The last fortnight has seen the Toronto Marlies continue a recent trend of inconsistent play, especially on their travels.
Saturday, November 19, 2016 St. John’s 2 – Toronto 1
Toronto’s perfect home record was broken by St. John’s, though the main feature of the game was the Marlies inability to generate scoring opportunities having owned the lion’s share of possession.
Toronto opened the scoring early through Kasperi Kapanen on the power play, but were unable to build on that lead through the first or second period. The Icecaps capitalised on two errors in the middle frame to turn the game on it’s head.
The Marlies were unable to beat Charlie Lindgren in the St. John’s net and despite holding the visitors to one shot in the final period, registered only seven of their own.
Sunday, November 20, 2016 St. John’s 0 – Toronto 3
Toronto bounced back with a strong defensive performance and eventually ground down the Icecaps the following day.
Charlie Lindgren was once again excellent between the pipes but had no answer to a blast from Andrew Nielsen three minutes into the third period. A Byron Froese power play goal proved the insurance marker and Brendan Leipsic sealed the deal firing into an empty cage. Garret Sparks made all 19 saves required of him to ensure Toronto’s fourth shutout of the season to secure the 3-0 victory.
Tuesday, November 22, 2016 Toronto 1 – Albany 3
On what Tobias Lindberg labelled “the worse ice I’ve ever played on,” Toronto fell to their second consecutive defeat on the road.
The officials almost called the game off twice, once before the action begun and then after the first period.
In any case, all agreed to continue and the Albany Devils adapted and handled the conditions far better than the visitors. In an evenly balanced first period, Toronto took the lead thanks to a fine individual effort from Byron Froese.
From the moment the puck dropped for the middle frame, the Devils out-worked and out-played the Marlies, deservedly tying the game through forty minutes. Toronto’s penchant for taking penalties, seven during this game, came back to bite them and Albany struck twice in the third period to take a 3-1 win very much on merit.
Friday, November 25, 2016 Toronto 4 – Syracuse 5 OT
This road reverse may well have been the most frustrating this season for head coach Sheldon Keefe.
His charges were outstanding during the first period in Syracuse.
After dominating the hosts, a 2-0 lead after twenty minutes could have been at least doubled but for some outstanding goaltending and granted a little more puck luck.
Toronto ran into penalty trouble early in the second frame, but netted a short-handed goal thanks to some sheer determination from Rich Clune. Syracuse quickly struck twice on the power play and then once at even strength to tie the game in the space of six minutes. The Marlies would re-take the lead on a power play goal of their own but gave up that advantage inside a minute later.
The Crunch were only denied a regulation win thanks to Antoine Bibeau who made 15 saves during the third period, making amends for the third goal he gave up.
After Toronto missed a series of gilt edge chances in overtime, Syracuse notched a justified winner to claim the extra point
Saturday, November 26, 2016 Utica 1 – Toronto 4
The first ACC game of the year saw Toronto get back on track.
Facing a confident Utica team that had won four straight entering this game, Toronto restricted Vancouver’s affiliate to just 23 shots on net and allowed them just two power play opportunities.
Tobias Lindberg and Trevor Moore put the Marlies up 2-0 on just four shots and the they never looked back. Through 17 shots in the second period a Brendan Leipsic power play goal was all they had to show for utter superiority in every facet. Jeff Glass was making his debut and it was a real shame he had his shutout attempt broken by a power play goal in the third period. Any thought’s of another Marlies collapse were swiftly put to bed as Colin Smith put the finishing touch to a swift passing move three minutes later.
After going .500 through their last five games, Toronto have dropped to third in the North Division, as Albany and Syracuse rise above them in the standings.
It brings into focus the importance of having success in the divisional match-ups. Toronto are currently 5-5-1-1 against North Division teams, with three of those victories coming against Utica, all on home ice.
Toronto’s home form remains strong, now 7-1-0-0, the second best record in the league.
The road woes continues however, with the team now one game under .500 with just three wins in nine games.
The special teams continue to have an unbalanced look to them.
The power play has connected four times on the last 22 occasions and remains one of the best in the league.
Conversely the penalty kill struggles continue, allowing as many goals against in the last two weeks.
Perhaps more worrying is that Toronto are taking more penalties than they are drawing, a disparity of eleven through the year at this juncture.
Brendan Leipsic may have seen his points streak end but he continues to lead the Marlies and the league with 22 points.
He’s only failed to trouble the scorers twice in 17 games.
Kasperi Kapanen isn’t perhaps looked upon as a noted goal scorer but a pair for him in the last two week puts him at nine for the season. That makes him the joint Marlies leading scorer and tied for third overall in the league. It also matches his 2015/16 total, achieved in 44 games.
Byron Froese scored 18 goals in 46 games for the Marlies during the 2014/15 season and put up three in four outings last year. He was a little slow getting out of the blocks back in the AHL this time around but is now tied with Kapanen, having scored four in his last six games.
Frederik Gauthier sustained what appeared to be a wrist injury in the second game against St. Johns. He’s note featured since, missing three games, and there’s no timeline on his return.
Travis Dermott continues to be absent and Leafs management continue to be tight-lipped about the extent of his injury. The rookie defenseman has not played in the month of November.
Tobias Lindberg missed two games against St. John’s because of injury but returned with some purpose, helping himself to two points in the Utica encounter. He’s found some early chemistry, playing the right wing alongside Andreas Johnsson and Colin Smith.
Colin Smith has been somewhat of an enigma this season. Often a threat to the opposition and looking like one of the better players on the ice, but not producing anything to show for it. A mixing of the lines produced him three points at the ACC, breaking a six game pointless streak.
Andreas Johnsson also broke his five game slump with a pair of points. He frustratingly continues to miss the net when presented with good scoring chances but it‘s of some comfort he‘s still finding those positions on the ice.
Antoine Bibeau is 0-3-1 since recording a shutout in Wilkes-Barre Scranton.
At fault for one goal in Syracuse he’s otherwise still shown good form and hasn’t had much support from those in front of him.
After recording his first shutout of the season, Garret Sparks has been suspended indefinitely by the Toronto Maple Leafs for violating team policy. His status is due to be revaluated by the team this week as per Sheldon Keefe.
Jeff Glass took advantage of his opportunity to play and didn’t let Toronto down, in what was his first professional regular season outing since February. With an upcoming hectic schedule for the Marlies, he’s due to see some action should Sparks remain out of action.
Josh Leivo returned to the Toronto Maple Leafs after his conditioning loan expired.
Cason Hohmann was called up from Orlando but was duly released from his contract by the Marlies. The right winger has since signed for Charlotte Checkers.
Taylor Doherty was released from his PTO and has returned to Orlando.
Defensemen Willie Corrin and Ty Stanton, and forwards T.J Foster and Chase Witala have all been recalled to Toronto from Orlando. None of these players are yet to feature for the Marlies.
Daniel Maggio and Mason Marchment were sent to Orlando after receiving no ice time for the Marlies so far this season.
Both have made an impact with the Solar Bears, who are currently unbeaten in regulation under new head coach, Drake Berehowsky.
Tuesday, November 29 Lehigh Valley @ Toronto Marlies 7:00 pm EST
Friday, December 2 Toronto Marlies @ Rochester Americans 7:05 pm EST
Saturday, December 3 Hartford @ Toronto Marlies 7:05 pm EST
Sunday, December 4 Hartford @ Toronto Marlies 7:05 pm EST