In a game that oscillated between sloppy and entertaining, a young squad of Leafs forwards strutted their wares in a final attempt to crack the big club’s roster. If anyone was wondering how the typical Tank Nation extremists’ dream-team of solely youngsters would fare, they would need to look no farther than tonight. It was a mix of rookie mistakes, raw talent, and nerve-fraying moves. Here are some notes from this Tuesday night tilt, from the perspective of someone that was at the game itself:
-The Kulemin-Grabovski-Tlusty which was great last year is showing signs of rust. At times they have looked lazy while at others they have just looked completely out of sync. Outside of a few good collective shifts, Mikhail is the only player from this line currently deserving of a roster spot based on preseason play. Both Tlusty and Kulemin have flashed the skills that we all know they possess, but they need to display it more consistently. This trio did improve drastically as the game went on, which is promising.
-Rickard Wallin is a relative unknown that many of us have been trying to pencil into the lineup. To be frank, he looked to be a step behind the play at times. His body language at times (which may not be observable on TV) indicates that he is maintaining an awareness of the play surrounding him, but at this point it seems to be a bit more than he can handle. It will be interesting to see what role the coaching staff gives him going forward.
-Excitement to see the likely top-four was dampened almost immediately when the Penguins got off to a quick start. There is no doubt in my mind that the combinations Wilson has gone with will be solid during the season, but like the rest of this squad there will be some trial and tribulation involved. Tim, a friend of mine with quite the hockey mind, observed that Schenn in particular was off his game today. His trademark poise and patience under pressure was absent in a number of shaky passes and stuttering plays. Best blueliner of the night? Francois Beauchemin. Smart plays, a booming shot, and instrumental to the Leafs eventual victory.
As the preseason nears its final stages, you can expect the Leafs to round into form. Tonight we saw a goaltender and blueline that is still undergoing this process. We were also witness to the college kids giving it their all, and the sophomore young guns finding their stride.
As always, interested to hear your thoughts.