The Toronto Marlies are proving a frustrating team to watch so far this season.
Offense isn’t the problem — as their 47 goals in 11 games would indicate — but this was yet another poor performance defensively riddled with turnovers and missed assignments. Another slow start didn’t help matters as the Marlies threw another two points away against a divisional rival.
From the get-go, the Marlies were guilty of turning the puck over inside their own zone, but Adam Cracknell and Frank Corrado got away with a few early. The opening Belleville goal wasn’t long in coming, however, as a mistake from Andreas Borgman behind the net led to Christian Wolanin scoring from the heart of the slot with 2:11 on the clock.
The Marlies killed a penalty and eventually found their feet with nine minutes played when a pinching Timothy Liljegren finished off a setup from Sam Gagner at the back post.
Toronto’s first power play of the game saw Gagner and Mason Marchment both denied by Mike Condon, and after another defensive slipup at even strength, the Senators opened up a 2-1 lead heading into the intermission.
Borgman was caught flatfooted by Chase Balisy down the right side and the latter’s slap pass toward the crease bounced off Corrado and then Erik Burgdoerfer, with the puck somehow sneaking behind Jeff Glass.
It really should have been a two-goal lead through 20 minutes for the Senators, who wasted a 3-on-1 break in the final 30 seconds.
Both teams exchanged excellent scoring chances in a fast and furious beginning to the middle frame before Dmytro Timashov scored on an almost inadvertent-looking redirect at the back post. It was a good pass from Chris Mueller to set-up the goal and an even better breakout feed from Corrado that sent the veteran forward away down the right wing.
Timashov then turned provider as his interception in the neutral set up a 2-on-1 break for Toronto. Jeremy Bracco teed up Borgman, who ripped a one-time shot past Condon.
Two goals in 34 seconds put the Marlies ahead for the first time in the game, but the lead was short-lived as Belleville leveled the score at 3-3 just over three minutes later.
Marchment was tagged for an extra roughing penalty — a suspect call — after being targeted by Francois Beauchemin, while Patrick Sieloff took at least one swipe at the left winger.
Drake Batherson took advantage by netting his sixth of the season before the Marlies responded by re-taking the lead just 51 seconds later.
The goal was scored by Corrado at the back post and set up by Bracco, but it started with Rasmus Sandin. The rookie defenseman won a battle in the neutral zone before sending Bracco away across the blue line on an odd-man rush.
A game to forget continued for Borgman after the Marlies took the lead; he hung his teammates out to dry with a turnover inside the defensive zone to Batherson. Corrado was down on the ice and out of the play as Batherson set up with Rudolfs Balcers to tie the game at four apiece.
A lazy tripping penalty taken by Timashov at Toronto’s blue line set the stage for the Senators to take the lead into the intermission with their second power-play marker of the period, this time via Filip Chlapik’s redirect at the top of the crease, as Belleville scored twice inside 55 seconds.
Trevor Moore attempted to take the bull by the horns inside the opening 15 seconds of the third period, but Condon produced a pair of saves on Moore’s drive to the net.
It was a period full of power play opportunities for the Marlies, who struck on the first through Mason Marchment from in tight.
Two additional man-advantage opportunities went to waste before a fourth of the period saw the Marlies nudge themselves ahead 6-5. Marchment, again parked out in front of Condon, produced a deft backhand finish for his second of the game/period.
Past Marlies teams under Keefe, when in possession with a lead with eight minutes remaining, were almost a lock to close out the win, but the 2018-19 Marlies are falling well short of that standard so far this season.
Just 75 seconds after falling behind, Belleville leveled the game at 6-6 through Adam Tambellini’s shot from the top of the left circle that beat Glass clean over his left shoulder — a save the Marlies needed to have at that point in the game.
It was almost inevitable that another Marlies defensive breakdown would result in the game winner, and that’s exactly how it played out. After a neutral zone turnover from Marchment allowed Belleville to break with numbers, Borgman lost his bearings, eventually following Liljegren’s man before realizing Beauchemin was all alone backdoor after it was too late.
Beauchemin’s easy finish was the 13th and final goal of the game, securing the two points for the Senators by a 7-6 scoreline.
Post Game Notes
– Sheldon Keefe held himself and his coaching staff accountable for yet another poor performance after two weeks with lots of practice time.
“We’re responsible for getting this team prepared and we’ve had two long weeks here of practice to prepare for this game and our game last week,” said Keefe.”Both times, our team did not come well prepared to play. So that’s on our coaching staff. We’ve got to do a better job as a group to have these guys ready. We’re back at it here again tomorrow night and we’re hoping a better version of ourselves arrives.”
– The Marlies’ standout player was rookie Rasmus Sandin, who put in a performance beyond his years. With little fuss, he’s able to orchestrate clean breakouts with low-risk, effective puck movement, and it’s the quickness and intelligence of his decision-making that is the key to it all. The switch to turning professional is often tough because of the speed and size of the opposition and the lack of time and space available compared to junior, but Sandin’s greatest asset is his ability to process the game and it’s helped him adapt quickly. His assist gives him four points in three games.
– Mason Marchment scored twice on the power play and led all skaters with six shots.
– A goal and an assist for Frank Corrado in his return from a serious knee injury. This was the defenseman’s first action since February 16, and although his timing and positioning were off at times, his offensive abilities at this level were clear to see. My expectation is that he rotates in and out with Jordan Subban until he’s 100%.
– It was far from Pierre Engvall’s best performance as he drifted in and out of the game, but two assists give him eight points in nine games.
– Jeremy Bracco was finally rewarded for his excellent offensive work of late with two primary assists, his first multi-point haul of the season. It definitely feels like there’s an extra gear or two still left for him to find before he’s up and running this season.
– A goal for Andreas Borgman in this one, but it’s fair to say this was by far his worst performance in a Marlies jersey. He often looked lost in the defensive zone and this wasn’t a Belleville team that was especially quick or heavy on the forecheck.
– Also a rough night for Jeff Glass, who gave up seven goals on 24 shots. He inspires little confidence behind a Jekyll and Hyde defense and would likely want two of tonight’s goals back. I’d be very surprised if Keefe doesn’t turn to Eamon McAdam for Saturday’s rematch.
– Friday’s lines: