Here we go again! Hockey is back and there isn’t a bad way to say it. A Sens game is always a spirited tilt and tonight’s game didn’tÂ disappoint. The game started with a very classy tribute to all who fell victims to this truly tragic hockey summer. You can view it here if you so choose.
Huge hit early in the first by Phaneuf which rocked Conboy and initiated a fight between him and Cowen in which no serious damage was done to either participant. Major props to Phaneuf for stepping up early in preseason. Really shows the kind of attitude we want to see this year. If you’re the captain, you try to lead the way as early as you can and pave a solid way into the new season.
Solid movement on a more dynamic PP sees Armstrong stuffing the puck with after a nice give and go with Gardiner. Looked like Kadri at first glance but nevermind, the important thing is that the PP looks improved early in preseason with Kadri, Liles and Gardiner running the show. Gardiner was looking particularly well, his skating made a big difference every time he hit the ice. Gunnarsson was another guy who looked really cool and collected on the back end, really smart passes out of the zone and that PP howitzer was just a bonus.
Jonas Gustavsson looked clam in net, which is a big step forward, but I want to see him after he gets scored on, something which we haven’t had a chance to see in this game since Ben Scrivens entered the fray at the midway point of the game, very soon after Gus gave up the goal. Scrivens made quite a few good saves, ones that stand out are the early ones, because he was cold coming in and peppered early. Same as Gus, he didn’t have much chance on the goal.
As far as our young forwards go, Frattin was a pest, constantly wheeling, backchecking and crashing the net. He did cough the puck up in the corner which led to Jared Cowen’s goal but overall I think he had a really good game. And if you’re going to make that kind of mistake, this is the time to get it out of your system. Colborne looked on fire in the first, wanted to battle, played a solid game until the end, but was most effective in the 1st period.
The guy who impressed me the most was Kenny Ryan. The kid got two big blocks of slapshot blasts and a big hit on Conboy, who was really hoping to become Scam Man after the 1st and the rough ride he was treated to by the Leafs. Nazem Kadri looks a speed ahead of last season. He seems to be reading plays better and his reaction time seems quicker. Naz was also looking pretty good alongside Armstrong and Bozak as the trio was showing off some great early chemistry. Arguably our best line tonight. Oh, and Bozak WAS indeed working on his release, quick snipe from up close when he came in alone on Lehner. He had 2 goals in the game, getting an ugly insurance one late to make it 4-2 Leafs. And that my friends, that’s never ugly.
The money line (Kuli, Grabo and Mac, yes I’m still trying to get that to catch on) didn’t dominate but it’s clear the chemistry is still there.
Plenty to be pleased about after tonight. The team looks to have made some signifficant improvements in areas which were the main talking point of all Leaf critics and hockey experts. Our special teams looked great, PP was clicking with better puck and player movement while the PK was more agressive and looked effective. The young guys had a really good game so all in all, we can be pretty happy with the start of preseason.
Also, I love Joe Bowen. Rundblad was everything from Runbad to Bald Runner but, as he usually does, he made this game evern more exciting than it already was. And that’s quite a task when you haven’t watched the Leafs for 5 months.