Pontus Holmberg’s “world class” play, Max Ellis’ climb up the lineup, and more: Marlies Weekly
Photo credit:Christian Bonin/TSGphoto.com
By Nick Barden1 month ago
Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing at the moment for the Toronto Marlies.
The team played two games this week — both in Toronto on Monday and Saturday — winning them both. Each game, whether it was against the Utica Comets or Laval Rocket, were very close.
Their first game of the week, against Utica, was a hard-fought 3-1 win at Scotiabank Arena. Defenceman Matt Hellickson scored his first of the season, while both Max Ellis and Bobby McMann continued to ride their hot hand, also scoring.
Keith Petruzzelli, who’s only played three full games since their last Scotiabank Arena matinee (on Boxing Day), stopped 33 of 34 shots, improving to 12-5-0 on the season with a .904 save percentage.
After Monday’s matchup, Toronto had a couple of days off before gearing up for another big game later in the week. That game — against Laval — was just as tough, or maybe even tougher than the one against Utica.
Graham Slaggert was the first player to get the Marlies on the board, courtesy of some nice work from himself and the rest of the fourth line (Marc Johnstone and Zach Solow). It seems as though whoever plays alongside Slaggert and Johnstone fits immediately.
Laval would get on the board eight minutes into the second period, but the Marlies came right back. The Rocket took a penalty shortly after their goal in the second period, and Toronto capitalized immediately with McMann finding the top corner.
As it says in the tweet, that was McMann’s seventh goal in his last five games. And further to that, it’s also his 15th goal in his last 15 games. He brings it every night and it’s clearly showing in his play right now.
“There’s moments in the game where he can just take over the game with his power, strength, and speed.” Marlies head coach Greg Moore said on Saturday.
“And transport it from our d-zone to the o-zone, set things up, and then he’s really been doing a lot better job of where he’s finishing his routes, inside and at the net rather than fading off into the corners. He’s putting himself in better spots to create offense.”
Toronto ended up winning 3-2 against Laval thanks to a game-winning goal in the third period from Ellis, who continues to build his game in his first professional season.
With the Marlies continuing to stay hot, they also remain high up in the standings. They’re currently 18 points ahead of the Utica Comets for first in the North Division and they’re also tied with the Calgary Wranglers for first in the AHL with 75 points.
The Dylan Ferguson trade
This week also saw the departure of netminder Dylan Ferguson as he was traded to the Belleville Senators for future considerations. The 24-year-old had been with the Marlies on a PTO since the beginning of the season and many who follow the team were a little surprised with how it happened.
Here’s what I’ve heard: With Joseph Woll soon to be rejoining the team from the Maple Leafs, it again put Ferguson on the outside looking in. He was never going to get into a game with three other goaltenders, all signed by the Leafs, ahead of him.
So, the Marlies signed him to an SPC and sent him to the Wichita Thunder, where he would get playing time. But during that process, Belleville needed a netminder so Toronto sent him there, where he’ll get playing time in the AHL. Everyone’s happy.
Max Ellis’ climb up the Marlies’ lineup
The 23-year-old has had what you’d expect out of an AHL rookie; an up and down season. But at the moment, Ellis is having his best stretch of the year.
It seems as though the more he moves up the lineup and gains the trust of the coaching staff, the more he contributes on the scoresheet Ellis, in his last four games, has five points, and four of those points are goals.
“He’s another person on our team that continues to climb the ladder,” Moore said on Saturday night, “and when there’s more opportunity to be given to him, he’s taking it, and then proving that he deserves it.
“I also think, in talking with him throughout the season, he’s been wanting to get a lot better at his defensive play and his responsibility on the ice so us as coaches can trust him to get more ice time.
“And along with that, because he’s defending better, he’s getting in better spots to create offense.”
Pontus Holmberg, the “world-class centreman”
Holmberg — although he’s not finding the offense as much as he might like — has been an incredibly valuable piece to this Marlies team when he’s been down.
Five-on-five, power play, penalty kill — you name it — the 23-year-old is showing why he belongs up with the Maple Leafs for another extended showing before their playoff run.
He’s dominating in every way at the AHL level, and even his teammates see it.
“You think about the momentum swings during a game and it’s easy to think about the goals, and goals are important, but that (shot block sequence) was massive.” Said Alex Steeves after Saturday’s win over Laval.
“He’s huge for us. I think maybe there’s another gear to find offensively for him down here. He’s honestly produced more in the NHL and there’s various reasons for that, style of play and stuff.
“But, at the bare minimum, every night you know he’s so good up the middle of the ice, he’s reliable, he’s never on the wrong side of the puck, he makes really smart plays. Like I said, bare minimum, he’s a world-class centreman, especially defensively.
“I’m excited to hopefully see him find that gear offensively. I think it’s coming, we’ve had lots of chances together throughout the year at various times, and just keep knocking and I think that door will open.”
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