Marlies ‘Out-Sync’ in series opening loss to Albany.
On Wednesday night, the Toronto Marlies dropped the puck on Round #2 of the Calder Cup Playoffs versus the Albany Devils. Noticeable absences in the Marlies lineup included their Captain, Andrew Campbell and William Nylander. During the warmups, it appeared that Andreas Johnson may make his AHL debut, however he was announced to be a healthy scratch just prior to game time. As a side note, there is some belief that Johnson will play on Friday night in Game 2.
The young Marlies team never really looked like a cohesive unit from the opening puck drop on Wednesday evening at the Ricoh Coliseum. Game #1 of the second round, had a Playoffs vibe to it from the outset but the Albany Devils did an excellent job of clogging up lanes and making simple plays to get the puck out when hemmed into their own end for extended periods of time. The Marlies hockey team did have energy early in the game which created several opportunities but the inability to convert them, had the group looking frustrated and attempting plays that were not feasible.
The Devils jumped out to a 1-0 lead on the powerplay as a short side shot beat starting goaltender Garret Sparks, who was screened by Viktor Loov who failed to block the shot. Cannot fault the Marlies goalie on that blast from the top of the circle, based on his lack of ability to see the puck. Having said that. you absolutely hate seeing short side goals go in like that.
Just over a minute later, a pinball of a point shot from Connor Carrick tied the game and had the Ricoh jumping and the crowd in a frenzy. That is the type of goal that the Marlies needed, just beat the goalie in any manner possible and feed off of it. Not so fast.
With the game freshly tied at one goal for each team, a seemingly routine save from Garret Sparks was bobbled, lost and ended up inside the Marlies net, which would turn out to be the eventual game winner. Sparks stopped 27 of 29 (.931) in the game but that single goal would have kept him up tossing and turning all night long. Rebound control seemed to be a bit of an issue for the young netminder during the entire game, and I believe he can be better in that regard. He did look big in the net when called upon but was one save worse than that of the Albany goalie, Scott Wedgewood who stopped 32 of 33.
Toronto must do better when it comes to making shorter passes on zone exits. On more than a few occasions it was noticeable that the Marlies Defence simply had nowhere to outlet the puck. Long passes will kill a team, as not only are they less likely to be completed, but they simply have no support if the puck is turned over. The Devils almost looked like the team in New Jersey when it came to taking away the neutral zone. Would I call it a ‘trap’? Not quite, but effective in regards to never allowing plays to development as intended. Marlies will have to adjust to that for Game #2.
Marlies also need to address turnovers. This may have been a result of the aforementioned zone exit issues but they also need to be better in the offensive zone and making that extra pass. Simply put, its ok to shoot the puck. Shots on net thru traffic lead to garbage goals, and in a 2-1 game that is more than ok. Who cares how they look? Just bang one home. Too many fancy cross ice attempts that were not crisp and accurate, led to the puck being cleared from harm’s way and the end of any sustained pressure.
Coach Sheldon Keefe had told the team and media, that the Marlies were not to expect Andrew Campbell for the entire Second Round of the Calder Cup Playoffs, his calming demeanor was noticeable on the blueline last night. Simple plays and getting shots thru from the point, are calling cards of Campbell, and while the defensive pairings played well during the game, he was noticeably absent.
A strong message was sent to this Toronto Marlies team last night. The Playoffs have officially begun and there will be no easy road to Round #3.
Marlies get back to business on May 6th, 2016 with a 7:30 pm start at the Ricoh.
See you all there.
-Kasperi Kapanen now has 3 points in the 3 playoffs games he has played for the Marlies.
-Connor Brown led the Marlies with 5 shots on goal.
-Garret Sparks has stopped 70 of 72 shots in the postseason.
photo creds: Christian Bonin TSG Photo.