The Toronto Maple Leafs dropped their second in a row to the Ottawa Senators in the second preseason primer on Wednesday night.
Player notes, Babcock post-game and game highlights below.
Andreas Johnsson – He skated well, jumping in and out of holes and showing good intensity and consistency to his efforts from shift to shift, especially for the first outing of preseason. He took some hard hits to make plays and kept coming.
Auston Matthews – Two goals (ho-hum), one a near-side snipe off his one-time side in a delayed-penalty situation, the other a pluck out of midair with the shaft of his stick from in close. The swagger in his step looks like it’s ratcheted up another notch. The nameplate check on Scott Sabourin after the Sens tough guy gave him a shove after the whistle in the third period was legendary.
Savage move: Auston Matthews was just trying to figure out who this guy was 😂
— Hockey Night in Canada (@hockeynight) September 19, 2019
William Nylander – Lots of rust in the form of multiple turnovers in the first period, but as the game wore on, he looked more like himself, conducting play and sending hard, flat passes right on the tape. He nearly scored three minutes in on the power play on a nice feed from Johnsson out of the corner. No sense in analyzing it too much other than to say it’s fantastic to have him in camp from the get-go so he can hit the ground running alongside Matthews.
Ilya Mikheyev – After a quiet start, he got his feet under him as the game went on, flashing some nice skills, showing good pace as well as some interesting patterns to his game that would help give the Leafs a different look with his range and ability to slice across the ice east/west. He came close on a redirect in the slot late in the second period. The Leafs might have something here if he can make the adjustment to the smaller ice. If he can show he’s able to generate cycle time for his line with his physical frame and puck-protection abilities, in particular, he’ll make a quick fan out of Babcock.
Alex Kerfoot – He flashed his wheels on a few occasions. It will be interesting to see him with consistent linemates soon in order to assess his chops at center ice. It was a pretty quiet night, but he flashed an instance of his sharp hand-eye touch in the slot for a tip that nearly went in.
Nic Petan – It’s hard to see how he fits into this team at this juncture given the lineup composition at hand. He looked good on the power play with the extra time and space, but he just hasn’t impacted the game enough at 5v5 to force his way into the conversation as of yet. Did have one good chance in tight that he failed to convert late in the second after a nice rush by Kivihalme and feed by Kenny Agostino.
Morgan Rielly – Looked great rushing and breaking up rushes. You can tell he’s working on his feel on the power play now that he’s sending passes to two players that are on their offsides, which is what preseason is for.
Cody Ceci – A solid preseason debut good alongside Rielly. He played a steady and simple game, advancing the puck up the ice while deferring to Rielly a lot and limiting the types of mistakes that marred his reputation in Ottawa.
Ben Harpur – He got walked for Connor Brown’s first goal and couldn’t seem to complete simple passes early on. He started to look more like a hockey player in the third period, when he also stepped up to drop the gloves with Scott Sabourin after he took a healthy run at Johnsson (and others throughout the game).
Rasmus Sandin – His composure and headiness showed through tonight — he picks his head up and makes the right play with a high level of consistency — and if this game is any indication, he’s going to force the Leafs into a hard think on where he should play to start the year. He’s clearly one of the top six most talented defensemen on the team. It’s up to the management and coaching staff to decide on the program for Sandin and whether they can get him enough important minutes at 5v5 and on the PK in the NHL, or whether he is better suited to go dominate the AHL and develop in all-situations ice time.
Teemu Kivihalme – He looked like he was struggling with the pace of play to start the game, but he settled in by the third period and showed why he drew interest across the pond with his mobility and puck skills. Too early to say, but just looking at the skillset and player type, you wonder if this signing made the Leafs more comfortable shipping out Calle Rosen in the Tyson Barrie deal.
Timothy Liljegren – He played a steady enough game, for the most part. He executed a few nice breakouts and other small plays, but there wasn’t anything too noteworthy about his performance tonight. Of note: Babcock differentiated between the two (Sandin and Liljegren) after the game unprompted, noting Sandin’s ability to execute simple, smart plays consistently and Liljegren’s need to make simple plays more quickly.
Mike Babcock Post Game: Senators 4 vs. Leafs 3
On the team’s performance:
I just thought, in the first… I looked up at the shots at one point there and the shots were 10-5 for them. We were slow and they were fast. I thought we got going, obviously, a little bit too late. We had lots of looks and lots of opportunity, but we didn’t get it done. Catch up hockey — you can’t play like that.
I thought Johnny was unbelievable for us. Matty had a good night. I thought, on the backend, I really liked Morgan Rielly. He had a good night. Harpur did his job for us. I was impressed with him. But we’ve got to have more right at the start and go from there.
On Cody Ceci’s preseason Leafs debut:
I thought he was good. I thought he played a good game. He was steady. I didn’t know if he was going to be nervous in here tonight or how it was going to go. I almost said to the coaches, “We won’t worry about this one, we’ll just move on.”
Any time you’ve been in a place a long time, sometimes it is tough. I thought he was just fine. Obviously, we are going to have the four. It is pretty easy to sort out the four. We’ve just got to figure out the rest.
On llya Mikheyev:
I thought at the start, I didn’t think he and Kerfoot were that great. I thought, as time went on, he got better and better and better. Obviously, a real good skater and real strong on the puck. Makes intelligent plays. He is probably finding the rink a little small right now and he’ll need all of exhibition, but he is a good hockey player. I have no question about that.
What I liked tonight is he is starting to protect the puck and roll around a little bit. You’ve got to remember there is no one coming at you and you’ve got way more time. It’s just learning the quick twitch. He is a really, really good skater, so that won’t be an issue for him. Very intelligent. But it’s that time and space you’re not used to and just figuring out… As good English as he speaks compared to the other guy that we’ve had that arrived, it is still going fast for you in training camp. It’ll take him some time there.
On Timothy Liljegren:
For sure. He is coming. There is no question. He’s got to do things quicker. That’s one of Sandin’s greatest skills is that he just makes the easy play. Sometimes, Lils tries to make it a little harder. I thought, in the second half of the game, he got better.