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Article written by Drew Zehr.
The Bulldogs/Marlies game Friday night was a lively one that the Bulldogs should have won handily instead of losing 5-4 in overtime. They had a massive edge in territorial play; I’d say 75% of the game was in Toronto’s zone. However, the game followed a pattern we’ve often seen with the Canadiens over the years where they work hard for their goals and dominate play only to see their opponent get the odd rush and score on it. The 'Dogs were almost always on offence when they weren’t killing a penalty. They need to get better in their own end. Those short bursts of pressure in their zone were not handled well. The Marlies have a big, physical team. Better goaltending would have served the 'Dogs well too as Peter Delmas had an off night.
The starting lineup was Michael Bournival centering Brendan Gallagher and Patrick Holland with Greg Pateryn and Jarred Tinordi on defence and they played a lot. Gallagher was the best player on the ice - period. He is very fast, very feisty, and dangerous on every shift. He is also fearless in going to the net especially for a small guy. Toronto was physical on him every time they got a chance. He will need to learn he doesn’t have to stand in there with a couple of bigger guys and get abused. It’s not like his linemates are big either so there wasn’t much help coming his way. In the 2nd period, Gallagher came back very fast to check his man and saved a goal. He then turned around and went up the ice and nearly scored himself, drawing a Toronto penalty on the play. He scored a nice goal later in the game when he charged right through a Marlie to put in a rebound close in. He also set up a beautiful goal, Hamilton's 3rd, from a rush down low on his opposite wing. I wanted him to shoot but he pulled up and sent a sharp pass across the goal to Frederic St. Denis who had nearly the entire net to score on. Gallagher was an offensive force.
Bournival is a very good skater and plays with a lot of energy. He handles traffic well with the puck and his offence comes mostly from down low. It seemed to me that he could use another 15 lbs of muscle. He’d be very difficult to stop if he were stronger. He was very involved in the offence and his line dominated the game.
Holland is a more passive player. He’s a slightly built playmaker who rarely ventures into traffic. He played the point on the 1st PP and others with Beaulieu and was on the ice in overtime so he played in critical situations. I wasn’t too impressed with him though. He didn’t make much happen and didn’t really distinguish himself in this game in my opinion. I really don’t like players who dance around the periphery and don’t get their hands dirty in front of the net or fight for possession along the boards.
Blake Geoffrion centered the 2nd line with Michael Blunden and Aaron Palushaj. They had some good moments too. Blunden scored the 1st goal taking a nice pass as he moved across the crease. Geoffrion was hustling on offence but is not big and bigger players roughed him up whenever they could. Geoffrion doesn’t focus as much on defence as he should. He’d be more valuable if he hustled all over the ice. Blunden was also a force during the game. He uses his size well and is a mobile power forward with limited offensive abilities. He heads to the net every time. He also killed penalties and has shown he can be a bottom-6 forward in the NHL when injuries arise. Palushaj was not very effective. He’s smallish and tends to disappear. He really didn’t distinguish himself at all. The Habs are in trouble if they have to use him.
The other forward of note was Steve Quailer. He played a lot as well, sometimes on the top 2 lines. He towered over Bournival and Gallagher when he played on their wing. He’s a big, strong guy who can effectively handle the heavy traffic along the boards and in front of the net. He also played on the PP occasionally. He has good speed and was right in the thick of things on some good scoring chances. I’d have really liked to see him play with Bournival and Gallagher to give that line a physical presence.
Joonas Nattinen was nearly invisible. He’s big and can skate but he’s extremely soft and has no chance of making the bigs if he plays like he did Friday night.
The starting defensive pairing was Pateryn and Tinordi who saw lots of minutes. They’re both very big, very strong men and have good mobility. Tinordi is more physical and dished out a few big bodychecks much to the crowds' delight. He looks capable with the puck and can move it out of his zone although Pateryn often took care of that responsibility. Tinordi played a stay-at-home game but looks like he’s going to be a very solid, if not dominant, pro. Pateryn looks like an all-around package and plays very confidently. He’s big and mobile but isn’t a big hitter. I’d like to see him take the body more. Pateryn also played on a few PP’s. He never got beaten to the outside even though Jake Gardiner (Toronto’s best defenceman) tried late in the game when the score was tied. Gardiner was really burning down the wing but Pateryn stayed with him the whole way. He stayed on the ice too long a couple of times and got into trouble when he was clearly tired. Overall though, I think he could play in the NHL right now. Keep in mind that most of these young guys (the forwards too) are new to the AHL and are still just getting their feet wet.
Nathan Beaulieu played on the 2nd defence pairing but saw nearly all of the PP time. He’s a great skater, is very skilled with the puck and has great vision plus a good shot. He’s tall but, like Bournival, looks like he could use another 15 lbs or so of muscle. He appeared to me like he’s still feeling his way around and playing very conservatively in order to avoid making mistakes. I can remember when P.K. Subban was playing for the Bulldogs and he was electrifying. P.K. was very confident in his play and dominated. Beaulieu isn’t there yet but he looks like he has all the skills to be a dominant player as he gets more comfortable with the pro game.
Morgan Ellis is a solid, somewhat physical defender who looks like he has great potential. He played on the 3rd defence pairing with Antoine Corbin (who also played well). Ellis was on the penalty kill and saw more ice time as the game progressed. He played a very conservative game and also gave me the impression that he was still feeling his way around in just his second game after missing all of training camp and the early season with an injury.
The Marlies scored with 4 seconds left but it was waved off due to a penalty that was late being called. That gave Hamilton a 4-on-3 PP to start the overtime. Geoffrion, Palushaj, Holland, and Beaulieu started & played well. Geoffrion had several one-timers but couldn't score. I couldn’t help wondering why Gallagher wasn’t on the ice! Once the penalty was killed off, Toronto got the puck into the Hamilton end and put some pressure on. It almost looked like the 'Dogs were content to stand around instead of hustling to win back the puck. That led to a slapshot from Simon Gysbers near the blueline that won it.
All in all it was a lively game that Hamilton dominated. They need to work on their defensive zone coverage. They’re very young though (the second youngest team in the league) and the new prospects looked very good and had most of the ice time. It’s very early but they’re going to improve as they get a better feel for the pro game. Things are really looking up in Hamilton!