Occasionally throughout the season, I question my sanity as I stay awake until 3-4 am watching hockey.
This game was certainly one that had me asking that question. It wasn’t so much a game as one professional team turning up and applying themselves to the task at hand while the other mailed it in and bailed on its new head coach and its goaltenders.
The eventual 8-2 loss could easily have been far worse — a new franchise record defeat might have been set if not for some desperation goaltending and Syracuse taking their foot off the gas in the final period.
The loss of Sheldon Keefe has been deeply felt, as has the current absences of Rasmus Sandin, Adam Brooks, Mason Marchment and Pierre Engvall. Injuries have also certainly played their part, with some returning players not yet up to speed.
However, there is still enough talent on the Marlies roster and depth in Newfoundland that makes an effort like this one unacceptable. There was no fight — no response to adversity — and they were simply humbled by a Crunch team that, while undoubtedly talented, entered this game losers of three straight.
“There was too much inconsistent in effort, some guys were going and some guys were not,” said Greg Moore. “We need to be rolling as an entire team — playing as a group of five and relying on each and wanting to play for other — and we didn’t have that tonight.”
You simply cannot afford to give Syracuse odd-man rush opportunities against; they are one of the speediest transition teams in the Eastern Conference and probably the entire AHL. Toronto did just that to start the game and found themselves trailing just 46 seconds in on a goal by Gemel Smith.
The Crunch had to wait almost 14 minutes to double their lead — during a spell of four-on-four action that more resembled a power play for the Crunch, Ben Thomas scored on a backhand shot through traffic. Tyler Gaudet allowed Thomas to ghost past him while Jeremy Bracco could only muster a lackadaisical stick check.
After a power-play marker from Taylor Raddysh put the Crunch up 3-0 at the break, the Crunch had out outshot Toronto 23-5 and were full value for their lead.
Anyone expecting a response from the Marlies coming out of the intermission after a miserable first period was left sorely disappointed. An unsportsmanlike penalty meant Tanner MacMaster sat in the box to watch Ross Colton score a fourth for Syracuse just over three minutes in.
Greg Moore immediately called a timeout and pulled Joseph Woll in favour of Kasimir Kaskisuo, with the rookie goaltender shellshocked after facing 29 shots.
The Marlies did get themselves on the board through a Nic Petan power-play marker, but they proceeded to give up two goals in as many minutes, one of which was one a short-handed tally that summed up the Marlies‘ performance. The turnover by Timothy Liljegren was bad enough in itself, but the lackadaisical backcheck effort of his teammates was dismal.
An out-of-the blue even-strength marker from Matt Read cut the Crunch lead to 6-2 through 40 minutes.
The Marlies were out-shot 56-22 by the end of the night and were fortunate that Syracuse only netted twice in the third period as they coasted to a six-goal victory instead of looking to pour it on further.
This was one of the worst performances I have witnessed during my many years covering the Marlies in terms of effort and compete level.
The behaviour, body language and level of play from Jeremy Bracco perfectly embodied that. I was an advocate of benching him after his antics at the end of the previous loss to Cleveland (assessed unsportsmanlike conduct for abuse of officials), and it seems like the time for Greg Moore to hold the winger accountable with a visit to the press box for Saturday’s game.
We will now find out if this humbling experience will light a fire under this Marlies team and what kind of response they can come up with against the Rochester Americans, who currently lead the North Division. There is nowhere to hide for this Marlies team with their three-in-three schedule this weekend.
Post Game Notes
– The Marlies have lost three straight games while allowing 18 goals in the process and are now 3-7-0 in their last ten games.
– The six-goal margin of defeat is the largest this season, surpassing the 6-1 loss to Laval last week.
– Newfoundland have won 13 straight home games with players on AHL contracts such as Justin Brazeau, Scott Pooley, and Giorgio Estephan making an impression. We might see some callups if the Marlies decide to shake up the roster.
– Friday’s lines: