“Our lack of compete right from the start… For how many points we need right now, what this week is, and what we’ve been talking about, they know our playoff lives are on the line here… That first period wasn’t good enough and to think we can just turn it on late against a team like this… The players should be really down on themselves.”
– Toronto Marlies head coach Greg Moore
After a gutsy win in Texas on Monday, that the Toronto Marlies put on such an abject showing with their playoff hopes on the line in Belleville on Wednesday is a total head-scratcher.
Squaring off against a Belleville team backstopped by a debuting goaltender — who was one year removed from Canadian University hockey and playing behind a below-average defense — the Marlies were in a good position to take something away from this game had they been able to knuckle down and compete hard for 60 minutes.
It took less than nine minutes for Belleville to build a 2-0 lead as they feasted on a pair of defensive-zone turnovers.
The Marlies were second-best all over the ice, with only Joseph Woll keeping the scoreline within reach.
A Miikka Salomaki shorthanded goal halved the deficit, but it was far more than the Marlies deserved. It was certainly an indication that rookie goaltender Alex Dubeau was no world-beater if the Marlies could find another level, competitively speaking, in the middle frame.
The Marlies should have found themselves down 3-1 at the five-minute mark following another terrible turnover; instead, Woll made an incredible stick save and the Marlies went straight up the ice and tied the game at 2-2.
Scott Pooley’s wicked wrist shot from a tight angle got the Marlies back in the game against all odds.
There was no shift in momentum, however, and once again Toronto collapsed, giving up three unanswered goals inside six minutes.
Michal Kapla wasn’t paying attention on the first, Tanner MacMaster and Kenny Agostino failed to backcheck in a serious way on the fourth goal, and the fifth was the Josh Norris, Drake Batherson and Vitaly Abramov show as they embarrassed the Marlies.
All around, it just wasn’t good enough. While a Matt Read power-play goal erased some of the damage, Toronto trailed 5-3 after 40 minutes.
Remarkably, there was still some chance at a comeback after Egor Korshkov tallied just three minutes into the third period.
That hope was quickly extinguished as a turnover by Hudson Elynuik in the defensive zone gift-wrapped a goal for Michael Carcone. The game was a non-contest the rest of the way.
Former Marlies Darren Archibald and Morgan Klimchuk made it an 8-4 game — a scoreline that was really harsh on Woll, who Greg Moore decided to leave in between the pipes all the way to the finish.
Toronto has made the playoffs for eight straight years, but that looks like it is about to come to an end unless this team and coaching staff can find some answers to the team’s inconsistent effort level really soon.
A pair of home games against Syracuse Crunch this weekend will ultimately tell us whether this season is, in effect, over. Two regulation wins and the Marlies are back in the mix. Anything less and you can begin to call time on the 2019-20 season.
Toronto Marlies lines vs. Belleville: