Gas, Brake, Honk. Honk, Brake, Gas….
This was the scene getting into the Ricoh Colisseum on Saturday afternoon as somebody (I shall assume not Carlton the Bear) decided it was a good idea to have scheduled the Marlies Game, TFC soccer game, Travel (or some shit) convention on the CNE grounds WHILE setting up parking areas for the Toronto Marathon to take place the following day. I mean, Toronto traffic normally runs so smoothly without any of these extra hurdles, right?
Onto the hockey, and I cannot explain how pumped up I get to watch the young Marlies play live. For those of you in the GTA who want to see very talented hockey players at an affordable price, what are you waiting for Head to the Ricoh.
Toronto was taking on the Albany Devils (yes, I called them the River Rats about a million times on saturday but who the hell cares? They are from Albany) in a back to back scenario on Saturday and Sunday.
Early in Game 1, it was evident that the Devils had learned some suffocating, wait for you to make a mistake hockey from the parent club. Playing any Devils team is akin to skating on the beach in Bali. Having said that the Marlies didnt do themselves any favours by taking 5 minor penalties in the two periods and after the game Coach Keefe was not to impressed “I dont want a team to feel entitled and that the wins will just come…”. He also mentioned that the veterans “spoke up and talked about that, we will address it as well”.
During that early lull in the game for the Marlies, Corey Tropp scored for the Albany Devils just under 8 minutes into the festivities. With a lead this is when Devils style of hockey becomes truly effective. Limiting time and space while clogging the neutral zone is probably on a wall in each teams dressing rooms. It took another 11 minutes to pass by before William Nylander jumped on a loose puck to tie the game at 1 before the end of the first period.
Other notes from the first period, Rich Clune was clearly looking to energize his bench as he found a dance partner and won a decision that had the home fans on their feet.
Early in the second period the Devils again retook the lead on a Powerplay goal that was a ROCKET over the shoulder of Bibeau (19/21 saves in the game). 2-1 Devils. Unsure what was said exactly, on the bench and in the dressing room but shortly after that goal the Marlies started to move their feet and create chances again. In the third period alone the Marlies outshot the Devils 14-3 and looked more like the team most people envision when looking at the roster. With just under two minutes to go in the game, Byron Froese tied it up at 2-2 with Bibeau on the bench for the home team.
During the most exciting moments in sports (actually it is fun to watch) the two teams were off to three on three overtime. TJ Brennan score the overtime winner off a sweet feed from Connor Brown. Isotopes Win, Isotopes Win !!
Sunday afternoon the two teams got back together at the Ricoh for another 3pm start. The undefeated Marlies started Garrett Sparks in net for game #2 of the weekend and were hoping for a more detail oriented performance that would appease the Coaching staff who had obvious disappointments in game #1 on saturday. The two teams were held scoreless thru the first period and it wasn’t until the Devils score a short handed marker in the second period the game really got into a flow.
Matt Frattin score to tie the game for the Marlies (healthy scratch on Saturday) and then Kasperi Kapanen score his first goal of the season to take the lead for the first time in regulation during the two game set. The game was tied up less than five minutes later on a Powerplay goal by the Devils. Marlies took a combined 11 penalties over the two games and I know this is unacceptable to Coach Keefe. The fact that the penalties aren’t being taken by a repeat offender but more team wide contribution will lead to concern. Discipline is a staple of Coach Babcock and the Leafs so this will also be expected to be followed by the AHL Club.
The Devils took the lead for good in the third period and the Marlies failed to tie the game as they did the day before. Garret Sparks played a solid game in net for the Marlies stopping 28 of 31 and is continuing to push Antoine Bibeau for the starting position with the team. Two solid goalies seems to be a luxury in the AHL and something the big club wish they had a problem with. After this defeat, it was the first loss of the season for the Marlies and we shall see how they bounce back in the next game when it comes to effort.
After the game on Saturday Coach Keefe was asked about if the Marlies were putting Nylander in certain situational positions to protect him at all, “William needs to be put in tough spots. We will not be sheltering him with his minutes”
During his media scrum a few minutes later, Kyle Cicerella (CP) asked Nylander about playing center in the AHL this year and what transitions he had to make. Nylander was quoted as saying “I need to work on the draws, but I want to have the puck, and that is when I am the biggest threat to the other team”.
There is zero doubt in my mind that Nylander is the biggest threat on the ice when it comes to the Marlies. Connor Brown, Byron Froese are both talented players and have the ability to score but I feel that Nylander can control the game with his talent and has the ability to break a game open on any given shift.
It is evident to those who watch the Marlies on a regular basis that this young team is very talented. With that talent they will need to mix in hard work and show some commitment to the small details that will eventually lead to wins. The Marlies team is 3-1 to start the season and while they haven’t all been Picasso’s they are wins and that will bode well when it comes to confidence for this group moving forward. Coach Keefe must temper that confidence and keep the team grounded as the rest of the season unfolds. Staying hungry and finding motivation on a daily basis will be the key to this season for the Marlies.
Next Game: Friday October 23rd, 2015 @ 7:05pm vs Rochester Americans.
Covering the Toronto Marlies for leafshub.com… I’m Corey Connolly….. Live at the Ricoh