The Toronto Marlies have begun the 2016-17 season much as they did the year before.
Replicating a 4-1-0-0 record, a goal tally standing at twenty and some very impressive possession play.
Toronto defeated Utica twice over the opening weekend, both games finishing with a 5-2 score line.
Rookie defenseman Andrew Nielsen registered the first goal of the Marlies season with a power play marker, as Toronto struck four times with the man advantage and Garret Sparks took the win.
In game two, Kasperi Kapanen recorded a three point outing and Dymtro Timashov’s first goal proved to be the game winner.
A 5-2 reverse in Rochester Friday night wasn’t without good stretches of play but the home team fully capitalised on opportunities gifted to them and a less than stellar performance from Sparks.
The special teams proved the difference, with Rochester netting three times during seven power plays, while Toronto were held scoreless on four opportunities.
Toronto dominated Manitoba last season and continued that theme with a pair of home games over the weekend.
A penalty ridden affair on Saturday wasn’t helped by poor officiating but the Marlies also showed a lack of discipline at times. A 4-2 victory owed more to determination and will than anything else and Antoine Bibeau performed well when the game was on the line.
Brooks Laich opened the scoring with his first AHL marker for ten years but Byron Froese proved the hero with a pair of goals, as he looks to put himself in the frame for a call-up.
Sunday’s encounter bore witness to the most complete Marlies performance of the season thus far, excelling in all aspects of the game and being ruthless when required.
Kasperi Kapanen set the tone with a wicked wrist shot that beat Ondrej Pavalec all ends up with just 54 seconds on the clock.
A three goal blast during a two minute span in the second period, killed the game as a contest and Antoine Bibeau recorded a shutout to seal the 4-0 win.
In five games so far, Toronto have out-scored opponents 20-11, half of those tallies coming in the second period. Despite being behind on the shot clock in one outing, the Marlies have a shot differential of plus 39, averaging over 32 attempts on net per game.
All victories have been on home ice, the first time Toronto have managed to win their opening four games at Ricoh Coliseum since the 2013/14 season.
This season’s team might not have the amount of high-end offensive talent as last year but there is certainly a ton of depth. That’s shown by eleven different players having hit the net so far.
The one concern is that the penalty kill has been average and sits second worst in the league, having allowed eight goals on thirty opportunities.
Conversely, the power play (bar Rochester game) has been red-hot, tallying eight times on the occasions it’s gone to work.
Brendan Leipsic is one of two standout performers for the Marlies during the opening two weeks.
Nine points, which include two goals and five power play assists. He leads the league in assists and points
Kasperi Kapanen has really stepped on the gas from his rookie season and looks intent to dominate the American Hockey League. Seven points, of which three goals and a primary assist were all accrued at even strength
Byron Froese leads the team with four goals, all tallied this past weekend, surpassing his total of three goals in four AHL games last year.
Andreas Johnsson was touted as a highly effective player on the power play and it’s a case of so far so good, with three goals so far on the man advantage. That shouldn’t detract from his play at even strength, which has also been impressive.
Andrew Nielsen is leading the way offensively from the blue line with five points.
Four of those have come on the power play, including a goal, and his booming shot is proving to be an effective weapon even at this early stage.
Rinat Valiev is next best with four points, all assists at even strength and the sophomore defenseman has also shown he’s happy to mix it up physically. Two fights already for the Russian native who has a new defensive partner so far this season in Justin Holl.
Garret Sparks won the home opener but put in a disappointing display in the Rochester reverse.
Bibeau earned the back-to-back start for Sunday’s game but it was Glass on the bench, no Sparks, who was said to be “feeling sore” by Sheldon Keefe.
Antoine Bibeau has won his three starts and his most recent victory was a franchise tying eighth shutout for the Quebec native. He appears to holds the edge in the goaltending battle and would appear most likely to take the start Wednesday as Providence Bruins visit Ricoh Coliseum.
Kasimir Kaskisuo and Nikolas Brouillard have been reassigned to Orlando.
Kaskisuo was said to play well on debut despite a 3-2 reverse and Brouillard scored on debut.
Adam Brace has been released from his PTO.
Taylor Doherty signed for Orlando this season but is also now on a PTO with Toronto.
Milan Michalek has cleared waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs and looks set to join the Marlies.