A Tale Of Free Hockey

WIth no recaps coming from me for any of Friday, Saturday, or Sunday’s games, I figure that it would be a good idea to get everybody back in the loop on what happened with the Toronto Marlies this weekend. It was an odd one from a roster sense, with many changes, and a score sense – with nine points being spread over the three games. Some went in the preferred direction, others, not so much.

Roster Changes

Once again this year, the all-controlling Freight Train that is the Toronto Maple Leafs played around with their roster, requiring some run-off effects on the Marlies roster. Jake Gardiner was freed after an impressive eight game stretch, with Captain Ryan Hamilton tagging along to give some offensive support. Coming down to replace Gardiner was Korbinian Holzer, who despite his strong AHL play, has struggled out of the gate. Mike Komisarek, desperate for minutes, waived his No Movement Clause to be placed on waivers and reported to the team after clearing. Mark Owuya started the weekend by being sent to the ECHL, but has since returned. Saving the best for last, 2012 first round pick Morgan Rielly ended his WHL season last week and joined the Marlies for Friday night’s game.

Game 1 – Chicago

The Marlies couldn’t have started the weekend of season series killers against the Vancouver Canucks affiliate in a worse fashion. Exactly two minutes in, Michael Davis opened the scoring for the Wolves, the only goal in a period that saw the teams combine for just ten shots. Brett Sterling doubled Chicago’s lead early in the second, and while Spencer Abbott scored his ninth of the year at the fourteen minute mark, Sterling added his second of the night before the period came to a close. Greg Scott brought us back to last year with an unassisted shorthanded goal in the opening minutes of the third period, and the debuting Morgan Rielly tied the game with a point shot with six minutes left in regulation. Overtime solved nothing, and the game went to a shootout. Just one goal was scored in ten shots, and it was courtesy of, you guessed it, Brett Sterling, leading to a Marlies loss.

Game 2 – Milwaukee

Much like the first game, Toronto started themselves off with an obvious disadvantage, allowing the game’s opening at the minute and a half mark. The recovery came a little bit quicker this time, however; Sam Carrick tied the game just three minutes later with his first AHL goal. Milwaukee had complete control of the second period, taking a whopping 21 shots, and scoring the only goal of the period. Toronto continued the tend of scoring in the first five in a half minutes by tying the game in the third period, the puck this time being on Jerry D’Amigo’s stick. The game headed to overtime, and after killing a Greg McKegg penalty, Greg Scott gave us yet another flashback play, taking in a pass from Jerry D’Amigo and scoring the winner in overtime.

Game 3 – Peoria

Hope would be that the blue and white saved their best for last, and at first, it seemed like that was the case. Not only did they not instantly allow a goal, they even scored the opener. Kenny Ryan was the man with the plan, and his eight of the year came with thirteen seconds left to go in the third period. The Marlies carreied their momentum into the second, taking thirteen shots to go with the thirteen in the twenty minutes prior, and kept the 1-0 lead into the third period. Peoria’s Adam Cracknell tied the game seven minutes into the third period, and it looked like we were going to overtime again as the game started to wind down. In came Jerry D’Amigo, who scored his second of the weekend with 1:12 to go. That would be the game winner in most situations, but just nineteen seconds later, Derek Nesbitt made his 24th of the year put everybody’s head into overtime. Like the first game, a shootout was the next step, and while Ryan Lasch scored in the fourth round, it was no match for the first and second round goals of Nesbitt and T.J. Hensick, who delivered the Marlies another loss.

Top Performers

  • Greg Scott and Jerry D’Amigo may as well be listed together, because that’s how we know them best. Last year, we saw plenty of magic from the two whenever they hit the ice together, especially in non 5-on-5 situations, and I guess these out-of-division teams still haven’t figured them out yet. Each had a pair of goals and assist. Scott was on for four goals both for and against, D’Amigo improved on that by being on for five for and two against. If they could find a way to shake things up against the teams that are familiar with them, they’d be unstoppable at this level.
  • Morgan Rielly made his debut, and while putting him into top performers is a little bit forced, he still had an impressive weekend. You could see that he carried his high offensive game over from Moose Jaw, and his goal featured a heck of a slapshot. The best part, though? He’s not scared to shoot. So much so, that he lead all of the 22 skaters that dressed this weekend, hitting the net 13 times. For comparison, Joe Colborne was second on the team with 10, and only five players took 7 or more.
  • Kevin Marshall was an aquisition that confused me, due to an abundence in his position, but he’s been very good. His two assists bring him to five points in six games, equal to his first 52 games with the Adirondack Phantoms. Not bad for a stay at home defenceman. More impressive is the fact that he was on the ice for five goals for, yet none against.

Between The Pipes

  • Drew MacIntyre played two and a half games, stepping in midway through the second game and playing 65 minutes in both the other two. His 70 saves in 75 shots was good for a 0.933 save percentage, and 1.91 goals against average. An amazing result, that still ended up in a 1-0-2 record.
  • Jussi Rynnas was injured midway through the second game, which is already a shame, but him having a rather good game to begin with was salt in the wound. Playing 37 minutes (3.24 GAA), Rynnas had stopped 25 of 27 shots (0.926).
  • Mark Owuya was sent down, played a solid game in the ECHL, then came back to sit on the bench. He still looks like The Weeknd.

Other Thoughts

  • The Marlies and the Leafs have one glaring negative in common, and that’s the shootout. There’s offensive talent on both teams, but neither can turn it into a positive result. Perhaps a shootout drill should be added, or at least more emphasis on stick handling or observing tape on goalie breakaway reactions. But something has to be done. 1 for 10 for a team that’s already struggling in the bonus round is horrendus.
  • The special teams were nothing to write home about, but since we’re late in this letter, the powerplay was 1 for 12, and penalty kill 12 for 14.
  • Jesse Blacker has been called up by the Leafs to play the role of 7th defenceman, and it’s well deserved. Even if he doesn’t play, the extra cash is likely appreciated by the man who’s likely been the team’s most improved player this year. However, this weekend wasn’t a great indication – no points, no penalties, no shots, and on the ice for as many goals for as he was against.
  • The Marlies return home in five days, but there’s still two more games to catch before then. They face the Rockford Icehogs at 8PM on Wednesday, and the Rochester Americans at 7PM on Friday.

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