The Toronto Marlies wrapped up a four game home stand with back to back games on the weekend. The Marlies beat Rochester on Saturday 4-3 and fell to the Abbotsford Heat 3-2 on Sunday. They now have a 7-2-0-1 home record, which is one of the best in the entire AHL. Here are four things that caught my eye in the two games:
1. Joe Colborne – Colborne was back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch last Sunday. If you recall, I was hoping to monitor how many times Colborne drove the net in the game last Sunday against Lake Erie, but since he did not play I was unable to do so. I instead did that for the game on Saturday against Rochester. In 16 shifts he made it to the front of the net only three times. When he was in front of the net he was often drifting through rather than stopping to be a net presence. Only once was he parked in front of the net and he actually ended up behind the Amerks goalie. What stood out to me again was his penchant to take the puck to the corners away from the net. He had a chance in the first period where he drove wide on the defenseman and instead of taking to the puck to the goal he circled the net and sent a back hand pass through the slot to nobody.
I did not do a count during Sunday’s game, but it blew my mind to see Colborne manning the point beside Mike Kostka on the Marlies power play with Jake Gardiner out of the lineup. I realize that the four forwards on the ice were rotating, but Colborne’s big body should be set up in front of the net, not back at the blue line.
I may sound like a broken record harping on him like this, but he is a frustrating guy to watch. He has all the tools and just isn’t putting it together. He must be driving Brian Burke crazy. When Burke acquired him in February of 2011 he thought he was getting a guy that was going to be ready in a year and instead he has someone that is looking more and more like a fringe prospect. He is on the last year of his entry level deal and although I don’t think the Maple Leafs will be ready to give up on him after this season, he sure isn’t helping himself.
2. Ryan Hamilton – Hamilton is an interesting guy when looking at the organizational depth chart. He has been with the Maple Leafs organization for the last five seasons after being acquired in a trade from Minnesota. He got his first crack at the NHL with two games last year and I thought he looked slow and overmatched. However, the Marlies captain appears to have worked on his skating in the off season and looks like he has an extra step this year. He’s a big body and hard to move off the puck. He scored a nice goal against Rochester after protecting the puck down low, driving to the front of the net and slipping the puck past the goalie (Joe Colborne take notice).
If the lockout does end there will be a very short training camp, which means teams will be bringing in fewer players. Since the AHL season will be on-going, he might be a victim of circumstance and not get a chance with the Maple Leafs. At 27-years-old he is probably just an AHL lifer at this point, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he gets a call up again during the season.
3. Marlies Penalty Kill – The Marlies have had best penalty kill the last two seasons but got off to a very slow start this year. On the weekend they killed off five of six penalties with the goal coming late against Abbotsford. Considering their success the last two seasons I would expect their penalty kill to turn it around. I’ve always thought penalty killing was more about scheme, preparation and effort rather than having “skilled penalty killers”. You have to wonder why the Maple Leafs penalty killing has been so poor while their AHL affiliate has been so successful. I guess Ron Wilson wasn’t asking Dallas Eakins for any pointers?
4. Jake Gardiner Injury – Gardiner took a blind side hit late in the second period against Rochester on Saturday night. Although he stayed on the ice for the ensuing power play and scored his second goal of the game during that man advantage, he did not return for the third period and was not in the lineup on Sunday. It would appear as though the injury is head related (aka a concussion) so there is no telling how long he might be out. This would be a huge blow for the Maple Leafs as Gardiner has been dominant in the AHL and looks like he is ready to take his game to the next level.
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