Throughout the first weeks of the Marlies season, much of the focus was placed on improving a power play that struggled to get going. Following a 4-2 victory over Syracuse on Oct. 27, the Marlies power play was converting on just 11% of all chances, though they were 6-2-0-0 on the season.
Three games into the annual Royal road trip, the Marlies man advantage is starting to turn a corner. They’ve converted in each contest and have scored four power play goals in total against Laval, Hershey and Lehigh Valley over the past week.
Part of that success can be attributed to the old adage that practice makes perfect. The Marlies have had 76 power play opportunities in just 12 games this season, tied for the most of any team in the American Hockey League. The key to those chances has been consistent, strong possession play that wears down opposing teams.
“We want the puck at all times and the more you have the puck the more the other team has to try and play and get it away from you,” said Chris Mueller, who scored a power play goal in Sunday’s win, after practice Tuesday. “The more you have the puck, the more penalties the other team is going to take. And I think a lot of times, we’re just outworking teams. We’re outworking them, we’re getting the puck and they’re going to have to take penalties because we’re kind of wearing teams down.”
Mason Marchment, who was named the CCM/AHL Player of the Week after scoring seven points in the past three games, echoed the notions of putting opposing teams in tough situations.
“I just think the more we drive, the more they have to defend and we draw penalties,” Marchment said. “The harder we are on pucks, the harder they have to play against us. We’re a hard-working team and we just have to stick to our structure.”
With a number of new faces who joined the team this season, building chemistry and adapting to new teammates has been an important part of the recent success on the power play.
“There’s a lot of new guys on the power play that have never played together, so chemistry takes a little bit. Just knowing who likes to be in the right spot and where they feel comfortable and what starts to work,” Mueller said. “The more repetitions, whether it’s in practice or in games, the more comfortable you get and you see what works.”
With a number of young defencemen playing important roles on special teams, including newcomers to North American pro hockey like Timothy Liljegren and Calle Rosen, their confidence has also played a role in the turnaround.
“Sometimes it takes longer than you want it to, for our sake that’s what it’s been, but we have really good players, we have two good point guys that can run it – Rosen and Lily – that are younger guys too so it might take them a little bit to get comfortable,” Mueller continued.
“The guys out top have been really finding seams and carrying it down low quick,” Marchment added. “We’ve been moving it around really well so we’re getting better.”
As the team continues to look for ways to build chemistry and get to know each other, they aren’t letting the long, twelve-day road trip go to waste.
“You’re always together, you’re going out to dinner, there’s no distractions and you’re learning from the guys, being on the bus, knowing who they are as people away from the rink, I think that leads to good chemistry on the ice,” Mueller said. “I mean this road trip is one of the longer ones in my career that I’ve experienced, and the team’s done a good job putting us in places to interact with all the guys.”
The Marlies will have more opportunities to look for success on the power play tomorrow as the road trip continues in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for a meeting with the Atlantic Division-leading Penguins.
Puck drop for that game is at 7:05 on AHL Live and Marlies Radio.