“Lost for words right now. Pretty frustrated. I think the whole group is frustrated. I think we all haven’t been good enough. I think it’s going to take a group effort to climb our way out of this. Can we? Yes. Will we? Yes. Today’s another frustrating day. We’re going to find a way to right the ship.”
“There’s just an intensity that the game of hockey needs to have, for a team to have throughout the entire bench. We had it for the second period today. Again, the first period was not what we wanted in terms of talking about it and our slow start yesterday. But just a little bit more hard, a little bit more possession, a little bit more our style and doing the things that we preach here — we’re having a hard time finding that consistency.”
The above are the beginning and end quotes of Greg Moore’s presser after a 7-3 defeat to a red-hot Checkers team on Sunday. The Toronto Marlies might currently hold a playoff spot, but this is a team in crisis after winning just four of their last 17 games (4-12-1).
Call-ups, injuries, and a new coach are all excuses that have been bandied about, but this isn’t a Marlies roster bereft of offensive talent or experience. Countless poor performances and — more worryingly — a lack of real fight in their game has seen Toronto allow four or more goals against in ten of their last 17 outings, including this humbling loss in Charlotte.
There were just two moments of promise in the opening frame from Toronto, with Teemu Kivihalme coming close on a play where he was the trailer in the high slot, while Hudson Elynuik and Joseph Duszak combined to create an opportunity for the Finnish defenseman.
Otherwise, it was a litany of turnovers and poor decision making by the Marlies, who were fortunate to enter the intermission down by just one goal.
Joseph Woll was called on to make two fantastic saves, but he was finally beaten as the Marlies penalty kill was picked apart just 17 seconds into Charlotte’s second man advantage. One simple pass from Jake Bean took all four Marlies skaters out of the play before Morgan Geekie placed a perfect low shot into the far corner of the net.
A lack of competitive intensity, an area I’ve been hammering home in this game reviews, was a point of note from Greg Moore in his post game comments. It was really apparent as Toronto gave up a goal just 19 seconds into the second period and were down 4-0 by the midway mark of the game.
David Gust was allowed to coast between the hash marks and right faceoff dot, corral a pass from Roland McKeown, and go totally unchallenged as he picked his spot past Woll.
That was followed by Julien Gauthier skating by three Marlies players unchallenged; while he was turned aside initially by Woll, the Toronto goaltender lost track of the puck and Gauthier was the first to respond after taking a loop around the back of the net.
The fourth goal was the coup de grace. With a little pressure from Eetu Luostarinen in the neutral zone, Tanner MacMaster attemtped a sloppy back pass towards his defensemen. It perfectly split Kristians Rubins and Jordan Schmaltz, allowing Luostarinen to skate in alone and net his seventh of the season.
Complacency seemed to set in at this point for Charlotte as Toronto netted three times in under four minutes, beginning with a goal that Alex Nedeljkovic likely wanted back. A pass by Jeremy Bracco toward net wasn’t travelling with much pace, and the slightest of touches by Jordan Schmaltz was enough to deceive the Charlotte goaltender.
The fourth line crated havoc for the second Marlies goal, with the Checkers put off by the antics of Rich Clune as he got under their skin. Elynuik ended up tipping home a shot by Duszak to halve the deficit.
After a power play tally by Kenny Agostino put Toronto within one, the game was briefly alive again, but the Checkers regained their composure, took back momentum, and scored a power play goal of their own through Steven Lorentz to end the period ahead 5-3.
Had Charlotte been more motivated, they could likely have run up the score and gotten close to double figures in the final frame, but after striking twice in nine minutes, they let the foot off the gas pedal.
Geekie and Lorentz helped themselves to their second goals of the game, but neither seemed particularly interested in a hat-trick as Charlotte coasted to what was likely their easiest victory of the season.
Post Game Notes
– The Marlies penalty kill gave up three goals over the weekend and is now ranked 30th in the AHL at 77.3%.
– Kenny Agostino reached 20 goals for the season with his power play tally. It’s the third time the veteran left winger has reached that milestone in the AHL. He is on pace to overtake his previous best of 24 goals for Chicago in 2016-17.
– There were some curious line-up decisions for this game, with Nic Petan sitting out as a healthy scratch, Colt Conrad finally getting into a game while slotting in on the top line, and Tanner MacMaster receiving promotion to center on the second line.
– Rich Clune appeared to injure his left knee during an altercation late in the third period, but he was able to skate off the ice despite initially hitting the ice in agony.
– Sunday’s lines: