Preseason Post Game: Leafs 3 vs. Senators 2

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The Leafs took a 3-2 decision in tonight’s preseason match on a late scrappy goal by Dave Bolland (he’s good at those). There was some injury concerns after Nazem Kadri blocked a shot with one of his patented nifty mittens, but early reports indicate it is just a bruise.

This was a preseason game, so it was far from pretty. Players come into these games with significantly different levels of motivation, skill and rustiness.  While many look at skill as the most significant of these qualities, consistent high level success in the NHL necessitates enormous amounts of motivation and effort.  To see this concept in action, one needs to look no further than the Senators themselves.  With their personnel and heavy injuries, Ottawa has attained success in the past two seasons largely due to a team-wide dedication to bringing it every night and following their gameplan.  The mentality to do whatever it takes to win is what separates the Alexander Semins from the Jonathan Toews.  It’s the basis for any sustained success in this league and something that Toronto should look for in all their players.

That being said, there were a few notes of interest from tonight’s tilt:

-Nazem Kadri is a shining example of a player with this very mentality.  Along with a ridiculous amount of skill, it is what makes him a truly tantalizing part of this team’s future.  He flashed the skill with a quick move for the first goal of the night in tight.  He demonstrated the never-say-die attitude by throwing hits and willingly blocking a shot (that subsequently elevated the average heart rate of Leafs Nation).  With talent and even more determination on his wings (e.g. David Clarkson) – the sky’s the limit for Nazem.

-Paul Ranger took a soft penalty in the first, only to come out of the box and hit a post on the counterattack.  Ranger’s long term future with this club is still very much up in the air, but it is looking more and more like he will provide a reliable presence on Toronto’s blueline this season.  In some respects, he brings a similar presence to aspiring Maple Leaf Stuart Percy (minus the size difference).  Not necessarily a dynamo at either end of the rink – but skilled, smart, and dependable.  The type of cost-effective, safe blueline presence that all contending clubs need.

-David Bolland can join Kadri, Clarkson, Grabovski and Phaneuf as players that would go through a wall to will this team to victory.  When Kessel’s shots aren’t going in or Reimer/Bernier are off their game, it will be the workmanlike attitude of this group that will keep Toronto in every game, giving them a chance to win through grit and determination where pure skill may falter.  Sure, his numbers (advanced and otherwise) were not great last year, but Bolland has that fierce competitiveness that will make this club an absolute pain to play against on any given night.  Proof? He paid the physical price on his game-winning goal tonight (he was also the beneficiary of some nice work by Morgan Rielly on the point).

-Bolland adds to the dynamics of this team in a few ways.  First, McClement-Bolland got some looks on the PK tonight and could certainly become an effective duo going forward.  More importantly, Bolland and Kulemin are both dogged on the puck and just as hard to get off it, with their work yielding results a number of times tonight.  Mason Raymond brings speed and some offensive pop to this line, along with the underrated ability to just skate the puck out of trouble if needs be.  This is a third line in the mold of Carlyle’s vision that this club hasn’t seen in years.

-Speaking of Mason Raymond: he wants that job. Unless cap issues confound the situation, the Leafs should give it to him.  A cheap, one year contract to prove his worth (talk about sustained motivation).  Using his trademark speed, Raymond has stood out in every game he’s played so far. While his offensive output faltered at times in Vancouver, fans and analysts never faulted him on his effort or defensive determination.  Really, the only counterarguments to Raymond’s inclusion on this club have come from supporters of younger Leafs getting a “chance” in that slot.  The reality is, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that injuries will be removing players from this lineup in short order.  Raymond is versatile as he can easily be either a checking line winger or a fixture in the top six.  Get ‘er done Nonis.

-Jonathan Bernier looked his usual calm and collected self in the crease tonight, despite nursing a minor injury that caused him to leave after the first period.  The Toronto media will drum up this “goaltending controversy” for as long as humanly possible, but in reality the picture won’t be clear for months, if ever.  Given both goaltenders’ skills and relative experience, it is quite likely that they put forth similar levels of quality play in the Maple Leafs net.  My gut tells me this is one of those situations where a shared load in the crease may truly benefit the team – at least for this season.

Of course, we’re all hoping Carlyle and co. decide to start trotting out something closer to the opening nights lineup in the preseason games ahead.  Certain veterans are still adjusting and taking their time to round back into game form, but with a few key personnel decisions yet to be made, it would behoove the team to get into full gear as soon as possible.

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Nikhil has been writing for MLHS since the site launched in 2008. He misses talking about Mats Sundin and is currently entrenched in enemy territory (Boston) pursuing a doctoral degree. Contact Nikhil here: [email protected]
  • Optimustic

    Just a bruised hand for Kadri.   Good news I’d say.   Hope he’s 100% for opening night against the Habs.

  • Black_Hawk

    so apparently Bernier has a undisclosed injury and kadri got a bruised hand

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    Optimustic couple days and he should be good, Carlyle didnt seem worried

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    im getting excited at the potential of this team : )

  • Bon Scott was a Leaf fan

    Awesome post-game, Nikhil!!  Agreed on every point.  Love Bolland’s play (he is Leo-lite with more offensive ability).  Ranger is showing that he can play (Franson better be looking over his shoulder right now), and I’m loving Kadri’s game.

  • Bon Scott was a Leaf fan

    So how much for Raymond??  900K??  What was he making in Van??

  • Optimustic

    Dangle_My_Berries Optimustic RC seemed OK, but it’ll hurt for a bit.  Much better than it could have been.   I’m off to bed, work tomorrow.   Good night all.

  • Black_Hawk

    Bon Scott was a Leaf fan 925 or 1M

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    Optimustic Dangle_My_Berries later bud

  • Komas Taberle

    Bon Scott was a Leaf fan Over 2M in Van, but probably under a 1M here

  • Pent_House

    I think Lupul should be part of that group of players who will the team to victory. He brings a lot of effort and determination.

  • wendelsway1

    Pent_House Absolutely…..we are a much better team with Lups in the lineup.

  • Pent_House

    As for Ranger he was up and down. He made some decent plays in the offensive zone with the post shot and controlling the puck and taking good shots. He also skated over the puck in the neutral zone, got caught on a couple bad reads.

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    Pent_House preseason’s time to iron that shit out lol

  • Pent_House

    Dangle_My_Berries Pent_House We’ll see. I saw a lot of this all season and play-off long from him with the Marlies last year, which is way I harp on him a lot. Hopefully he can tighten it up.

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    Pent_House Dangle_My_Berries ya for sure. The cerebral assassin stew percy looked good tonight

  • Pent_House

    Black_Hawk I was wondering why he came out at the end of 1st. Talk before the game was he was going to get the whole game, and even if they switch it’s usually half way through the 2nd. Then post-game Mac said he didn’t even know he was going to play so that’s pretty telling of an injury.

  • Pent_House

    Dangle_My_Berries Pent_House Yea I thought he looked great. Especially on the pp once they actually got into the zone. So smart. I don’t see the Ranger comparison there at all lol.

  • Black_Hawk

    Pent_House Black_Hawk yeah i heard it on Sports net

  • Dangle_My_Berries

    Pent_House Dangle_My_Berries stews type of game excels at the pro level because of the predictability of play, he understand the game at a high level

  • T_Ry

    Just got home from the game…I’ve gotta say, Clarkson did not look good tonight.  Seemed lost away from the puck, and couldn’t do anything with it when he got it.  
     That being said, it is, of course, still preseason – plenty of time to iron that shit out.  And there was a lot of very sloppy play from a lot of guys tonight.

  • http://mapleleafshotstove.com/ DeclanK

    T_Ry Whole team looked pretty awful, TBH. There were a couple of sparks, but the balance of play was pretty “meh”. I’m damn happy hockey is back, though.

  • T_Ry

    DeclanK T_Ry Agreed about hockey being back – I can’t watch another inning of Blue Jays baseball.
    Some of the Leafs had strong games, I thought – obviously the goalies; Bolland, JVR, Raymond at times – but none of the young guys was particulary eye-catching.

  • http://mapleleafshotstove.com/ DeclanK

    T_Ry DeclanK 
    Hard to tell if it’s a lack of talent, or trying to play safe, mistake free hockey.

  • T_Ry

    Everybody here might appreciate this: you know how crazy ol’ Eugene Melnyk likes to harp on about drunk Leafs fans ruining the experience for everyone at Senators’ games?  Here’s one for you…

    I took a group of 20 international high school students to the game tonight (I’m their teacher, so I made them wear blue under the threat of losing marks) .  Most had never seen a hockey game before.  Sitting right in front of us is some drunk asshole in Senators gear, jumping up and chirping us and flipping us off and all that business.  Guy fucks off after the 2nd period – I think he probably got tossed, he was so wasted.  
    Anyway, we all get back to our bus after the game lets out, and what do we see, but this same drunk asshole Senators fan ON OUR BUS, yelling and swearing at the bus driver.  Keeps on yelling and chirping as I’m removing him from the bus.  Meanwhile, every single one of these kids now thinks that Senators fans are all like that (though I may have suggested that myself). 

    Dear Mr. Melnyk: go fuck yourself with a cheese grater.

    P.S. Most of the kids are now Leaf fans, and chanted “Go Leafs Go” with me during the game…and afterwards, a couple of them said to me, “Sir, can I learn how to play hockey?”

  • T_Ry

    DeclanK T_Ry True enough.  If it’s the latter, though, mission failed – Bernier and MacIntyre were forced to make some pretty great saves on breakaways and odd-man rushes.  Bag skate tomorrow?

  • blueandwhite

    To make cap room for Franson and Raymond the obvious choice if we can move him would be Liles but the chances of moving him with his salary it does not seem likely. However I wonder why more people are not pointing their finger at Gunnerson. He has been average at best and seems to have lost a step. He is not aggressive, doesn’t put up the points and his 3 mil could be moved.
    IMHO I think it would be easier to move Gunnerson via trade and garner a return while doing so than to move Liles. I am not just looking at the preseason but dating back to last year it seems his play has been regressing. I hope the hip injury that nagged him last year just needs time for him to catch up to where he was 2 seasons ago.
    I would not be surprised if Kadri and Raymond play on the second line with either Lupes or JVR should Clarkson struggle during the season. Clarkson Holland and Kule would also make it a nasty 3rd line to play against for other teams.

  • Savo43

    Fuck Kadri is sick. Those little sauce passes in between dangles he does at full speed are effin ridiculous. Sniped right after he gave a beauty sauce to Raymond only to get it back, and gave JVR a sick sauce for a scoring opportunity. Kid is ready to take the next step you can see it. What a beauty.

  • Great Dane

    @blueandwhite I do not agree on Gunnar, but signing Raymond should be straight forward.
    3 dangerous lines should make the Leafs a worthy opponent on most nights.
    You would have a lot of possibilities:

    LW :     JVR , Lupul, Raymond,
    Center: Bozak , Kadri , Bolland
    RW:      Kessel, Clarkson , Kulemin

    27 possible combination if am not mistaken.

    And if McC and Colborne are on the fourth line – Carlyle can roll that line as well with a RW.

  • Savo43

    T_Ry I honestly don’t think Clarkson has looked good at all yet. They were raving praises on TSN after his first game against Philly, but not gonna lie i wasn’t blinded like they were by his scrum tactics that don’t even pertain to the actual flow of the game lolll. Its only been pre season, but you’re right, he hasn’t looked good. Im sure its just rust and finding a niche and comfort level with new linemates.

  • Savo43

    Pent_House Dangle_My_Berries Let it go Penter, Ranger will be better than he was for the Marlies im sure, especially with better players to play with. Some guys you can tell, play up and down to their competition. He seems like one of those guys. I’m sure he’ll step it up the faster the game gets and the tougher the opponents are.

  • Savo43

    @blueandwhite Gunnarsson was very solid in the playoffs last year so not sure what you saw there. He’s a steady two way defender who is very smart with the puck, and underratedly good at separating the opposing teams offense from the puck (albeit mostly done without the body). Sure he’s tradable, and I’d rather have Franson, but to suggest he is “average at best” is completely wrong.

  • Optimustic

    T_Ry   Sober Sens fans sure don’t ruin the experience for the drunk Leafs fans. :-)

  • Savo43

    Random note, but if Clarkson doesn’t find chemistry with Kadri, I wouldn’t mind seeing him with Kulemin and Bolland instead of Raymond. Regardless of the Clarkson contract (which will honestly be the only reason Leaf fans hate this idea whether they admit it or not), i actually like this lineup better. 

    Lupul-            Bozak                -Kessel
    JVR-               Kadri                  -Raymond
    Kulemin-       Bolland              -Clarkson
    Broll-             McClement        -Orr

  • newkb

    Where’s Colborne?

  • Savo43

    newkb traded or cut. He has sucked.

  • newkb

    Broll hasn’t been better though…and the cap hit is the same. Colborne needs more than a couple of preseason games before being cast off to the reject pile..

  • Jordan29

    Not Clarkson hasn’t be a top 6 for his grit and toughness. Raymond doesn’t bring that. Exactly what happened when kadri got in a fight last night, Clarkson was right there to jump in. They will be fine

  • peterbleafs

    I was really impressed with Percy and Rielly last night.  Both of them are NHL ready and even that other guy Marshall played very well.  Colborne looked pretty good, but still plays a bit tentative, as if he just needs to add some self confidence.  However, he was solid on the PK and later in the game did some good fore checking.   Ranger looks really good as well.  

    I disagree with Savo on his opinion of Colborne.

    JVR   Bozak    Kessel
    Lupul  Kadri   Clarkson
    Raymond  Bolland  Kulemin
    Orr     Colborne    McClement
    This should be our opening night roster IMO.

  • Zep2

    peterbleafs  I thought that was the best game Ive seen Rielly play at any level and Percy came as advertised, smart and effective. 
    A month ago , Ranger was thought to be a cheap bottom pair guy. Now he looks like a cheap top 4 guy.  
    The Leafs are in the enviable position of having too many defenseman.
    If MacWilliams is thought to be ready I can see both Gunnar and Fraser being moved  by the trade deadline

  • Dink

    Don’t know if anyone noticed, but even with so many players “not” looking good, the team still won (yea it’s preseason)…this is mainly because of the syatem and dare I say, a little talented depth…

  • Knights2Leafs

    Savo43
    Bottom line is minor mistakes notwithstanding, this guy has the full package.  Size, physical, smooth skater and best of all he plays with composure.  He doesn’t run around a get out of position.  I’m super impressed with his ability to get in the right position and angle forwards off towards the boards.
    Oh yeah, and that shot off the post shows he has an absolute bomb for a shot. If he was right handed I’d be saying Franson’s job is in jeopardy.

  • Knights2Leafs

    Savo43 
    Well the good news is the combination of Raymond and Clarkson only costs us an average of $3.15M per player. : )

  • Knights2Leafs

    peterbleafs 
    Agreed on everything.  The only thing I might change is have McClement at center and Joe on the wing.

  • Knights2Leafs

    Zep2
    Based on the small sample of preseason games, which of these 3 options would you take?

    1)    Gunnar – Phaneuf
            Gardiner – Franson
    2)    Gunnar – Phaneuf
            Gardiner – Ranger
    3)    Ranger – Phaneuf
           Gardiner – Franson

    I’ll take door #3.  I like Gunnar and would rather keep him, but if Nonis can’t get rid of Liles and if getting Franson
    signed means trading Gunnar, that’s what I’d do.  Get her done Nonis. And fast.

  • Burtonboy

    https://twitter.com/leafsbuzztap
    Maple Leafs Hot Stove >> Introducing the Maple Leafs Hot Stove Hangout http://t.co/UQ9bIkotQz

    New blog up

  • Knights2Leafs

    CanuckUKinToronto 
    I mostly agree but one thing I’ve noticed is that Gunnar has been way more physical so far this year in taking guys out or pinning them against the boards.  Actually, I thought he played more physically in the Boston series than he did in the regular season.

  • heatdreamer

    CanuckUKinToronto  Are you datingAshton sister?

  • whalz

    I’d rather see a 4th line of
    ORR MCCL. ASHTON
    Colborne imo will be packaged to Calgary or Ana,,,Colborne has done nothing in my eyes to warrant a top 12 spot, RC may keep him on the roster as a 13th forward as he would be plucked off waivers.

  • heatdreamer

    CanuckUKinToronto  Dion is on honeymoon, his interest is in bedroom not on ice.  Give him a quality  partner , Dion is fine.