Editor’s Note: This is Jeff’s first post for The Leafs Nation. He will be helping us keep on top of the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and the Leafs’ prospects. Each week he will give us a recap of the week that was and preview the week to come. Following him on Twitter (@Jeffler) and read more on the Marlies’ day-to-day at MarliesHQ.
This is more of an eight day update than a full week update, but this is a week that included the only hockey event more yawn-inducing and player-rejecting than the NHL All Star Game – the AHL All Star Game.
The Toronto Marlies had a pair of opportunities this week, one rare, one common, that both tied together. The rare opportunity? Rest and relaxation. After all, while three games in three nights seems like a big deal, it’s pretty common in the American Hockey League, and in this situation, the Marlies had a whopping 1 game played in 11 days, and it was a 7-2 win against one of the three teams. The common occurance? Of course, that would be an attempt to push forward in the North Division. Now, I can’t understate just how frequent these inter-division games are. Out of 76 games in the season, Toronto plays an absurd 42 within the division. All three games would fit the pattern, with Lake Erie, Hamilton, and Rochester being the opponents. However, rather than convert the lack of play into extra energy and widen the gap in the standings, the weekend went a much different way.
Thursday looked like a good start, and by Thursday, I really mean the first period of that game. Facing the Lake Erie Monsters, Toronto took a commanding 5-2 lead within the first 20 minutes and never looked back. Matt Frattin was the standout with a pair of goals, followed by single tally’s by Mike Zigomanis, Joe Colborne, and Jerry D’Amigo. Will Acton added a third period tally which would be the second piece necessary to complete his Gordie Howe Hat-trick with a fight just minutes later. The fight was one of two and a half – I say half a fight due to an incident with three minutes to go where Hugh Jessiman was the only one to actually recieve a major. Korbinian Holzer would’ve been more than happy to respond to Jessiman’s sucker punches, but a quick referee situation cut that to one of the simplest yet most effective taunts possible – a mere point to the scoreboard.
The game 24 hours later at Copps Coliseum wasn’t as friendly. Despite their lower position in the standings, the Outdoor Game has been the only significant crack in the Hamilton Bulldogs’ control over this season series to date. The Marlies were outshot 28-20, and while Matt Frattin would find the back of the net for his third goal in two games, it would be the only goal in comparison to Hamilton’s four on the night. It was a rather chippy game for Toronto – it’s rare to see the team give up two goals on the penalty kill in one night, but with seven powerplays to try to shut down, that number begins to make more sense.
Concluding things for most of the team, the boys in blue and white returned to Ricoh Coliseum for the first time in three weeks. That game featured a 4-1 loss to Hamilton. This game wasn’t as bad, but definitely didn’t go the way the team was hoping. Despite having control of the puck, and outshooting the Rochester American’s in all three periods (including 12-6 in the third for a total of 38-27), David Leggio stood on his head to hold Rochester’s 2-1 lead until the final whistle. Toronto’s lone goal game off a backhand, mid air swing from Mike Zigomanis, who for whatever reason, was showing hand eye co-ordination on another level throughout the game.
Jesse Blacker was easily the team’s best defenseman over the three games. Though this was an odd weekend in the sense that he had zero points, his +3 doesn’t lie. In all three games, and particularly against Rochester, Blacker made some stunning defensive efforts throughout, in what was probably his best weekend focused on the back-end to date.
Speaking of defensive play, Don Cherry would be happy with this pick – Mike Zigomanis had two goals over the three games, but most importantly, pulled off a Tim Brent-esque shot blocking clinic in the game against Hamilton. Other than that, he was his usual solid two-way self with no significant flaws in his play.
Lastly, you can’t ignore the three goals scored by Matt Frattin. After a slow start since being sent down for the second time, the right winger has been heating up, largely due to his increased efforts to make opportunites for himself.
Philippe Dupuis found a way to be a -1 in every single game, including the 6-2 blowout win. Impressively bad, especially when you consider he had zero points over the wekeend. He had a few opportunities, and clearly wants to score his first goal in the organization, but nothing worked out for him.
Kyle Neuber likely played fewer minutes than he was in the penalty box for over the three games.
Between The Pipes
Ben Scrivens went 1-1-0 with a 0.902 save percentage and 2.00 GAA, playing against Lake Erie and Rochester. Scrivens’ game against the Americans was the best performance by either goaltender of the weekend.
Mark Owuya went 0-1-0 with a 0.857 save percentage and 4.00 GAA, playing against Hamilton. He was guilty of the worst showing of the weekend. Despite a hot start, Owuya has lost 3 of his past 4 starts for the Marlies.
The 26th ranked powerplay went a horrible 0 for 9 over the 3 games, and the 3rd ranked penalty kill had a substandard week, allowing 3 goals over 11 attempts.
West Side Represent
With Nazem Kadri on the Leafs, and Joe Colborne out with an "undisclosed injury" (probably something minor that can still be played on but isn’t worth the exhibition game), Captain Ryan Hamilton joined Head Coach Dallas Eakins (who played assistant for this one) by participating in the AHL All Star game. Hamilton scored the West’s 5th goal of the night late in the second period. The goal would be part of a comeback that saw the West win the game in a shootout.
Toronto has two games this week – one on the road against the Syracuse Crunch on Friday night, and a home game against the Abbotsford Heat on Saturday at 5PM.