Similar to the way that one should watch the Leafs' rookie tournament games, it is important that early preseason games not be given too much weight in terms of evaluation of players or team systems. That being said, there are some interesting changes afoot for the Leafs, and these games are fans' first glimpse of many of the recent off-season changes.
In the first period, the Leafs allowed the Sens to jump out to a 2-0 lead. The first goal came on a 3-on-2 rush where the Leafs' defenders just couldn't get in the way of a single pass. James Reimer was more or less helpless as the puck was put home. The second goal, on the other hand, was a soft one that Reimer is likely to want back. Bobby Ryan slid home a long wrist shot along the ice on the power play that was neither tipped, nor particularly dangerous.
Fortunately, the Leafs came back with a goal before the end of the first, as captain Dion Phaneuf blasted home a shot from the point on the power play with assists going to Dymtro Timashov and Mark Arcobello. In the second period, it was the Timashov-Holland-Boyes that cashed in to tie the game after an extended sequence of possession and pressure. Timashov picked up his second assist of the night as he slid the puck back to TJ Brennan, who wristed home the tying goal from the blue line.
It wasn't long before Ottawa replied to re-take the lead. Erik Karlsson was Erik Karlsson had hammered home a shot from the point that saw Reimer screened and unable to track the puck. It wasn't a fantastic goal, and Leafs' fans would undoubtedly want to see Reimer find the puck on this one, but given the traffic in front of him it wasn't the worst goal against, either.
The Leafs held a 25-24 lead in shots heading into the third period but had yet to kill off a penalty, going 0-for-2 through two periods. Special teams always look discombobulated during preseason play, so no cause for alarm, there.
In the third, it was Joffrey Lupul who tied the game after a strong shift from his line (Matthias-Kadri-Lupul). Kadri had a chance in close that he shot from between his legs, and Lupul cleaned up the rebound. This line generally spent more time in the offensive zone than in its own.
Just 55 seconds into overtime, Lupul scored the winner, with Kadri again getting in on the play.
The Leafs ended the game out-shooting the Sens 37 to 32, but then, I guess they trailed for most of the game. Whatever though, the Leafs weren't out-shot. That's amazing.
I have only seen about 6 games go to 3-on-3 overtime (including the rookie tournament) but each one has ended before a shootout. That said, each overtime has basically been a shootout, so I have to wonder how much less randomly 3-on-3 really decides games. Every one has been a track meet with odd-man rushes at each end all the time. I like it a bit better than the shootout, but personally feel that this is replacing one gimmick with another.
I'm old. I want tie games brought back.
Notes on individual players:
- Matthias looks good on the forecheck. He is known for being relatively quick, but didn't look like it in this one. He took a dumb penalty in the third, but his line looked pretty good overall.
- Timashov looks dangerous everywhere. His line (Timashov-Holland-Boyes) looked good all game. I still can't believe that this kid fell to the 5th round. So far, this looks like a steal. Of course, he's only 18, and there are a lot of things that could still derail his NHL potential, but so far I have seen him play as a part of the Swedish national junior team, in the Leafs' rookie tournament, and now in the NHL preseason, and he has been a standout for me at each level. With only my limited viewings, it is entirely possible that I am stirring too much hype up about this kid, but it's hard not to get excited, sometimes.
- Lupul had a strong showing in this game, potting two goals and having several good chances. Many of us here at PPP want to see him traded (myself included), but his offensive skills are undeniable.
- Rinat Valiev jumps into the rush well and looks strong for his age. He had a few good offensive passes - especially one in the third that nearly resulted in a goal. The more I see this D-man play, the more I like what I see.
- TJ Brennan had an up and down game. He scored a goal but also had to take a penalty when he was about to get beat to the outside. Apparently, he has worked a lot with Barb Underhill during the off-season to work on his skating, but he still gets knocked down a fair bit out there. His strength is a question mark, even if his height isn't.
- Reimer had a bit of an iffy game. The second goal against was particularly bad, and the 3rd one was OK, not great. I want Reimer to do well this season because I like what I know about him as a person, but if he under-performs in 2015-16, I think the Leafs need to move on.
- Kapanen looks OK. Some good puck control, but he didn't stand out often. He had a great pass on a 2-on-1 to Curtis Glencross that didn't result in a goal, but hey, that's something. As the game wore on he started to get more chances, which suggests that he was perhaps a bit nervous this evening. I wouldn't read too far into this one for him.
- Kadri (who played with Lupul) looked very solid. He was, on several occasions, strong on the forecheck, and he made good passes all over the ice. I really think that Babcock is going to be the best thing that ever happened to his career.
- Phaneuf scored the Leafs' first goal in exactly the way you would hope he would: hammering a slap shot into the top half of the net. Defensively, I would say that he looked good, tonight. His positioning and decisions with the puck looked good, but his skating looked a bit slow, which is not typical for him. He made a good stretch pass to Kapanen in the 2nd that nearly resulted in a goal. I'm really excited to see what Babcock can do for him, too.
- The Matthias-Kadri-Lupul line has had 9 shots through 2 periods and was easily the best line for the Leafs tonight. Timashov's line was great too, but the vets looked like vets tonight, and really, they should. It's just the preseason.
- Garret Sparks joined the Leafs for the third period and looked solid, stopping all shots he faced in that period as well as OT. Sparks is a really nice guy and I hope that he does well with the Marlies this season.
Scott was at the Canadian Tire Centre, here are his takeaways.
- Rinat Valiev was extremely aggressive, both offensively by hopping up into the play and defensively through frequent pinches and forced puck battles. It paid off a few plays, including on Brennan's goal, but he also left himself out of position a couple times.
- Timashov was excellent in his Leafs debut, he looked confident with the puck and forced a number of turnovers without it. He's a crafty player, and you think he's going to lose puck battles when he carries it high in the offensive zone but he's got an excellent knack for hanging onto it without turning it over.
- The Matthias-Kadri-Lupul line was excellent and their dominance paid off late in the game after several early chances. Matthias was disruptive and complimented some of the high-risk plays Lupul and Kadri made by driving hard to the net. Lupul had one mid-game outside-in move that was akin to the confidence he had with the puck two seasons ago.
- Holland's skating looked much improved again (it did in the Halifax scrimmages as well), he made a couple nice defensive plays too.
- The two PTOs, Glencross and Boyes, weren't all that noticeable. Boyes had a couple nice plays on net.
- Harrington played well, made a ton of solid decisions and was extremely physical in puck battles. Looked like his upper body strength was overpowering at times.
- Rich Clune was glued to Karlsson's pants all night and seemed like he was forcing it. He took a penalty away from the puck in the neutral zone that led to an Ottawa powerplay goal.
- Kapanen, Robidas and a handful of others were largely non factors, though Arcobello made an excellent defensive play on a hard back check to disrupt a breakaway late in the game.
- Reimer struggled with his rebound control and got beat along the ice five hole twice. He had no chance on the first goal -- a nice give-and-go between Prince and Karlsson -- but the other two were kind of weak. Sparks looked solid in the third period when he came in.