The Toronto Marlies haven’t won a game in regulation since November 13, 2021.
It is a run of seven games following a feeble 5-1 defeat on home ice to the Laval Rocket on Sunday. The defensive issues persist, and the slow starts to each game (actually, each period in this outing) are a huge question to ask of the coaching staff and the team.
The Marlies should have found themselves trailing inside two minutes when Laval pounced on a turnover just outside their blue line. After a swift transition play, Jean-Sébastien Dea fired into the mid-section of Petr Mrazek.
The Czech goaltender was receiving a rude introduction to what life has been like for his Marlies contemporaries this season. He found himself picking the puck out of his net with 4:31 on the clock after an opening goal that was a microcosm of the game.
A lost battle along the left wall inside the Marlies zone resulted in time for Brandon Gignac to weigh up his options before picking out Danick Martel skating down the middle of the zone. Jack Kopacka neither engaged the Laval forward or attempted to block the incoming shot, only providing a perfect screen as Mrazek was beaten by a top-shelf finish.
Toronto was clearly the second-best team for the first half of the opening frame, but they flipped a switch in the final 10 minutes. The Marlies recorded eight shots without reply but were unable to level the scoreline.
They could count themselves a little unlucky after a shot from Joseph Duszak on the power play appeared to cross the goal line and bounce straight back out off of the bar. There was no review by the officials, very little appeal by the Marlies players on the ice, and curiously, the broadcast team did not mention the play again. It was all very bizarre, especially when you consider the only play reviewable by the American Hockey League is whether a puck crosses the goal line.
Any momentum gained by a strong finish to the opening frame dissipated inside the opening three minutes of the second period.
Alex Steeves perhaps should have done better when he was denied by Cayden Primeau’s comfortable short-side blocker save 60 seconds in before Matthew Hellickson coughed the puck up in the defensive zone and the Marlies never fully recovered. It was too easy for Terrance Amorosa to send a cross-ice feed to Dea for a tap-in from the blue paint.
Against the run of play, Toronto drew within one at the eight-minute mark. After a long stretch pass by Alex Biega found Semyon Der-Arguchintsev for a 2-on-1 break, SDA weighted a perfect pass to his right, where Brett Seney’s one-time finish beat Cayden Primeau.
Any hope of tying the game was extinguished two and a half minutes later when a turnover in the Laval zone resulted in an odd-man rush back toward the Rocket’s net. Martel teed up Gignac, who made a nice move to beat Mrazek.
The deficit would have been larger heading into the final frame if not for Mrazek, who pulled off some good saves — none better than his stop on Rafaël Harvey-Pinard following yet another defensive-zone turnover by the Marlies.
The game was done as a contest inside 60 seconds of the final frame after Alex Belzile’s power-play tally, timed at 52 seconds, put an end to any chance of an unlikely Toronto comeback.
The Rocket did a professional job of closing the game out, with Primeau only called on to make three saves of note. Laval also almost put the icing on the cake with a short-handed marker but struck the post.
The Rocket found a fifth goal after Greg Moore opted to pull Mrazek with five minutes remaining as Dea padded his stats by scoring into the empty net from the Laval zone. A sorry end to a sorry performance.
Post Game Notes
– The Marlies have lost all three games to Laval this season, conceding 16 goals in the process.
“Inconsistent,” is how Greg Moore labeled the effort. “Last time we played them, we had a better start, a better first 40 minutes. By the 10-minute mark, shots were 5-1 for them. We found our game in the last 10 minutes of the first period and outshot them 9-0. We came out for the second period, they scored a couple, and I felt there was a lack of passion, lack of response, and a lack of energy on the bench.”
– Toronto’s special teams continue to struggle. The power play failed through five attempts (notwithstanding the possible goal that wasn’t), while the penalty kill gave up a goal on four opportunities for Laval.
– Petr Mrazek gave up four goals on his Marlies’ debut, which I assume is a one-and-done deal with a recall to come this week. I saw some people on social media lambasting his performance, but he was fine. He moved freely without any issues, made a handful of good saves when the game was still close, and showed good rebound control. It is so difficult to judge goaltending performance behind a Marlies team that rarely turns up for anything close to a 60-minute effort.
“He looked good,” said Moore. “He didn’t look like he was hesitant. I thought he gave us a great effort. He kept us in the game. A lot of the mistakes and reasons for the puck going in the net were on us… Petr is a great goaltender, and we want to do our best for him for sure to set him up for success in his return to play. It is a bit disappointing tonight that we couldn’t do a better job in front of him.”
– Sunday’s lines:
Steeves – Abramov – Ho-Sang
Seney – Der-Arguchintsev – Gogolev
McMann – Douglas – McKenna
Kopacka – Chyzowski – Clune
Dahlström – Duszak
Král – Rubins
Hellickson – Biega