Marlies, Americans, play with two pucks

Cam Charron
October 13 2012 07:39PM

Tonight was the designated start of the National Hockey League season. But it wasn't the start. The Toronto Maple Leafs are off all over the world, right now. This was the Toronto Marlies. They played against the Rochester Americans a few steps down the road from the Leafs rink, at a smaller barn called Ricoh Coliseum.

They played very well, too, the Marlies. They won the opener and there were some players that made us very confident that the team's stars—Jake Gardiner and Nazem Kadri—could one day become Toronto Maple Leafs.  The home team won, and had a few players in the lineup who looked like legitimate NHLers. Maybe it was more like a Toronto home opener than originally expected.

I had the Marlies ahead on scoring chances at 22-10 in this game, most of these set up or finished off by Toronto's top line of Keith Aucoin, Carter Ashton, and Nazem Kadri. One is an AHL lifer, another is well on his way to the same, and the third you really hope doesn't spend too much time in the AHL when the National League reboots. He was the best player on the ice for the Marlies, Kadri, setting up several glorious opportunities and displaying some fine creativity and patience in the offensive zone.

That said, he, along with many of his temporary teammates, was not very good at moving from his broadcast right to left. Given the way Ricoh Coliseum was constructed, with big windows on the north end of the stadium, one could deduce that, with the daylight streaming in onto the ice surface, that Nazem Kadri is not photo-synthetic. However, the curtains were closed, so the possibility that Kadri can convert carbon dioxide into oxygen with the aid of water and light still exists.

I believe in Nazem Kadri. Do you?

(Is photosynthetic a word? If not, I'm making it up right now.)

Through the aid of arena lighting, Kadri played a primary role on five of the Leafs' 21 scoring chances. He directed two pucks at the net from a dangerous area and set up Aucoin twice and Ashton on another occasion. That line was very dangerous in tandem with the Jake Gardiner-Mike Kostka defensive pairing, Kostka probably a little jumpier offensively than I expected from him. He led the Marlies with seven shots and directed a pair of pucks at the net from the dangerous areas.

Gardiner made a lovely play with Kadri on a give-and-go at the start of the third, taking the puck deep into the corner and sending it out in front. Not to bury the lede (because Gardiner did score the first goal of the young season) but I thought that was the best play he made in the game, displaying excellent chemistry with a player he hasn't spent a lot of time with. They read each other well off the entry and Gardiner knew where Kadri wanted the puck even when he took it deep into the zone.

I like it when defencemen play deep.

Ryan Hamilton, the Marlies captain, had two goals. That's less exciting, since Hamilton has about as much shot as becoming an NHL regular as I do at this point in his career. His second goal, Jeff Veillette described as the best of his career, and I'd be hard-pressed to disagree, because a) I haven't seen very many Ryan Hamilton goals in my life and b) there is probably a good reason for a). Hamilton didn't become a regular AHLer by scoring goals like that on the regular.

His first goal was the result of a very pretty passing play. Kostka to Mike Zigomanis wide to Joe Colborne cross-crease to the captain on the powerplay. That was the 7th straight scoring chance to open the game for the Marlies, who really came out flying, I can assume because they're a better team.

Anyway, here are the "chances taken" and "chances set up" chart from this game. Maybe this can provide some perspective into offensive contribution, somewhat:

  Taken Set up Total
Keith Aucoin 4 1 5
Nazem Kadri 2 3 5
Ryan Hamilton 3 1 4
Carter Ashton 3 0 3
Jake Gardiner 2 1 3
Mike Zigomanis 2 1 3
Mike Kostka 2 0 2
Greg McKegg 1 1 2
Jesse Blacker 1 0 1
Leo Komarov 1 0 1
Paul Ranger 1 0 1
Joe Colborne 0 1 1
Korbinian Holzer 0 1 1

 

*A player is awarded with a chance "set up" if he made a clear, intentional passing play to a teammate in space who has an un-impeded entry into the scoring chance zone.

 

Here are scoring chances by period at even strength:

  1st Period 2nd Period 3rd Period Total
Toronto 4 3 6 13
Rochester 3 3 2 8

And on special teams:

  1st Period 2nd Period 3rd Period Total
Toronto 7 1 1 9
Rochester 0 1 1 2

And total:

  1st Period 2nd Period 3rd Period Total
Toronto 11 4 7 22
Rochester 3 4 3 10

The image at the top of the post is an excellent screenshot of the time that two pucks were on the ice at the same time. Who would have thunk it?

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Cam Charron is a BC hockey fan that writes about hockey on many different websites including this one.
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