The first place Toronto Marlies hosted the affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks (Rockford IceHogs) at Ricoh Coliseum on Saturday. The Marlies were again without the services of Jake Gardiner who continues to recover from a head/neck injury (concussion…?). The Marlies won the game 5-2 in what was a very entertaining contest. Here are five things that caught my eye in the game:
1. Power Play – The Toronto Marlies power play continued to be effective on Saturday afternoon scoring one goal in six opportunities and was dangerous all night. With a revolving lineup it doesn’t seem to matter who is out there, they keep having some success. The Marlies had the ninth ranked power play coming into the game and the third ranked power play at home.
2. Paul Ranger – I think I’ve written about Paul Ranger after every game I’ve watched, but it is hard not to given how impressive he has been. I can’t see any reason, other than injury, that he won’t be with the Maple Leafs if there is an NHL season this year. There is no doubt that he is an NHL defenseman, the only question is whether he will be in the top four or not.
With Jake Gardiner being out, Ranger has assumed his position on the top power play unit. Ranger scored a power play goal on a rocket shot in the first period and now has five goals and 18 points in 28 games.
3. Nazem Kadri – Kadri returned to the lineup after missing three games with an apparent rib injury. Kadri took an elbow to the head from Hamilton’s Zack Stortini in the Boxing Day game at the ACC and hadn’t played since. Kadri showed no ill effects as he had plenty of jump in the game. He was on the wing alongside Matt Frattin and the two showed great chemistry together generating a few good scoring opportunities. This is great news for Maple Leafs fans as it looks like we just “MIGHT” have an NHL season starting up soon.
4. Lack of Truculence – Despite Mark Fraser and his two fight’s on Saturday afternoon, the Marlies and their parent club do not resemble anything of what you think a Brian Burke team would look like. Burke preached about truculence and toughness when he was introduced as the Maple Leafs general manager, but his team has been anything but that.
Similar to the Storitini hit on Kadri, Greg McKegg was caught with a blind side hit by Phillipe Paradis in the second period and yet again there was no immediate response from the Marlies. In contrast, Fraser had to drop his gloves twice for a hit he laid on Brandon Saad early in the game. Will Acton did end up dropping the gloves with Paradis later in the third period as he continued to run around and cause havoc.
A team does not need to have a bunch of goons to be tough, but rather they need to have a pack mentality. We saw this all too often with the Maple Leafs last season and it looks like it has filtered through the entire organization.
McKegg did not return to the ice after the hit…
5. Attendance – According to Kyle Ciccarella of The Canadian Press, Saturday’s game had the largest crowd in regular season history at the Ricoh Coliseum for the Marlies with 8,017 spectators. The Marlies are averaging over 7,000 fans a game this year, which is much greater than last season when they averaged just less than 5,700. The Marlies attendance has increased the last couple years and hopefully this is a trend and not just a result of the NHL lockout.
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