Last night was a prime example of a hard working team, with less overall talent, taking over a Playoffs hockey game.
The Toronto Marlies were soundly beaten by the Albany Devils last night on home ice, at the Ricoh Coliseum, by a final score of 4-1.
Give some credit to the Marlies who pumped 35 shots on goal, with many blocked or deflected that would have added to that total. Albany goalie Scott Wedgewood played the villain with a terrific performance that left the Marlies, and their fans shaking their heads many times during the afternoon start.
Antoine Bibeau gave up two quick goals before most of the fans had even taken their seats (damn you Gardiner Expressway), was sharp at times but needed to be better if the Marlies were to have any chance in this game. The defence pairing of Rinat Valiev and Connor Carrick had a combined -6 on the game, which is clearly unacceptable, and while often overlooked this is exactly the steadying influence that Captain Andrew Campbell brings to the Marlies blueline. Inexperience is starting to show at times with this very young team, it is understandable and part of development but only if they learn these hard lessons.
Albany played a perfect road, Playoffs game. The Devils were the more physical of the two teams, they battled for loose pucks and they blocked shots without regard for personal concerns. After the game, when I talked to Bob McGill we both agreed that that was exactly the type of game the Marlies were lacking and also the type of game that CAN carry a team passed opponents in tight games/series such as these.
During the game I tweeted out that the Marlies players needed to stop reaching for pucks and engage directly with the opponent. I see a team that loves to fish for pucks but will not battle as hard as required. Having said that, the Marlies 4th line (Two Smiths and a Clune) was the best line that Coach Keefe had going for him yesterday. Fellow hard working players like Josh Leivo, Zach Hyman, Sam Carrick did their best but could not solve Wedgewood on this day.
Best single player for the Marlies might have been Kasperi Kapanen. Kapanen is skating well again and is all around the puck at both ends of the ice. The young Finnish hockey player scored the only goal for the Marlies yesterday on a sweet feed from Stuart Percy. I am hoping that Kapanen’s play is trending in the right direction as he has had some invisible stretches during the season.
Coach Sheldon Keefe sent a clear message during the postgame scrum. “Willy needs to be better with and without the puck. He has his foot off the gas…”. The Marlies Head Coach was clearly referring to the lack of engagement by star player, William Nylander. While Nylander had 3 shots on goal during Game #6, there are times he looks very passive on the ice. Refusing to get into the dirty areas of the rink, and staying on the perimeter has been very obvious even to this member of the blogging community, I can imagine it is frustrating the Coaching Staff in a big way.
What is wrong with Nylander? Unsure, but my best guess would be an injury. Ok Coco, but if he is injured why would Keefe call him out (again)?? I cannot explain it, but this is clearly not the dominating and talented young man that we have seen during the entire season to this point.
There you have it Marlies fans. Game #6 is a junk loss on home ice before a Sold Out Ricoh Coliseum, handed out by a team who wasn’t ready to roll over and start their summer. Game #7 is a 7:30 pm (EST) start on Monday evening at the Ricoh. Get there, get noisy and support the Marlies as they attempt to move onto Round #3. This is going to be a grind, so buckle up !!
ps. Who would you start in net for Game #7. Bibeau or Sparks?
Live from the Ricoh…..Phook Out.
As always Photo Creds: Christian Bonin @ChrisTSGphoto