The Leafs kicked off preseason with a 4-3 win over the Flyers.
Of course, you shouldn’t read too far into game one of the preseason with only three or four regulars playing for the Leafs, but it is fun to get a look at the likes of Gauthier, Rielly, Leivo and other youth playing all situations hockey at a higher level.
This was more of a rookie tournament lineup than it was an NHL lineup. Among the clear cut NHLers, Kadri (who always wants to put on a show, especially in his hometown), Raymond and Ranger were motivated to make an impression and did so. Bolland looked like he was taking it easy. Liles was ‘meh.’
The Leafs built a 3-0 lead when Steve Mason was in net, but coughed up the three goal lead in the second period. I’m not going to make the Game 7 joke. We have had a strange number of coughed-up leads in meaningless exhibition games since May 13, however. The important thing is the Leafs found a way to regain the lead and secure a 4-3 win in the preseason opener.
A quick rundown of the goals:
– The Leafs opened the scoring off the stick of the $2.9 million man. Mason Raymond made a nice play on the half wall to chip it to Kadri, who broke into open ice and bore down on Hall Gill, a partial one-on-one which ended exactly how you would imagine it would. Gill went all human zamboni into the corner, while Kadri patiently toe dragged around him before shelving it on Mason. 1-0 Leafs.
– Shortly thereafter, Fred Gauthier and Jamie Devane got the puck deep and mucked it up down low behind the net. Gauthier pounced on a loose puck that squirted out to the side of the net and found Troy Bodie out front, who made Tim Lieweke proud and buried to make it 2-0 Leafs.
– Raymond’s speed was evident from puck drop, and he was out to make an impression early tonight. It didn’t take long for him to get on the scoresheet. Following up the assist on the Kadri goal, Raymond scored on a breakway of his own after he picked off the point man on the PK. He showed off his wheels to gain separation before finishing glove hand high.
– The Leafs conceded late in the first on a penalty kill after a point shot from Nik Grossman took a deflection off of David Clarkson’s brother Doug. The larger, ECHL version of David. Reimer looked like he never saw it. 3-1.
– Bolland and his line had a poor shift leading up to the 3-2 goal. Bolland’s lazy windup saw his shot blocked at the blueline and his line wound up stranded up the ice. Holzer lost positioning on his man in front, who finished off a rebound to make it 3-2.
– Shortly after, Rielly kind of skated himself into a dead end and ended up crossed up in his own zone. A Flyer point shot took a weird bounce off the end boards and popped out to the far side of the net, where Rielly was late arriving. A member of the Flyers (I don’t remember) dispatched the bounce off the end boards, which Reimer didn’t recognize until too late, into the empty net.
– Broll, Leivo and Ranger combined to regain the lead for the Leafs half way through the 2nd. A good chip around the pinching Flyer by Kadri sent Broll on his way up the board, who dropped to Leivo in support. Ranger had identified a chance to join the rush and was johnny on the spot to finish off Broll’s rebound at the back door. 4-3 Leafs, this goal stood up as the winner.
A few quick player notes (other than what was mentioned above). Keep in mind my Leafs TV feed was cutting in and out throughout and all the new numbers left me squinting at nameplates.
– If Franson watched Rielly and Ranger and didn’t get a little anxious tonight, he probably should be. Ranger in particular was so solid. Consistently on the mark with his first pass, heady decisions throughout, strong on the board, positionally sound, and a goal to boot.
– Rielly has probably never played a hockey game where he hasn’t stood out given how smooth of an operator he is on the ice. I didn’t think he was unbelievable by any means, but he moved the puck quickly and well, made a number of crisp passes, and jumpstarted a couple of rushes. He broke the zone nicely on the powerplay a few times. We’ll see how he performs as more and more NHLers factor into the games.
– Biggs really struggled to assert himself in this game. I didn’t notice much in the way of a physical presence and he mishandled the puck on a few occasions. Game to forget for Biggs.
– When it comes to the youngest member on the ice in Frederik Gauthier, you have to be happy if he doesn’t look out of place. Nothing flashy, but the talk of Gauthier being well-rounded and polished beyond his years is not without merit.
– Andrew MacWilliam impressed me. He didn’t play a perfect game, but I like the mobility he possesses to go along with the size. He isn’t without poise on the puck, either. MacWilliam was punishing players on the boards, and set the tone early with a hard finished check on Scott Laughton on the end board.
– Josh Leivo acquitted himself well and found himself with a couple of good scoring opportunities.
– Those eager to anoint Bernier as the starter prematurely will probably be happy to pin one or two of the goals on James Reimer. I didn’t think there was much worth noting in either direction. It was his first game action in months, he only played 30 minutes, and he was playing in a pretty disorganized game of hockey.
– Christopher Gibson was solid in the second half, posting a shutout in his half-game performance.