Where to begin really.
So many positives and exceptional individual performances, from a Toronto Marlies team that is beginning to find it’s stride.
We’ll start at the beginning of the game, which showed a lot of animosity between two side that haven’t face one another for a few years. A scrum along the boards the early indicator that this encounter would be rough and ready.
A couple of smart saves from Sparks brought yet another big scrum, this time in front of the Marlies net and we were only four minutes in at this stage. A power play for the visiting Marlies failed to break the deadlock but it would be the boys in blue who opened the scoring back at even strength. I’ve watched and re-watched over and I’ve still no idea how Mark Arcobello scored his third in two games. Below the goal line, to the right of the Hartford net, Arcobello slapped the puck in off what appeared to be the shoulder of Hellberg between the pipes. A remarkable goal of great vision and ability to boot.
Nylander would almost double the lead but Hellberg made a smart blocker stop but the story was Arcobello who was responsible for driving the majority of the good play from the Marlies. A man possessed out on the ice, desperate to prove a point.
Sparks continued to keep the door locked as Hartford were looking for the second opportunities.
A nasty fit from behind by Jason Megna left Nylander shaken but he would be fine. Justin Johnson, jumping into defend his team mate, was given a ten minute misconduct following the play.
On the resultant power play Leipsic almost combined with Rupert, but the effort was deflected away.
On Hartford’s first power play of the game, Rupert found Corrado with a perfect pass and an empty net as Hellberg was out of position. Sadly though the puck rolled on the defenseman, likely playing in his last Marlies game.
The middle frame would see no further scoring but wasn’t short of incident. It’d take three minutes for the first whistle to be blown as Toronto made a fast start, often pinning their opponents in their own zone. Hyman teeing up Frattin for the best chance, but Hellberg was equal to the task.
Toronto go themselves into penalty trouble as Campbell and Hyman took penalties that meant two consecutive penalty kills and nine second of being down by two men. It was Nylander who had the best chance during that period of play. Stripping the puck from Zamorsky, it was only the brilliance of Hellberg with an outstanding glove save that denied the Swedish forward.
Arcobello would find iron on the Marlies next man advantage and an effort from Leipsic failed to sneak inside the post when he looked certain to score.
Out-shooting their hosts 11-6 during the second period, Toronto set themselves on the right path for what would be an outstanding final twenty minutes.
A Leivo penalty seven seconds in wasn’t what the doctored ordered, but two minutes after a perfect penalty kill, Toronto would double their lead. Hartford turned the puck over deep inside their own to man of the moment Mark Arcobello. The man who opened the scoring wasted no time in sliding the puck across the crease to Kapanen who fired top shelf. Just 25 seconds later and it was 3-0. Valiev with the gorgeous assist to set up Ryan Rupert on the doorstep. Zach Hyman was another guy flying in this game and after speeding around his man down the left side, then driving to the crease, he couldn’t quite bang home the puck pass Hellberg after losing his balance. There was just one team in the game and with just over ten minutes remaining the Marlies scored their fourth. Sent away by Johnson, Soshnikov headed on a partial breakaway with only Zamorsky for company. The Hartford player seemed to give up, and Soshnikov manoeuvred the puck one handed, onto his forehand before a deft finish past Hellberg. A wonderful finish from a player who is starting to make people sit up and listen.
Hartford’s frustration’s eventually turned into a fight but it was an ill-conceived idea as Justin Johnson pummelled Shawn O’Donnell in a flurry of punches. Richard Panik hadn’t scored a goal yet this season but not to fear as he would be next. Leivo with the hard graft along the walls to find Nylander, who in turn teed up Panik waiting in the slot to blast home his first wearing a Marlies uniform.
Justin Johnson almost joined the party late on but in scoring, he slashed a Hartford player in the process, meaning the goal was waived off and a penalty assessed. Toronto battened down the hatches in the last minute to ensure a well deserved shutout for Garret Sparks and a 5-0 road victory.
Post Game Notes:
Garret Sparks with the first shutout by a Marlies goaltender this season. Not extravagant or spectacular, Sparks’ performance was more noticeable for good positional play and smothering any rebound chances. A total of 29 saves of which 22 were made through the opening forty minutes.
Zach Hyman’s name did not appear on the score sheet but he had his best game up till now. Found some chemistry with Frattin which bodes well.
Mark Arcobello is a difference maker at this level and boy is he proving it. A goal and an assist, his wing mates in Leipsic in Kapanen benefited from his play and expect this line to be kept together.
Nylander is now on a three game point streak and continues at PPG pace.
The penalty kill was perfect on the five occasions called upon agonist an albeit struggling Hartford power play.
All five Marlies goals were scored at even strength.