Thoughts from the Rookie Tournament, Game 3


    Wednesday night’s tilt between the Maple Leafs and Penguins was by far the sloppiest game the Leafs have played thus far, with a 4-1 Pittsburgh victory the end result.

    Simply put, the players looked as though they lacked energy from the outset.   Was it fatigue from the toll of three games in four days?   Or was it simply a poor outing, as is prone to happen to all teams, from time to time?   The answer to that may lie in Thursday evening’s game against the Senators.

    Wednesday’s game featured a number of points of interest, despite the final result.   Andrew Engelege, with the team on a tryout basis, got the start in net.   Dale Mitchell suited up for his first game of the tournament.   Jamie Devane was seen in the stands, the cast on his hand a clear indicator that the tournament is over for him.  Marlies‘ defender Todd Perry was added to the roster as his replacement, and saw action with both Carl Gunnarsson and Juraj Mikus sitting this one out.

    Random Notes:

    1.  Engelege looked decent through the first two periods despite a Leafs‘ defensive unit that struggled from the outset.   However, he was unable to hold the fort when the defense completely collapsed in the third.   Rebound control was a definite issue; however, Engelege did look very confident and poised throughout the game, which considering how the defense played in front of him is actually quite commendable.

    2.  Dale Mitchell looked good in his first action of the tournament.  One of the few Leafs‘ players to play an energetic game, Mitchell was his usual fiesty, chirpy self and wasted little time getting under the skin of his opponents.

    3.  Nazem Kadri also played with a lot of enthusiasm, using his speed and puckhandling skills to create a number of offensive chances.   He tried to use his teammates more than in previous games; it is unfortunate that they weren’t there to help him in this one.   Kadri’s faceoffs are improving with each game, as is his willingness to get involved physically despite being in a lower weight class than the majority of his opponents.

    4.  At long last, there was a Mikhail Stefanovich sighting!   The Leafs‘ lone goal was a beauty, as Stefanovich finally gave fans a glimpse of his offensive skill set.   Away from the puck, he still has plenty of work to do, but when the desire and effort are there he is as talented a player as any in this tournament.

    5.  Viktor Stalberg had an off-night, in comparison to the first two games.    One thing that has been apparent during the course of the tournament is his suprising lack of shooting accuracy; he was consistently missing the net by quite a wide margin when firing from outside the circles.    He looks like he will be a very good player, but is probably another year away from a regular job in the big leagues at this point.   That said, if he can get that outside shot down cold, watch for him to make a push during the season.

    6.  Joel Champagne’s faceoff skills seem to have come a long way over the course of the three games.  He was visibly more confident, and quicker-reacting, on the draw on Wednesday than he was in the first two games.   Which is great news considering that faceoff skills have been noted as one of his strengths in the past.

    7.  Greg Scott has excellent hands, but gets knocked down far too easily.   He will have to get stronger, especially in the lower body (as Tyler Bozak did), if he is to reach the next level.

    8.  If Jesse Blacker is ticketed back to the OHL, it will be because of roster depth, not his play at the tournament.   He was again the team’s best defender, but was unfortunately on an island for much of the game.   He will have to learn to pick his spots better in terms of how often he decides to join the offensive rush, but on the whole his play has been quite good.

    9.  Brandon Manning was again solid positionally, but his lack of size worked against him in this one as he was manhandled in front of the net and along the boards.   He is very slight for a defender and needs to bulk up if he is going to take the next step.

    10.  The lack of an enforcer to instill fear in the opposition has had a clear effect.  Already without Greenop after the first game, the Leafs haven’t been the same team since losing Devane in the second game.  Once the Bruins realized Devane wasn’t coming back, they began to push the Leafs around at will and the game turned accordingly.   Similarly, the Penguins ran at the Leafs without fear for much of the game, which by the third period looked to have taken its toll on a team that had already been lacking any sort of spark from the outset.   Hopefully one of Greenop or Wallace will be able to dress, and provide that spark, in Thursday’s game against Ottawa.

    Jamie Devane, F, Richard Greenop, F, Andrew Wallace, F, Juraj Mikus, D, Carl Gunnarsson, D, Jonas Gustavsson, G.

    Late Roster Addition:
    Todd Perry, D.

    Final Game:
    Thursday at 7pm vs Ottawa