TORONTO– All Dallas Eakins wants from his offence right now is sim
Frustrated with his club’s performance against the Grand Rapids Griffins in the first two games of the second-round matchup, the coach spent Monday morning’s practice driving home the point that the puck has to start getting on the net.
“You’re either going to hit the net with your shot and get a chance on an odd man rush or you’re going to be embarrassed and skate,” said Eakins. “It’s amazing, we simplified the drill like that and suddenly out of 50 reps we had 47 chances on the net. It was a reminder to our guys that simple-stupid is always the best. If you’re not sure, just get the puck on the net. We can’t be missing the net, making hope plays. They never work.
“Four minutes left in the period and it is horrible ice and we’re trying to make a pass on a two-on-one, it just doesn’t work. We want our guys to have a better thought process when it comes to the offensive part of the game.”
The Marlies were fortunate to split the first two games of the series with the Griffins after being blasted 7-0 in Game 1. Greg Scott responded in Game 2 with two goals for a 4-2 victory, however he is the only skater on Toronto who’s hitting the net. Scott has seven goals in five playoff games while Greg McKegg and Will Acton have two goals apiece to sit second in team scoring. Only seven skaters have hit the twine in the playoffs, Tim Connolly has gone 20 games without a goal and Carter Ashton has just four shots on net in five contests.
Because of the Marlies inability to score, Eakins tweaked his lines Monday hoping to find any sort of chemistry that can transition over into Game 3 against the Griffins on Wednesday.
“We’re still searching up front for that right mix of about four or five guys,” said Eakins. “We really need some guys to step up their game or we’ll continue to mix and match.”
Game 2 Eakins shortened his bench in the third period and rookies Sam Carrick, Kenny Ryan and Brad Ross saw their shifts cut back. Despite their lack of AHL experience, Eakins made it clear to his rookies that they too have to start doing more.
“We need bigger games form all our younger players,” said Eakins. “The hockey we’re playing now is much different than regular season. I had to shorten our bench greatly up front. We need a lot of first-year guys and second-year guys to pick up the slack and play a little bit harder.”
The Detroit Red Wings eliminated the Anaheim Ducks Sunday night to advance to the second-round in the Stanley Cup playoffs. This means that the Marlies will not have to see Gustav Nyqvist and Joakim Andersson, who were eligible to return to the Griffins if Detroit was put out. Eakins admitted that even though Sunday’s Wings-Ducks game could affect the future of the Marlies-Griffins series, he didn’t pay too much attention.
“My wife and I stopped for a glass of wine at 11pm and she was the one, ‘hey let’s check the Detroit game.’ I had some interest, but not a ton. You coach against whoever they have. If they got those guys back good for them. But sometimes it doesn’t always work. Sometimes it’s not a good fit into the group. Mild interest, but my wife was right on top of it.”
As the Marlies season extended into May, they increased their roster size with the additions of junior prospects and players from the ECHL. One prospect who didn’t join the Marlies when his season in the ECHL finished was Tyler Brenner, and it will stay that way.
The 25-year-old signed a two-year deal in 2011 with the Maple Leafs and spent time last season split between the Marlies and the ECHL. Brenner never saw a game with the Marlies in 2012-13 and his season in the ECHL with the Toledo Walleye ended three weeks ago. He could have been added to Toronto, however management declined.
He is a restricted free agent this summer.
“When Tyler’s name came up our management and player development guys deemed it was better to get back and recuperate after a tough season and get on with his summer training. Simple as that,” said Eakins.
Korbinian Holzer didn’t practice Monday as he was on his way to Boston to join the Leafs for Game 7 against the Bruins. Jesse Blacker was reassigned to the Marlies.