Preseason Post Game: Game #4 – Leafs 3 at Sabres 2 (SO)

Preseason Post Game: Game #4 – Leafs 3 at Sabres 2 (SO)

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It was technically-poor hockey, but between the scrums, fights and disorganized play, this was a pretty fun game to watch. Rather fitting for the game to end in a 15-round shootout that included this:

Note Enroth slashing at Ranger for trying this, making it all the more awesome.

This was a messy, chippy game for the most part, a product of rookies trying to impress and the vets generally looking half-interested.

The Leafs looked terrible for the first 40 minutes and deserved the 2-0 deficit, but they started to come on strong in the third period. A good shift from a line of fringe players vying for jobs got them back into the game. Trevor Smith and Josh Leivo battled down low before the puck made its way out to Mark Fraser on the point. A nice tip by Leivo to the side of the net redirected it to Devane in front, who finished on the backhand for his second goal of the presesason.

A few minutes later, some good work on the board in the neutral zone by Kulemin and Ashton sent McClement goal bound. With Ashton crashing the net with reckless abandon, the puck took a bounce off the defenceman’s skate and beat Enroth between the legs.

The Leafs went on to win the one-goal 15-round shooout. Anybody who watched the Leafs in the shootout last season was probably wondering how many saves they would need from their goaltender to win one of these things. The answer is 15. The scorer for the Leafs was Jay McClement, who snuck a shot through Enroth to secure the all-important two points.

James Reimer was excellent in stopping 38 of 40 shots plus the 15 shootout attempts. More on that in the game notes below. Thanks to Nikhil for chipping in with his thoughts.

- The preseason scoring drought continues for Phil Kessel. Seriously, screw Craig Simpson (context: Simpson actually said, “the frustrations continue for Kessel this preseason,” in the early second period).

- The Leafs defence was aggressively active in the attack tonight, with the likes of Ranger, Gardiner and Phaneuf trying to spark some offense on what was pretty much a one line team up front for most of the night. By one line team, I mean Raymond and Kessel.

- The Ranger and Gardiner pairing was a little all over the place. Gardiner was was here, there and everywhere trying to make things happen tonight. Ranger also likes to join the attack and slip into the high slot when he can (and a few times when he shouldn’t have, tonight). There was a few occasions when there was no one home with this pairing on the ice. I’m assuming Gardiner will rein it in a little when the real games start.

- I don’t think I’m completely confident in the top 4 I saw tonight sans Cody Franson, but it was a pretty tough game to judge.

- Bozak put on a clinic on how to blindly throw the puck in Kessel’s general direction and often times into the other team’s possession. It almost led to a goal when he got a friendly bounce off a forced cross-ice pass, but he had a pretty poor game overall. Credit where it is due, he had one good defensive play in overtime that led to a powerplay. He proceeded to botch three good chances on said powerplay. The Leafs should’ve won the game right then and there, but that would’ve denied us of the best shootout attempt ever concocted via Paul Ranger.

- With 38 saves on 40 shots, Reimer had a fantastic night, fighting back from a two goal deficit with his trademark perseverance. Reimer’s never been given the job with any certainty in his time with the Leafs, with this season looking like it would have been the exception. Competition has never stopped him from excelling or improving in year’s past, and there’s no reason to think that the young tender won’t rise to the challenge of the incumbent Bernier and all his media-driven accolades.

- Mason Raymond saw over twenty minutes of ice tonight and looked good in the process. His speed is his most obvious skill, but his versatility is what will truly make him a valued addition to this team. As opposed to someone like Clarke MacArthur, Raymond can bounce around on any line with any responsibility to good effect. He was used as such in Vancouver and early indications are that he will perform well in such a capacity in Toronto. Compare that to MacArthur, who struggled mightily out of a top six role on his way to numerous healthy scratches. Raymond created a lot of offensive opportunities tonight and made a few good plays on the backcheck to boot.

- Carter Ashton or Jamie Devane for that fourth line winger slot? Most would go with Ashton’s significantly higher upside, hockey skills, and draft pedigree. But, this team’s personnel is decided in large part by Carlyle. With that in consideration, you know that a bruiser like Devane will always get some looks to replace the injured McLaren/Orr. It doesn’t hurt his case that Devane has some ability to work along the boards with modest offensive inclinations.
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- I’m not going to look up the Leafs’ PK numbers in the preseason, but I think it’s been doing pretty well. Tonight, the primary forward duos of Kulemin and McClement and Ashton-Colborne got plenty of work as there were no shortage of penalties in this one.

- A better night from Joe Colborne. Strong two-way play throughout, and he looked a little looser out there than games previous, holding onto the puck a little more down low.

- David Broll is already a better hockey player than Orr and McLaren, but he’s no heavyweight pugilist. He does weigh a lot, but he’s got a ways to go in the fighting department. He got kind of embarrassed by Cody McCormick in a first period bout.

- Ashton got into it with Ott by the Buffalo bench in the first period and acquitted himself well in the ensuing scrap. Ashton is considerably bigger and stronger than Ott, and it showed as he caught the Buffalo captain with a couple of good ones before scoring the take down. As Ott quickly realized, while Ashton is a rookie and not a known fighter, you don’t have to be to beat up Steve Ott.

- Stuart Percy was good again tonight. His ability to make the right play with a high level of consistency is really impressive for a defenceman his age. I don’t think he missed the mark on any of his passes, and his best play of the game was cutting out a 2 on 1 when Dion Phaneuf got caught up ice on a pinch.

Post Game Discussion Questions:

1) Where does Stuart Percy stand on the depth chart?
2) Who among Joe Colborne, Carter Ashton, Jamie Devane, Trevor Smith and David Broll is going to be on the opening roster? A lot of cap considerations involved there.
3) How comfortable are you with a top 4 of Phaneuf, Gunnarsson, Gardiner and Ranger to start the season?
4) Is there any one against giving Raymond a one-year deal at this point? The better question is – is it even workable under the cap?