Thoughts from the Truculence Tournament, Game 2

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    The Toronto Maple Leafs‘ rookies, in a very entertaining game this afternoon, lost 6-5 in overtime to the rookies of the Boston Bruins.

    The game was fast-paced, hard-hitting, and featured three fights on three consecutive plays (literally within seconds of the faceoff each time).    The good news?   Jamie Devane looks like a legitimate enforcer and a presence to be feared.   The bad news?   His right hand didn’t look so good after the fight (had the icebag brought to him in the penalty box) and he wound up leaving the game shortly thereafter with the hand bandaged up.    No word yet on how serious an injury it is.

    Prior to the triple-header fight card, the Leafs were down 2-0, but after the fisticuffs found their energy and knocked in three straight goals to take the lead 3-2.  Ultimately, however, poor defensive judgment is what cost the Leafs the game.   Far too often, the defenders attempted to join the rush, only to turn the puck over and leave their defensive partner on an island against a 2-on-1.    Which is exactly what happened on the overtime winner.

    Still, it was a very entertaining game, and the effort exhibited by the players in a hard-fought battle less than 24 hours after their last game is certainly something which should be applauded.   

    Random Notes:

    1.  James Reimer struggled to find his confidence for much of the game.   He looked to be guessing, rather than anticipating, playing well back in his crease and often dropping down into the butterfly far too early.   It looked to be a classic case of nerves; hopefully in the game he plays he will be a little more relaxed and able to anticipate the play a bit better, rather than guessing early and having to scramble to make what should be routine saves.

    2.  Alex Berry continues to impress with his aggressiveness and strength.   His work in the corners, and along the boards, was excellent throughout the game, as were his efforts on the PK unit.   He is a true Burke-type grinder and could work his way to near the top of the call-up list if he maintains this level of play.

    3.  Joe Ryan appeared to struggle quite a bit, especially when handling the puck.   Although he is known to possess a decent point shot and some passing ability, he had trouble picking up the play at inopportune times, and was guilty of a few ill-timed turnovers as well (one such gaffe led directly to the Bruins’ second goal of the game).   

    4.  Nazem Kadri looked good once again, although he seemed to wear down toward the end of the game.  Of course, that is not altogether surprising considering the abundance of ice time he has received thus far in the tournament.   Kadri is clearly one of  the most talented players on the Leafs‘ tournament roster; however, he needs to use his teammates far more than he has been.   Far too often this afternoon, he was guilty of trying to skate through the opposition on his own rather than extending the play by passing the puck off to teammates. 

    5.  Christian Hanson was fantastic.   Placed on a line with Kadri and Stalberg for this one, Hanson tore up the scoresheet with a hat trick, and did an excellent job in the difficult areas (corners, boards, crease) also.   He has made a strong case to make the opening-night roster thus far.

    6.  Tyler Bozak is also making a case for making the opening-night roster, playing a heads-up, mistake-free  game at both ends of the ice.    If he is not the most talented player on the tournament roster, he is certainly the smartest.   If anyone appears ready to make the jump to the NHL, it is Bozak.

    7.  Mikhail Stefanovich was much more noticeable today than in previous game.  His puck pursuit was excellent, as was his offensive creativity, although his defensive effort is still a work in progress.

    8.  Joel Champagne was also much better this afternoon.   He appeared to be much more confident with the first game under his belt, and continued to use his size well when fighting for loose pucks.   

    9. Simon Lacroix needs to decide if he wants to be a winger or a defender.   He loves to join the rush, and has great offensive skills from the back end, but in two games thus far has been caught out of position much too often.      

    10. Stefano Giliati played with a ton of heart.   His game was chippy and physical, and he even showed a willingness to drop the gloves against a larger opponent and do what needed to be done.   I don’t know if he will become an NHL regular, but the Marlies will certainly benefit from his presence and on-ice leadership.  His play reminds me a lot of Ben Ondrus, albeit with far better puck skills.

    Scratches:

    Dale Mitchell, Richard Greenop, Andrew Wallace, Juraj Mikus, and Jonas Gustavsson were the scratches today.  Greenop is said to have a (well-earned) sore hand from last night’s tilt, and rumour has it Mitchell may be nursing an injury of sorts, but I have not been able to confirm this as of yet.