The final scoreline rarely tells the full story of a game.
This was an extremely opportunistic victory for a Toronto Marlies team that is still struggling to find its feet. They were undisciplined and relied far too heavily on goaltender Erik Källgren, who time and again bailed out a team that gave up far too many high-danger scoring chances.
“It was a weird game,” said Greg Moore. “The first thing is that we have to stay out of the penalty box. That is something where we are having to waste too much time and energy talking about it as a group. We can’t play sustained hockey and win games if we are going to be in the box that often.”
The Wolves should have scored 90 seconds in on C.J Smith’s gilt-edge chance while alone in front following a Marlies turnover, but Erik Källgren stonewalled the Chicago forward.
Somewhat out of the blue, the Marlies built a 2-0 lead inside five minutes. Off of a faceoff, an extra effort from Rich Clune got the puck back to the blue line to Joseph Duszak, whose shot appeared to take a slight deflection as it whistled wide of the net. Bobby McMann anticipated the rebound off of the backboards and out the other side for an easy tap-in.
The Marlies wasted the first power play of the game, but they found a second goal shortly after. The hard-working McMann battled for possession before firing off a bad-angle shot. Curtis Douglas was unable to bury the rebound on the first attempt, but Kurtis Gabriel made no mistake as the Marlies out-worked the Wolves in front of the blue paint.
Chicago halved the deficit just before the midway point of the period with a goal that would have Marlies disappointed the coaching staff. Spencer Smallman emerged with the puck from a possession battle he had no business winning before a pass to his right found Sam Miletic at speed. The Wolves forward breezed by three Toronto defenders before delivering an emphatic finish past Källgren.
Chicago should have at least leveled the scoreline heading into the intermission after a turnover by Josh Ho-Sang behind the Toronto net resulted in what should have been a tap-in for Stelio Mattheos. Källgren had other ideas and continued to play lights-out hockey in a period in which he turned aside six high-danger scoring chances.
The middle frame began at a frantic pace. Neither coaching staff would have been happy about the number of scoring chances created off of the rush.
The crucial fourth goal of the game came inside five minutes. It was a beautifully-crafted goal beginning with Carl Dahlström winning possession in the Marlies zone. The Swedish defenseman looked up and found Noel Hoefenamyer with a perfect breakout pass, leading to an easy offensive-zone entry. A rapid give-and-go between Ho-Sang and Semyon Der-Arguchintsev resulted in the latter finishing from the slot to put Toronto up 3-1.
A parade to the penalty box ensued from there as the Marlies were guilty of three sloppy penalties inside five minutes. The Toronto penalty kill, particularly Källgren, stood up to the test, and to rub salt into the wound of Chicago, the Marlies netted a short-handed marker.
The experienced Alex Biega sized up an opportunity from the defensive zone and sent an excellent breakout pass to Mikhail Abramov, initiating a 2-on-1 rush. Abramov showed a great deal of composure with his cross-ice feed to Marc Michaelis, who manufactured an outstanding backhand finish.
The Wolves thought they had scored on the third and final power play, but it was immediately waved off, with Toronto probably benefitting from an early whistle, although there wasn’t much protest from Chicago.
Despite their 4-1 lead, Toronto was still indebted to Källgren for five outstanding saves on scoring chances in the slot. That meant the Marlies just had to play a relatively clean final frame to claim victory.
Toronto saved their best 20 minutes of play for the final period. Chicago was limited to six shots as the Marlies played in a structured manner without slipping into a defensive shell. It was noticeable how their forechecking ratcheted up a notch.
That commitment paid dividends as Toronto scored an early goal for the third straight period. Pavel Gogolev may not have produced much offense so far this season, but the left winger works on every shift. His persistence in hounding the veteran defenseman Eric Genalis resulted in possession behind the Chicago net. Gogolev then exchanged passes with Noefenmayer at the point before opting to shoot from distance.
The Russian forward beat Beck Warm clean, albeit with the assistance of Rich Clune and Michaelis’ screen in front.
There was very little created offensively by either team for the remaining 15 minutes as the Marlies cruised to a victory that looked unlikely at times through the first two periods.
Post Game Notes
– Erik Källgren allowed four goals on seven shots against Rochester Americans on October 23. The Swedish goaltender was pulled from that game, but he has responded brilliantly since. He’s stopped 102 of the last 106 shots he’s faced for a .962 save percentage over three consecutive wins.
He made 10 outstanding saves and allowed just one goal against a Chicago team that entered the night averaging over 3.5 goals per game. Källgren is 4-2 on the season and is exuding a lot of confidence at the moment.
– It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of Pavel Gogolev. In the previous six games, the left winger has only recorded four shots on goal. In this game alone, he recorded four shots to lead the team in the category. His first goal of the campaign is his third point in as many games. Hopefully, it’s the kick-start to more offensive production in a different role this year.
– The Marlies’ scoresheet included a two-point haul for Bobby McMann, who is making a mockery of the decision to initially send him to the ECHL. The winger has four points in as many games in a bottom-six role. He provides physicality, speed, and an insatiable work rate. His ability to combine his motor with some skill ensured played a direct role in the first two goals of the game.
“He is getting the ice titled,” said Moore. “He is a very strong skater. He plays to his strengths. That is just simply driving his feet, gaining depth into the zone. He sets up the whole team with his power and his strength, forcing the other team to come all the way back into the d-zone, stop in their spots. It sets up the o-zone for our team and establishes a presence at that end of the rink. He has a heck of a shot when he has time and space to shoot the puck.”
– The first line struggled to create much in what was undoubtedly Josh Ho-Sang’s worst game of the season to date. Two reckless turnovers in the defensive zone almost directly led to goals against. Ho Sang’s one moment of magic did lead to a first AHL goal for Semyon Der-Arguchintsev on a lovely give-and-go play.
– Noel Hoefenmayer made his season debut on recall from Newfoundland. He was fairly solid defensively, although he was guilty of two stick infractions. The defenseman registered a pair of even-strength assists.
– The penalty kill went a perfect 5-for-5 and recorded one shorthanded goal.
– Saturday’s lines:
Seney – SDA – Ho-Sang
Steeves – Abramov – McKenna
Gogolev – Michaelis – Gabriel
McMann – Douglas – Clune
Král – Biega
Rub?ns – Duszak
Hoefenmayer – Dahlström