Leafs Rookie Tournament: Game 1 Wrap up – Leafs 3 vs. Blackhawks 2

The Leafs’ rookies took the tournament opener as a result of their energy, skill, and goaltending. They outpaced a Chicago group that was forced to rely more on physicality to gain ground. They caught the Leafs temporarily, but in the end Toronto came away with a win they probably deserved as Morgan Rielly and Tyler Biggs converted in the shootout to secure a 3-2 Leaf victory.

A few meaningful observations may be gleaned from the three-game sample after the weekend, but keep in mind that one sloppy game featuring thrown-together lineups is, well, just one sloppy game featuring thrown-together lineups. Let’s summarize the period recaps by Matt Mistele from last night’s live blog, for what it’s worth:

– With all the focus on the Bernier/Reimer debate heading into next season, not much has been made recently of the Leafs’ net depth behind the top two. Garret Sparks has turned in an impressive night, stopping several shots through traffic and snagging at least one high, hard snapper with the glove hand impressively enough to make Francois Allaire wonder, “You can do that?” Spott mentioned in the post game that he would’ve probably liked the first goal back, but the showing was solid.

– We’re all aware of Biggs’ purported skating limitations, but on first glance, he’s added speed since my last viewing. In close, the mobility still seems like an issue – but that’s one of the hardest elements of proper skating technique to develop. Nevertheless, he brings a 100% effort level on every shift and gets his job done by making the right play. Hard played north-south shifts throughout the game.

– Morgan Rielly took over the game on a few of his shifts and at points was dominant with the puck on his sick. The passing and skating skills on Morgan are sublime… this we all knew. He did get beat once to the outside. Obviously, if there’s a hole in his game, his play without the puck would be his development focus.

– Rielly and Finn formed the PP point tandem of Matt’s dreams.

– Josh Leivo sat out the third with an injury, but needed only two periods to make a pretty significant impact. From creating offense out of situations you wouldn’t normally consider opportunities to using his teammates well, he impressed from the get go and was rewarded with a power play goal. Leivo doesn’t immediately strike you the way his 6’2 frame would suggest, but he uses the size well. It’s probably no coincidence the team sagged without Leivo at Spott’s disposal.

– The “more physical Gunnarsson” description matched with Granberg, but signs of adjustment wrinkles were evident in some misplays on the puck.

– Youngest player on the ice, Carter Verhaeghe showed glimpses of impressive skills, but was understandably tentative at times. A player Hughes described as having a 48-month development schedule, he’ll be given ample time to figure out if he can piece together the raw skills at his disposal.

Notable highlights from Steve Spott’s postgame scrum, courtesy of Matt:

– On the mobility and skill of his young defensive corps: “Wow.”

– Spott was impressed by the team’s ability to come together quickly.

– He was also enthusiastic about Sparks’ performance, only calling out the first goal as one Garrett might potentially want another shot at.

– Spott confirmed Leivo missed the third period due to a chest contusion suffered when he took a hit earlier in the game.

Game in 6:


Morning Links..

Steve Spott Post Game | Garret Sparks Post Game | Brad Ross Post Game

The most crushing playoff defeat in my lifetime. Michael is much older than I (it’s Alec putting together these links), but you don’t have to go too far back in time to find mine.

Why did Darren Dreger say mean things about Kadri on the radio – You can just picture Nonis mouthing Dreger’s words like Richard Peddie at the Cliff Fletcher press conference.

  • wiski

    Great job boys keep it coming.

  • Great Dane

    The defense on the Leafs is packed.
    The defense on the Marlies is packed.
    I hope that our forward group soon will be as packed as the defense. What is really missing is two or three top talent forwards that would complete the forward group.
    Gauthier might be one of them

  • tucker2corson

    Lievo and rielly are so impressive… their play screams pro….ive watched a lot of their junior games and these kids are awesome in certain facets of the game.. both got speed… i always liked leivo on a scoring line and i thought maybe he would be a 3rd liner as a pro.. but the way he was setting up passes or shot and his intelligence around the net… his half slap writer into the net sealed it for me…. he needs to more seasoning but he has a chance to be a good powerforward in the nhl i think… i know this was a rookie game.. but he was pretty impressive in the chl russia challenge…none the less leivo is the guy im watching from now on. And loved Reillys game big time… love the skating and agility.. its a thing of beauty and a half.

  • tucker2corson

    have the playing repeat on leafs tv… i like percy’s game.. granberg was good at times.. but his nasty streak and at time good puck decisions were lacking but i think he was nervous since this is his first n/a tryout with the club… we have some beauty though.. liking dave morrison at he helm more and more

  • LeafsForLife

    enjoyed the summary! Thanks for the work! Enjoyed watching the game. Leafs have a lot of talent. What stood out for me was that Verhaeghe had a lot of chances and was just short of potting a few. I think with some time, he will be consistently scoring. I noticed Granberg and think it has something to do with being new in NA but he seemed to have a hard time at times. Im sure he will put it together. The size of these guys is very impressive and the speed is fun to watch. Lots of skill on the blueline. The future is very bright for the Leafs.

  • Burtonboy

    I know a lot of people were surprised by the speed of Tyler Biggs and full credit goes to Barb Underhill but this didn’t happen all of a sudden . Remembering back to the WJC Biggs played on the fastest team in the Tournament and more then kept up. On the big ice as well. I remember watching him then and saying what is everyone talking about saying this guy can’t skate . He’s not a speed demon but he’s certainly average or even a little above.

  • peterbleafs

    Went to the game last night, this is what I thought:
    Percy is the most complete defender we had.  Always in the right position, very steady and consistent.  Totally impressed with the guy in all phases of his game.
    Rielly can’t play at this level as he is just too much better, at least from an offensive perspective.  He made many passes that were tape to tape and hard.  From his own crease to the other blueline and short smart passes.  The problem was few of them were received well.  He has a very hard wrist shot, but I never saw him take a slap shot from the point.
    Leivo has a real nose for the net.  Seems to get into the right spot offensively.  Also while he was on the ice he worked very hard.
    Granberg was very good, likely needs more time to adjust to our game.  Percy was noticably better, but Granberg will come around well.
    Sparks played extremely well, letting in one goal which I couldnt tell if it was screened.  The 2nd he was hung out to dry.  But he was always very well positioned, has a very fast glove hand and oozed confidence.
    Biggs was quick yes, but sure did not look big out there well, likely part of the reason for that was his linemates who are huge.  Biggs was way to tentative.  On one occasion he had the puck and turned back instead of driving past the defender.  Not a power forward move!  I was disappointed in that.
    Gauthier was steady, won one of of 3 draws that I noticed.  He needs another year in Junior to catch up to his size more.  
    I do have to say the forwards overall are good, but none of them excited me with their play.  Could be they werent used to each other on new lines so Im not to worried about that.  Lots of choppy play most of the game.  By Sunday should be able to get a better read of the forward group.

  • JWasted

    First shift in the game in 6, our player gets bumped in the corner, 2 big hits follow that. Shut up noobs, leafs are in town!

  • Burtonboy

    Just heard an interesting comment from McQuire on radio . He sat down with Dion yesterday in NY and had an hour long conversation. He said he hasn’t seen Dion this excited and primed to play since he was with Red Deer. He’s in great shape,relaxed and can’t wait for for the season to start. Could be we will see a really great season out of the Captain this yr.

  • Knights2Leafs

    I was there too and agree with most of your comments.
    Devane and Crescenzni are both legitimately 6′ 5″ and I question whether or not Biggs is really 6′ 3″.  Gauthier at 6′ 4″ seemed much taller.  This seemed even more so with Broll.  He is obviously quite thick but even Leivo seemed taller.  Broll was way less noticeable than Biggs.
    Rielly and Leivo were the clear winners in terms of showing NHL skills.  I agree Percy looked better than Granberg and I was somewhat disappointed with how Petter played. He was nowhere near as physical as I expected.  MacWilliam, like Broll is a thick guy and was physical.  Even Kevin Raine, a real unlikely long shot prospect, was more physical. 
    A very pleasant surprise for me was Finn.  Now that he’s healthy he looked much better.  Not quite as flashy as Rielly, but who is, and he’s definitely bigger.  He reminds me of Blacker in his last year of junior.
    As for forwards, McKegg also seemed to be very close to having an NHL skillset.  The rest either didn’t show much or are too young to evaluate.
    As I posted last night, Devane is a really good skater, he has the size and he clearly likes to play with a physical edge.  In addition to that package he seems to be good at hanging on to the puck.  He could be a really high quality 4th liner in the very near future.
    Really nice snipe by Ross but I’m still not sold on him.  I hope to be proven wrong.