This past weekend the Toronto Marlies opened their season with two home games against the Rochester Americans (Buffalo Sabres) and the Lake Erie Monsters (Colorado Avalanche). They split the two games with a 3-1 win over Rochester and a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Lake Erie.
Below are five things that caught my eye during the opening weekend.
Brad May said Jake Gardiner looked like a man amongst boys prior to the first game. It didn’t take long to realize why.
Gardiner scored a beautiful goal jumping into the rush and set up another on the power play against Rochester. The Maries have had one of the worst power plays in the league over the last two seasons but with Gardiner and Mike Kostka manning the point on the first unit it should be much improved.
The Marlies finished three for nine on the power play against Rochester but struggled against Lake Erie. Even with their struggles, the Marlies had plenty of zone time and their entries were very fluid thanks to the two defensemen.
Until Joe Colborne realizes how big he is and starts playing like it, he will never be a significant contributor at the NHL level.
In the first period against the Americans we saw the good and bad of Colborne. He set up Ryan Hamilton for a tap in goal with a great back door pass on the power play; that was the good. The bad was a little more subtle.
With about five minutes left in the first period against Rochester, Colborne was sprung on a partial breakaway by Jerry D’Amigo. Instead of driving the net and forcing the defender to make a tough play, Colborne settled for a bad angle wrist shot from about the top of the circle. I also noticed in both games that he was very hesitant to head to the front of the net on the power play.
There were a number of occasions where Mike Zigomanis and Hamilton were working the half board and Colborne was on the weak side. Instead of working the front of the net/slot, he was consistently on the perimeter. Colborne is not going to score goals in the NHL or the AHL by playing on the perimeter.
Forget about his weight, Nazem Kadri is very talented.
Kadri set up Gardiner’s goal against Rochester by backing off the defense and he created a number of high quality chances for his linemates in both games.
Kadri played on the wing with Keith Aucoin and Carter Ashton for the better part of the two games. This is a positive sign as Kadri spent a lot of his time with the Marlies at center over the last two years, but he has almost exclusively been a winger when up with the Maple Leafs.
Getting Kadri accustomed to playing the wing will be a step in the right direction if the NHL ever does get going this season.
Greg McKegg played in his first two pro games with the Marlies on the weekend. He is a natural center but he was used as a winger in both games.
Although McKegg didn’t figure into the score sheet, the puck seemed to follow him around which led to him creating a number of scoring chances in the two games. If McKegg continues to play this way he will put himself on the radar of Maple Leaf management.
Hybrid Icing Rule
This weekend was my first chance to see the hybrid icing rule at the pro level.
Although the referee has to use some discretion as to who will get to the puck first, major collisions should be avoided since close calls are supposed to be called icing. However, on a couple occasions during the two games this did not happen as the linesman did not award an icing when there was a close race for the puck.
It’s important to note that the icing rule is not a race to the faceoff dots. The faceoff dots are used as a reference for the linesman and he must make his call by time the first person gets to the dot. Implementing this rule should be a no brainer when the NHL returns. Icing races are a very minor part of the game and the hybrid rule is a nice compromise between the current rule and no-touch icing.
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