Morgan Rielly Scores Late Game-Tying Goal; Korbinian Holzer is a Solid AHL Defender...NHL Defender...??
Friday evening, I was able to take in some AHL action between the Toronto Marlies and Chicago Wolves (Vancouver Canucks).
I was a little disappointed that I did not get to see either Jussi Rynnas or Mark Owuya get the start in goal. Instead, 30 year-old AHL journeyman Drew McIntyre got the call for the Marlies and quickly allowed the first goal of the game minutes in, kicking a shot off his right pad directly to a Wolve coming in from the left circle.
Trailing 3-1 in the third period, the Marlies picked up the physicality, knocking the Wolves around hard, but also committed a series of penalties that eventually led to a five-on-three Chicago power play for about a minute and a half.
A strong penalty kill before the next series of Toronto infractions led to a shorthanded goal from 25 year-old forward Greg Scott who pick-pocketed Wolves defenseman Danny Groulx and beat goalie Matt Climie low glove side to get the Marlies back into the game.
Korbinian Holzer was paired with newcomer and 2012 first round draft pick Morgan Rielly, who I will get to a little bit later. Holzer played a pretty solid game for the Marlies tonight, winning several battles along the boards and forced a lot of forwards wide and unable to drive to the net. Holzer also registered an assist on the power play, throwing a shot on net with Spencer Abbott putting in the rebound. But still, his immaturity showed early in the third period, with his team already short a man, Holzer decked a guy in front of the Toronto bench after a squabble between three other players.
Just before the roughing call to Holzer, Mike Komisarek took a bad penalty, as he lost yet another battle along the boards and hauled down his man. With Komisarek still a step too slow even at the AHL level, I don't think there is much of a chance he will be able to land a job with another NHL club anytime soon. Several Chicago players lined him up pretty good and delivered some hard hits on the veteran defenseman, so to put it nicely, it was a tough night for Mr. Komisarek.
While short for much of the first ten minutes of the third, and trailing, the Marlies did a masterful job killing the man advantages, something that the Toronto organization has radically reversed since last year and more recent seasons. Marlies coach Dallas Eakins deserves some credit for that as well.
With Toronto still down a goal, Morgan Rielly, who picked up an assist on Toronto's first tally coming on a power play early in the game, pounced on a loose rebound just outside the left circle and blasted it past Climie to tie the game at three.
At the start, the 19 year-old first rounder looked a little nervous, and unsure of himself, as he nonchalantly played a couple pucks off the glass directly to oncoming opposition, but as the game progressed, he became one of the best players on the ice. There is still plenty of work needed to be done with his game, but I was impressed with his poise and confidence when the game was on the line.
I was also impressed with 21 year-old Joe Colborne, who was very clearly the biggest guy on the ice. He played a style very similar to James van Riemsdyk, which is probably why Colborne is still in the AHL at the moment. Colborne was a tough customer to deal with against the boards, and was double-teamed behind the net on one play yet was somehow able to sneak a pass into the guy directly in front of the goal, but the quick shot was soaked up by Climie.
Colborne's immaturity also showed in the second period, as his clearing attempt in his own zone was sent out over the glass for delay of game. With his size and speed, Colborne had plenty of time to make a better play and decision.
When it came down to deciding that Jake Gardiner was too good for the AHL or beginning to dominate the level, Joe Colborne is still not at that level, nor do I feel he is totally confident in his own skills at the moment. He did make some good plays back checking the Chicago attacks, but still needs to get a little more involved in the offensive zone. He had a few chances to drive to the net with the puck, but peeled off too many times and elected to pass it around. Again with his size and speed, he could do a little more.
Despite I liked what I saw for the most part, the Marlies committed a couple of defensive lapses in the second period. On a penalty kill, 21 year-old defenseman Jesse Blacker tries to step up and make a play on a loose puck at the Toronto blue line, but missed it entirely leading to a three-on-one scoring chance in which the Wolves capitalized.
On the Wolves' third goal, Rielly lost track of his man in front of the goal, as AHL standout Darren Haydar circled the zone and threw a wrist shot towards the goal, which was tipped in by Brett Sterling, a former Atlanta Thrashers prospect who never panned out. Holzer was also on the ice at the time, but left the net again to cover another winger down the left side. Rielly knew where Sterling was, but simply did not react in time.
So, there are many similarities between the Marlies and the parent club Maple Leafs...you still got the defensive lapses from time to time and the inability to pay attention to the smaller details. The Chicago Wolves did a great job of settling the puck down in their own end early in the game, as well as getting in front of shooting lanes and blocking many shots. Toronto then became the better defensive team in the latter half, killing off numerous Chicago power play chances, as the Wolves never got a decent chance on the lengthy two-man opportunity. Toronto's PK units suffocated the Wolves all night, and kept them in it until the end and they kept going and did not relent.
Of course, Toronto would lose the shootout, as Matt Climie stoned all five Marlie shooters, including Colborne and Tim Connolly. Sterling scored the only goal of the shootout to give the Wolves the extra point on the night.