The Toronto Marlies season has reached an impasse.
An exaggeration or hyperbole on my part? Just ask Sheldon Keefe what he thinks.
They might be clear in the standings and scoring more goals than any other team in the league but they are not playing with any sort of structure of late and players are regularly missing assignments.
Head coach Sheldon Keefe has been warning against this for an extended period of time, pointing out that this team’s incredible offensive capabilities have been covering up a multitude of sins.
That was there for all to see in the last home game against Binghamton (6-5 OT loss) and again this past week in Manitoba.
Thursday’s outing would prove the precursor to the shambles on Saturday.
Toronto showed sporadically what they could achieve when they put their best foot forward and it was more than enough against the worst team in the league. A perfectly placed shot from T.J Brennan on the power play put the Marlies up by one after twenty minutes. The lead was doubled four minutes into the second period as Manitoba’s defensive frailties allowed Mark Arcobello to score uncontested from the slot. The game was done as a contest inside a four minute spell as Nikita Soshnikov, Kasperi Kapanen and a second from Arcobello put the Marlies up by five.
Toronto took their foot off the gas and Manitoba kept coming in the third period, scoring twice in the process. With just their fifth shot in the final frame of regulation, the Marlies sealed the 6-2 victory with an empty netter from Zach Hyman.
Sheldon Keefe was far from happy in the post-game presser, citing his team played only ten minutes of what he considered structured hockey.
His mood after Saturday’s game then would not have been a pleasant sight to witness and it’s perhaps telling that no post-game notes or video has been released from Toronto’s coach after the loss.
The Marlies were off the pace from the get-go as Manitoba fired the first ten shots of the game without reply. The home side opened the scoring just 47 seconds in as a pass from Matt Fraser took out three Toronto and Chase DeLeo went top shelf to beat Garret Sparks. The Marlies began to get themselves going at the nine minute mark and Kapanen tied the game up on the power play after a feed from William Nylander. Rich Clune deflected a long range shot from Viktor Loov to make it 2-1 and twenty seconds into the second period it was 3-1 thanks to Connor Brown.
Manitoba would respond inside a minute and deservedly tied the game up before forty minutes of play was through. The tying goal would come on the power play and so would the home teams fourth, early in the third period as they re-took the lead 4-3. The teams would exchange another pair of goals with the man advantage, leaving Toronto trailing 5-4 with four minutes left on the clock.
Inevitably the Marlies offense bailed them out again as Leivo produced a brilliant diving pass to shift the puck across the crease to Nylander who tallied for the 15th time this season. Tied after regulation it was off to overtime. To the delight of the home fans, the Moose took advantage of some terrible defensive coverage by Toronto and Nic Petan slotted home the winner.
Saturday’s game concluded the eight games series between these two teams with Toronto taking 15 points (7-0-1-0).
A three point week that extends Toronto’s advantage in the Eastern Conference but the Ontario Reign have made up ground in the overall standings.
Practise this week will not be for the faint-heartened I imagine, with at least three if not four days to prepare for next weekend’s trip to St. John’s.
Special teams must also be high on Keefe’s to-do list. The usually reliable penalty kill dropped the ball on Saturday, allowing three goals on seven opportunities. The at times feeble power play made hay against Manitoba’s fragile PK, scoring four times over the two games.
Those missing the wrath of Sheldon Keefe during practise this week are Mark Arcobello, Josh Leivo and Rich Clune, who have all been called up to the Leafs.
Arcobello missed Saturday’s game with a bout of the flu but potted twice on Thursday.
Leivo registered four assists and continued his multi-point game streak.
Rich Clune’s stay with the Marlies saw him play a solitary game and he potted a goal and an assist Saturday afternoon.
Five points for William Nylander who looks back upto speed already. That’s forty for the season as he looks to chase down T.J Brennan.
Kasperi Kapanen continued his resurgence since the World Juniors, combining with Nylander for three goals (one goal/two assists).
The two rookies both put up two points.
Nikita Soshnikov with two goals taking his tally to seventeen.
Zach Hyman took his seasonal points total to 28.
Captain Andrew Campbell made his 500th AHL appearance on Saturday.
Jeremy Morin was a scratch for both games and was not listed as injured.
Sat, Feb 13, 2016 Toronto at St. John’s 6:00 pm EST
Sun, Feb 14, 2016 Toronto at St. John’s 2:30 pm EST