“We didn’t get saves. Our players didn’t do a good job of protecting our goalies, and our goalies didn’t do a good job of protecting the group.”
The perfect post-game summation from head coach Sheldon Keefe after his team was humiliated by the visiting Syracuse Crunch in an 8-1 beating on Wednesday evening.
The Marlies actually began the game on the front foot, drawing a penalty after just 67 seconds of play and generating some good looks on a power play. But it was a tale we’ve seen so many times this season, as one stretch pass down the left side took four Marlies skaters out of the action, leading to a 2-on-1 break for the Crunch.
Andy Andreoff beat Eamon McAdam clean with a wrist shot over his shoulder as the Crunch went ahead less than five minutes in.
Syracuse doubled their lead at the midway mark of the period with a goal Rasmus Sandin and McAdam would like to forget. Alex Barre-Boulet torched the young rookie defenseman before firing past McAdam with a low shot from between the top of the circles.
Toronto’s second power play of the game was a poor effort, but they did convert on their third opportunity with the extra man with just 27 seconds remaining in the period. Jeremy Bracco applied the finishing touch after Sam Gagner and Chris Mueller pulled the Crunch penalty kill apart to create space.
Amazingly, the Marlies gave up another goal in the time remaining before the intermission, as an offensive zone turnover led to a 4-on-2 rush for the Crunch. McAdam really should have stopped Dennis Yan from scoring short-side, however, and after allowing three goals on five shots, he was pulled and replaced by Kasimir Kaskisuo to begin the middle frame.
Things were no better with the new face between the pipes, as the Marlies found themselves trailing 5-1 before 30 minutes elapsed.
Kaskisuo took a shot off the mask from Troy Bourke and neither knew where the puck was — with Kaskisuo receiving little help from his teammates — as Otto Sompi slid home the rebound.
The fifth goal was the most comical. After yet another turnover in the o-zone allowed Syracuse to escape on a 2-on-1 rush, Ryan Colton had time to fall over, regain his composure, shoot on Kaskisuo, pick up his own rebound, and attempt a pass to a teammate before tucking home the loose puck with Kaskisuo helpless on his back.
The Marlies were now in the midst of doing what no Marlies team has done in recent history under Sheldon Keefe – totally capitulating. Syracuse scored a sixth before the second period was over with, and the look on Kaskisuo’s face told the story.
From just inside the blue line, Cameron Gaunce launched a shot toward net that went wide, but the puck caromed off the back boards before catching the left skate of Kaskisuo and sneaking into the net.
Six minutes into the final frame, Colin Greening was denied a consolation goal in tight as Crunch goaltender Eddie Pasquale was finally forced into a save of note.
Syracuse could easily have hit double figures but settled for a pair in the third period to clinch an 8-1 final. Andy Andreoff put home a rebound on a 5-on-3 power play followed by a second goal for Barre-Boulet, who scored at the second attempt from the slot, with the Marlies making no real attempt to cover him.
Post Game Notes
– After Toronto’s heaviest defeat of the season, they’ve now allowed 102 goals in 25 games. Offense was the Marlies’ greatest strength early in the season, but they’ve also been held to seven goals in their last five games.
“It’s a tough game to play when you don’t get saves,” said Keefe. “It’s tough on a team mentally. But we have to do a better job in front of them. We were the second best team on the ice by a mile.”
The Marlies have now slipped to sixth place in the North Division with a record of 10-10-5.
– Jeremy Bracco recorded his fifth goal of the season, with four of those accrued in the last six games. Bracco has 17 points in his last 16 games dating back to the start of November.
– Steve Oleksy wasn’t able to join the team in time for this game, but he is expected to travel to Manitoba, where Toronto play the Moose in a doubleheader this weekend.
– Wednesday’s lines: