Another successful week for the Toronto Marlies, victorious in all three games as the point streak rolls on.
Divisional games have never been more important with the AHL’s new structure and six points against rivals now will mean so much more four months down the line.
The last game of the November road-trip was played just over the border in Rochester on Wednesday evening. In contract to the goal fest of the previous weekend, just one strike would determine the outcome of this game. The Amerks began the game brightly and had the better chances during the first period but it was Toronto who ultimately dominated for large stretches of play. They would be denied by a fine performance from Rochester goaltender Andrey Makarov, who was outstanding during regulation play, making 36 saves. He was helpless 88 seconds into overtime as Toronto struck on a powerplay carried over from the third period as Brendan Leipsic applying the finish touch after Nylander had found him with a deft pass across the crease.
Rochester would again provide the opposition as the Marlies finally retuned home on Saturday.
The first game at Ricoh Coliseum this November saw Toronto struggle early on and once again Rochester dominated the early proceedings, leading the shot count 8-1 at one stage.
It took a piece of fantastic play from Brendan Leipsic to break the deadlock.
A 4 on 2 break for the home side with Leipsic in possession on the right wing. With his head up, Leipsic sent a perfectly weighted pass across to the trailing man on the play, T.J Brennan who duly beat Makarov with a wrist shot from the left circle.
Toronto doubled their lead in the second period, Nylander striking his ninth on the tear and it could have been more. The game was done with as a contest six minutes into the final frame as Panik and then a Frattin powerplay marker made it 4-0. Sparks looked on course for a shutout but that was ruined as Varone was allowed a shorthanded breakaway and duly obliged. Sparks would tally two assists in this game, including on the empty netter which was scored by Rinat Valiev for his first professional goal.
Sunday’s opponents were Binghamton and with just three officials and the history between these two side this season, Keefe saw fit to switch out Leivo to bring in Justin Johnson. In comparison to the previous two games, this was a timid affair. Toronto made the fast start on this occasion, tallying a powerplay goal inside the opening minute. Kapanen and Nylander playing catch with the puck before the former fired home from the hash marks. Binghamton would deservedly hold a 2-1 lead after twenty minutes, and it could have been many more if not for the excellence of Bibeau and some good fortune on Toronto’s part. Cue yet another brilliant second period, firing 22 shots and turning the game on his head. A three goal burst in under five minutes began with Nylander scoring on a rebound from Kapanen, and was followed up by Hyman teeing up Panik and then Kapanen was the architect of Arcobello’s seventh of the season. The Senators would fail to go away, pulling back within one on two further occasions but Toronto held out for a 6-4 victory.
The November “Royal road-trip” finished with the Marlies recording a 6-0-1 record, their best ever.
Three wins last week pushed the point streak to ten games, the longest run since 2012/13.
The 9-0-1 record makes them the joint best form team along with Milwaukee Admirals.
The Marlies lead the North Division by eight points although Albany have two games in hand.
Despite leading the Eastern Conference by three points, the AHL is now using points percentage to determine placing so Toronto sit second behind Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at this moment in time.
A total of 74 goals scored is comfortably more than any other team in the Eastern Conference with the nearest in the league being the Texas Stars (Pacific Division) with 69.
William Nylander owns the outright league lead in points (23 in 17 games). Extended his point streak to ten games and netted his tenth goal, of which just one has come on the powerplay.
Brendan Leipsic had his most productive week of the season, with four points in three games. Both his goals were game winners, the first an overtime powerplay goal and the second on Sunday, his first at even strength.
It hasn’t been plain sailing for Kasperi Kapanen this season. Struggling to find his feet early and then becoming injured but boy did we see what he’s capable of in spurts on Saturday and even more so in Sunday. His combination play with Nylander was perhaps a glimpse into the not too distant future.
Richard Panik takes little of the glory when this team is spoken about in glowing terms but a three point week saw him hit PPG pace and take second place in Marlies scoring.
Garret Sparks continued his excellent play, recording a second shutout of the season on Wednesday which should have been a third on Saturday but for the powerplay unit letting him down.
His record sits at 8-2-1 and has allowed just a solitary goal in last 58 shots faced.
Next weekend see’s the second 3-in-3 of the season for Toronto.
In their first (Oct 23-25) they recorded two wins and a loss in three road games.
A first trip to Syracuse awaits on Friday before returning home for a pair of home games against the IceCaps which could be anything after the carnage we witnessed the last twice these two teams did battle.
More importantly these are three divisional games which as I alluded to earlier, are so critical to win with the points percentage system. I’ll be previewing the weekend later this week in greater detail.
Fri, Nov 27, 2015 Toronto at Syracuse 7:00 pm EST
Sat, Nov 28, 2015 St. John’s at Toronto 2:00 pm EST
Sun, Nov 29, 2015 St. John’s at Toronto 1:00 pm EST