The Toronto Maple Leafs dropped game one of the 2016 preseason to the Ottawa Senators by a score of 6-3.

As Ray Ferraro put it on the TSN broadcast, “it was preseason for everybody.” In addition to the usual exhibition sloppiness, two of the goals scored in this game shouldn’t have counted — or in the case of Frank Corrado’s goal, didn’t even cross the goal line — and there was a rash of bad penalty calls, in the first period especially. That said, enough complaining — Leafs hockey is back, unofficially.

Some thoughts on some players on the bubble:

Connor Brown – Received a gorgeous saucer pass from Gardiner in the first period that sent him in alone on Andrew Hammond. He didn’t convert, but he was able to draw a penalty and the Leafs scored on the ensuing power play. Started slow, but came on strong as the game progressed with his dogged puck pursuit. He found Gardiner trailing the play for Gardiner’s goal after winning a battle on the wall. Looked like an NHL player.

Mitch Marner – An inauspicious start gave way to one hell of a preseason debut. On his very first shift, he blew the zone early on the 2-0 Senators goal, hitting the red line before he realized the puck hadn’t cleared the zone on a play up the wall by Raman Hrabarenka. He took over the shift his next time out, coming back deep to collect the puck, skating nearly end-to-end through two Senators, driving into the slot and forcing a good save out of Hammond. He followed that up with a diligent backcheck the other way to recover the puck. A four-on-four shift soon after was the Mitch Marner Show as he carried the puck well and generated a 2-on-1. He notched an assist on the Nielsen powerplay goal late in the first before breaking Phil Varone’s ankles at the blueline on another slick zone entry on his first shift of the second period. With Rychel out of the game, he received the occasional shift with Kadri and the two were dangerous together, reading off each other well and finding one other. Toward the end of the second period, he jumped on a loose puck in the slot and hit the post with a quick release.

Marner sliced through the neutral zone with ease time and again in this game, displaying an added step from where he was at a year ago in preseason. He won’t always be afforded as much space as he was in this game — and won’t always have the fortune of blowing past the likes of Casey Bailey and Max McCormick — but this should be a real confidence builder for Marner, who admitted self-belief was a problem last camp. He looked NHL ready, plain and simple, but there are more tests to come as the games ramp up in intensity and quality of competition.

Andrew Nielsen – The first half of the game was a continuation from what was arguably the best performance out of all the Leaf prospects at the rookie tournament. He showed some good puck movement on the two-man advantage in the first period, looking poised and confident with the puck on his stick. He was able to sidestep the shot block, change his angle and rip a wrist shot while going right to left for his goal in the first period. A scary moment in the early second with the apparent knee injury, but he came back a few shifts later. It may have been affecting him as he was quieter the rest of the way. Still some things to clean up with his footwork, but the Leafs look like they have something here.

Kerby Rychel – Came to Kadri’s defence in a quick fight with an unwilling combatant in Andreas Englund, for which he was assessed a match penalty and ejected from the game. It put his team on a five-minute kill and cost him a chance at a proper first impression, but he may be fine with the investment. His skating is going to be an issue when it comes to cracking a Leaf team that is going to be built on speed, but one thing Rychel can offer over some of the other bubble forwards is that he can play mean and bring an edge.

Brandon Prust – He fought Mark Borowiecki in a nothing bout that was broken up by the refs before it started. His skating still looks quite suspect and it typically makes him a second too late on the forecheck.

Frank Corrado – Good start to preseason overall. Still find him slow to execute in transition at times, but he was involved offensively with a team-leading five shots on goal. Upon review, his goal didn’t actually cross the line, but it was a good shot going bar down from a bad angle. He won’t complain.

Colin Greening – He could’ve had a hat trick in this game, but lacked the finishing touch. The hands weren’t there, but there’s something to be said for getting chances.

Raman Hrabarenka Terrible giveaway on a blind pass through the middle of neutral ice in the second period led to the 4-3 goal against. He struggled executing short tape-to-tape passes at times.

Antoine Bibeau – A tough 40 minutes for Bibeau, who allowed four goals on 14 shots and could’ve played all four goals better. He fought the puck on each, although goal #4 was a bit of a tricky change-up after Casey Bailey fanned on the initial shot. He looked to be having a difficult time tracking pucks, which led to rebound and puck control issues. Kasimir Kaskisuo let in two more in the third, but he didn’t have a chance on either goal — both were redirects right on the door step. 

Senators 6 vs. Leafs 3 – Boxscore


Game in Six

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