The Toronto Marlies took four of a possible six points from their three-in-three weekend in New England.
It possibly should have been a greater haul, but with the team still not completely
gelling and special teams yet to operate at anywhere near the level expected for the talent on this roster, it’s a fine return against some tough Atlantic Division opponents on the road.
The victory earned on Sunday was #100 in the AHL for Sheldon Keefe in just 156 games. That puts Keefe third in all-time “Fewest games to 100 AHL coaching wins” behind Mark French (147) and John Hynes (152).
Toronto’s 4-1-0 record has them sitting second in the North Division after five games.
Special teams remain an area of concern two weeks into the season. The power play has converted just once on 18 opportunities, and the lone strike had a great deal of good fortune about it. The penalty kill showed some signs of improvement but still gave up a goal in two of the three games over the weekend. The 15 penalties taken is something else Sheldon Keefe may also focus on this week in practice.
The first loss of the season occurred in Hartford Friday night. After having the better of the play in the opening period, Toronto played their worst hockey of the season in the following 20 minutes and found themselves down 3-0 by the second intermission.
In the opening two minutes of the third period, Kasperi Kapanen struck shortly after a Marlies power play expired and Vincent LoVerde doubled the Marlies’ tally with an individual effort while shorthanded. However, Toronto was unable to force a tying goal, although Kapanen came close with a shot that rang off the cross in the dying embers of the game.
Toronto Marlies 3 vs. Providence Bruins 2
The Providence Bruins are always a tough opponent in their own building and the Marlies were indebted to their debutant goaltender for the win on Saturday evening.
Calvin Pickard turned aside 33 shots, of which more than a handful were Grade-A scoring opportunities.
Toronto opened the scoring seven minutes in through Andreas Johnsson before Kapanen doubled the lead at the midway point of the game with a power play tally. Pickard’s shutout bid was denied eight minutes into the final frame by Kenny Agostino, but Ben Smith restored Toronto’s two-goal advantage with 7:07 left on the clock.
The shots kept raining in on Pickard but he held the fort, holding off the Bruins until they finally broke through with 15 seconds left, which wasn’t enough time to 3-2 victory.
Toronto Marlies 2 vs. Springfield Thunderbirds 1
A much-changed Marlies lineup did battle in a Sunday matinee game against the Springfield Thunderbirds. It wasn’t much of a spectacle, but Toronto should have led through 20 minutes, edging the better of the few scoring chances on offer.
Toronto did break the deadlock eight minutes into the second period through Ben Smith, but they were pegged back by Springfield at the midway mark. Neither team was able to capitalize on a combined 11 power plays before a freaky goal decided the fate of the two points on offer.
After a shot from Rinat Valiev was deflected high into the glass behind the goal, Mason Marchment was one of few on the ice to track the trajectory of the puck and corralled the rebound to slot home from the side of the net.
Kasimir Kaskisuo made 10 saves in the third period to secure a 2-1 victory in his first start of the season.
– Kasperi Kapanen finally got up and running with goals in consecutive games. He’s still not firing on all cylinders, however, and that’s a scary thought for the rest of the AHL.
– Ben Smith also scored twice over the weekend and is currently the Marlies leading scorer with five points (3-2-5). All five are primary markers and have been accrued at even strength.
– Timothy Liljegren just seems to gain confidence and grow in stature with every game he plays. He’s certainly been one of the brighter lights on a struggling power play. Two assist for him over the weekend extends his point streak to three games (1-2-3).
– Vincent LoVerde stepped up after a quiet pair of games to begin the season. He scored a highlight reel short-handed marker and was a continual threat offensively while remaining solid in his own end.
– Andreas Johnsson added a goal to his tally and is the Marlies’ second-leading scorer with four points (2-2-4). Both his goals have been scored at even strength, which is a positive for a player known more for his power play exploits in his rookie season, but Johnsson has been guilty of not shooting enough, with just one effort on net per game across the weekend.
– Jeremy Bracco made his long-awaited debut and recorded an assist on Ben Smith’s goal after a nice toe-drag move off the rush during Sunday’s win.
– Michael Paliotta and Martin Marincin also made their Marlies debut. The former looked far better than the latter on the blue line. Marincin recorded an assist and looked somewhat of a threat offensively, but his propensity for turning the puck over in his own zone was troublesome.
– Frederik Gauthier returned to action earlier than was anticipated after suffering a serious leg injury in last season’s playoff series with Syracuse. Given sheltered minutes, the centreman fared as well as can be expected — effective in the face-off dot, along with some promising drives to the net. He recorded an assist on Mason Marchment’s game-winner against Springfield.
– Goaltending was the theme of the weekend, with each of Toronto’s three netminders receiving a start.
Garret Sparks picked up the loss, but he certainly wasn’t responsible for the defeat in Hartford. He made a cluster of crucial saves in the third period when Toronto was pushing for a tying goal.
Calvin Pickard posted 33 saves to earn the win on his Toronto debut. It was the 70th AHL victory of his career, and likely places him at the top of the goaltending pecking order for now.
Kasimir Kaskisuo may appear to be the odd man out, but he did himself some favours by stopping 26 of 27 shots faced on Sunday. It’s possible that the Finnish goaltender could join Orlando with Cal Heeter injured after two periods of the Solar Bears’ opening game of the season.
Orlando Solar Bears News
Orlando opened their season with a 5-4 overtime victory against the Jacksonville Icemen.
Cal Heeter stopped 24 of 26 shots before being replaced by Matt Hackett after two periods. Kristian Pospisil netted twice, while J.J Piccinich scored the OT winner.
Toronto Marlies Player Stats – October 20
Toronto Marlies Goalie Stats – October 20