It was a case of déjà vu for the Toronto Marlies, as the results of the week before were mirrored.
Two defeats followed by a victory, as the inconsistent play and road troubles continued for the Maple Leafs affiliate.
That sole victory enabled Toronto to keep hold of a playoff spot and stay above the .500 mark.
An almost inconceivable thought after winning six of seven to begin the season.
Wednesday, December 07, 2016
Toronto Marlies 2 @ Utica Comets 3
Toronto turned an early penalty kill into their advantage, as Brendan Leipsic netted a short-handed goal 88 seconds in.
The Marlies were by far the better team in the opening frame but failed to extend their lead and gifted Utica a breakaway tying goal.
That theme carried into the second, Toronto re-taking the lead courtesy of an Andreas Johnsson power play tally at the 4:27 mark. The road team would go on to take far too many penalties during the second period and inevitably it cost them as Jake Virtanen scored on his own rebound.
Milan Michalek and Brendan Leipsic would not return for the third period having sustained injuries but the Marlies battled with great heart a shortened bench.
Both teams had chances but this game appeared destined for overtime until Toronto unwisely iced the puck after sustained pressure from the home team. Utica won the face-off enabling Jordan Subban a shooting opportunity. Kari Ramo had been just fine up until this point on debut, but inexplicably allowed the dipping shot to beat him five-hole and trickle across the line.
It proved the dagger blow to a tired Marlies team, who rarely threatened to tie the game up in the remaining four minutes.
Friday, December 09, 2016
Toronto Marlies 3 @ Providence Bruins 5
More individual errors cost Toronto, after what was a promising beginning against an in-form Bruins outfit.
The Marlies were by far the better team in the opening period, firing 15 shots on net but were unable to find a way past the excellent Zane McIntyre. Meanwhile, Karri Ramo allowed another soft goal to ensure his team trailed 1-0 through twenty minutes.
A lazy play from Colin Greening allowed the Bruins to gain possession at the Marlies blue line and it was 2-0 seven minutes into the second period.
Toronto responded forty seconds later, as hard work from Tobias Lindberg teed up Byron Froese to get his team on the board.
That goal made little different to the balance of play as the home team dominated and netted a third goal on their first power play opportunity. Brooks Laich was the guilty party on this occasion, hesitating in possession in front of his own goal.
Providence then shut the game down and Toronto looked to be meandering to another defeat until the home team scored again to make it 4-1 with seven minutes remaining.
Dmytro Timashov answered right back but the Marlies had to withstand a penalty kill seconds later. Ramo was pulled back at even strength play and a flurry of pressure led to Andreas Johnsson pulling Toronto within a goal with 51 seconds remaining.
Providence shelved any thought of the comeback being completed with an empty net goal.
Saturday, December 10, 2016
Toronto Marlies 5 @ Hartford Wolf Pack 3
An opening period that provided plenty of chances for both teams but for once the Marlies received some solid goaltending.
Jhonas Enroth was the second man to make his debut between the pipes this past week and thanks to his excellence, Hartford would only tally once.
That goal tied up Toronto’s earlier in the action, Colin Greening finishing off a simple play from Daniel Maggio and Brooks Laich.
The middle frame would see Toronto play some of their best road hockey for the longest while. They tallied four times, including three in a span of five minutes of which two were power play markers. Maggio netted a goal on his debut and other scorers were Colin Smith, Kasperi Kapanen and Kerby Rychel.
Hartford’s lone goal during the second period was in part due to some comical officiating.
Kapanen was called for “Unsportsmanlike conduct” due to his goal celebration and straight from the
the face-off, Michael Joly was hooked when on a partial breakaway.
The officials called a penalty shot, which Joly duly scored from.
Toronto should really have extended their lead in the third period with multiple power play opportunities of their own, including some 5-on-3 play.
The Wolf Pack would net another power play goal late in the piece but never threatened to break Toronto’s stranglehold on the game or the destination of the two points.
It’s a drum I beat almost every week but the special teams were once again inconsistent.
The power play connected three times on 13 opportunities but the penalty kill gave up five goals during 17 times short-handed.
The Marlies PK is now one of the league’s worst, not helped by the fact that Toronto lead the AHL in times short handed opportunities for opponents.
Toronto’s road record has fallen to 4-7-1-1, with a goal differential of minus ten to boot.
Despite another poor week, Toronto have risen to second in the North Division due to the poor form of other teams
An overall 12-10-1-1 record is only good enough for seventh best in the Eastern Conference, with the Atlantic Division appearing to host a far superior group of teams at this stage of the season.
Andreas Johnsson was the leading points producer with a pair of goals and assists. He’s riding a three game point streak and takes his seasonal tally for the year to twelve from 24 games.
It wasn’t the most dominant week from Kasperi Kapanen, who found himself the target of some vicious hits. A goal and two assists puts him at point per game pace through 24 games.
For all his good play this season, Colin Smith has disappointingly not produced the points that Toronto sorely need. A three point week for him and hopefully a turning of the corner for him offensively.
Daniel Maggio has had to wait patiently for his opportunity.
Given his debut against Hartford, Maggio grabbed his chance, recording a goal and an assist.
He kept it simple such as his limited skill set allows but Toronto could certainly use a little more of that than overcomplicating at times.
Brooks Laich and Colin Greening both had their best outings for a long while in the Hartford game. They finally performed like the veterans I expected and found some chemistry alongside Maggio.
Laich registered three assists this week, and Greening a goal and an assist.
Brendan Leipsic and Milan Michalek failed to feature in the Providence or Hartford games after being injured against Utica. No word on the nature or extent of the injuries to either.
Frederick Gauthier remains absent, his last appearance was November 20.
Travis Dermott returned from a high ankle sprain injury and made a pleasing return to action. Encouragingly, he was able to suit up for all three games.
The goaltending carousel continues with Antoine Bibeau now with the Leafs and entering the Marlies picture were Karri Ramo and Jhonas Enroth.
Karri Ramo appeared well out of sorts and cost Toronto at least one if not two points this week.
Jhonas Enroth must have been disappointed to be put on waivers but every credit to him for a fine debut performance against Hartford.
Garret Sparks was the back-up for all three games