Alex Steeves’ last four games have been ‘best games’ of season and other updates: Marlies Weekly
Photo credit:Christian Bonin/TSGphoto.com
By Nick Barden1 month ago
Instead of a week filled with wins for the Marlies, it’s a week with only one victory in three games.
Toronto ended their Western Canada road trip last Sunday with a 3-2 loss to the Manitoba Moose. After that, the Marlies travelled home to have a few days off before practicing and gearing up for a back-to-back against Laval.
Laval entered Coca-Cola Coliseum wanting to steal two wins from the Marlies, but they couldn’t find success in the first game. Toronto outplayed the Rocket, winning the game 5-1 with key goals from Alex Steeves (he had two goals), Marshall Rifai, and Mikhail Abramov.
Joseph Woll was also a huge part of that win, stopping 25 of 26 shots for his 13th victory in 14 games this year. The 24-year-old is now 13-1-0 on the season with a .930 save percentage.
The second game between the two teams, on Saturday, went a little bit differently though.
Keith Petruzzelli started in his first game with the Marlies since Toronto’s Boxing Day Classic at Scotiabank Arena. Laval pushed really hard in the first period scoring three goals on 11 shots. They scored one more goal before he was replaced by Erik Kallgren.
The Marlies couldn’t push their way back into the game, only scoring three goals compared to Laval’s seven.
But the team still goes into the All-Star break on a strong note — leading the North Division with 62 points — 11 more than the second place Utica Comets.
Alex Steeves is playing best hockey of season
It’s been an up and down season for the 23-year-old forward. Although it might seem like Steeves has been having a good year, it hasn’t been enough to get called up to the Maple Leafs ahead of Pontus Holmberg, Joey Anderson, or Bobby McMann.
With some, that could lead to frustration. Maybe he has been, maybe he hasn’t.
But as of late, Steeves has been finding his stride with points in four-straight games — scoring three goals in that span — and now has 38 points over 44 games this season.
“These last four games, I think, are four of his best games of the season,” Marlies head coach Greg Moore said of Steeves on Saturday. “He’s really driven and determined to be an impactful player, and he’s been problem solving all year what that is for himself.
“And I feel like he’s on the road to find out what that is and it’s showing up on the score sheet as well, but he’s also really hard to play against.”
Earlier this week, Steeves spoke after one of the Marlies’ practices about the team as a whole and why they’re playing as good as they are.
He included that guys just enjoy playing for this team, and even though one might feel like they should be called up to the Leafs, it’s still fun to come to the rink every day while on the Marlies.
“Cumulatively, in terms of the AHL and NHL, it’s probably us and the Bruins organization in terms of collective wins and because of that, there’s a lot of good players down here who probably should be in the NHL,” Steeves said, “or at least have more games this year in the NHL and guys haven’t.
“Despite that, talking to guys like [Adam Gaudette] or [Kyle Clifford], it just seems to me like guys who maybe should have a look but aren’t getting it are just having a blast playing hockey and being on this team.
“I think that really has helped us be successful, because it’s easy to be grumpy or maybe unmotivated, or in a long winter when you’re not getting called up and stuff.
“But knowing that we have a bunch of guys, who despite that, are happy to go to the rink every day and see our team, and then go play together, I think that’s something I felt before the (Western Canada) road trip, and then actually hearing one of my teammates say that on the road, like, it really hit me hard.
“I was like ‘Wow.’ And I feel the same way. Guys are really just happy to be a part of this group and having a blast, so that’s pretty cool.”
Steeves is finding his way through the ups and downs of his professional career, which is good to see. If he continues to have that mindset, and play well during this stretch, a Maple Leafs call-up is definitely in his future.
Updates on Bobby McMann and Pontus Holmberg
Two players that have been on everybody’s radar are McMann and Holmberg, who were both sent down to the Marlies before the NHL’s All-Star break.
McMann scored a pair of goals on Saturday in Toronto’s loss to Laval playing on the top line with Logan Shaw and Nick Abruzzese. One goal was shorthanded early in the second period and the other came late in the game before the Rocket put the game out of reach.
“I think it gets back to what I did early on, which was just compete hard.” McMann said on Saturday about adjusting back to the AHL after being in the NHL. “Don’t worry about the scoring, don’t worry about getting chances, just trust that you’re competing hard and in the right spots.”
Holmberg, on the other hand, centred the Marlies’ third line with Adam Gaudette and Kyle Clifford on his wings. Although he hasn’t had any points since returning to the AHL in the last two games, he has drove a lot of play with his linemates.
If he gets another chance with Gaudette and Clifford before going back up to the NHL, I’d say he’s due for a big game. But him staying is unlikely as both the Marlies and Maple Leafs play on the Friday coming back from the break.
Either way, this Marlies team continues to impress many and it’ll be an entertaining stretch of games before the playoffs begin in April.
Recent articles from Nick Barden