We’re reaching the point where, “just happy to have hockey back,” meets, “preseason can end any day now.” 

After a reasonably energetic first as far as preseason hockey goes, the Leafs generated only seven shots over the final 40 minutes. After the game, Mike Babcock mentioned the team appeared as though the coaching staff had, “skated them into the ground.” My eyes agreed.

“We know we’ve been pushing them, and we’ve been pushing them on purpose. A year from now they’ll be able to handle it for sure. But right now, it’s different than they’re used to.”

“We could’ve done things different and maybe be fresher for these games… but I want to work them. There’s a reason we’re working them.”

Onto the notes.

Player Notes

Gardiner – His game was highlighted by a beautiful end-to-end rush in the first: he hit the jets, rounded the net, sliced through two forecheckers, laid it off, received the give and go, and generated a shot on goal. Babcock is clearly a fan so far: Gardiner played over 26 all-situations minutes tonight, in a game where no other Leaf broke 21. Promising signs.

van Riemsdyk – In the first period, he drove the net on a rush down his off wing, paying the price to generate a juicy rebound for Setoguchi that he should’ve converted. Made a mockery of a tired Dale Weise trying his hand at defence at the end of the opening 3-on-3 OT shift. There were a couple of instances where JVR and Bozak were back to old habits, but, overall, you have to be encouraged by the preseason from JvR so far.

Bozak – Made an appearance in the final minute of the first, cutting to the net out from the corner and sliding a nice pass cross-crease that JvR wasn’t ready for. Other than that, quiet night.

Setoguchi – His give away up the boards led to the lone goal early in the second, but his two linemates (JVR and Bozak) were caught up high on a play that will drive Babcock – or any coach – crazy. Struggling to make any sort of impact on the game, he saw only 11 minutes of action tonight. With copious competition for the final spot or two up front, the writing is on the wall.

Komarov – First noticed him in the second period when he buried defenceman Morgan Ellis as Ellis was trying to milk an icing. He also ran over goaltender Mike Condon to start the third (looked to be helped in a bit), landing him in the box. Pretty typical Komarov game; even if he’s relatively quiet, he’s still throwing eight or nine hits and getting under some skin.

Nylander – He was fairly quiet, and was clearly trying to play deeper in the defensive zone and make sure he was supporting his D well.  Not a bad effort by any means, but it wasn’t a flashy performance as he didn’t take over any shifts tonight. His best chance came on a third-period powerplay after Kapanen dished to him at the point, where he stepped in and fired just wide.

Matthias – Made some inroads with Holland and Boyes on the cycle. That has the makings of a legitimate NHL third line. Matthias should’ve had at least one tonight — there was a beautiful set up by Brad Boyes that he flubbed on with a one-timer at the end of the first.

Holland – As mentioned, the line with Boyes (88% possession), Matthias (77%), Holland (73%) had some good cycle shifts. Babcock had to like the looks of it.

Boyes – His aforementioned beautiful feed to Matthias should’ve been converted at the end of the first. He was strong on the puck, played 200 feet, and generated a couple of scoring chances. Greg Millen praised him as the best PTO player tonight by a mile. A good showing, but he had more to work with on his line than Glencross did. It definitely seems he has the edge among the PTO players.

Glencross – A nice rush rush down the wing initiated a strong shift with Froese and Kapanen which drew a penalty in the first (one of two PPs his line generated tonight). Glencross looked pretty good leading a line with a youngster (Kapanen) and a non-NHLer (Froese); to my eye, that was the second best line behind the Holland-Boyes-Matthias unit, which bears out in the possession numbers. He set up Froese for a prime chance in front with a minute and a half to go in the second. A big body who works hard, can skate and can hold his own offensively, Glencross would add some depth, but it’s going to be really tight with the numbers game.

Froese – Showed a good work rate throughout, finishing with 70+% possession. A high energy shift with Glencross and Komarov drew a powerplay in second period, and he could’ve had one after Glencross set him up in front. May not appear to have the natural talents to forge an NHL career for himself, but he doesn’t shortchange you on effort. Unbelievably, he accounted for nearly a quarter of all Leafs shots tonight (4 of 17).

Kapanen – Easily his best showing so far. He was skating with purpose tonight. When he lost battles, he was coming back for second and third efforts. He was tracking back hard and deep into the defensive zone. He spent some time with Nylander for parts of the second period and on the powerplay in the third. He got involved in a scrum after Reimer got run into in the third period as well – always good to see.

Robidas – Moved the puck okay, but there were times where needed to move the puck a fraction more quickly to give the receiver a chance to make a play.  Playing with a talented D partner he can defer to in a skilled puck handler and mover like Gardiner, rather than a Harrington, seemed to help.

Marincin – Was in his coach’s good books after the game, and played 20:02, third on the team. Needed a good performance after Percy showed well last night, and the coach appears to have liked what he saw.

Polak – Struggled moving the puck at times, having to reverse the play and getting sealed off. Good at thwarting cycles, but looked sluggish again.

Brennan – Generated a few shots on goal off the point, and posted the best possession numbers of the defence, for what it’s worth. Played over 20mins with some healthy PP time.

Fraser – Will almost definitely not be receiving a contract for reasons plain to see, but we had been hoping Fraser would drop them with Kassian after Kassian was his chippy and chirpy self during the last game. That he did, in a spirited bout in which Fraser took the decision. That’s probably the sort of reason he’s in camp — Kassian was cruising for one, and there was no one else in the lineup you’d have liked to see humour him.

Reimer – Good from the outset, swallowing up rebounds and kicking pucks into the corner. A nice confidence-building save came early in this game via a point blank stop on Tomas Fleischmann after the puck squirted out of the corner with no one home for the Leafs. He couldn’t be blamed on 1-0 goal. A solid game for Reimer to get his feet under him — a small workload (21 shots), but he went the distance and stopped everything that was a reasonable ask of him.

All Situations Possession Chart

chart (1)

Mike Babcock Post Game Presser