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Leafs leading the race to NHL cellar and top prospect Auston Matthews

From The Globe and Mail – James Mirtle

There is an eerie symmetry to the Toronto Maple Leafs drop-offs experienced last season and again this year.

They have come at roughly the same time. And they have been almost as severe.

From early January to mid-February in 2015, the free-falling Leafs recorded just two wins in 19 games (2-15-2) to drop into the NHL’s basement. By June, they were picking fourth overall, high enough to draft London Knights star Mitch Marner.

Dion Phaneuf traded to Sens: A look at his hockey career in numbers (CP Video)

This year, after a 7-2 implosion in Chicago on Monday night, the Leafs are 4-11-2 in their past 17 games, and fading fast. If the draft lottery were held today, they would have the best chance of picking first overall (20 per cent) for the first time since taking Wendel Clark in the top spot in 1985.

The biggest difference between this year and last is that an incredible run of injuries have played a starring role. Between trading captain Dion Phaneuf away to Ottawa last week and the loss of up to eight players at a time to injuries, the Leafs have had a skeletal roster of late.

In Monday night’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks, Roman Polak had the most minutes among defencemen (24). Colin Greening, recently acquired from the Senators, had the most minutes among forwards (17), despite the fact he has spent most of the year in the American Hockey League with Binghamton.

That arrangement didn’t work out so well against the defending Stanley Cup champs.

“We weren’t in the game basically from the start,” coach Mike Babcock lamented, before later adding: “They were just better than us. Period.”

That could be the postgame tale for a while. The Maple Leafs are about to face a run of good teams, with games against the New York Rangers, Nashville Predators, Tampa Bay Lightning and first-place Washington Capitals in the next two weeks. There is also the trade deadline looming on Feb. 29, when even more talent will be traded away.

So yes, things can get worse.

This isn’t new. Other teams have pulled their rosters apart midway through the year en route to a good draft pick. Arizona Coyotes general manager Don Maloney admitted in an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Alex Prewitt the other day that he did as much last season, explaining that “if we were going to be bad, my attitude was, let’s be real bad.”

He then called Connor McDavid, the eventual No. 1 pick, “a pretty big prize for being really bad.”

What’s made the Leafs’ situation unique is the organization has steadfastly refused to recall its best players from the minors. The Marlies are currently the top team in the AHL, with only nine regulation losses in 51 games, and young players such as William Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen, Rinat Valiev, Connor Brown, Nikita Soshnikov and Stuart Percy are better than some of those playing for the Leafs.

Brendan Leipsic showed as much on Saturday against Vancouver, when he was granted his first NHL game and promptly scored his first NHL goal (the winner, no less).

He hardly looked out of place. But he was promptly demoted before their next game.

That’s because Leafs management sees little point in sacrificing development in order to prop up a makeshift NHL roster that was never going to contend this year. Most of the recalls all season have been older non-prospects – Rich Clune, Mark Arcobello and Byron Froese – to the detriment of the NHL roster, and the benefit of Toronto’s lottery chances.

Is that tanking? In the strictest sense of the word, sure. But the Leafs were also only five points out of a playoff spot on Jan. 6 after 38 games, and before all the injuries. They’re still on pace for 73 points, five better than a year ago.

If that’s tanking, it’s Tanking Lite compared with what teams such as the Buffalo Sabres and Coyotes pulled off last season in failed attempts to get McDavid.

In fact, 73 points would be the best finish ever for a last-place NHL team. So if that was Leafs management’s sole intention with the season, they went about it in a curious way.

The way that their year has gone is, in many ways, the best possible outcome. There have been obvious improvements thanks to Babcock. The work ethic is there. And the Marlies have played like world-beaters.

Finishing 30th, thanks to injuries, trades and an insistence on protecting the kids, won’t be a black eye for anyone.

But it does leave the Leafs with their biggest hurdle still to come: beating the Edmonton Oilers in the draft lottery.

Good luck with that.

Follow on Twitter: @mirtle

Source: Leafs leading the race to NHL cellar and top prospect Auston Matthews

From the Branches: What time is the Super Bowl?

From Pension Puppets

There’s a big football game today. It should be a great distraction after last night’s disaster in Ottawa.

Last night sucked. The Leafs looked horrific the whole game. I don’t even know what to say. They were so bad they made James Reimer literally cry on the bench!

Sens 6, Leafs 1: So, About That… – PPP
An unfortunate day as Air Canada makes sure the Leafs’ luggage made it to Ottawa, but lost the team.

Ottawa Senators Trounce Toronto Maple Leafs 6-1 – Silver Seven
Ottawa put in a performance for the ages, trouncing their intra-provincial rivals.

Here’s the game in one GIF.

Here’s what else we wrote about yesterday.

Kasperi Kapanen asks William Nylander 20 questions, both are adorable – PPP
I’m loathe to use the word “bromance”, but…

The NHL launched an upgraded GameCentre Live, and I found it surprisingly good – PPP
The new Rogers GameCentre Live apps feature improved performance and viewing options, though the modernized interface needs a bit more work. Here’s my review after using them for the past four days.

Don Cherry: NHL concussion spotters are “dumb dumbs” – PPP
Don Cherry says he thinks that the NHL’s concussion spotters don’t know what they are doing, and he would never send a player off the ice, unless it would circumvent league discipline protocol.

There is actual hockey on TV today! Since there is no way in hell the NHL would dare go up against the Super Bowl, the games are all matinees, which is actually nice. The main NBC network itself will host the Capitals vs. Flyer, starting early, at noon. If Pierre McGuire’s obscure facts aren’t your thing, there are another two games starting at 2:30PM EST.

Last Night’s Other Games

Yesterday’s Flyers vs. Rangers game featured a controversial incident involving Wayne Simmonds and Ryan McDonagh. McDonagh cross-checked Simmonds in the back of the head. Simmonds turned around and punched him in the face, knocking him to the ice. The officials came down hard on Simmonds, slapping him with both a Game Misconduct, and the rarely used nuclear option, a Match Penalty. This meant Simmonds was immediately ejected from the game, and there will be an automatic further review of his conduct by the league. McDonagh took two minors for high-sticking and slashing.

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In a much lighter incident, there was a major zamboni foul-up in Detroit that caused a 40 minute delay of the game!

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It’s funny, but FFS keep your helmets on properly, players!

Visor saves the day.

Obligatory for Species FTBs

Watch Brad Marchand score on a penalty shot in overtime and win the game! – Stanley Cup of Chowder
Tonight’s game against Buffalo went to overtime. It’s the third game in a row that they’ve gone to overtime. Here’s the clip of him drawing the overtime penalty shot, burying it.

SB Nation Game Recaps

The Flames take it to Vancouver 4-1 – Matchsticks and Gasoline
Calgary gets two late empty net goals and sink Vancouver and earn a much needed 2 points.

Avalanche lose to Jets – Mile High Hockey
I’m going to go find some bourbon. Go Broncos or whatever.

Anisimov, Crawford lead Chicago to 5-1 victory in Dallas – Second City Hockey
Artem Anisimov stepped up with four points for Chicago.

Predators 6, Sharks 2: Hallå Sverige! – On the Forecheck
When the final score ends up 6-2, you know it was your kind of night.

Powerplay runs Wild – St. Louis Game Time
Three! Three powerplay goals, ah, ah, ah.

Crosby and Letang fuel big comeback, Pens win – PensBurgh
Sidney Crosby takes over in the third period and helps the Penguins out against the Panthers, with Kris Letang scoring the overtime winner.

Wings offense surges in 5-1 victory of Islanders – Winging It In Motown
Before today, everything was bad. It was getting colder in Detroit, and it wasn’t because of the weather. It was because of Red Wings hockey.

Stick taps all around – Eyes On The Prize
The Canadiens rolled over the Oilers in decisive fashion on Saturday afternoon.

Capitals Shoot Their Way Out of New Jersey, 3-2  – Japers’ Rink
The Caps scored late to tie the game and drag the New Jersey Devils to overtime, and the clubs could not decide things there. It was in the shootout that the Caps’ skill shined through for the win.

Rangers Tie Game Late, Defeat Flyers 3-2 In Shootout – Blueshirt Banter
The New York Rangers rallied late with a tying goal from Keith Yandle and defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 in the shootout.

Amazing Dylan Larkin Video

It has been deleted.

If you didn’t see it you missed out on a young teen “D-Boz”, draped in an American flag, telling you “It’s about to get hot”, as he fires “snips” in someone’s basement.

I swear it wasn’t my basement!

Watch a young Larkin (D-Boz) shoot pucks at a net in friend’s basement – Winging It In Motown
You’re not ready for this.

The 2017 Winter Classic

Apparently the league is concerned that having the Winter Classic in Toronto to coincide with the Maple Leafs centennial year celebrations is too risky because of all the other high profile hockey events taking place around the same time; namely the World Cup of Hockey and the World Junior Championships.

Where it will be is hotly debated. Two separate stories yesterday claimed different locations will host.

Blues could host Blackhawks in 2017 Winter Classic : Sports
The deal is not done yet, but Busch Stadium is anticipating an outdoor game on Jan. 2

Source: Flyers, Penguins will play outside in 2017 – ESPN
The Maple Leafs would love to have a Winter Classic as part of their centennial celebration — an obvious hook for awarding the event to Toronto — but there is fear having so many events in the city would hurt ticket sales, and the NHL’s priority is ensuring the World Cup is a financial success.

Other News

Malcolm Subban transported to hospital after taking puck to throat – Stanley Cup of Chowder
No update yet on his injury, but he spent the night in the hospital for observation. The Providence Bruins did however make the night for one lucky men’s league player by signing him as the EBUG.

Not so fast on Gartner being not so fast: Larkin’s All-Star Fastest Skater record intrigue – Winging It In Motown
For the Gartner truthers out there we have used gifcam to count frames in tenths of a second.

No quick remedy for what ails the Montreal Canadiens – The Globe and Mail
From relying on Carey Price too much to lousy acquisitions and extensions, a turnaround for the Habs won’t begin without big changes

Lawsuit, possible dementia are both waiting games for former NHL players – The Globe and Mail
Class-action suit slowly wends its way through U.S. courts as retired NHLers chart the effects of repeated head trauma

An Expectations Reset – The Cannon
The Blue Jackets once again find themselves at the bottom of the standings. How will fans readjust their expectations for the team they once thought of as a potential playoff darkhorse?

Don’t Worry, Be Happy – The Cannon
As someone who has been incredibly critical of the franchise this season, let’s take a look at some positives that the team (and the fans) can build on going forward into the future.

11 thoughts on Amanda Kessel returning to college hockey – SB Nation College Hockey
The good, the bad, and some stream of conscious blogging on the number 8 sweater making her long-awaited return to Minnesota.

A Slice of Greatness: Brodeur’s Standout Performances – All About The Jersey
For our continuing coverage of the man, the myth, the legend Martin Brodeur on this website, today I want to highlight some of #30’s standout performances during his 20 year tenure with the New Jersey Devils. Let’s relive them together.

Scrivens talks about the end of his tenure in Edmonton – Eyes On The Prize
The Canadiens netminder had a few things to say about the end of his time with the Oilers, and whether there is any bitterness since the trade to Montreal.

A Hockey City: The Void – Eyes On The Prize
I get an empty feeling when the Habs are this bad. Let’s explore… the void.

Interview With Madison Packer of the New York Riveters: Playoffs, Pasta, and Grinding it Out – Blueshirt Banter
Before the NWHL, Madison Packer thought her career was over: “I wasn’t ready to be done … but I really had no choice.”

TSN1050 Shuffles the Deck – Toronto Sports Media Blog
On February 22nd TSN will reveal several new and revamped radio shows in an attempt to establish some market share against local behemoth the FAN590.

All eyes on Jets’ Byfuglien – TSN
Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and Byfuglien’s agent, Ben Hankinson, are working on reaching a contract extension that would keep the defenceman in Winnipeg for several years going forward.

The Super Bowl

What time is the Super Bowl anyway? I honestly have no idea. Maybe 6:00 PM EST? That sounds about right. I don’t even know who is playing. Are the Baltimore Stallions still good? The pre-game show start at 3:00PM EST Saturday.

The Super Bowl is not as good as The Stanley Cup Finals – St. Louis Game Time
The NFL’s big game pales in comparison to a real hard fought best of seven series. No big fluffy commercial needed.

7-Layer Buffalo Chicken Dip – Serious Eats
Buffalo chicken dip gets the seven-layer treatment with refried beans, pepper jack cheese, blue cheese crumbles, crispy bacon, and more.

Source: From the Branches: What time is the Super Bowl?

2016 NHL All-Star Game final score in Leo Komarov's "own" words

From Pension Puppets

Leo Komarov once again weighs in on the 1-0 ASG loss by Team Atlantic, and John Scott is the real and actual MVP.

Hello.

It is me once more time, Leo Komarov. May be you read my blogging post yesterday. Today I’m apologize for not play hard. Truth: I was hung over.

I’m type at you from bar on phone after game so I am write short post. Today I play in bag skate NHL pretend is “All Star Game.” What. Is three-on-three for long time, I want to die!! Woman interview me after game, and I say truth: “Is not really fit my style, but I try my best out there.”

OK you caught me, I lie. I did not try best. No hit? What? Is not hockey!

But I tell you what is good about today. Today I getting text from Finnish “nephew” Kasperi Kapanen. He wish me luck. I wonder, why do I need luck? Everybody say is not actually game, everybody drink a lot night before and go out on town. Kasperi, he have a lot to learn. Maybe some day he can represent Maple Leafs at All Star Game — and I will tell him, DRINK.

So last night I go out and I find BEST piano bar. I go out with AHL Marlies call up Stephen Stamkos, and he lure away piano player with story about give him signed stick. Then I take over piano !!!!!! I play William Joel song, “Piano Man.” Everybody at bar clap and ask me play “Free Bird.” I do not know this song so I play Finnish folk music instead. Luckily everybody is so drunk they believe I am play “Free Bird.”

Someone throw dollar at me !!!!!! My first money I earn from retirement career.

At bar after I play set, Stephen Stamkos talk about going back to Tampa Bay. “What,” I say. “You are not Marlies player? You are not famous AHL call up come to All Star Game because of fans vote?”

He laughs. “Leo Komarov, you play against my team two times this year. You did not notice who I am?”

I feel stupid. “But I see your name in Toronto press all of the time. I thought you play for AHL Toronto Marlies.”

Stamkos laughs more and buys me another drink. After a while I don’t feel stupid, I feel drunk.

Many hour pass and finally we go back to hotel. Jaromir Jagr still not back when we go to sleep. “Should he set example like this?” I ask Stephen. I worry about old man. Maybe heart fail before game, dead in Nashville piano bar alley.

“When you play hockey until 43, you make own rules,” Stamkos he says.

“I guess so.” I say. Still I worry.

Next day I am soooooooooooooo hung over. Turns out I did not need to worry. I try to find hotel breakfast bar for eat hang over eggs, and Jagr jog past me in small pants.

“Did you sleep” I ask him.

“No” he say and jog off in direction of blond woman, probably nutritionist.

I want to be this man when I am grow up. He is my hero forever and ever.

So we play Bag Skate tournament. In game I am with Patrice Bergeron and Stamkos, Tampa Bay man. Patrice is OK. Boring. Is all star game and he play defensive forward like he want to win Cup or some thing. Stamkos more fun, but crap on power play. I hope Babcock teach him shoot more, pass less, when Stephen come to Toronto.

I am hung over as shit, and hockey is BORING when no hits. I sleep on Stamkos during other game. Comfortable shoulder.

Even Roberto Luongo telling me we good line mates! I think I make Stamkos better on the ice by give him more Corsis — the MOST Corsis, but we lose anyway.

Then AHL IceCaps call up of Montreal John Scott (Is play for Pacific???? I missing something, did Montreal realign and I not hearing about it) score two times on bad goaltender, and then his team win Bag Skate trophy and a lot of money from NHL. John Scott win Most Valuable Player and carried on teammate shoulders.

I tell Stephen, “If you come to Toronto and win Cup with us, we carry you around entire rink, not just three seconds in the air.”

Stephen give me hug. He say, “I see you again at Trade Deadline.”

I don’t know what is mean, but it will be nice to see him again! He is good Piano Bar wing man.

Now I go back home, make Kasperi cook me good Finnish breakfast before play Boston.

Am I happy?

I am fine. You are fine.

This season, fine.

Love,

“Uncle” Leo.

[Leo Komarov’s actual reaction to the All-Star Game:]

[And the real MVP:]

Source: 2016 NHL All-Star Game final score in Leo Komarov's "own" words

The Marlies kept trying to lose and finally succeeded

From Pension Puppets

The Marlies scored one less goal than the Binghamton Senators in their last game before the All-Star break, the kind of lazy good-team problems the Maple Leafs are striving to acquire.

For the Marlies, it’s tough at the top, where the challenge for the rest of the regular season is to stay there.

I feel like I’ve said that before.

A tale of two teams

The Marlies are the top team in the AHL. I could enumerate the ways they are the best: the goals for, the goal differential, this percentage, that measure, this stat, that calculation, but they all come out the same. The Marlies are an elite team that’s had a lot of luck and have won the overwhelming majority of their games so far.

So far.

They have two and a half more months to play.

Frölunda, Andreas Johnson‘s team, is also atop their league and has an amazing goal differential; they shoot the puck like crazy and have four real lines that can all play at a high level. They are elite, lucky, and they’ve won the overwhelming majority of their games. And among that elite team, Johnson, at 21, and Artturi Lehkonen at 20 are the young stars that are working every day to get to the NHL.

The rest of the team may have once dreamed of it, some of them have tried and found their home in Sweden instead, and for them the league they play in is their league; the games are a point unto themselves; the championship is the reward at the end of the season, and leaving is not the mark of success.

Frölunda are showing the signs of a sluggish desire to just get on with it, get to the playoffs, get this year over, win the cup and turn the calendar to next year so they can do it again. They’ve dropped a couple of stinkers lately—big losses, a couple of shutouts where they just skated around bored for 60 minutes. They’ve won a couple like that too.

For Johnson, this is his last year there. He is proving himself, and wants to win, but he has his eyes on a higher goal.

They have a month and a half to go before the playoffs.

The Marlies have a lot more than two guys who are yearning to escape. They have nearly a roster full. They are more than just William Nylander and Kasperi Kapanen, two guys who hope they will see the NHL this year and every year after.

There is Mark Arcobello, patiently scoring more and more and winning awards.

There is Nikita Soshnikov working on the bottom six and trying to prove what he can do, taking every chance to get on a better line and making the most of it.

There’s Connor Brown, doing a very good job of reminding everyone who he is with points in every game since he’s been back.

There is T.J. Brennan, ripping up the record books and rewriting them anew on this his fourth AHL team. On none of those has he been as dominate over three seasons as he has on the Marlies. He’s tasted the coffee in the NHL, but he’s never stuck, and it’s easy to just decide that’s it, he hasn’t got it, but if the 26-year-old defenceman leading the league in scoring isn’t up to it, are you sure all those kids are a lock?

There’s also Zach Hyman, who didn’t stick with the team that drafted him, nor did Brendan Leipsic or Scott Harrington. There’s a handful of Toronto draft picks in Josh Leivo, Viktor Loov, and Rinat Valiev. And all of them want out. They don’t want to ever again ride five hours home from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

And they’re collectively playing pretty bad hockey lately.

The Marlies roared along for the last few games, winning while being outshot and putting on a terrible power play and giving up a league-leading number of shorthanded goals. They have been winning by betting big, risking big, and outscoring their opponents with contemptuous ease.

Lately, the defence has been falling to ruins, the goalies have been working like single mothers with two jobs, and still they win.

Or they did.

An afternoon at the Ricoh Coliseum

Saturday afternoon in Toronto, on the afternoon after that ride home from Grand Rapids, they didn’t outscore their problems. Not quite.

They played the division basement-dweller Binghamton Senators, and they were each as bad as the other. They took 8 penalties each, scored five regulation goals each. They each had a short-handed goal, and the Senators won it on a goal on a breakaway in overtime after one of the Marlies blew a skate on the play in his own end and fell down. A fitting end to a game that cast no glory on anyone.

The Marlies outshot the Senators—they aren’t so far gone, they couldn’t do that—37-29, giving Garret Sparks a save percentage of .793.

They gave up so many odd man rushes, turnovers, easy giveaways, and I guess it was buy one get one free day at Ricoh?

This isn’t a one off aberration. They’ve been drifting in this direction for weeks, and some of that is injuries pulling the better guys out of the lineup, and some of it is just the difficulty you have when the team is so good they score more goals than even the good teams most of the time.

Bob McGill the Marlies colour commentator was wondering how you tell these guys to tighten it up, when they usually win even when they play so loose? A good question. Ask Alain Vigneault. Maybe he knows. Not that the Marlies are the hollow-cored New York Rangers. They usually do outshoot their opposition not just out-goal them.

Getting the Marlies back on track may be a harder task than Frölunda has with their team of slightly bored overachievers, however.

It’s not a terrible problem to have, being so good you’re struggling to execute your system well night after night, but it is a problem. And it’s a hell of a skill to bring to a team that’s never had this dilemma before if you learn the trick of it.

A cautionary tale

This is what Nate MacKinnon said about Jonathan Drouin recently:

“Our junior team, we lost five games all year, we had the puck the whole game,” MacKinnon said. “We were playing offense for two years, we didn’t really play any ‘D.’ So that’s tough. I don’t know you can really expect lockdown ‘D’ when you first come into the league. You can always work on your ‘D’ but you can’t just become an offensive force.”

And he’s not wrong. But where do you start to learn that more complete game? Something you can use when you don’t have a team of above average players every night. Something you can use to get yourself into a position to succeed when your coach hasn’t got the means to put you there. Something that will carry you when your cap-strapped team downgrades your linemates or your rebuilding team hasn’t got the horses to win much.

It’s not junior hockey, he’s right about that too.

For MacKinnon it was the NHL. He very much did it the hard way. But the New Toronto Maple Leafs don’t do things that way, they tell us. Not unless they have to, like they will with Mitch Marner.

So it had better be the AHL, the league most guys are trying to leave. And it better be now before they start leaving one way and another.

Nice problems to have

Sheldon Keefe has some things to accomplish. He’s got to bring Nylander back into the lineup; he’s got Connor Brown chomping at the bit to play—and he was as guilty as any guy out there of sloppy defensive errors. He might have Josh Leivo—who had as many shots on goal on Saturday as he had shots of any kind in 4 games for the Leafs—and who made a lot of sloppy definsive errors.

Keefe’s also got Mark Arcobello and T.J. Brennan, who need to see a carrot on the end of the stick or they might stop carrying the goal-scoring burden for the team most nights. (Between the pair of them they have 19% of the Marlies goals. Add in Nylander and Leivo, and you get to 34%. The offence isn’t quite so spread out on this team as we tell ourselves.)

Keefe’s got to get them all to tighten up and play better than they need to. And he has to convince them it’s for their own good. Because it is.

So far, he’s been very good at doing that. Let’s see if he can keep doing it once the All-Star Break is over.

Source: The Marlies kept trying to lose and finally succeeded

William Nylander hits the ice in Grand Rapids for the Marlies

From Pension Puppets

After a month off due to his concussion and an illness, William Nylander was back and almost looked ready for action.

The Marlies went on a two game road trip to Grand Rapids Michigan this week to face the Griffins. The first game was a school-day game on Wednesday morning with the second going Friday night.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

For the first game there were the now-usual roster adjustments:

Defenceman Justin Holl was back in off of a minor injury, which meant the Marlies have both their right-shooting D back!

The bad news is Kasperi Kapanen isn’t on the trip to Grand Rapids, and has some kind of injury. My impression is it’s not a big concern.

The Griffins came out fully awake at 11:00 am, but the Marlies took a little time to catch up. Once they got going, they just didn’t stop during the first period.

Mark Arcobello opened the scoring by stepping around the D, and casually flipping the puck in on the backhand. Easy peasy. He’s played the least number of games of any guy in the top ten in scoring, by the way.

Arcobello’s a guy who shares though; he won an offensive-zone faceoff and sent it over to Frattin and in the net it went. Arcobello was still in fifth place in scoring after this game, but he’s breathing down the neck of the guy in fourth.

Zach Hyman has been looking good as his winger. He’s fast, works the full game, knows what he’s doing offensively and is in the right place. The same can be said of Frattin; they’ve really stepped up in the absence of higher rated prospects.

The shots were 13-7 Marlies, and they had essentially won the game with a 2-0 lead, they just needed to play out 40 minutes.

In the second period, Connor Brown made it 3-0 after a good stretch of Griffins play. That took the life right out of the Griffins, and the rest of the second was a very chippy period, with two teams who don’t like each other much and officials who couldn’t control the game well.

Shots were flipped 14-7 for the Griffins, and Sparks had a work out.

The third period was all the Garret Sparks show, and he got his third shutout of the season. Good thing he was the man in the net for this one. Antoine Bibeau has been good lately, but this game needed that extra level of flash for some of the saves.

The Marlies have a very bad habit of riding the goalie once they put up a few goals. They took a too much man penalty, a delay of game penalty for flubbing faceoffs on purpose, and while that made a change from the roughing penalties of the second, it was sloppy play.

It took too long for them to figure out how to effectively fill up the neutral zone and stop the Griffins offensive push. But Frattin got one during the very, very early goalie pull by the desperate Griffins, who were working on their second straight scoreless game and just wanted a goal. They didn’t get one.

Shots at the end of the game were 39-23 for the Griffins And the final score was 4-0. You can see all the Marlies goals at the start of this highlight video, and stay around for some Griffins interviews if you like:

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Friday, January 29, 2016

You know who’s back. You know.

Sheldon Keefe and William Nylander talk about his first game back:

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The roster was shuffled some more prior to this game, as teams all over the NHL sent guys down to the AHL over the All-Star break to pinch pennies on two-way contracts. Josh Leivo arrived, mostly so he could play in the All-Star game on the weekend, and to make way for him and Nylander, Éric Faille and Rylan Schwartz were sent back south to the Orlando Solar Bears.

The lineups for this game were the subject of much anticipation. Sheldon Keefe had some decisions to make, and it was one of those nice problems to have, remaking the lineup to hold as many as three of his top players—Nylander, Brown and Leivo.

So far, he’s experimenting with Nylander and Brown together with Nikita Soshnikov on the other wing. With Kasperi Kapanen out for a few days, this was expected to be the top line for Nylander’s first game back.

The final answer for the last away game in January was:

Forwards

Bailey – Arcobello – Hyman
Findlay – Nylander – Brown
Soshnikov – Gauthier – Morin
Leipsic – Rupert – Frattin

Defence

Campbell – Valiev
Loov – Percy
Brennan – Holl

And Antoine Bibeau was in net.

This was an interesting choice for Nylander’s first game. These two teams have a history from last year’s playoffs, and it showed in the first game of the series.

The first period featured a lot of back and forth action, and on one of the earliest plays, Brown stopped to put a bow on the puck and hand it to Nylander so he could get his first shot—bit of a weak flick of the puck toward the net, but the seal was broken, as they say.

The Marlies gave up a couple of turnovers that led to rushes the other way, and their offence was slower paced than it often is. The shots were even for the first half, the Marlies killed one penalty, and were staying in the game courtesy of Bibeau.

In the Marlies first power play of the game, Andy Miele picked the puck off a bad pass in the Griffins zone, and off he went, and in it went for the Griffins—first goal in over two games.

By the end of the period, shots were 16 – 7 for the Griffins and the game looked more like the end of the previous one than the start of it.

The second was largely a repeat of the first, with one big difference. The shots were even for the first half, the game started to slip more and more into the Griffins control, and then Nylander got the puck in the offensive zone, handed it off to Brennan, and the Toronto Marlies defenceman was leading the league in points. Tie game.

Nylander had a shift shortly after where he finally looked like himself, with his very distinctive skating style on full display.

Shots were 29 – 17 Griffins after two.

Five minutes in, Nylander lost the handle on the puck in the neutral zone, and Anthony Mantha took it and whipped behind the net and made it 2-0 Grand Rapids on a neat wrap around.

Toronto was playing just barely well enough to keep up with a team whose top scorers are barely in the top 30 in the league. The Griffins don’t have much up front, and the fact they do as well as they do is a testament to their tighter system.

By this time Seth Griffith (I don’t think this name is a co-incidence) had had a four point night for Providence and taken the AHL points lead again.

The Marlies not very good power play—13th in the league—was not very good, and they were at risk of giving up short handed chances more than once. This is an area they could tighten up on, and they would be in a much better position heading into the playoffs. They’ve given up the most shorthanded goals in the league.

But when you can just keep scoring, maybe you don’t tighten up where you should. Justin Holl made it a tie game again shortly after a nice cycle got started by Arcobello.

And when you can just keep scoring, maybe Bibeau doesn’t need to be quite as good as Sparks. Zach Hyman made it 3-2 on a nice play from Arcobello with less than 2 minutes to play. Bendan Leipsic got the empty net this night, to make it 4-2.

Final shots were 40-28 Griffins. Two straight games of giving up more than 35 shots is not sustainable hockey, but it’s two straight wins.

Nylander was not all the way on his game, but he’ll get there in good time. The Marlies next game is tomorrow at 5pm at home against Binghamton, and Nylander is not expected to play.

Source: William Nylander hits the ice in Grand Rapids for the Marlies

Leafs have hit bottom plenty of times in last 50 years

From The Star

For a team that is tied for last in the NHL, with one win in its last 10 games and likely to miss the playoffs for the 10th time in 11 seasons, things sure are quiet around the Toronto Maple Leafs.

There will be no bloodletting this year as there was last when general manager Dave Nonis, head coach Peter Horachek, the assistant coaches and a bevy of scouts lost their jobs.

The off-season hirings of head coach Mike Babcock and GM Lou Lamoriello have changed the conversation from: “How bad are the Leafs?” to “How good will they be in a year or two?”

Tyler Bozak, who has lived through the tumultuous times in an entire NHL career spent with the Leafs, has noticed.

“There’s a lot of excitement with Mike and Lou here,” Bozak said. “They’ve done a lot of good things with teams before. There’s a lot of trust for them to turn the ship around here. Hopefully, we’re on the right track.”

That may not be reflected in the standings, where the Leafs (17-22-9) find themselves tied for last in points with Columbus and Edmonton.

But there’s a plan that goes beyond this season, building on recent drafts that netted them such prospects as William Nylander and Mitch Marner, and trades that brought them others like Kasperi Kapanen and Zach Hyman.

The Leafs have had terrible seasons before, each with its own set of ramifications. The franchise has been in seeming disarray for almost 50 years.

Source: Leafs have hit bottom plenty of times in last 50 years

Connor Brown, David Kolomatis, and the Marlies welcomed the Utica Comets

From Pension Puppets

Guess who’s back? Brown, in action after missing most of the season with a broken foot. He showed the visiting Comets a real good time. Read about that, and meet the newest Marlie, Kolomatis.

Roster News

Before the game on Saturday, the Marlies made some roster moves. They’d sent Eric Baier, Éric Faille and Jack Rodewald back to the Orlando Solar Bears a few days before, and they called Faille back up on Saturday. There’s no word how much progress he made through a snow storm that rerouted flights and cancelled games in both the AHL and the NHL, but Faille is somewhere in transit.

The Marlies also announced that they had signed David Kolomatis to an AHL contract. Kolomatis is a 26-year-old American, right-shooting defenceman who has had a strong AHL career that’s taken some unusual turns. Twenty-five seems to be the year of great changes in a hockey career. You’re either going up or you move laterally.

Kolomatis, a former member of the Owen Sound Attack in the OHL, was drafted by the Kings and played for their AHL team, the Manchester Monarchs, along with Rich Clune and Andrew Campbell. He had extremely consistent results there for years, and maybe that’s the problem.

In his rookie year he put up similar points to the Monarch’s other top defencemen, Vyacheslav Voynov and Alec Martinez. The next year, Martinez was with the Kings, Voynov had shot up to almost double the points, and Kolomatis was just the same.

We all know how that turned out, Voynov is in the KHL, Martinez scored a storied goal that won a cup and Kolomatis, well, he’s much more interesting.

He signed on to the Washington Capitals organization for a year as a free agent, maybe looking for a better opportunity, and he was just as he always was with 7 goals and 30 points in the AHL. So he went to Finland last year. It’s not an uncommon thing for guys to do, particularly guys gifted with a listed height of 5’11”. But it’s not something that always works out.

Kolomatis struggled to score much in Finland, and he came back to America and took a job with the Manchester Monarchs again. Coming home in a way, but the Monarchs are not the King’s AHL club anymore, they are the ECHL club, and the level of play has been obviously below his ability; he’s scoring at twice his old AHL rate.

He will be, for the Marlies, insurance. Justin Holl, their only right-shot D, is out with an injury, so Kolomatis provides cover there, and fills a role that they are light on. He is a veteran AHL-level player who knows the game and has succeeded on one of the best teams in the league. The Leafs organization may be contemplating trading some of their defencemen, some prospects or both, and having a guy like Kolomatis, makes it all easier. Now, the Solar Bears may get to keep their captain, Baier, where they need him too.

Kolomatis is not going to excite anyone like the potential of Nikita Zaitsev has, but the team can’t function without guys like him.

The Games

Saturday, January 23

The Marlies with their amazing record of 32-8-2 are now the team every other team wants to knock off like David did Goliath:

Utica came, they saw, and they…got pretty easily beat even though they controlled the play more than most Marlies’ opponents.

The Marlies had chosen a lineup that put Kasperi Kapanen with Mark Arcobello and Zach Hyman as the top line, and they were very good. There’s been a lot of talk lately about Kapanen and how many points he has since the WJC, but to my eye, he’s been cooking since early December, and the WJC was of a piece with that, there is no cause and effect, no gold-medal bump, only a guy feeling good and showing it on the ice.

Rylan Schwartz, still up from the Solar Bears and playing on the fourth line, opened the scoring with his first AHL goal.

Arcobello added one on the power play, and Kapanen made it 3-1 before the second intermission.

Scoring effects had everyone in an iron grip in the third, and luckily for the Marlies, Garret Sparks was more on his game than he had been in the first two periods, where he’d got away with some sloppy puck handling.

The Comets made it 3-2, but Nikita Soshnikov got an empty net goal to seal the deal at 4-2, and that was the win. Not very pretty, but good enough.

Arcobello’s two point night moved him to fifth in the AHL in scoring and ahead of William Nylander. T.J. Brennan was still in contention for the lead, one point out of first place. Kapanen’s two points moved him up about 50 places in the points standings, and I will not be surprised if he finishes the year at least in the top 20.

The best news of the day, though, was that Connor Brown was expected to start on Sunday.

Sunday, January 24

Let’s just get the important part out of the way first:

So that’s Connor Brown with his first goal of the year on his second shift, and then David Kolomatis with his first goal in the AHL this year and as a Marlie and then Brown with another, and deep breath, and that was all before the first period was more than half over.

Next up T.J. Brennan got one and then made it two, which made him the AHL points leader, but wait there’s more!

Leipsic got a shorthanded goal that was lovely.

And with under two minutes to play and on their fifth try at the power play because face it, the Marlies were bored, Utica busted the shutout and after two periods the score was 6-1.

In less fun news, Stuart Percy was boarded hard in the first period and did not come out for the rest of the game. The perpetrator got five and a game, which is the best way to punish that kind of crap. No fines or suspensions, take them out of the game they’re in.

In between goal three and four, Utica pulled Richard Bachman for Joe Cannata, and that obviously did them no good.

Brown spent the afternoon with Findlay and Soshnikov and they were obviously delightful together. The top line of Arcobello, Kapanen and Hyman were very good too, but they just didn’t need to try much after Brown and the defencemen took care of racking up all those goals.

After two, Jeremy Morin was leading the team in shots on goal, as he did in the Saturday game, but again had no points to show for it. It will come. Keep shooting, and it will come.

Utica handed Arcobello a turnover in the third, and while he might have preferred a cherry one, he skated it up the ice and made it 7-1. The rest of the game was a lot calmer with fewer penalties, and the Comets went home with an empty slingshot and Goliath alive to fight another day.

The next game is Wednesday, January 27 at 11:00am in Grand Rapids. We know who we want to play guess who’s back with next, but patience is in order. Not before he’s ready.

Source: Connor Brown, David Kolomatis, and the Marlies welcomed the Utica Comets

Fighting in the AHL and Drouin watch: Marlies host the Crunch

From Pension Puppets

This was a heck of a night to recap the Marlies game.

Fighting in the AHL

There’s a video many people have watched of AHL player Brian McGrattan getting knocked out in a fight. It’s a tough view for many, and the fans’ behaviour is troubling.

McGrattan has played for a laundry list of teams and last had something like a full season in the NHL in 2013-2014. He signed on to the Anaheim Ducks this year as a free agent and has played 36 games for their AHL team. He has 8 points, a decently legitimate number of shots on goal, and 94 penalty minutes.

There is a perception, partly based in reality, that the AHL has a fight every game. That’s not really true, but it depends on which teams you watch as to how many you see.

This chart is the work of @NHLtoSeatle and you should give a follow if you have any interest at all in NHL expansion or western hockey.

There are, of course fights in the NHL too. There was one last night where Dion Phaneuf took on Brayden Schenn, perhaps confusing him with his brother who is more known for engaging in that sort of thing. Mike Babcock had this to say after:

“I thought the Phaneuf fight was a big deal for us. We got competing and controlling a lot of the game from that point,” said Babcock. “If you have people in your lineup that are capable of looking after themselves, it’s a real positive.

“It just keeps the flies off a little bit. It’s nice to have guys who are capable of looking after your teammates.”

Is it worth it? And who gets to decide? And if we’re worried about the concussion protocols and attitudes in the NHL, then what is happening in the AHL where they are supposed to be following NHL rules?

McGrattan said this after (It has been reported that coach Dallas Eakins sent him home from the road trip.):

Rich Clune is the man known for fighting on the Marlies, and he does; he was involved in the most recent Marlies fight on January 9. Other guys on the team have had fights too. But Clune makes a valid point here. Even he walks away sometimes.

Justin Johnson had the one before Clune’s on January 3, and he’s much more a pure enforcer than Clune. Clune’s usually busy playing with serious, offensively-minded guys. Johnson has 8 games so far with 1 point (anyone can get an assist on the Marlies) and 36 penalty minutes. Johnson was literally signed to be good in the room, it should be remembered.

But if even the low, low fighting Marlies have more than one guy to take on the role of tough guy or adrenaline booster or fly shooer, when will it ever go away on it’s own? Or do we expect guys like McGrattan and John Scott and Johnson to just move down to the ECHL like Eric Neilson did when Scott bounced off the IceCaps roster.

And then we ask what the concussion protocol is there, I suppose.

When discussing the incident with Elliott Friedman, McGrattan talked about the fan reaction.

…as McGrattan said, it looked brutal. There was the injury, and there was the cheering.

“The fans here, they don’t know any better,” was all he said about that.

Maybe it’s time we all did.

Syracuse at Marlies – January 20, 2016

Drouin Watch

Last weekend we played Where in the World is John Scott. This time, it’s Jonathon Drouin’s turn.

Unless you’ve been really out of the loop, you’ve likely heard that the Tampa Bay Lightning sent their talented young forward, Jonathan Drouin to the Syracuse Crunch amidst statements from his agent that he’s unhappy with his usage and wants a trade.

A trade seems almost certain, but Steve Yzerman was not hurrying. As a result, the crunch games are buzzing with scouts, more so than usual. Drouin has 2 goals and 1 assist in 7 games so far and 16 SOG. That’s not Nylander or Arcobello territory for shooting, but it’s not bad.

And then before the game started, the bomb dropped:

And then the countering statement:

So no Drouin for the scouts to watch. I don’t think the Marlies will be unhappy with the scrutiny of all those bored scouts. Watch for our own take on the Marlies UFA players and their trade prospects coming soon.

Lineup Changes

There are some new faces in town!

Defenceman Eric Baier and forward Rylan Schwartz were called up from the Orlando Solar Bears and signed to PTO contracts so they can play. Both have some AHL experience, but if they draw into the lineup, they’ll be making their Marlies debut. Baier is the captain of the Solar Bears, and they are a small squad spread very thin right now without these two and Éric Faille who is already with the Marlies.

Defencemen Stuart Percy and Justin Holl were both injured on the weekend and are unlikely to play.

The Game

The game opened to some furious action. Both of these teams are fast, hard-playing sides that play to win. Kristers Gudlevskis, in net for Syracuse, had to work, making some key saves right away.

Both of the new callups were in the game for the Marlies, and along with Faille and Brett Findlay, that made four Solar Bears in the lineup. None of them looked terribly out of place, but the drop from Marc Arcobello at 1C to Ryan Rupert on the second line was pretty steep.

The up and down action continued for 10 minutes, with the Marlies leading 9-4 in shots on goal. The Marlies took a classic, fairly foolish, holding penalty on a Syracuse rush. Antoine Bibeau dumped a Crunch player in his crease on the delayed call and got away with it, but on the power play itself, he let in a dribbler that did not make him look good at all.

Viktor Loov, on the ice with T.J. Brennan and the Arcobello line, got an opportunity to take a beautiful pass and put it right past Gudlevskis. They looked like they were on the power play.

The goal was Loov’s first of the year, and the pass from Brennan put him on top of the AHL scoring list. It might not last, but he’s a defenceman and he’s leading the league in points. Amazing.

At the end of the period the shots were 14-11 for the Marlies, with a tie game.

The Crunch came out and took over the first half of the second, evened up the shot clock and hemmed the Marlies in. But they took a penalty for roughing.

The Marlies played a great power play with lots of chances, and as it ended, Faille had a very good scoring chance when the penalty killers got stuck on the ice. The Marlies had found their feet again.

The play stayed dead even in the second, and Kasperi Kapanen got all out hearts pumping when he turned on the turbocharger and outskated a Crunch D and made Gudlevskis come out to play the puck. It’s obvious in hindsight–like most things are–that he was really not well at the start of the year.

The Crunch got the go-ahead goal in the last minute of play on a rush by Cameron Darcy, when Bibeau seemed to be expecting a pass.

In the third, the Marlies were getting a little sloppy, and three goals came in a minute an a half. Arcobello got the first on an excellent shot, but two for the Crunch put them up 4-2.

Nikita Soshnikov and Zach Hyman, who were playing with Arcobello and were fantastic all night, got it to 4-3 with a great move by Soshnikov to keep control of the puck and shoot it in for Hyman to get a goal off the rebound.

This top line started to get a lot of icetime in the last few minutes of the game. They had a frantic flurry with Brennan working as the fourth forward, and Gudlevskis was under seige, but he weathered it.

The Marlies were not having a good time of it near the end of the game, and I was resigned to seeing them drop this one, when the Marlies interrupted a Crunch pass, and then Arco! Bello! came over the boards, outskated the D (not quite as fast as Kapanen), took the puck in and no doubt, that was going in. Beautiful game tying goal.

Bibeau made a sort of lazy play on the puck into the corner a few seconds later which the Marlies didn’t clear, and he had to make a couple of very good saves when the Crunch picked it up and got off two good shots. To OT.

OT was short and very sweet, with Brendan Leipsic coming out on the first change obviously ready to dish and dance with the puck. He tried one move, was denied, and then Rupert without a stick behind the net kicked the puck out and Leipsic spun once, shot the puck and in. Game over. Marlies win 5-4. Don’t they always? It seems like they do.

The next games are a weekend afternoon series against Utica. Hopefully, nothing other than hockey occurs, but you never know. Maybe Vancouver will send down a Sedin or something.

Source: Fighting in the AHL and Drouin watch: Marlies host the Crunch

Toronto Marlies: weekend in St. John's

From Pension Puppets

The Marlies went off to St. John’s to face the strange IceCaps, the team that has a very good record against them: 3-1-2 going into this weekend’s games.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

The way Montréal has been bouncing guys up and down to the IceCaps lately, it’s good the team is so conveniently close. They’ve done a lot more than just make the trade which got everyone’s dander up since the last time the Marlies played them.

First they got forward Max Friberg in a deal for their surplus goalie Dustin Tokarski. They sent Jacob de la Rose up to the Habs, and got Daniel Carr and Sven Andrighetto back. Stefan Fournier was traded to Arizona, and they sent one guy down to their ECHL team and released Eric Neilson from a PTO–Neilson was a big penalty minute, non-scoring guy.

The plus/minus on all of that adds up to -1 goalie, -1 forward, and then you add in John Scott and it’s all back to how it was. Neilson barely played, so Scott is very fit for that role. If he ever reports to the team. He did not for Saturday, so instead the IceCaps welcomed Nikita Sherbak, a top draft pick from 2014 who’s been out with an injury. I know who’d I rather have in my lineup.

Meanwhile, Rich Clune is with the Leafs on their road trip, so the Marlies recalled good Orlando Solar Bear’s forward Eric Faille. He had one game with the Marlies so far this year, where his goal led the comeback against the Utica Comets who were up 3-1. The Marlies took that one to OT and ultimately lost.

The rest of the Marlies changes happened before this set of games, but to refresh memories, Connor Brown is still out with and injury, Scott Harrington has been scratched lately and may be injured, Kasperi Kapanen is back, and checking the status of the Marco Yo-Yo: currently with the Marlies.

Toronto Marlies at St. John’s Ice Caps

Saturday, January 16

This game was about one thing: Goals, goals, goals.

Some were gorgeous.

Some were frustrating, like when IceCap’s Charles Hudon, who has a way with the Marlies, ripped the puck right off of Jeremy Morin’s stick while he was fiddling around trying to decide what to do with it, and roared off and tied the game.

Brandon Leipsic’s second goal of the night chased Eddie Pasquale, a goalie the Marlies have a way with, and Zach Fucale took over. Trouble is, the Marlies have a way with him too.

The wheels came off completely for the IceCaps in the second. They started taking penalties by the tonne, and the ref wasn’t interested in playing any even up games. The ref in question is Terry Koharski who the IceCaps play-by-play man Brian Rogers does not care for at all.

The Marlies are not a team that sits quietly on a lead, however. They ended up with a 5-on-3, and just as the IceCaps killed the first penalty and it switched to a 5-on-4, they had a serious short-handed attempt. Antoine Bibeau was up to it, but he wasn’t a brick wall, since he’d already been done for 2 goals.

Leipsic quieted everyone down with the only goal in the second period, it gave him the hat trick, the team a 5-2 lead, and the crowd, evenly split as always between Marlies and IceCap fans, had nothing left to cheer for on either side.

The IceCaps continued to press hard in the third as they had all game, and the final score was 6-3.

At the end of the third, Hudon took a boarding penalty plus an unsportsmanlike like misconduct, and he was frustrated at the game, the officiating, and likely just being on the team when he’d like a chance at the NHL. I think we can all relate to that. He’s 5’10” and around 200 pounds. And I couldn’t help thinking what would have happened if John Scott were out there. He’s the biggest guy in the AHL right now at 260 pounds, and is never on the ice to handle the puck.

Rogers was also frustrated, and he went off a rant about how the IceCaps couldn’t by a frigging thing out there, and that was virtually a Canadian Heritage Moment and a reason why AHL games are so much fun.

T.J. Brennan’s three assists put him ahead of William Nylander for the team scoring lead and within one point of the league lead. Maybe he’s more than just the best defenceman in the AHL?

See Maple Leafs Hot Stove for a more indepth recap.

Toronto Marlies as St. John’s Ice Caps

Sunday, January 17

The day dawned with the news that the meme had landed.

There were rumours he was on the roster or in the lineup, and it was a big buzz or anticipation, but in the end, the IceCaps iced a hockey team. No John Scott today.

More, importantly, Garret Sparks was back in net! It started out as a tight game, with no goals coming in the first period, and the Marlies just barely outshooting the IceCaps. (In the AHL, that always means shots on goal, as that’s all that’s tracked.)

In the second, the troubling trend from Saturday continued with the IceCaps outshooting the Marlies. They had better control of the puck today and the Marlies didn’t.

But the IceCaps have some real defensive failures from time to time, and early in the second they left Soshnikov totally alone in the slot, and you can’t do that. 1-0 Marlies.

The Marlies took a penalty shortly after and chased their tails for most of the PK and paid for it. Tie game.

Less than a minute later and an easy tic-tac-toe goal for Casey Bailey from Brett Findlay who made the play with Faille in the right spot to be the tac. 2-1 Marlies.

The IceCaps got another power play goal, the Marlies PK unable to do anything to prevent it. Tie game again.

The third period was where the heroes got separated from the goats. Problem is, sometimes they’re the same guy!

Lucas Lessio took a penalty for the IceCaps, which is bad, but then Markus Eisenschmid outplayed T.J. Brennan to get his first pro goal. And it was a shorty.

A bit later it was Morgan Ellis from out in the weeds, and it was 4-2 IceCaps and they seemed like they could roll home on that lead.

But the Marlies don’t quit. An excellent rush by Rinat Valiev who made the play possible, led to Arcobello and Morin combining to get it in the net by rushing in and winning the battle for the slot. 4-3 IceCaps.

The hero turned into the goat when Valiev, just trying to move the puck up in front of Sparks, got done by Lessio who snuck up and shoved it off of Valiev’s stick and right past a startled Sparks. 5-3 IceCaps.

The Marlies pulled the goalie really early, and there were two goals: one from T.J. Brennan from a shot from the blueline, and one a few seconds later where the IceCaps put the game away. 6-4 was the final score, and the Marlies got beat by the team that played better.

Too many penalties, too much defensive slack, too much lack of speed against a tough team that had found their cohesion, and the lazy Sunday game went against them.

T.J. Brennan is now tied with the AHL points leaders with 38 points, pending the results of later games.

The Marlies next game is Wednesday against Syracuse. Will Jonathan Drouin appear?

Nylander won’t, but it’s getting closer:

Source: Toronto Marlies: weekend in St. John's

Kasperi Kapanen is now on a stamp

From Pension Puppets

That’s what happens when you score golden overtime goals. Greatness.

It’s probably safe to say Kasperi Kapanen is a national Finnish hero. After all, scoring a goal is one thing, but scoring an overtime goal is another. Scoring an overtime goal in the gold medal game is on a whole other level, and scoring it on home ice…

[embedded content]

Yeah, that’s a national hero right there. So what better way to celebrate than by putting him on a stamp?

If it’s good enough for Mikael Granlund, then surely, it has to be good enough for this trio of exuberant Finnish teenagers.

Kapanen wasn’t so much quiet during the World Juniors as simply not scoring as much. The entire Finnish team was overshadowed by the line of Patrik Laine, Sebastian Aho, and Jesse Puljujarvi, with the two draft-eligible wingers in particular putting up massive points and stealing the show.

The Maple Leafs prospect, meanwhile, was tied for sixth in team scoring with Mikko Rantanen with two goals and five assists – though he clearly saved the best for last.

And now it’s immortalized. Awesome.

Source: Kasperi Kapanen is now on a stamp