Coach Dallas Eakins spoke about the annual extended November road trip in a recent interview after practice setting up a three games in three nights stretch to close off a mixed month of results.
November is typically when the Marlies embark on what in essence becomes a month long road trip, living out of a suitcase as Ricoh Coliseum transforms to accomodate horses and pigs during the Royal Winter Fair. Marlies coach spoke about the consequences of being on the road for such long stretches.
“We haven’t had a lot of good quality practice time, especially being on the road we’ve been more about our rest and recovery. (Wednesday) we probably had one of the longest practices that we’ve had all year. It was good. Our guys responded well.” Dallas Eakins Nov 28, 2012.
Joe Colborne spoke about his scoring woes mentioned how he had to get to dirty areas. This lack of drive to get to scoring areas is a concern that has plagued him as a result of his wrist injury last season.
As he glossed over getting into dirty areas and hoping for bounces, the emphasis he put on the forechecking game that hems opponents in their own zone starts in the perimeter and takes him away from those dirty areas. It gives hm more of the ‘David Steckel’ comparison Brian Burke used to described the low-end of his potential at the time of acquiring him in a trade for Tomas Kaberle to Boston.
There are plenty of players who can get in and forecheck and cause turnovers, but Colborne has a better skill set at the tip of his stick that he should be the one driving the scoring, not the forecheck.
He hasn’t shown the same drive to the goal with the puck as he did pre-injury, and that I think is a legitimate concern as to why he’s not scoring and why he will likely continue to do so.
He’s not the only one struggling however.
Below are the Marlies that placed in the top-100 scorers by weekly date. The row that contains the date is the average of the players within that date grouping.
What is important here is the second column, RANK. That’s is the AHL rank in overall scoring the player held on the particular date. Keith Aucoin rose through the ranks from 80th at the end October to only a short jump into the top-20, sitting at 21 on November 26.
Among defensemen, Mike Kostka and Jake Gardiner are the only blueliners to make an appearance in the top-20.
A post that focused on the Marlies current season penalty-killing woes by Kyle Cicarella emphasized 2011-12 penalty-killing efficiency as the strong suit. In fact, the Marlies led the AHL in penalty-killing in the past two seasons and were their saving graces during the period on the road in November.
In 2012-13, killing penalties have been a struggle. Even though their proficiency crept into the 80’s, they’re mired ranked 23rd overall.
Mike Kostka is the only Marlies defender to appear in the top-5 amongst blueliners scoring (2-6-8) with the man advantage.
With the amount of firepower up front, and two capable point men in Kostka and Jake Gardiner, the power play has been disappointing ranking in the bottom half of the league.
In one game against the Oklahoma City Barons the Marlies let in four power play goals and coach Dallas Eakins was ejected. The game on November 13 was five days over a full calendar year, that once again in Oklahoma City, the Marlies enjoyed a lopsided 11 power play opportunities to the Barons five. The Marlies were blanked on all 11 opportunities and lost the game 3-1.
In the past two seasons, the Marlies fared well in November, a trend that has taken a dramatic turn this season, losing three times as many games in 2012-13 November than the previous two individual years.
The penalty killing has certainly contributed to that 6-6-0 record, allowing 10 goals in November, after allowing a combined 12 goals in the previous two Novembers combined.
2012-13 also marked off the least amount of November home dates (2), since they moved into Ricoh Coliseum after converting from St. John’s.
As Eakins pointed out the lack of quality practices, he also emphasized the necessity to maintain the same penalty-killing system in ’12-13 that made the team such a tough team to score against in the past two seasons in Kyle’s article
Colborne also indicated how being on the road creates bonds between teammates that can be used and exploited in game situations as well as other avenues like talking out slumps and encouraging maintaining good momentum.
This season’s November was a constant struggle throughout. At one point, Toronto had amassed a 6-3 record, only to head into the final game of the month sitting at a .500 record.
Next game tips the scales one way or the other.