When Chris Mueller came out and addressed the media after the Toronto Marlies fell 2-1 to the Binghamton Devils on Saturday night, it was almost as if the veteran forward was providing a state of the union testimony.
“We’re a desperate hockey team,” said Mueller. “We haven’t had much success. Frustration’s kicking in a little bit.”
The angst amongst the Marlies group is well warranted, as the defending Calder Cup champions currently sit one point above last place in the North division. Due to the predicament the Marlies are in, Saturdays loss–where the Marlies were arguably the better team–stings that much more.
“Right now it’s about wins,” Mueller said. “They’ve been hard to come by, as of late.”
The Marlies have come a long way since their horrid 1-4-0-1 start, though. Through that span, they were sacrificing 35.6 shots against per game and surrendering 5.16 goals against per game. Since their struggles out of the gate, the Marlies have gone 5-3-1-1, bringing their shot against total down to 26.9 and their goals against per game to 3.40.
But still, the Marlies are treading under .500 hockey and that’s just not going to cut it for this group.
“We weren’t going to step in to this season and pick up right where we left off [last season],” said Mueller. “We earned last years success and thats what we have to learn to do, here.”
Catapulting up the standings isnt easy, though. The Marlies have a long road ahead of them, and they know it.
“It’s November now. We’re in a position where we cant have a game off,” said starting goalie Kasimir Kaskisuo. “We need to grind for each win.”
Things may not have been so desperate if the Marlies hadn’t come out the wrong end of several of their tight contests. The Marlies have been defeated in both shootouts they’ve been in and they’ve come out the wrong end on two of the three one-goal games they’ve been engaged in.
They’ve come oh-so-close to being well-over .500, but coming close is not good enough for this group. They’re far from satisfied with where they’re sitting in the standings.
“We know what it takes. It just comes down to going out and executing,” said Adam Brooks. “I think, right now, things definitely aren’t going our way but like I said, we’re going to get things back on track soon.”
There almost seems to be a degree of confidence from this group that still has 15 members from last years Calder Cup Championship winning team, and rightfully so. The teams running the same systems as last year, most of the personnel is still in tact and lets not kid ourselves, there is plenty of talented players on this roster.
When you’ve got lots of talent and a championship pedigree in a dressing room, treading near the bottom of the standings isn’t going to bode well.
“Our guys are hungry to get this thing turned around,” Sheldon Keefe said on Saturday.
As this Marlies group appears pissed off for greatness, things are on the upswing for them.
A win on 3-2 win against Binghamton on Sunday snapped a three game losing streak. Kasimir Kaskisuo has recovered from his injury and returned to his starting duties. Meanwhile Eamon McAdam (who Keefe deemed “excellent” after a 27-save win on Sunday) has proven to be a reliable backup net minder, putting the teams goalie situation, for the time being, at ease.
So, things aren’t looking as gloomy as they once were, but climbing up the standings, from where the club is situated–is a tall task.
But there’s plenty of hockey to be played and you shouldn’t count out the defending Calder Cup champions, just yet.
Rasmus Sandin Continues to Progress
It can’t be emphasized enough how much Rasmus Sandin continues to evolve, with each passing game.
Through seven contests, Sandin has recorded three goals (third most amongst rookie defenceman) and tallied five points. He’s played mainly with Vincent Loverde on the teams third pair, but his usage has increased as of late, with Keefe trusting Sandin with some hefty power play minutes.
“He’s showing the ability to contribute in lots of different areas for us. Every game that he plays, he seems to get another level of comfort,” Keefe said after Sundays game. “We, in turn, get a little extra confidence to put him out in different situations—It’s very positive how he’s progressed.”
I wrote a few weeks ago that Sandin could play his way into a bigger role with the Marlies, but I had no idea it’d be before he hit the 10-game mark.
With an off the charts hockey IQ, it really appears the sky is the limit for the Leafs 2018 first round pick.
— Jacob Stoller (@JLStoller) November 17, 2018
Depleted Centre Depth
The Marlies have lost two key bodies down the middle for the foreseeable future.
The Vancouver Canucks recalled Sam Gagner from the Marlies. The Canucks are currently battling a slew of injuries to their forward core and with Gagner impressing through his Marlies tenure (he recorded15 points in 15 games), he’s likely gone from the Marlies indefinitely.
Gagner will play tonight vs. Jets, confirms Coach Green. "His versatility is great up front. He'll play on the power play too. Our team is going through some adversity and Sam is a pro, he'll help with that."
— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) November 19, 2018
Furthermore, Marlies head coach Sheldon Keefe estimated that centre Adam Cracknell will be sidelined for around two to four weeks.
The Marlies gave Frank Corrado–who is recovering from an ACL surgery— a big test this weekend when they suited him up in back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday.
Keefe placed Corrado on the top pair on Saturday with Calle Rosen, and he fared quite well. On Sunday he was paired with Andrew Nielsen on the third pair and he wasn’t as noticeable, but all-in-all Keefe has been impressed with Corrado.
“I thought he had a good week,” said Keefe. “I thought [Saturday] was his best game. Today, with so many power plays and stuff—he’s not getting out there quite as much. He showed some positive steps in his play. He looks to be getting more comfortable and finding his way.”
News and Notes
- The Marlies are 6-7-1-2, pegging them seventh in the North division.
- Over the weekends three-in-three against Belleville and Binghamton, the Marlies went 3/22 on the power play (13.6%)
- The Marlies power play is currently operating at a 18.8% efficiency rate (T-16th)
- Mason Marchment and Carl Grundstrom snapped three game point droughts on Sunday.
- The Marlies assigned Brady Ferguson and Giorgio Estephan to the Growlers on Monday afternoon.