“Our players proved today we weren’t ready to play in the first period, which is extremely frustrating. We’re fighting this consistency thing with the group. It’s not even about the X’s and the O’s, the systems, and the decisions at times.
It’s just effort-based. The lack of preparation and a lack of readiness for our group to find motivation for them to want to get up and play full 60 minutes for the team — for each other — is getting frustrating.
We didn’t come out in the first period to execute our game plan.”
– Greg Moore
With each passing game in this strange AHL season, it appears as if there is a growing disconnect between the Toronto Marlies‘ players and the coaching staff.
Greg Moore’s tenure has not been smooth sailing, and his rosters have been shorn of the kind of top-end talent from the era of Sheldon Keefe, who molded his groups into successful teams that included many future NHL graduates. But the bottom line is that the performances under Moore have been poor with no real signs of improvement. Toronto has suffered 38 regulation defeats in 68 games (27-38-3) under the guidance of the former Chicago Steel head coach.
The warning signs arrived early in this game.
It was just the three-minute mark when a misplay forced Frederik Anderson into his first save of the game — a comfortable pad save.
From that point on, the Marlies turned the puck over with consistency. Teemu Kiivhalme was indebted to Andersen for his save on rookie Cole Perfetti, and the unforced errors continued from there, ultimately leading to Manitoba’s opening goal at the six-minute mark.
An intended breakout pass in the defensive zone hit Noel Hoefenmayer in the skate and rebounded to Nathan Todd, who swiftly sent Jeff Malott in all alone on goal. Malot slotted the puck through Andersen’s five-hole for his 13th goal of the season.
Toronto surrendered a second goal less than two minutes later when Nicholas Jones dished the puck to Ty Pelton-Byce, who had gathered up a head of steam through the neutral zone in transition. The Wisconsin rookie shed the trailing Tyler Gaudet and eased his way past Filip Kral, who should not have allowed the youngster to comfortably switch from his backhand to forehand to get off a shot. A low shot inside the far post of Andersen’s net was perfectly placed, and the Danish netminder had now given up two goals inside eight minutes.
Toronto generated just one scoring chance of note and four shots in total through the opening frame. Mikhail Berdin turned away a one-time shot from Scott Pooley on a nice feed from Rich Clune.
There was an early chance for Noel Hoefenamyer in the slot after Berdin’s poke check fell into the path of the defenseman, but the Manitoba goaltender redeemed himself with a pad save.
The Marlies then got themselves on the board with 2:43 on the clock. An attempted feed into the slot by Tyler Gaudet turned into a broken play and a battle for the loose puck, with Mikko Kokkonen credited for the touch that presented Pavel Gogolev with possession. The rookie forward showed poise to settle the puck down before finishing from an acute angle on his backhand.
With 31 minutes played, Andersen’s Marlies debut came to a close as planned and Woll entered the crease.
There would be no repeat of the heroics in Laval, however. After a speculative hard pass into the slot from below the goal line hit Woll’s left leg and the puck found its way into the twine, Toronto found themselves trailing 3-1 with six minutes remaining in the middle frame.
60 seconds later, a fantastic last-ditch effort from Kenny Agostino denied the Moose a clear scoring chance on a 2-on-1 break.
Thanks to a pair of mistakes from Berdin, Toronto tied the game up with two goals inside 33 seconds. The goaltender came out to play the puck during a Marlies power play but misjudged the situation, failing to fully reset before he was beaten by Nick Robertson.
Berdin’s second error was worse than his first. Dwelling in possession behind his net, the Russian netminder was stripped by Kalle Kossila and Rourke Chartier slotted home his second of the year on the backhand. After gifting Toronto two goals, Berdin was pulled by the Manitoba coaching staff.
To their credit, the Moose got right back to work, re-establishing a lead before the end of the middle frame. Neither Hoefenmayer or Antti Suomela picked up the late trailer in Nelson Nogier, who only had to find the target with a screen taking Woll’s eyes away.
Another example of missed assignments and puck watching costing the Marlies this season.
Could Toronto find a way to push back as they did against Laval? Nope.
Taking three penalties in the opening eight minutes of the period denied the Marlies any chance of generating a sustained push before the Moose doubled their lead with 10 minutes remaining.
It was a simple goal for Manitoba, who just outworked Toronto. Nicholas Jones made Teemu Kivihalme look foolish along the boards and dished off to Peter Kreiger, who sent a pass to Cole Maier on the turn. The centerman from New Jersey isn’t noted for his goal-scoring ability, but he comfortably beat Woll with a powerful one-time shot.
Cole Kehler made just seven shots in relief of Berdin in the final frame.
Post Game Notes
– Frederik Andersen did not play as badly as certain members of Leafs‘ media would have you believe. He did look rusty and a little unsure of his movement initially after so much time off, but he seemed to improve as the game progressed, an assessment he agreed with afterward.
“Yeah, I thought I felt a little rust in the first and early in the game,” said Andersen. “It was just [a case of] trusting myself, and I think that got better as we went on with the game.”
Andersen is slated to play the full game on Saturday, which will give everyone a better idea of where he is game stands.
– It was the first ever AHL goal for Pavel Gogolev, who has made a strong impression in four games. It would have been interesting to see what it could have accomplished in a full season, either in the ECHL or with Toronto, and it would seem to make sense to bring him back next season.
– Tyler Gaudet recorded his 10th assist of the season on Toronto’s first goal.
– Thursday’s lines: