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Preseason Recap: Leafs 4, Senators 1

Leafs win! Twice!

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

That was a fun one. Leafs open the preseason with two split squad wins against Ottawa.

BoxscoreFancy Stats

The Leafs jumped out ahead pretty quickly, with P.A. Parenteau and Nick Spaling scoring 31 seconds apart in the first. Parenteau added another one early in the third. Then, Mike Hoffman cut the lead to two with a killer shot. Stuart Percy scored the final goal of the game with a shot from the point on the powerplay.

The team iced a pretty good roster against Hoffman, Mika Zibanejad, and a bunch of scrubs so I don't want to read too much into the individual results. That being said, there were a couple players that really stood out to me.

Connor Brown had a hell of a game. He made the most out of the opportunity he was given, playing on the first line with James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak. That line generated a whole lot of scoring chances, created in part by Brown's great vision and passing. He's really good with the puck. The line wasn't as great in the defensive zone, getting hemmed on a couple different occasions.

Parenteau had a great game as well. The two goals that Parenteau scored on the powerplay were pretty similar: shots taken from the same place off of nice feeds from Rielly on the first goal and Nylander on the second. He played on the half wall on the power play, where Phil Kessel used to play. He's obviously no Kessel but he might be a decent replacement.

I thought his line (with Daniel Winnik and Nick Spaling) did a great job controlling play at even strength, as well. They didn't spend a lot of time in the defensive zone at all.

Other than that, the players you would have expected to be good were. Here are some observations on the other guys:

  • Rielly and Gardiner looked great together. They're both such dynamic players and their skating is incredible.
  • Marincin was a lot more active in the offensive zone than I expected, pinching deep into the offensive zone on multiple occasions. He seems better offensively than his point totals would suggest.
  • Loov and Percy both looked good. I didn't rank Loov in the T25U25 but I'm going to regret doing that, if this game was any indication of the type of player he is. Both players had good passes out of the defensive zone, moving the puck in the right direction.
  • Polak had a fight but he wasn't very good at the actual hockey thing tonight.
  • The fourth line (Leipsic - Carrick - Panik) didn't do a whole lot. They were pretty much invisible the entire night.
  • Bernier looked sharp, as the score would suggest.
  • Nylander looked good on the power play but neither he nor his linemate, Michael Grabner, impressed at even strength. Devin Setoguchi had a nice play on Nick Spaling's goal, creating a turnover in the offensive zone, but wasn't very noticeable beyond that. Edit: apparently Nylander was second in 5v5 CF% tonight at 75%. This is what happens when I write before looking at the stats.
Coaching wise, this game gave us our first look at Mike Babcock behind the bench. It's still very early into his tenure but there were some pretty noticeable changes already, all good:
  • "Off the glass and out" is dead. Finally. The Leafs were really effective in exiting the zone with short passes from the defence to the forwards. One of the things that drove me nuts about this team under Carlyle was how often the forwards fled the zone once the defencemen had the puck, stationing themselves at the offensive blue line for the tip in instead of giving their D an outlet for the pass out of the zone. There was none of that tonight. The team was really efficient at exiting their zone.
  • The defencemen looked a lot more active defending in the neutral zone, challenging the puck carrier instead of automatically ceding the blue line.
  • There's a new look on the power play. Babcock is going with four forwards now. Worked out pretty well tonight.
  • I'm not sure about this one (it's been so long since the last Leafs game), but it felt like the forwards were a lot more aggressive on the forecheck. They were also just plain better at puck recovery and getting to loose pucks in the offensive zone.
  • JVR was backchecking! TSN showed the replay half a dozen times. They were as shocked as I was. It truly is a new era in Toronto.
  • They also kept cutting to the bench. Babcock was talking to the players a lot, especially the younger ones. It looked like he was really trying to teach them things. Great to see after years of Carlyle.
The Leafs take on Montreal tomorrow. Don't know if cuts will come in the morning or after the Montreal game, but the cuts are imminent.