The Leafs/Habs rivalry is one of the biggest, longest lasting, and most important rivalries in all of professional sports. To remind us of this, the American Hockey League’s schedule involves their affiliates facing each other twice in the preseason, twelve times in the regular season, and potentially a best of seven playoff series.
I know I complain about this every time. It’s not even anybody’s fault; this league relies on bus travel and it makes things easier. But it’s still a bit annoying. Except when the big clubs are playing on the same night, then there’s a certain cool factor involved. What isn’t cool for the blue and white, however, is a loss, which they walked away with today.
The first period started off with Hamilton controlling the play and eventually being rewarded for it. A Mike Blunden pass missed a well covered Sven Andrighetto, but Gabriel Dumont was behind him anticipating the mistake and turned it into his own one timer to give his team the lead. Toronto’s inability to respond immediately lead to frustration, eventually leading to Brad Staubitz responding to hitting the post by fighting Nathan McIver. They continued their efforts, however, and Stuart Percy’s point slapshot tied the game at one with three minutes to go in the period.
The games first minor penalty didn’t come until early in the second period, and though nothing happened while Jerred Smithson was in the box for a slash, Mike Blunden tipped in a shot by Greg Pateryn just a few minutes later to once again give Hamilton the lead. Midway through, Andrighetto had a second chance to put home a one timer and made the most of it. The Marlies closed the gap with a Jerry D’Amigo tip, but had their chances of rallying halted in just twenty three seconds. A scrum behind the Toronto net lead to a Staubitz slash and another scrap with McIver, and just after that, Smithson sent Pateryn into the boards with a check to the head and was quickly thrown out of the game. With just 2.4 seconds left in the period, a wide open Justin Courtnall roofed the puck past MacIntyre to end the period at 4-2.
The final period saw a slew of minor penalties, a lopsided fight between Mike Duco and Louis Leblanc (who had to go to the room for repairs after about four seconds of fisticuffs), a couple of breakaways for the Bulldogs that were handled by MacIntyre, and a second goal of the night by Blunden, who streaked down the left wing and ripped a wrister, followed by a tap to make sure that his trickling wrister crossed the line. Beyond that, the two teams were mostly going through the motions as the clock trickled towards 0.
- Drew MacIntyre started in net, and while the loss can’t be blamed on him, it wasn’t his most impressive night. He found himself burned by one timers a couple of times, and the Courtnall goal saw him deep enough in the net to leave some holes to pick.
- Sam Carrick returned from the injury he suffered on February 5th. He showed little hesitance to get into tough areas… for about four or five shifts, before he headed off again. Maybe he wasn’t as ready as originally hoped.
- Speaking of Ashton, he also returned from injury, though his was suffered with the Maple Leafs. You can see that his anticipation levels are only getting better as time passes, to the point of eager-stick tapping once he would get into position early.
- Tyler Biggs was out of the lineup today as a healthy scratch, ending the reign of the surprisingly effective line with Jerred Smithson, Mike Duco, and himself.
- Steve Spott’s summary of the game was straight forward and to the point. “There was no redeeming quality in the Toronto Marlies’ play today”.
- Toronto takes on the Late Erie Monsters tomorrow afternoon.