Leafs Rookie Tournament: Game 1 Wrap up – Leafs 3 vs. Blackhawks 2

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The Leafs’ rookies took the tournament opener as a result of their energy, skill, and goaltending. They outpaced a Chicago group that was forced to rely more on physicality to gain ground. They caught the Leafs temporarily, but in the end Toronto came away with a win they probably deserved as Morgan Rielly and Tyler Biggs converted in the shootout to secure a 3-2 Leaf victory.

A few meaningful observations may be gleaned from the three-game sample after the weekend, but keep in mind that one sloppy game featuring thrown-together lineups is, well, just one sloppy game featuring thrown-together lineups. Let’s summarize the period recaps by Matt Mistele from last night’s live blog, for what it’s worth:

– With all the focus on the Bernier/Reimer debate heading into next season, not much has been made recently of the Leafs’ net depth behind the top two. Garret Sparks has turned in an impressive night, stopping several shots through traffic and snagging at least one high, hard snapper with the glove hand impressively enough to make Francois Allaire wonder, “You can do that?” Spott mentioned in the post game that he would’ve probably liked the first goal back, but the showing was solid.

– We’re all aware of Biggs’ purported skating limitations, but on first glance, he’s added speed since my last viewing. In close, the mobility still seems like an issue – but that’s one of the hardest elements of proper skating technique to develop. Nevertheless, he brings a 100% effort level on every shift and gets his job done by making the right play. Hard played north-south shifts throughout the game.

– Morgan Rielly took over the game on a few of his shifts and at points was dominant with the puck on his sick. The passing and skating skills on Morgan are sublime… this we all knew. He did get beat once to the outside. Obviously, if there’s a hole in his game, his play without the puck would be his development focus.

– Rielly and Finn formed the PP point tandem of Matt’s dreams.

– Josh Leivo sat out the third with an injury, but needed only two periods to make a pretty significant impact. From creating offense out of situations you wouldn’t normally consider opportunities to using his teammates well, he impressed from the get go and was rewarded with a power play goal. Leivo doesn’t immediately strike you the way his 6’2 frame would suggest, but he uses the size well. It’s probably no coincidence the team sagged without Leivo at Spott’s disposal.

– The “more physical Gunnarsson” description matched with Granberg, but signs of adjustment wrinkles were evident in some misplays on the puck.

– Youngest player on the ice, Carter Verhaeghe showed glimpses of impressive skills, but was understandably tentative at times. A player Hughes described as having a 48-month development schedule, he’ll be given ample time to figure out if he can piece together the raw skills at his disposal.

Notable highlights from Steve Spott’s postgame scrum, courtesy of Matt:

– On the mobility and skill of his young defensive corps: “Wow.”

– Spott was impressed by the team’s ability to come together quickly.

– He was also enthusiastic about Sparks’ performance, only calling out the first goal as one Garrett might potentially want another shot at.

– Spott confirmed Leivo missed the third period due to a chest contusion suffered when he took a hit earlier in the game.

Game in 6:

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Morning Links..

Steve Spott Post Game | Garret Sparks Post Game | Brad Ross Post Game

The most crushing playoff defeat in my lifetime. Michael is much older than I (it’s Alec putting together these links), but you don’t have to go too far back in time to find mine.

Why did Darren Dreger say mean things about Kadri on the radio – You can just picture Nonis mouthing Dreger’s words like Richard Peddie at the Cliff Fletcher press conference.

  • wiski

    Great job boys keep it coming.

  • Great Dane

    The defense on the Leafs is packed.
    The defense on the Marlies is packed.
    I hope that our forward group soon will be as packed as the defense. What is really missing is two or three top talent forwards that would complete the forward group.
    Gauthier might be one of them

  • tucker2corson

    Lievo and rielly are so impressive… their play screams pro….ive watched a lot of their junior games and these kids are awesome in certain facets of the game.. both got speed… i always liked leivo on a scoring line and i thought maybe he would be a 3rd liner as a pro.. but the way he was setting up passes or shot and his intelligence around the net… his half slap writer into the net sealed it for me…. he needs to more seasoning but he has a chance to be a good powerforward in the nhl i think… i know this was a rookie game.. but he was pretty impressive in the chl russia challenge…none the less leivo is the guy im watching from now on. And loved Reillys game big time… love the skating and agility.. its a thing of beauty and a half.

  • tucker2corson

    have the playing repeat on leafs tv… i like percy’s game.. granberg was good at times.. but his nasty streak and at time good puck decisions were lacking but i think he was nervous since this is his first n/a tryout with the club… we have some beauty though.. liking dave morrison at he helm more and more

  • LeafsForLife

    enjoyed the summary! Thanks for the work! Enjoyed watching the game. Leafs have a lot of talent. What stood out for me was that Verhaeghe had a lot of chances and was just short of potting a few. I think with some time, he will be consistently scoring. I noticed Granberg and think it has something to do with being new in NA but he seemed to have a hard time at times. Im sure he will put it together. The size of these guys is very impressive and the speed is fun to watch. Lots of skill on the blueline. The future is very bright for the Leafs.

  • Burtonboy

    I know a lot of people were surprised by the speed of Tyler Biggs and full credit goes to Barb Underhill but this didn’t happen all of a sudden . Remembering back to the WJC Biggs played on the fastest team in the Tournament and more then kept up. On the big ice as well. I remember watching him then and saying what is everyone talking about saying this guy can’t skate . He’s not a speed demon but he’s certainly average or even a little above.

  • peterbleafs

    Went to the game last night, this is what I thought:
    Percy is the most complete defender we had.  Always in the right position, very steady and consistent.  Totally impressed with the guy in all phases of his game.
    Rielly can’t play at this level as he is just too much better, at least from an offensive perspective.  He made many passes that were tape to tape and hard.  From his own crease to the other blueline and short smart passes.  The problem was few of them were received well.  He has a very hard wrist shot, but I never saw him take a slap shot from the point.
    Leivo has a real nose for the net.  Seems to get into the right spot offensively.  Also while he was on the ice he worked very hard.
    Granberg was very good, likely needs more time to adjust to our game.  Percy was noticably better, but Granberg will come around well.
    Sparks played extremely well, letting in one goal which I couldnt tell if it was screened.  The 2nd he was hung out to dry.  But he was always very well positioned, has a very fast glove hand and oozed confidence.
    Biggs was quick yes, but sure did not look big out there well, likely part of the reason for that was his linemates who are huge.  Biggs was way to tentative.  On one occasion he had the puck and turned back instead of driving past the defender.  Not a power forward move!  I was disappointed in that.
    Gauthier was steady, won one of of 3 draws that I noticed.  He needs another year in Junior to catch up to his size more.  
    I do have to say the forwards overall are good, but none of them excited me with their play.  Could be they werent used to each other on new lines so Im not to worried about that.  Lots of choppy play most of the game.  By Sunday should be able to get a better read of the forward group.

  • JWasted

    First shift in the game in 6, our player gets bumped in the corner, 2 big hits follow that. Shut up noobs, leafs are in town!

  • Burtonboy

    Just heard an interesting comment from McQuire on radio . He sat down with Dion yesterday in NY and had an hour long conversation. He said he hasn’t seen Dion this excited and primed to play since he was with Red Deer. He’s in great shape,relaxed and can’t wait for for the season to start. Could be we will see a really great season out of the Captain this yr.

  • Knights2Leafs

    peterbleafs 
    I was there too and agree with most of your comments.
    Devane and Crescenzni are both legitimately 6′ 5″ and I question whether or not Biggs is really 6′ 3″.  Gauthier at 6′ 4″ seemed much taller.  This seemed even more so with Broll.  He is obviously quite thick but even Leivo seemed taller.  Broll was way less noticeable than Biggs.
    Rielly and Leivo were the clear winners in terms of showing NHL skills.  I agree Percy looked better than Granberg and I was somewhat disappointed with how Petter played. He was nowhere near as physical as I expected.  MacWilliam, like Broll is a thick guy and was physical.  Even Kevin Raine, a real unlikely long shot prospect, was more physical. 
    A very pleasant surprise for me was Finn.  Now that he’s healthy he looked much better.  Not quite as flashy as Rielly, but who is, and he’s definitely bigger.  He reminds me of Blacker in his last year of junior.
    As for forwards, McKegg also seemed to be very close to having an NHL skillset.  The rest either didn’t show much or are too young to evaluate.
    As I posted last night, Devane is a really good skater, he has the size and he clearly likes to play with a physical edge.  In addition to that package he seems to be good at hanging on to the puck.  He could be a really high quality 4th liner in the very near future.
    Really nice snipe by Ross but I’m still not sold on him.  I hope to be proven wrong.

  • B_Leaf

    Players that stood out to me.
    Morgan Rielly: His outlet passes were great, his vision great, and his mobility very good. The potential is there to be very good but even still I can see him back in jr another year to learn to dominate. But maybe what he needs most is forwards who can convert. Lupul would have scored at least twice on his passes last night.
    Matt Finn: Really looked like a pro to me. I had no complaints about his game. Technically sound, and probably thought the game better than anyone else on the blueline. He could have scored a couple goals.
    Josh Leivo: Just how good is this guy? He most definitely projects as a top six forward. He has skill, physicality, possession ability, and scoring finish. The team really missed him in the third. Obviously we need to see more, but for me Leivo might be our most interesting prospect right now and that includes everybody here. He seems to be improving with the greatest trajectory if that makes sense.
    Stuart Percy: Looked smart and solid out there. He will need a little time but definitely a legit prospect. He took great angles to the puck.
    Tyler Biggs: Saw some stuff to work with. His skating is good. Needs the right kind of role…probably bottom six…but thats OK if he ramps up physicality. Nice SO goal. Could he become a Chad Kilger like player someday? 
    Frederick Gauthier: He was just getting his feet wet out there, adjusting to size and speed. He will probably be better in next two games. Not that he showed poorly, but he will adjust.
    Petter Granberg: Just getting acclimated to new surroundings…showed potential.
    Andrew MacWilliams: After a nervous first period where he was OK, I thought he had a really strong second period. He was looking to assert himself physically and did. I like what I saw.
    Overall the lack of offence in this group also stood out. Lots of chances, and plays leading to chances but not a lot of finish. Fortunately we have a lot of young forwards with finish who currently hold down spots on the big roster…JVR, Kadri, Kessel, and Lupul. I see scenarios where Leivo joins that group sooner than later especially since he could play top nine or top six, and the fact that the kid has some strong desire to his game, even some leadership maybe. After Leivo we have McKegg who seems to be growing into a complete player, but after that there seems to be a bit of a gulf.
    Leivo Bolland Kulemin (just sayin…maybe too young for this role?…McC could move up when needed)

  • Loric76

    Burtonboy I heard that too on my way in to the office.  Also interesting how impactful the loss to Boston was.

  • Loric76

    you all read this?  

    Easily the best DGB line ever:
    Tyler Seguin – Has been dutifully killing every spider he can find, ever since his agent sent him that email that said “Stay away from the web, you idiot”.

  • Knights2Leafs

    Burtonboy 
    While I’m really trying to temper my expectations, I find it really hard.  I really believe this team is way closer to being a contender than most will give us credit for.  Last year’s team was pretty darn good and this year IMHO we have improved right across the board; goaltending, defensemen and forwards.
    Our weakest area was likely the defense and with Gunnar and Gardiner healthy and the addition of Ranger, I think we will see a really big improvement in that area.

  • Loric76

    man even the insert link button is broken now

  • B_Leaf

    tucker2corson 
    Leivo for me too. And yes he was very good in that CHL Russia Challenge as well. Right now he is the guy who has a chance to come from “nowhere” and surprise this year. Just so happens we have a bit of an opening on LW. Right now I am pretty sure he has Carlyle’s attention.

  • Mind Bomb

    Good morning my Hockey Brothers, all this talk about the game last night has me super pumped for tommorrow.
    Down with Pitsburg !

  • Mind Bomb

    B_Leaf tucker2corson  I have not watched him Live, but can Leivo really challenge Colburne for that Spot you think ?

  • Loric76

    Logan Couture turned a bridge contract into a long-term extension and thinks Nazem Kadri should do the same:

  • Loric76

    Mind Bomb B_Leaf tucker2corson The opening is on shutdown line, so it’s likely McClement fills that spot and the opening moves to 4th line C.

  • TuckerForPunishment

    Knights2Leafs Burtonboy One of the most important aspects where we will show improvement is confidence.  We have gained so much confidence from our experiences last season.  And with the mention of experience…  also grown immensely the past couple of seasons.  I too have huge expectations for this team this season and I personally feel these expectations are well-founded.

  • Burtonboy

    Loric76 Burtonboy That should be the biggest motivator for all of them

  • Burtonboy

    Knights2Leafs Burtonboy Jesus looking at some of those kids on the blue line last night if I were the Leafs defenseman I would be looking over my shoulder big time . I was impressed all to hell with how good that group were

  • B_Leaf

    Loric76 Mind Bomb B_Leaf tucker2corson 
    I like McC on the fourth line, but with the ability to move up if needed. The scouting report on Leivo is that he is strong defensively.

  • colino17

    Knights2Leafs Burtonboy Hard to tell what would have happened and what will happen this season but I really feel that Boston was the toughest challenge in the east for us last year and given the way NYR and PIT were playing I honestly think the cup finals were a real possibility if we had’ve gotten past Boston. Still think that CHI would have spanked us though.

  • B_Leaf

    Mind Bomb B_Leaf tucker2corson 
    Camp will be interesting…I think he has a shot.

  • B_Leaf

    Knights2Leafs peterbleafs 
    Finn looked smart out there

  • LightmyLeaf

    Burtonboy morning BB and all. saw the highlights. Jazzed. Speaking of optimism, I play cards with a bunch of die-hard Wing fans(I need new friends I know) but they are objective, and for a very rare moment, they are all talking about the Leafs, to take the division, which ones going in our pool, letting me know my wait is over…..I’ve been in pools/cards for 35 yrs with these guys…never ever seen them talk like that – its painful for them to do so….there much to hopeful for Leaf nation. Enjoy the ride. :)

  • Loric76

    Burtonboy Loric76 Boston may have inadvertently helped RC create a roster full of heart players.  These guys are going to go balls out every game every shift.

  • whalz

    Was anyone else dissapointed in Granberg lastnite? Thoguht he was our 5th best dman last night over Raines..(Tryout)…
    Ross looks like a Tucker in the making, some offense to his game with the. DT.
    Biggs was avg, was expecting more but maybe he is only a 3rd line fwd with a little offense to his game. (Looking more and more like a Knuble type of player) which isn’t bd.
    One guy I liked out there was Rupert, feisty little guy throwing his weight around and has the speed and physicality to go along with it.

  • Cameron19

    colino17 Knights2Leafs Burtonboy I think we would have steam rolled the Rangers with the momentum of a Boston defeat.  We match up really well against Pittsburgh.  It would have been a hell of a series.

  • MaxwellHowe

    Loric76 Just a point someone raised a week or so ago that I never heard resolved:  if Kadri or Franson were to sign a bridge deal, how soon afterward could the Leafs extend?It can’t be as easy as signing a one year 2 million contract and then a week later signing an extnsion for 4 million a year – begining the following season, can it?  That seems like too easy a way to skirt the salary cap.  So when can extensions be signed, relative to the existing contract?

  • Mind Bomb

    Loric76 Mind Bomb B_Leaf tucker2corson 
    See, My thoughts are our 3rd Line is
    Colburne Boland Kulemin to start then if we are protecting a Lead late in a game then revert to 
    MCL – Bolland Kulemin
    —–
    Now I also think playing 2 enforcers every game on our 4th is a mistake, so I am Betting D’amigo makes our 4th with Mclaren as our 7th forward
    Leivo will be in tough

  • Cameron19

    @whalz I’m guessing Granberg is a guy who improves by leaps and bounds throughout camp.  First time in North America, after all…

  • Loric76

    MaxwellHowe Loric76 as of July 1st in the last year of the contract.  So in a 2 year bridge they can negotiate a new deal next summer

  • whalz

    Hope your right, was his 1st game but I was expecting a little more. Could of been nerves and learning to play with a new partner.

  • Loric76

    Mind Bomb Loric76 B_Leaf tucker2corson ya I’ve been thinking the same.  McClement and Colborne swap 3LW and 4C depending on what zone the lines are starting on, what point in the game, what the score is, etc.

  • B_Leaf

    Loric76 
    Not a bad article…food for thought. I expect the Leafs would be more than happy signing a bridge deal of two years around $3.5M per.

  • colino17

    Cameron19 colino17 Knights2Leafs Burtonboy Yeah it seemed to me that those were two very beatable teams, especially given the way they were playing and we were playing. We’ve had a decent record against PIT the last few years too.

  • LightmyLeaf

    Cameron19 colino17 Knights2Leafs Burtonboy we almost beat the Bruins at their own game. Definitely would have steam rolled. How about the Habnots out of the gate instead of the Bruins….that close….I think the Leafs wore the Bruins down, contributed to their defeat in the finals….

  • MaxwellHowe

    Loric76 MaxwellHowe Can’t be that easy, can it?  Here’s your one year deal naz.  For $2 million.  And here’s your five year deal starting 2014-2015 for $4 million a year.  NHL must have a way to cap that shit.

  • colino17

    LightmyLeaf Cameron19 colino17 Knights2Leafs Burtonboy I think OTT or MTL would have been a much more favorable matchup for us. Boston was by far the toughest matchup for us and we came within a few minutes of beating them.

  • Mind Bomb

    Loric76 Mind Bomb B_Leaf tucker2corson Cool thing is no matter what combo there are 2 Centers in Case one gets tossed

  • B_Leaf

    Loric76 Mind Bomb B_Leaf tucker2corson 
    I always appreciate both your opinions around here. And those are pretty much my thoughts too. Colborne has a spot either on the third or fourth line, or at least the 13th forward. McClement is a tremendous player and will get his minutes one way or another. McC gets good minutes on the fourth line cause he kills penalties and jumps up late in games. 
    But the two guys who may have something to say in camp are DAmigo (likely going back to Marlies for one more year on top line to refine scoring touch), and Leivo who looks very intriguing. I think he has Carlyle’s attention…lets see what camp exposes.

  • theacs1966

    Loric76 MaxwellHowe If its a one year deal, they can start to talk after Jan 1st, if 2 years, after July 1st or 5th, whichever one is right.

  • KulieFTW

    I’m not surprised Leivo had a good game, he’s
    our best forward on the Marlies outside of Colbourne.
    My question is how was Connor Brown?
    He had a great season last year, if memory serves.

  • B_Leaf

    Mind Bomb Loric76 B_Leaf tucker2corson 
    The Leafs are under no pressure to promote Leivo…by the time playoffs roll around they can do something then. But if Leivo is clearly the best choice then they don’t have to wait. Normally I wouldn’t expect that to be the case but Leivo I think there is a chance. Again we will have to see him in the NHL camp. I am not sure Colborne or D’Amigo can bring what he brings to the third line LW position. But he may need time to get there too. I guess that is the question.

  • TuckerForPunishment

    theacs1966 Loric76 MaxwellHowe Gives Naz a chance to solidify his worth.  Possibly take Bozak’s #1C position?  Or he could slump and hurt his value.  I think if he’s so damn confident then sign the god damn bridge contract and dominate.

  • peterbleafs

    B_Leaf Knights2Leafs peterbleafs Yes I forgot to comment on Finn, he looked really solid out there as well.  Percy, Finn and Rielly are clearly NHL calibre players in the making…from last nights perspective I didnt think the other defenders were.  But it was only one game in a rookie tournament.

  • leafscapguru

    colino17 LightmyLeaf Cameron19 Knights2Leafs Burtonboy Im not a fan of how we lost the series against Boston, but that’s got to give this team some anger and grit to fight this season, I don’t think this team collapse’s ever again that badly, as now the know there mistakes. From the coach to the players I think they all come back this season with a vengeance.  Boston was the best match up for us, from Kessel knowing he owns the NHL in a sniper role doesn’t matter which team he plays to Randy calling a time out to settle his boys down. I think if they played montreal and had a collapse they would not have the same outlook of “what could of been” compared to losing to Boston. IMO