TORONTO – When I was on the subway on the way to the game, I started to ponder on what Head Coach Derek Laxdal is thinking ahead of this game. I quickly remembered what Marlies Head Coach Sheldon Keefe told me a few weeks ago: You’re not thinking about the last game or another game down; you’re focused on the game at hand. Having that game plan is maybe what Texas needed to do after giving up eight goals the day before. Play the game you always play; don’t think about yesterday’s game.
The last time I saw Michael Hutchinson play live was in 2014 when he was with the St. John’s IceCaps. I remember the excitement around the team at that time. It was around the time they also had Eddie Pasquale, and the IceCaps were deep into the playoffs. With his goaltending at it’s finest, Hutchinson posted a 0.923 SV% at the time.
Times have changed. Since then, Hutch spent time with Winnipeg and bounced around their goaltending tandem. But for the Barrie native, he soon learned there were too many cooks in the kitchen (or in Winnipeg’s case, the crease), and he wouldn’t get a contract with Winnipeg He instead signed with Florida. Hutchinson never found ground to step on and was dealt further North to Toronto. Now, after a mixed season last year, he’s back in the AHL.
I began to reflect more on my IceCaps memories, and I began to remember…Hutchinson was the starter in the 2014 Calder Cup Finals against Texas. Though it was more than five years ago, for a goaltender, it would have to rattle you a bit inside.
In the crease for today’s game was the aforementioned Hutchinson, who posted a 0.879 SV% with the big club this year and was recently sent down to the American Hockey League for his first AHL game of the season. On the other end is Jake Oettinger, who posted a slick 0.941 SV% in Saturday’s contest after replacing Landon Bow midway through the game.
Just over three minutes into the game, the Marlies were first to the box. Hutchinson looked shaky to start, often leaving open spaces on the sides. With nobody on the other end of the crease, Michael Mersch gave Texas the opening goal.
Pierre Engvall then scored the first goal for the Marlies to tie the game. Busting through three layers of defense, he sent a hooking shot towards Oettinger to get his seventh of the season.
The holes in the defense and the room along the net continued for the Marlies. Texas forward Josh Melnick sat near the goal line, and made a smooth pass through traffic to John Nyberg and scored on the open side to give Texas the 2-1 lead.
Nyberg went to the box for a cross-check shortly after his goal. The Marlies had a power play goal in each of their home contests going into this game, sitting at 31% on the power play while at the Coca-Cola Coliseum. The power play didn’t look crisp in any way to start, nothing like the previous game. The man advantage showed unsuccessful to start.
Pontus Aberg would be next in the queue for the box. Sitting for a delay of game, he gave Texas the man advantage with little time left in the first. This rush gave an excellent opportunity for Hutchinson to warm up into the game and prove his ability in the blue paint.
Teemu Kivihalme sat for the second time in the period on a trip. With the squad down by one, it wasn’t a good time to take his second penalty of the period.
At the end of 20, the score sat at 2-1 for the Stars. Toronto looked sub-par on the ice to start. They had too many turnovers, too much space on the open side, and weren’t able to cover Texas defensively. Cleaning up things on defense will be crucial for them in the final 40.
Egor Korshkov wasted no time starting the period. Just 11 seconds into the second frame, Korshkov made a powerful toe drag to get the Marlies second goal shorthanded.
— Toronto Marlies (@TorontoMarlies) November 17, 2019
Nicholas Baptiste has been hot as of late, scoring two goals in yesterday’s game and again today. Give credit to Tanner MacMaster for the zone entry, and the ability to get it through a layer of defence to give Toronto’s first lead.
Tyler Gaudet made a brilliant backhand move while pressured in the corner, and delivered a stunning backhand pass to Matt Read to give the Marlies an insurance goal marker.
The period ended with stunning save by Oettinger to keep the game 4-2. Texas started to slip in the period in what was otherwise a close contest. Shots after 40 showed 21-17.
The third period began as a feeling out process on both ends; you could tell both teams were out of gas. Pucks flopped into the zone and shots were lightly taken. With 12:38 left in the contest, Adam Mascherin recorded his first of the season on a fast wrister to pass Hutchinson.
With the Toronto Santa Claus Parade just a few hours before the game, the Marlies put on one of their own. With under seven minutes left in the third, Toronto was looking for a Santa Clause to close the parade.
Amidst the squad up 4-3 and just over 11 minutes left to play, Mac Hollowell sat for a slashing call. The penalty allowed an opportunity for the Stars to get back into the game. Toronto was able to keep the puck out of their zone at best. Furthermore, they were able to kill the clock at a critical time.
Picture this: 6:54 left in the third, shots are 32-23 in your opponent’s favor. You’re up by one, and they’re hungry for a goal. That said, Aberg took an interference call. Fortunately for them, they were able to kill it off, but not without a massive amount of zone time. Hudson Elynuik made a great block near the end of the kill to keep the lead.
I’ll give credit to Toronto, though…I saw a strategy today that was clever. With time ticking down, the Marlies did everything they can to dump the puck deep into the Texas zone, preventing them from being able to pull the goalie early.
The game ended with the goalie pulled, and Hutchinson in full form. The shots after the contest were 37-24 for Texas.
“He made some key saves when we were sloppy in front of him. So it’s really nice, and I’m really happy for him.”
-sheldon keefe on hutchinson’s game
POSTGAME AND ANALYSIS
Texas had ample opportunity to climb back into the game as the Marlies continued to find the penalty box time after time. It looked like the Stars ran out of gas, and it appears that Saturday’s game took a toll on them.
The Marlies played a solid second period. Whatever Keefe told the team in the intermission worked. This strategy could be something we may see again.
Also, Rasmus Sandin did not dress again tonight. Sheldon Keefe gave us an update:
“The tests that he had done yesterday were negative, So it’s just a pain tolerance thing at this point.”
Aberg took an awkward fall with about two minutes left in the game and immediately went to the locker room. Coach Keefe told the media that the injury doesn’t appear to be too serious. Engvall spoke about the importance of his teammate:
“I mean, i really like to play with him. He finds me on the ice, so I really need him on the ice.”
Toronto will play again on Wednesday at home against Laval. The game will be broadcast on AHL TV and @SinBinMarlies will have updates throughout the game on Twitter.
WHAT’S COOL ON TWITTER
MAKSIM ZHUKOV with the ENORMOUS BLOCKER SAVE!
— Newfoundland Growlers (@NLGrowlers) November 16, 2019