In the Toronto half of the split squad games, the Maple Leafs won 4-1 on goals from PA Parenteau (2), Nick Spaling and Stuart Percy.

Again, we’ll hold off on too much game analysis this early and get straight into some notes on the player performances.

For the game #1 review and player notes, click here.

Player Notes

  • van Riemsdyk – Skating looks better than last season. Better footwork, less coasting, and he played with better urgency in the first 10 minutes. Was committed in 1-on-1 battles and showed some hunger defensively. Had a nice, hard, physical backcheck that resulted in him getting a stick lift, strip, and pass to Gardiner-to-Rielly and back to a curling, full-flight JVR who bulled his way back into the offensive zone for a great shot. It’s taught in minor hockey, but if you play committed D you create your own offensive chances and that’s certainly an example we rarely saw from JVR last year.
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  • Bozak – Was a bit out of sync with the play in the first 10 minutes, but was part of a line that dominated play to start the game. Was actually backchecking and playing defence, which was a nice departure.
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  • Brown – Was a nice compliment to L1 – getting on pucks first, was noticeably stronger on pucks versus last year, won some battles, and had a couple of effective stick lifts that resulted in changes in possession. His stride has undergone a big reconstruction (the broadcast mentioned that Barb Underhill said he was her hardest working student) and he’s difficult to identify versus last year (in a good way). Has great anticipatory skills and reads plays like a pro. He was very good last night and looked very much like an NHL player. Another right shot option.
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  • Grabner – Speed is obviously noticeable. Missed on a nice feed from Nylander alone in front and again on a breakaway. Looked a bit rusty, as to be expected in the first pre-season game of the year. Good job on the second goal. Forced D into a mistake with a hit, passed to point, received the puck again, and got a quick shot off creating a rebound on the first goal of the game (Spaling).
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  • Nylander – Good game from Nylander. Carried the puck with confidence, showing off his excellent, graceful strides. You really never had to look for him on the ice. Had 3 SOG, a beautiful assist on PAP’s goal, and had a great night on the dot (Ozone 9-14=64% / Nzone 2-3=67% / Dzone 1-2=50% / TOT 12-19=63%). He’s noticeably stronger than last year, but is still a little light on his skates in one-on-one battles. His pickpocket abilities allow him to fight back in lost one-on-one battles, but it’s technique more than it is strength or weight. Watching Toronto’s new star player develop under such a good coaching staff is nice to see; Babcock getting in his ear on the bench after a beautiful pass on the Spaling goal shows that he’s not going to get away on talent alone and Babcock is going to keep him honest with details.
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  • Setoguchi – Looked OK and had a couple of nice shifts alongside Nylander and Grabner. Will be interesting to see if he can continue to improve every game or if this is what he is.
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  • Leipsic – Unlucky not to have a goal, missing just wide. Needs to be quicker on the forecheck to recover pucks, as he was content to arrive second on plays too often. Needs to add pace or it’s going be an uphill battle for him to make the NHL with his size.
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  • Carrick – Up and down game from Carrick tonight. Was physical and engaged in a few after-the-whistle skirmishes, but was having difficulty handling the puck and staying on his skates. He has more to his game than that, so we’ll look forward to see if he can play either center, or more likely wing on this team. Looking like a long shot to make it out of camp at this stage.
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  • Panik – Didn’t get a tonne of ice time and looked pretty good. 1 SOG and was determined on the wall. Not many memorable plays.
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  • Winnik – Was defensively reliable and physically engaged (4 hits). At his best, he’s making better use of his puck management skills than he did last night to allow skilled linemates to flourish.
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  • Spaling – Was a noticeable bottom roster player and Johnny on the spot for the rebound created by Grabner. Good defensively and had some jump in his step.
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  • Parenteau – “I thought he was hungry and had the puck lots tonight” (Babcock). Two goals for PAP tonight, and he was driving the net and pushing play north. Not a pretty skater, but effective. On this team, he looks very much like he could be a top 6 option on the right side. Will have to see him on a full team to see if that’s the case.
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  • Gardiner – Looked good, skated well and moved the puck forward all night. Made some difficult plays that few—if any—on the team can make, but there were some of those terrible decisions that keep putting asterisks beside his name and caveats to the praise given to him. It’s going to be interesting to see if Babcock helps minimize those or if Jake continues on the same way he has, which is to say amazing one shift and “WTH” the next.
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  • Rielly – Best player on the ice. He looked extremely confident with the puck and he looks to have added another half-stride to his already impressive skating stride. Was making plays out of nothing and rushing the puck intelligently and relentlessly. Game 1 of pre-season, so tempering expectation is the best bet at this time of the year, but it was easy to see last night that this is a young player taking another step forward in his career. He started last year at 215lbs (said Carlyle) and looks to have added more to that again—and it certainly hasn’t slowed him down. He was really good on the wall and was outmuscling players in one-on-one battles. His game wasn’t mistake free, but … it’s game 1 of the preseason. Led the team with 24 minutes of icetime.
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  • Marincin – Can be a hard player to watch and sometimes looks like he’s struggling, but if you keep tabs on him without bias, he nets out with his play. Pushes play forward when he’s on the ice. He was an advanced stats bet when the Leafs acquired him; you can definitely see how a coach/GM would pass over him and also how he achieves good underlying possession numbers despite failing the eye test.
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  • Polak – Was in a bad mood this game and was constantly on his own defending Bernier and other teammates. Despite not being the best with pivots and footwork, his straight-line speed is actually very impressive for a big man… or it was. Looked slow and had difficulty handling the puck, but he wasn’t shy at skating the ice up the puck. Had a nice fight right in front of the bench defending a teammate. A good example for the young defencemen on how to maintain tight gaps off the rush and how to time sweeps and pokes at the blueline to force offsides or interfere with the timing of the offensive rush.
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  • Loov – This is an interesting battle that’s going to happen for the bottom pairing left side defence. Stu Percy made the team last year out of camp and was, debatably, the best Leafs D for the first five games. We’re aware what happened after that, but what we didn’t see was that Percy is probably the underdog right now. Loov had a great game, made nice decisions with the puck, and had five on goal, which is very impressive for a defenceman.
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  • Percy – Had a slow start and had some difficulties turning corners and moving play north, which had the team hemmed in their own zone at times. Had a really savvy goal that caught everyone by surprise, showing pass and quickly knifing a shot top shelf that surprised everyone in the building. The goal went to his legs and he was playing with more confidence and the headiness that everyone has come to expect from him.
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  • Bernier – Cool, calm, and composed. Was beat fair and square on a dirty Matt Hoffman goal off the rush, but otherwise his footwork, positioning and rebound control were on point.

Game in Six

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grj-DaNQaDI

All situations possession stats

ottawa senators at toronto maple leafs

Mike Babcock Post-Game Press Conference Transcript

I think when you first go some place and you’re trying to get the team to play a certain way and do things a certain way, you’re going to do a lot more talking for a long period of time than you have in the past; so, I imagine that will be ongoing. I liked their effort in the second and third. I thought we skated better and put pressure on their D. I thought Bernier had a good night. It’s an exhibition game obviously and they had a lot of their guys in Ottawa, so it’s hard to tell in some ways. I thought our guys executed not bad in their own zone, had speed on the rush, got on their D a little bit, so lots of good things.

You liked PAP on the point?
Well, I don’t know if he was playing the point. We only had one guy on the point. Gardiner and Rielly did that at the top and then we go with 4 forwards. I thought he was hungry and had the puck lots tonight.

Why do you favour 4 forwards on the powerplay?
Because they score more. It’s just instincts.

What didn’t you like tonight?
We have lots and lots of things to fix. We’re reckless with the puck. We don’t take care of it as good as we should. Lots of times we think every shift is one you’re going to make a cute play on. Lots of shifts are 50/50; nothing happens. Bide your time, be patient and make good plays when it counts. As a D core we’re going to learn a lot here quickly. So we’re going to get way better in that area. But, for a first night, obviously we had a game in Ottawa, too – for two split squads to leave the rink feeling good, I think that’s important, too. I think confidence is huge and you have to earn the right to feel good about yourself over time. We have to do that.

What do look for from some of the youngest guys to show that they’re ready?
They’ve got to be good. They have to show they’re ready. So if they have a good night, we’ll put them back in and see if they’re good the next night. They have to do it night in and night out, because they have to take someone’s job. If you look around the league, everyone loves their young guys for 10 days and then the veterans get their jobs back. I’m not interested in that kind of thing. Either you’re going to play and help the team win or the Marlies are available for you.

For the game #1 review and player notes, click here.