To say that last night's game was not what anyone expected would be an understatement. With the crowd filled with a decidedly younger and more diverse demographic the game started off with a decently rousing rendition of O Canada. Unfortunately, things went downhill soon afterwards as the Ottawa Senators laid a 5-0 beating on the Leafs that hasn't been seen over the past two years when the Buds had clawed their way back to the 'Battle' of Ontario. There are obviously caveats galore in any game that features a lot of each team's futures and not much of their presents. However, a bad effort is a bad effort whether it's the Marlie Leafs or you Saturday night beer league squad.
That's not to say there wasn't some good to go along with the bad but the reality is that in both cases it's all relative when it comes in the first of nine pre-season games. As usual, the truth lies somewhere between the two extremes of this being the first step towards 30th and the march to the Stanley Cup moving ahead full steam.
You watch this at your own risk. I take no responsibility for anything you do afterwards.
Putting the kvetching (that's for Mike Brown the Hebrew Hammer) in the middle is a good way of letting some of you overlook it. The goals all came with glaring errors some of which I'd consider more concerning that others. Tomas Kaberle's decision to stand by the right side of the net all by himself was just a continuation of his puzzling defensive play from last year. Brown and Brett Lebda had actually done a decent job of at least ensuring that their men couldn't play the puck. Unfortunately, the third Senator, Jesse Winchester, was left all by his lonesome to bang in his own rebound.
The second goal came off of some lazy defending from Dion Phaneuf. As the captain he sets the tone and he did not set a very good one tonight. He was repeatedly caught pinching, took terrible, off-target shots on the powerplay and had the kind of game we'll clearly hope is nothing more than shaking out the cobwebs. Jonas Gustavsson had a strong game other than the second goal. His glove was too low and he dropped down too quickly but considering the barrage he faced he did a decent job.
The third goal saw Brett Lebda ignore the front of the net and the fourth was actually a well timed pass by Corey Locke. If he waits a split second longer Rynnas would have seen it coming and if it was a split second sooner Rynns would not have looked over his right shoulder. But the final goal of the game was terrible. They don't call it the minor league side for nothing but that was, by my count, Jussi Rynnas' fourth period of hockey on North American ice so clearly there is a lot of work acclimatising him to the angles to be done by Francois Allaire.
Depressed yet? Well, as was pointed out, it is just the first pre-season game so the hope is that the weeks of work prior to training camp will pay off with a steep learning curve. Certainly there were guys out there that looked like they realised what is at stake every time they step on the ice during these nine games. The Kris Versteeg, Colby Armstrong, and Nazem Kadri forward line was the only one to gain any serious traction over the course of the night. Kadri looked better than he did during the rookie tournament mostly due to the fact that he was actually willing to use his teammates. However, in the words of Chemmy, "Kadri's definitely not making this team short of an awakening on the order of Sleeping Beauty." I agree that there is still a lot left for him to learn - too many junior moves were still finding their way into his game - but I am encouraged by how he adjusted in one week.
That line also saw the majority of the power play time and it was pretty dire which is about where it left off last year. I recognise why Wilson kept them together and assume that he will move Armstrong off of that line (if it's a powerplay unit) during the regular season. The real worry was on the backend where Phaneuf and Kaberle alternated between never shooting and never hitting the net as the circumstances dictated. But that's more negativity. So here's some more good:
- Christian Hanson's skating was much better as was his, for want of a better cliche, compete level. I can't condone him smashing Brian Lee's face into the ice but I will say that when you decide to throw a punch at a Hanson then you better have put on the foil because he's ready to snap.
- Armstrong brought some jam which is about what was expected from his supporters. Didn't lead to any goals or real benefit but it did at least provide us with someone that looked like they were trying really hard.
- Jay Rosehill beat up Zack Smith at the end of the first which kicked off a 3-0 rout for the Leafs.
- Mike Brown fought anything and everything including Tim Spencer who is about 12 feet tall but was cut down like a proud Sequoia standing in the way of development.
Kris Versteeg showed good puck skills and good work on the penalty kill. He also had a great interview in the first intermission when he chirped the ACC guy counting the shots. Oh, and there was this:
So the first of five pre-season games in a row ended in an embarrassing loss. This won't be the last night we go to bed wondering if things can actually get any worse. Happily, only seven of the eighteen skaters from this game will be on the roster on opening night. In fact, when I go to tomorrow night's game, Mirtle reported that only Jerry D`Amigo and Jay Rosehill will be getting another shot at the Senators.
What did you guys like about the game? What did you guys not like?