As I sit here writing this it’s 4 hours before the Marlies play their 5th game of this young season and third this weekend. Yes the AHL schedule is crazy but I’ve trodden down that path before.
So four games in the Toronto Marlies have sandwiched two poor losses(0-4 & 1-4) in-between an opening day victory over Rochester (3-1) and a 5-0 pummeling of the Hamilton Bulldogs last night. So a little erratic to start the season but that was always to be expected for many reasons.
Dallas Eakins has taken it upon himself to implement Randy Carlyle’s system that will be used with the Leafs at some point (hopefully). This is always going to take time to settle is, as with the new players in the squad. 8 new players essentially and with 3 of those being defenseman, some new partnerships need to be struck. Let’s not also forget that basically the Marlies have 5 lines going in training right now as a result of the Lockout.
The defense has been shaky at times, individual errors responsible for goals in both losses, especially in the 4-1 reverse to the Bulldogs. However after last nights solid performance and some stellar net minding from Rynnas this is sure to improve. Goaltending is going to be a huge issue moving forward the longer this Lockout lasts and with three guys waiting to play some tough decisions have to be made. Eakins has basically said he will ride the hot hand. Rynnas will play if feeling up to it after last night’s exertions and should he be stellar again do you even contemplate benching him next weekend? All this while Mark Owuya sits on his hands. Somehow they have to try and find this talented young tender some hockey in the meantime.
The powerplay, a bone of contention for the whole of last season, is showing some signs of life but is still hooked up to the life support machine. Four goals have been tallied on the PP but these came in 2 games and against Lake Erie (0-4 loss) the Marlies went 0-12 with the man advantage. 4 for 33 isn’t terrible but with the skill set this group has you would expect it to be better than the 27th best in the league like last year. Expect the Marlies to draw even more penalties with the group of players they have this year so making the PP count is going to be very important.
The penalty kill has stuttered a little but I’m comparing it to how incredible it was last year, I expect it to be as good this year with time.
A few players have caught the eye for me so far starting with Kenny Ryan in for his first start last night, showed Eakins what he could do as he netted two goals, had a fight and was generally feisty all game. Making it hard now to leave him out.
Greg McKegg in his first full AHL season has been the most consistent player to my mind. Always where he should be on the ice which paid dividends last night with the opening and GWG goal. As good in the back end as he has been going forward and worthy of his spot in the line-up.
When Keith Aucoin was signed I imagined folks though he would just rack up points automatically. He finally did just that last night with 3 points, all primaries but most impressive is his ability to see a pass. His vision on the ice means he’s always a threat.
Mike Kostka, he of the infamous Game 3 Calder Cup Final goal (ya I’m still not over that), has formed a nice little partnership with the rookie Jake Gardiner. Although he has looked a little suspect in his own end at times, Kostka has looked tremendous on offense. A goal and an assist last night to give him a point a game in four starts.
Leo Komarov hasn’t caught my eye so much as intrigued me. I get the impression he is still finding his feet in North American hockey and came a cropper several times against Lake Erie, in particular on one of the goals conceded. Last night he picked up his first point with an assist and had 7 PIM including a fight. He really could turn out to be anything this season.
Kadri, love him or loathe him he’s a character and one hell of a hockey player. He’s been pretty consistent thus far and his points tally doesn’t reflect his play. How he didn’t pot one or two goals alone last night is a mystery. He has risen to the challenge set by management and I’m hopefully he’ll have a great season. Still JUST 22 years old.
Great to see Ricoh essentially sold out for 2 of the 3 home games and still a fair 4472 attendance for the other. Very much hoping this is a trend that continues long after I’ve headed back to the UK.
It’s been great to watch the boys in blue and white even if it isn’t the NHL, please win for me today eh! Lets Go Marlies.