes of the final frame but Rochester restored a two-goal lead on their first foray into the Marlies zone.
Toronto controlled the first four minutes of the final frame, but Rochester restored a two-goal lead on their first foray into the Marlies zone.
A comeback looked unlikely until the last five minutes or so, when the Amerks retreated into a defensive shell, allowing Toronto to heap on the pressure. There was still 1:36 left to play when Andrew Nielsen brought the Marlies within one, but it proved too little too late.
Hartford Wolf Pack 3 vs. Toronto Marlies 2
Toronto produced one of their worst performances of the season against a struggling Hartford outfit on Saturday. The New York Rangers affiliate could easily have turned this win into a blowout.
The returning Garret Sparks was left hung out to dry as the Marlies frequently turned the puck over and gave up numerous breakaway opportunities. Toronto trailed 2-0 through 40 minutes, having mustered just 18 shots on goal by that point.
A third Wolf Pack goal early in the third period appeared to kill the game until William Wrenn scored his first goal for Toronto shortly after. Toronto wasted over a minute of a two-man advantage, failing to record a single shot on goal before Kasperi Kapanen finally put home a powerplay goal on the subsequent 5-on-4 with eight minutes left to play. The tying goal never seemed likely as the Marlies looked short on ideas and Hartford did a fantastic job of protecting their slender lead.
Toronto Marlies 5 vs. Hartford Wolf Pack 3
For the third straight game, the Marlies allowed two goals against in the opening period and they were not helped by a less sharp Garret Sparks compared to the day previous.
The Marlies responded with a pair of powerplay markers via Kasperi Kapanen and Kerby Rychel in the middle frame to tie the game up. Hartford regained the lead after a backhand effort from the left faceoff dot beat Sparks too easily.
Having yet to register a point when trailing after 40 minutes at the time, Toronto finally found a way with a dominant third-period performance. Michalek netted inside three minutes, while the line of Kerby Rychel, Marc-Andre Cliché and Rich Clune combined for the go-ahead goal, finished off by Clune.
To Hartford’s credit, they responded by firing 15 shots on goal and proceeded to crash the Toronto net at every opportunity. Some sturdier defense from the Marlies saw them hold onto a tenuous lead until Brendan Leipsic sealed the deal with a powerplay empty netter inside the final minutes.
Three straight defeats mark the Marlies’ longest losing streak of the season, but they remain third in the North Division with an 11-8-1-1 record. In games decided by a single goal, Toronto has now lost four in a row and are 2-4-0 overall.
It looked like another atrocious week in the special teams department up until Sunday’s game. The penalty kill continues to remain an issue, conceding five times on 21 times shorthanded. Three powerplay goals in the win over Hartford certainly skewed the statistics after what had been a poor week overall with the extra man. Toronto was guilty of wasting a couple of 5-on-3 opportunities without even recording a shot on net.
– Kasperi Kapanen led the way this week with five points, taking his season total to 21. That’s good enough for seventh in overall scoring, while his eleven goals make him the AHL’s joint leading goal scorer alongside Christian Thomas, Brendan Perlini and Colin McDonald.
– Brendan Leipsic is now tied in the AHL scoring race (26 points), although he’s played a game fewer than Chicago’s Brad Hunt. There is a long way to go, but Leipsic is currently on pace for a 90+ point season.
– A goal and three assists this week for Andrew Nielsen extend his point streak to four games. The rookie rearguard’s 15 points place him fifth overall in scoring by defencemen.
– Kerby Rychel put up four points this past week, with three of those registered in Sunday‘s game. He benefited greatly from playing alongside Cliché and Clune during the sole victory, a line which perhaps could find some traction on the upcoming road trip. After just two points in his opening eight games, Rychel has eight in his last 11 and has moved up to fifth in scoring on the team with 10 in 19 appearances overall.
– If Rich Clune played centre instead of wing he’d no doubt have featured in more games this season, but the plethora of wingers on the roster has limited his opportunities. He was one of the best Marlies players on show over weekend, highlighted by his game-winning goal against Hartford on Sunday. In his own inimitable way, Clune is a galvanising force for this team.
– Marc-Andre Cliché has been made to wait for opportunities this season. An consummate professional, Cliché was ready to play and made positive contributions, although he didn’t get himself on the scoresheet. With injuries at the center position and other veterans underperforming, I’d be surprised if Cliché isn’t given a run of games this week.
– Mason Marchment made the most of his five-game stint with Orlando, recording two goals and an assist, all at even strength. Rewarded with a pair of games with the Marlies this past weekend, he was noticeable for all the right reasons. He played alongside Cliché-Clune and Smith-Johnsson, and managed to find chemistry in both situations.
– Travis Dermott began training in a non-contact jersey last Monday after what I’m led to believe was a high ankle sprain injury. If all goes to plan, the rookie is expected to make his reappearance during this road trip.
– William Wrenn scored his first goal for the Marlies and continues to be one of the team’s steadier defensemen. Wrenn may have to make way with Dermott close to a return, but with Viktor Loov out of favour recently, there could be an opportunity for him to stay in the lineup.
– Byron Froese was an injury scratch on Sunday, although the extent or nature of the injury is not known. Frederik Gauthier missed all four games and little is known as far as a timeline for his return from a hand/wrist injury.
– Joining the Marlies ranks are goaltenders Jhonas Enroth (who cleared waivers) and Karri Ramo (PTO). It’s expected that Ramo will be given the majority of starts on the upcoming road trip as he auditions for the backup role with the big club.
– Jeff Glass made his second start for the Marlies this season and certainly wasn’t at fault for the loss in Rochester. His .917 save percentage is indicative of some steady early play but his opportunities could be limited due to the recent additions.
– Garret Sparks put his suspension behind him with an encouraging reappearance on Saturday but he followed it up with a poor performance the following Sunday. He’s another who may have to bide his time on the road.
– Daniel Maggio was recalled from Orlando but is still yet to feature, while Chase Witala was sent back to the Solar Bears.
– T.J Foster and Willie Corrin have been loaned to Norfolk Admirals and Brampton Beast respectively. Both required fresh scenery in the search of regular ice time.
Toronto Marlies @ Utica Comets – Wednesday, December 7, 7:00 pm EST
Toronto Marlies @ Providence Bruins – Friday, December 9, 7:05 pm EST
Toronto Marlies @ Hartford Wolf Pack – Saturday, December 7, 7:00 pm EST
Toronto Marlies Player Stats – December 6
|Nikita Soshnikov (X)||6||1||2||3||1||6||1||0||11||9.1|
|Josh Leivo (X)||5||0||0||0||1||6||0||0||11||0|