February 13, 2014
TORONTO– The Marlies are learning that you can only take so many penalties before it comes back to cost you points in the standings.
In their last game before the All-Star break, the Marlies gave up two power-play goals to the Hamilton Bulldogs in a 4-3 loss. It was the eighth time this season that they had given up at least two or more goals in a game while shorthanded and sixth time resulting in a loss.
Furthermore, the club has now allowed the game-winning goal while down a man seven times this season, including six times in the third period or overtime.
One of those costly penalties came on Jan. 30 on the road against the Oklahoma City Barons in a 5-3 loss. Tied in the third period defenceman Korbinian Holzer took back-to-back minors and the second one, which was for kneeing, led to the game-winner.
Head coach Steve Spott took notice.
“You’re 3-3 with five minutes to go in the game and a veteran player takes a penalty, you can’t have that,” Spott told LeafsTV post-game. “We could have (left) there with a point. You touch the stove too many times you’re going to get burned.”
The Marlies have had to kill off 242 penalties this season, which is the fifth most in the American Hockey League, and for majority of the campaign Spott has relied on a small group of players to lead the penalty kill, which has led to problems other than just giving up timely goals.
“When you take seven or eight minor penalties you just can’t get your five- on-five going…When you spend fourteen to sixteen minutes in the box you have good players sitting on the bench.”
Not one of Toronto’s top-five scorers, including defenceman T.J. Brennan, see any time on the penalty kill so every time Toronto goes down a man each of them usually rest on the bench, making it difficult for the club to get any offence going.
When healthy, Spott has used the defensive pairings of Holzer and Andrew MacWilliam and Stuart Percy and Petter Granberg for most penalty-killing time while Kevin Marshall has slipped in when needed. On forward, Sam Carrick, Tyler Biggs, Jerry D’Amigo and Jerred Smithson have carried the most work load and Kenny Ryan has filled in at centre.
Toronto’s penalty kill currently sits 10th at 83.5 per cent efficiency, giving up 40 shorthanded goals in total.
The Marlies head into the second half of the AHL season third in the Western Conference with a 28-16-4 record. They are just six point behind the Abbotsford Heat for top spot and have two games in hand.
The Marlies next regular-season contest is Feb. 16 when they host the Utica Comets.