The second three-in-three of the season for the Toronto Marlies certainly wasn’t devoid of talking points away from the rink, with plenty of transactions and goaltending sub-plots
Beginning with the action on the ice, it all began so well as Toronto put in a terrific performance in front
of rookie goaltender Ryan Massa, who was making his Marlies debut.
Syracuse were unable to live with the visitors, and fired just one shot on Massa during the opening twenty minutes. A powerplay goal from Leivo in the first period, was added to with a double blast from Carrick and Gauthier, putting the Marlies up 3-0 seven minutes into the middle frame.
Syracuse would break Massa’s shutout bid in the third period with a powerplay marker but Toronto kept the home team to the outside for the majority of the game, allowing just 17 shots on net through the sixty minutes for a 3-1 victory.
That was as good as the weekend got for the Marlies who were comprehensively put in their place by the visiting St. John’s IceCaps.
Saturday’s matinee game at the ACC was an abject performance from the Marlies, probably their worst showing on the year. William Nylander would be benched in the third period during his poorest performance this season, and he was culpable for the IceCaps opening goal. Antoine Bibeau had not made the trip to Syracuse to keep him fresh, but he looked incredibly rusty and out of sorts. A nice powerplay goal from Leipsic tied the game, with the left winger showing patience and a good deal of poise before firing top shelf.
The middle frame was all about the visitors and the Marlies were lucky to only be trailing 3-2 after forty minutes. Toronto’s lone goal coming from Frattin deflecting a shot from Campbell. It’d take just 52 seconds for the IceCaps to tally in the third period, and despite taking their foot of the gas slightly, two more markers would complete a 6-2 victory.
Sunday’s game back at Ricoh Coliseum was more notable for poor officiating and a plethora of penalties than the actual hockey played.
A pair of powerplay markers and one during four-on-four put St. John’s up 3-0 after twenty minutes.
Yet again Bibeau struggled and he would want a couple of those goals back. Toronto responded with a better second period showing, Brennan scoring the only goal on the powerplay, with Bibeau responding by shutting the door to keep his team in the game.
Allowing another early third period goal put to a halt the momentum of the second period and any chance of a comeback was extinguished soon after by Brennan’s error, presenting MacMillan with an easy marker from the slot to secure a 5-1 IceCaps victory.
Two points from a possible six and a weekend where Albany and St. John’s both made ground on Toronto, cutting their advantage atop the North Division.
It was also the first time this season that the Marlies have lost two straight.
Sheldon Keefe had been warning against the hype, impressing upon his players and media, that the team hadn’t been playing that well and offense was covering much of the deficiencies.
How right he was and there is much to do before next weekend.
Special teams were certainly to the forefront, no more so than on Sunday.
Despite Toronto notching a powerplay goal in each game, they also allowed at least one as well.
Powerplay was 3/15 while the penalty kill allowed five on sixteen times shorthanded.
James Martin was signed to an AHL contract after Petter Granberg failed to clear waivers after being claimed by Nashville.
Ryan Rupert was re-assigned to Orlando with Brett Findlay and Jack Rodewald coming back the other way.
The story of the weekend was Ryan Massa being called up from Orlando, starting on Friday and recording a win in the process. Massa is a 25yo rookie and is backing up Rob Madore with the Solar Bears this season. Pulled in his last outing for Orlando, it was some achievement for Massa to record the win on debut for Marlies, despite only facing 17 shots.
Many healthy scratches were made for the trip to Syracuse to keep players fresh for the weekend, a move that eventually backfired but that‘s on the players, not the coaching staff.
After Saturday’s loss, Keefe would make Arcobello, Kapanen, Valiev, Johnson, Bailey, Arcobello and Loov healthy scratches for Sunday, and slot Jack Rodewald into the line-up for his seasonal debut.
T.J Brennan lead the way with three points but he had a poor performance by his high standards on Sunday.
Andrew Campbell added another pair of points to take his tally to eight on the season. His career high of 19 points looks well within his sights at this juncture.
Justin Bourne signed as Toronto Marlies video coach, replacing Ryan Ward who moved up to the Leafs.
How can I not finish without mentioning Garret Sparks. His excellent play with the Marlies during November was rewarded with the Leafs on an historic Tuesday night.
The Leafs kept us guessing as to the health of Reimer and Sparks took his chance.
What happens with the Marlies goaltending situation this week and heading into the weekend, could be an interesting watch.
Toronto face yet another three-in-three this weekend, with travel on Friday before returning for two home games.
A preview will be coming up later this week.
Fri, Dec 4, 2015 Toronto at Rochester 7:05 pm EST
Sat, Dec 5, 2015 Manitoba at Toronto 5:00 pm EST
Sun, Dec 6, 2015 Manitoba at Toronto 3:00 pm EST (ACC)