Excellent special teams and a stellar goaltending performance from Erik Källgren helped paper over the cracks in Friday night’s win over Springfield.
However, the defensive frailties of this current Marlies team remain a massive issue. Combined with an underwhelming performance from Michael Hutchinson, it resulted in the Marlies blowing leads of 3-1 and 4-3 en route to another avoidable defeat on Saturday night.
Neither team was intent on playing defense and both goaltenders performed averagely in the first 20 minutes, resulting in five total goals that easily could have been more.
A nondescript goal set the tone inside the first five minutes when a speculative shot from Joseph Duszak from the left boards somehow snuck through Cory Schenider to give Toronto a 1-0 lead.
At this stage, Bridgeport was performing like a team that has won just seven of 23 games and had just given up its 70th goal against. Antti Suomela should have doubled the lead a minute later, but he rang his shot off the post during a 2-on-1 break.
Toronto made it 2-0 during four-on-four action amid a plethora of penalties. Joey Anderson should have scored in tight, but his effort rebounded off of the backboards and straight to Brett Seney. The angle wasn’t great for Seney, but Schneider was far enough out of position that a shot on target was enough to double the lead.
Puck management and attention to detail in the defensive zone remain a major sore spot for this Marlies team and were the culprits on the 1-1 goal. Bobby McMann attempted to find Semyon Der-Arguchintsev with a pass up the wall, but the puck bobbled on SDA, who was unaware of the situation around him. Austin Czarnik picked off the pass and found the unmarked Chris Terry, who doesn’t miss from the slot as his scoring record in the AHL shows.
Bridgeport gifted Toronto a third goal on just the Marlies‘ sixth shot of the game. It was a nice play by Mikhail Abramov coming out of the left corner — a beautiful cross-ice feed through a bunch of bodies and sticks found Curtis Douglas at the back post, where the big man one-timed a shot that went straight through Schneider.
The Islanders again reduced the deficit to one before the period ended. The Marlies did a poor job of closing down Grant Hutton at the point and clearing the traffic in front, although Michael Hutchinson lost his positioning in the net sliding so far to his left. Otto Koivula applied the redirect to Hutton’s shot, and the Islanders should have been grateful to be trailing by just one at the break.
Both teams continued to generate scoring chances in the middle frame. With Toronto on the penalty kill inside three minutes, Bridgeport generated several excellent scoring chances but received little in the way of puck luck. The Marlies also came close at the other end, where Joey Anderson came within a whisker of a second shorthanded tally of the weekend.
Back at 5v5, McMann rang a shot off the crossbar following a dazzling sequence of play from Josh Ho-Sang to create the scoring opportunity.
Bridgeport tied the game up at the midway mark on another power-play opportunity. With Duszak in the box for a sloppy delay-of-game penalty, Czarnik buried his sixth of the season.
To the Marlies’ credit, they responded positively after conceding. A perfect pass from Ho-Sang split the defense, but Curtis Douglas hit the post on a partial breakaway.
Toronto then regained the lead courtesy of an ugly sequence from the Islanders. After a turnover in the neutral zone allowed Carl Dahlström an easy offensive zone entry on the right wing, there appeared to be little danger in the air with the Marlies in an outnumbered situation.
The Swedish defenseman chipped a pass inside to Jack Kopacka, who attempted more of a redirect than a powerful shot on target. The puck deflected into the net via the skates of stationary Connor McCarthy positioned at the top of the blue paint.
This game might have been curtains if Toronto followed it up by doubling their lead inside the final 20 seconds when Ho-Sang instigated his own breakaway. He is normally clinical in those situations, but Schenider’s best moment of the game preserved the one-goal deficit at the intermission.
Toronto’s performance in the final frame was unacceptable, to put it kindly. The Marlies mustered just six shots in total — only three of them resembled a scoring opportunity, all of which arrived in their push in the final two minutes.
The Islanders netted twice in the space of 77 seconds and never looked back. Andy Andreoff beat Hutchinson clean with a wrist shot from the point, albeit with the attention of Chris Terry alone in the blue paint. To call it a good screen is pretty generous.
The fifth Bridgeport goal and eventual game-winner was the icing on the cake as far as Hutchinson’s performance was concerned. From below the goal line in the left corner of the Marlies zone, Otto Koivula threw the puck toward the net on the lowest of low-percentage plays, but the puck somehow found a way through Hutchinson.
You could fairly argue that the goal knocked the wind out of Marlies’ sails, although there was little impetus from Toronto to start the period. It was as lifeless of a period of play we’ve seen from the Marlies this season against one of the worst teams in the AHL. It also marked the 10th occasion they have given up five or more goals in a single game just 19 games into the season.
Post Game Notes
– The special teams battle was won by Bridgeport as they netted once with the man advantage. Toronto failed to score on three power plays, albeit one of those was only for the final 18 seconds of the game.
– Brett Seney scored his 10th goal of the season and is the first Toronto player to reach double figures.
– A three-point haul for Joseph Duszak included his first goal of the year. The penalty trouble I mentioned in the last recap resurfaced with a brain-fart delay of game infraction. Bridgeport scored on that power play. Duszak leads all active defensemen in AHL scoring with 19 points in 16 games.
– Mikhail Abramov recorded his first AHL multi-point haul with a pair of assists. It broke a six-game pointless slump for the rookie centerman.
– If Ian Scott and Joseph Woll were both healthy, I would like to think we would see very little of Michael Hutchinson from this point on. One good performance against Chicago has been sandwiched by poor showings that have directly cost the Marlies points. Hutchinson is 2-3-2 on the year with a .887 save percentage, and for a goaltender who has previously been elite at this level, he’s currently inspiring little confidence in the team in front of him.
– Saturday’s lines:
Seney – Abramov – Anderson
McMann – Douglas – Ho-Sang
Chyzowski – Der-Arguchintsev – McKenna
Kopacka – Suomela – Clune
Dahlström – Duszak
Krys – Král
Hellickson – Hollowell