“We just never got on track. A little disappointing. We didn’t seize the opportunity. We just have to move on from it.

We are so close to being a really good team in this league, but so close to not.

We have to look at ourselves in the mirror, coaches included.”

– John Gruden

A crowd of over 7,000 should have inspired the Toronto Marlies to complete a weekend sweep over their rivals and put some distance between them in the standings.

The Marlies produced one of their worst performances this season and received the shellacking they deserved. With every single point taking on huge significance in the second half of the season, it’s baffling to watch this group lay down in a crucial divisional game.

As they have done on so many occasions this season, Toronto spotted their opponent an early multi-goal lead and could not respond.

First Period

Toronto was the better team in the first five minutes, but there was poor execution when it mattered offensively. Key passes went astray and shots from high-danger areas missed the net as the game remained goalless. 

There was a sense that Toronto felt that a goal would arrive in due course after hammering Laval the previous evening, but following a cagey spell of 4-on-4 action, lackadaisical play saw the Marlies fall behind.

Keith Petruzzelli made an incredible double-stop — including making the second save with the shaft of his stick — but he was left hung out to dry by his teammates. Filip Cederqvist jammed home the loose puck to give the Rocket a 1-0 lead.

A second goal quickly followed after Kyle Clifford went to the box for a lazy tripping penalty.

Petruzzelli appeared to glove a shot by Philippe Maillet, but the officials waved off the protests from the goaltender and several Toronto players after Xavier Simoneau stabbed the puck across the goal line.

Laval struck for a third time inside the final two minutes of the period. Old habits die hard, and poor defensive coverage resulted in a tap-in for Jan Myšák following a wraparound.

After the first five minutes, this was as pathetic of a period as I’ve witnessed from Toronto this season, but worse was still to come.

Second Period

Petruzzelli made way for Dennis Hildeby, but fortunes did not improve for the Marlies. After wasting a couple of good scoring chances and a power play, Toronto conceded a fourth goal just after the midway point.

It was another shambolic effort as Toronto failed to clear the zone on three separate occasions and Nathan Légaré scored his fifth of the season.

The Marlies then wasted another man advantage, leading to two goals in 73 seconds for Laval.

Simoneau made it 5-0 on the power play, and just when you thought it couldn’t become any worse, it did. A giveaway by Kieffer Bellows straight to Logan Mailloux should not have been catastrophic, but the Marlies split like the Red Sea. The Rocket defenceman breezed his way into the slot to score under no pressure whatsoever.

A power-play tally by Roni Hirvonen gave the home crowd something to smile about, but even a team as weak as Laval was never going to throw away such a huge lead.

Third Period

As you might expect, the third period was mostly a non-event. The Marlies found a way to fall to new depths, though, as they conceded a seventh goal in pitiful circumstances.

A lack of effort gifted Laval a short-handed goal as Légaré struck for a second time. It summed up a wretched performance from a group of players that have to take some accountability. The opportunity to respond quickly in a positive fashion arrives on Wednesday with a school-day game against Pittsburgh’s affiliate.

Post Game Notes

– This marked the heaviest loss of the season for Toronto and the third occasion they’ve allowed seven goals.

– The Marlies would have opened up a six-point break on Laval with a victory. Instead, just three points separates 3rd from 7th as the standings tighten up further.

– Saturday’s lineup vs. Laval:

Hirvonen – Shaw – Abruzzese
Clifford – Gambrell – Steeves
Bellows – Tverberg – Blandisi
Mastrosimone – Slavin – Solow

Kokkonen – Villeneuve
Rifai – Niemelä
Gaunce – Miller