I had the privilege of a great view from the Gold section, ten rows off the ice to witness a fairly decent game with plenty of positives. It was my first time in the lower bowl, so it was certainly an exciting and interesting experience to see how the other side lives. Impressive performances carried over from the rookie tournament by Tyler Bozak, the game’s first star, and fellow collegiate rookie Viktor Stalberg.
Tyler Bozak: Was absolutely brilliant out there tonight, showing that he is ready for the NHL. He was buzzing around at both ends of the ice, and was easily the Leafs‘ most active player in the offensive zone, often seen circling around, finding seams and looking for passes that never came. On a night where the forwards were very stagnant in other zone, it was nice to see someone playing with energy. Seventeen minutes total on the night, including plenty of time on the special teams units, capped off by a beautiful shorthanded goal.
Viktor Stalberg: Scored a power play goal in the second period, but it was other parts of his game that were noteworthy. He displayed a strong effort to commit to the play at both ends of the ice and managed 7 shots on goal.Â There were a few rushes, particularly an odd man rush in the first and a solo rush in the second where he showed that he knew how to translate his speed effectively at a higher level and simply blew by opposing defenders.
Francois Beauchemin: As one of the few marquee players to suit up for either side, it really should be expected that the Canadian Olympic team camp invitee would stand out. He was a beast this game, logging 26 minutes of ice-time, quietly recording 2 assists and playing very reliable all-around hockey. Given the complete inability of the Leafs forwards to maintain any sort of puck control down low, the Boston forwards keyed in on the point men all night, making it very difficult for White or Beauchemin to make use of their excellent point shots.
Solid if Unspectacular Performances:
Jiri Tlusty: While I was hoping to see more offensively out of Tlusty tonight, he certainly showed that he had learned something in the AHL last season and knows what he has to do to earn minutes under Ron Wilson. He involved himself physically with a few hits early on and maintained that high level of energy throughout the game. He did a good job of harassing opposing defenders at the point and he was making the effort to be defensively aware, as his head appeared to be on a swivel all night. With the puck, he played it very safe, dishing it off and dumping it in for the most part all night.
Jonas Frogren: The lack of puckmoving ability was fairly obvious at some points during the game, with Frogren being rushed to make a few bad decisions that led to scoring chances the other way. However, he generally played a quietly good game, including laying all out to stop a key odd man rush in the third period. Nice to see him also being physical all night, attempting to make opposing forwards pay the price for space in front of the net.
Nazem Kadri: Early into the game, it was looking fairly obvious that Nazem was out of place with very little offensive help or skill from either of his flanking wings. There were attempts to create plays on his own where he would manage to get around one defender, but was often forced to go along the boards where he would be eventually squeezed off the puck. After later being promoted to the top line replacing Allison, Nazem looked much more comfortable out there, particularly controlling the play down low on the power play. He received the most ice-time of any Leaf forward tonight.
Nikolai Kulemin: Last year, we saw a ton of inconsistency from the young Russian sniper, as he would land a few hits or snap off a couple wristers a game, then completely disappear the rest of the time. Today involved much of the same, as Kulemin appeared extremely tentative with the puck, often making rushed decisions that led to turnovers, or preferring to rely on simple dump and chase. Combining that with Tlusty’s shyness of the puck didn’t help either.
Jason Allison: Slow, and completely ineffective. Passes were going right onto the sticks of Boston defenders, which led to odd man rushes the other way, including one play where Beauchemin was forced to take a tripping penalty. Did absolutely nothing defensively, and spent half the night inching the opposing blue line waiting for a pass. Harsh but there’s no way he should make this team. Actually got bumped to the fourth line in favor of Kadri by the third period.