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Preseason Game # 1: Maple Leafs 4 - Senators 2

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Hockey is finally back. The Toronto Maple Leafs dropped the Ottawa Senators 4-2 on the strength of two goals by Tyler Bozak and a surprisingly competent looking powerplay.

As with any preseason game, it is wise to keep The Onion's pitch perfect story in mind:

Basing his argument on an entirely meaningless preseason game between the Chicago Bears and the New York Giants, a deranged idiot came to a completely fucking stupid conclusion Tuesday about the whole 2011 NFL season, sources confirmed.

Taking a look at both teams' line-ups you can see the gaps in each roster. The defences were a mix of current and probable NHLers as well as prospects while each team dressed two lines worth of NHL forwards. Both teams split the goaltending duties between a prospect and their putative back-ups. Still, with the warning that it's only one game, here are some thoughts on tonight's game:

  • The Tyler Bozak - Colby Armstrong - Nazem Kadri line looked strong all game. They managed a lot more puck possession than would have been expected largely on the ability of Cheese to win puck battles and his strength in protecting the puck.
  • Bozak potted two goals including one where he raced away from former teammate Peter Wiercioch before sliding it between Robin Lehner's legs and another where he drove the net and poked a rebound home.

  • Dion Phaneuf was ready to play. A bit hit, a fight with Jared Cowen, and a lot of jumping into the play carried over from his strong second half.

  • Speaking of Cowen, he showed the good - strong on his skates, a touch of offense with his two goals - and the bad - his fight offset a penalty that would have cancelled out the Leafs' powerplay (they then opened the scoring) and he flipped the puck over the glass under pressure to give up a 5-on-3 - that comes with Not Kadri.
  • Jonas Gustavsson is still sliding too far and was lucky on a couple of chances that the Senators missed the net.
  • Ben Scrivens too over the second half of the game and looked like he hoped: like James Reimer. At its basic level, he fits in the same mold as the quiet Manitoban. The starter's role on the Marlies is likely his to lose.
  • Jake Gardiner will probably never match Tomas Kaberle's contribution to the franchise but he sure did a passable impression of him at times tonight. His skating ability is well-known but his pass for Armstrong's opener threaded the needle.

  • Kenny Ryan was dressed as a reward for his strong play in the rookie tournament and is headed back to the Spitfires but he played like a guy that understands what he needs to do to get to the NHL. He had a couple of Tim Brent-like blocks where he launched himself at shots with scant regard for his safety.
  • The Nikolai Kulemin - Mikhail Grabovski - Clarke MacArthur line was about all that you would expect.
  • Joe Colborne impressed me with his play. His skating looked improved and he was slightly reminiscent of Joe Thornton. Or to make it more Leafs-related, a quicker Nik Antropov. I hope he gets a long show in this preseason.

All in all, it was a good start to the preseason for a team that needs the good vibes related to winning to build early and often. For a view from across the aisle, head over to Silver Seven Sens. Who impressed you gys? Who do you want to see more of?