Jeff Veillette (Jeffler)
February 23 2014 08:21PM
I made a bet with Marlies goaltender Garret Sparks ahead of the Olympic Semi-Finals. If The Phil and his assistants overpowered Team Canada, I would wear some Team USA gear in the Press Box this weekend. If Canada won, and they did, Sparks would have to wear a Team Canada jersey in a media scrum. So lets all take a minute to laugh at bet loser Garret Sparks for his losing performance.
On the other hand, his more important performance tonight was on the ice. The Marlies were hot on the heels of an unorthodox win against the San Antonio Rampage, where they took the lead ten seconds into the game and didn't give up a shot for twenty minutes. Today's team seemed to be chasing instead of ready to block shots and break up plays, and gave up thirty nine shots. Sparks was equal to the task, stopping all but one in a 4-1 win. So, lets give him a more flattering photo, shall we?
The first period was rather uneventful for the most part. The two teams exchanged chances, Josh Leivo almost had a goal, Peter Holland got used to his current home, and TJ Brennan went to the box for a slash. Nothing really turned into anything, and the period ended at zeros.
Early into the second period, Petter Granberg and Tyler Biggs took penalties thirty seconds apart. With a third of the standard 5-on-3 penalty kill units in the box, the difficulty curve was significantly raised, and the Barons took advantage, as Anton Lander picked up his 17th goal of the year about a minute later.
Soon enough, the Marlies returned the favour. Greg McKegg, coming in from the point, got himself into a perfect position in the slot to take in a Stuart Percy pass to score his twelfth of the year and tie the game. Just a minute after that, at 9:42 Jamie Devane fired a half-slapper past Richard Bachman for this third of the season to give Toronto the lead.
In the third, we'll fast forward to 9:42 once again. This time, McKegg came through with his second of the night, picking up a pass from Ryan and going shelf. With three minutes left in the third, the lead was turned into a three goal differential by Brandon Kozun. That was the last of the significant action, as the clock winded down with a final score of 4-1.
- Garret Sparks getting a weekend start on a regular basis seems to be doing a world of good for him. He's been much better with the semi-regular playing time than he was the first time around, and consistency has to play a big part in it. We're talking about a goalie who started 65 games in back to back years before coming here, after all. Getting adjusted to the league probably helps too. That said, hahaha lets all point and laugh at Garret wearing the best country on his shoulders.
- Kenny Ryan drew back into the lineup after a couple of games absence and excelled, playing centre and getting three assists. Steve Spott is seeing him ore and more as a permanent centre and Ryan seems to be okay with the additional responsibility.
- This was Peter Holland's first game since getting sent down from the Leafs, and he's clearly on another level. Generated lots of quality scoring chances. We'll talk more about that later this week.
- Josh Leivo did a lot of little things today that had me impressed. My favourite moment was early in the second period. Steve MacIntyre tried to get under his skin during a faceoff, and he managed to brush it off, lift his stick, move forward, and pull off a takeaway to keep the puck in Toronto's possession. Those little things are great to see out of anybody.
- Greg McKegg's two goal performance shows that the Marlies finally have something resembling offensive depth down the middle with Holland in the lineup. A rather good performance despite having new linemates.
- The Marlies play their next game against the Binghamton Senators on Wednesday Morning. It's a School Day game, so bring your ear plugs.