Shorn of offensive firepower, the Toronto Marlies are embroiled in their longest losing streak this season.
More concerning than the current lack of goal-scoring is the inability to put together a solid 60-minute effort.
After the opening puck drop, Toronto showed a promising amount of intensity and purpose at the start of the game. It lasted around 13 minutes and represented the team’s best opportunity to take anything from this game.
Zach Solow buried a shot into the goaltender’s pads 30 seconds into the proceedings. Toronto killed the first penalty of the game and generated a scoring chance for Alex Steeves as the play returned to five-on-five, but the snakebitten forward made life too easy on Greaves with a weak effort.
Pontus Holmberg proceeded to fire wide from the high slot, and Max Ellis forced Greaves into a shoulder save.
The Marlies‘ opening power play was disjointed but almost broke the deadlock. A blistering shot by Noel Hoefenmayer snuck through Greaves, but Toronto was unable to convert during the ensuing scramble in the blue paint.
It took Cleveland almost 13 minutes to record a shot on target. When they did, Josh Dunne and David Jiricek both tested Erik Källgren.
The Monsters took control of the period from that point on and should have taken a late lead. Robbie Payne raised his shot over the crossbar from the doorstep after Toronto’s defense was carved open with ease.
A drive to the net from below the goal line by Marc Johnstone didn’t end in a goal just 10 seconds into the middle frame. Less than a minute later, Cleveland took the lead.
Logan Shaw misplayed a pass just across the Monsters’ blue line, a mistake that wouldn’t have been an issue if four Toronto skaters weren’t above the puck. Billy Sweezey’s stretch pass created an odd-man rush the other way, where Carsons Meyer finished off a feed by Justin Richards.
Toronto flattered to deceive in terms of a response to falling behind, and the Monsters held the edge in terms of overall scoring chances created.
Cleveland doubled their lead with a little over five minutes remaining in a similar fashion to their opening goal. Two simple passes pull Toronto apart, resulting in another odd-man rush. While Jordie Benn was initially able to cut out the cross-slot feed, the puck fell kindly for Cole Sillinger to tee up Cole Fonstad for a tap-in.
We could not feasibly lay this defeat at the feet of Källgren, but he probably should have done better on the third goal. It was the same old story as Cleveland made their time and space count with a quick passing movement that resulted in Roman Ahcan scoring from the high slot.
Kyle Clifford did nothing to help the plight of the team late in the middle period. When trying to engage with Brendan Miller — who appeared to knock off the Toronto forward’s helmet — Clifford threw punches at the defenseman in a compromised position.
A pair of roughing minors for the veteran forward meant Toronto began the final frame on an elongated penalty kill.
Källgren pulled off six quality saves to begin the period, none better than a fantastic stretch to his right to rob Fonstad of a second goal.
There were sporadic opportunities for Graham Slaggert, Steeves, and Ellis, but Greaves’ shutout big was never under any real threat.
Källgren denied Ahcan on a shorthanded breakaway and was pulled from the game shortly afterward as an injury precaution.
Ahcan rounded off the scoring with an empty-net tally to wrap up an emphatic 4-0 victory for the Monsters.
Post Game Notes
– After the game, Greg Moore chose to view this current slump as a well-timed opportunity late in the season: “There hasn’t been long stretches or big moments of a season where the team hasn’t had to really get through a losing streak,” said the head coach. “We are in one right now. It can be very much a positive thing going into the end of the season.”
– In the past five games, Toronto has been shut out by Charlotte and Cleveland.
– It was a solid season debut for Carl Dahlström, who brings much-needed experience to the blue line late in the year. “What is really impressive is his puck play,” said Moore. “For a first game back all season, his puck play was as good or better than what we saw last year.
“That is great for the work that he has put in and the work that our development staff has done with him on the ice. You could tell he came in very confident and comfortable in the game.”
– Nick Abruzzese missed his first game this season with a lower-body injury and is considered day-to-day.
– Erik Källgren is confirmed as suffering a lower-body injury, with no current update on his status.
– Saturday’s lines:
Clifford – Shaw – Steeves
Ovchinnikov – Holmberg – Ellis
Slaggert – Johnstone – Solow
Centazzo – Badini – Tverberg
Rifai – Benn
Dahlström – Hoefenmayer
Pietroniro – Villeneuve