Hello to the 2017-2018 Toronto Maple Leafs! Plenty of new additions debuted in tonight’s lineup, and while Erik Karlsson did not play for Ottawa, top prospects Thomas Chabot and Colin White are always fun to watch. Auston Matthews was even featuring an A on his sweater!
Leafs Lines vs. Ottawa
Yikes. This did not start according to plan. Just two minutes in, Tyler Randell beat McElhinney to his blocker-side with a slap shot. Morgan Rielly was playing the left side on this play, and both he and Ron Hainsey went to defend Mark Stone as he was gaining the line. 1-0 Senators.
Just two minutes later, Dominic Moore took a 30 second vacation to the penalty box due to a face-off violation. The Senators powerplay moved the puck well, and Mike Hoffman took advantage of a rebound to put Ottawa up 2-0 just 4.5 minutes in. 2-0 Senators.
Just two minutes later (this is a recording), Mike Hoffman was at it again. He worked a give-and-go with Christian Jaros in the neutal zone, flew past Josh Leivo at the blueline, then roofed a gorgeous backhand goal over McElhinney’s glove hand. 3-0 Senators Just Seven Minutes In.
The faceoff violation show carried on towards the end of the first, but this time the Leafs headed to the man advantage. Quarterbacking the Leafs powerplay was Morgan Rielly, who slid the puck cross-ice to William Nylander, who then fired a pass to Auston Matthews. Just one day after his 20th birthday, Matthews showed us why he scored 40 goals last year:
Senators 3, Leafs 1. One minute, 12 seconds remaining in the first.
You would think that this is the end of the first period scoring, but the Leafs gave Mark Stone a Grade-A scoring chance just 35 seconds later. It looks as though Miro Aaltonen was attempting to cover Stone on this play, and the Rielly- Hainsey pairing was on for their 3rd goal against this evening. Senators 4, Leafs 1 After One. Auston Matthews, Kasperi Kapanen, and the Travis Dermott- Timothy Liljegren pairing were bright spots early on.
The Matthews line started off the action just as you’d expect, with Nylander gaining the zone almost effortlessly, and Zach Hyman winning battles down low. This was clearly Toronto’s best forward line throughout the period, and Matthews fed Rielly to set up a terrific scoring chance.
Matthews was not the only former first round pick showing off his playmaking skills, as Liljegren fired a gorgeous stretch pass to send Matt Martin on a breakaway:
Still without a goal in the period, the Leafs were given a 5-on-3 powerplay after a pair of slashing penalties. Mike Babcock did not exactly start with his top unit. Matt Martin was given an opportunity, and Carrick and Rosen quarterbacked the backend. The Leafs finally moved the puck well once the top unit came back on, but Rielly completely whiffed on a one-timer to end the threat.
Gabriel Gagne extended Ottawa’s lead with four minutes to go in the second. Randell’s pass deflected off both of Nikita Soshnikov’s feet in front, and Gagne was the only player who knew where the puck was. Garret Sparks, who entered the game around the halfway point, did not have much of a chance at stopping this one. Senators 5, Leafs 1.
Yet again, the Sens found a way to score in bunches. Zach Smith found Cody Ceci with an impressive backhand pass, and Ottawa’s defender quickly capitalized on the 3-on-2. Senators 6, Leafs 1 After Two.
The goal lights were officially given a bit of a break, but the Matthews line continued to impress throughout this frame. Matthews and Nylander were Toronto’s best forwards by a mile, and the duo continuously found a way to gain the zone with ease.
This period remained scoreless until the Leafs were sent to the man advantage late in the third. Morgan Rielly set up William Nylander for a one timer, and Toronto’s powerplay looks ready to pick up where it left off at the end of last season.
Final Score: Senators 6, Leafs 2.
Matt Martin was on the ice to start a 5 on 3. That tells you how important preseason victories are. Dermott and Liljegren teamed up to be Toronto’s best defence pairing this evening. Dermott’s mobility, strength, and puck-moving skill stood out, and he factored in on the penalty kill. He gains a clear edge over Rosen on the team’s depth chart after this evening, but we can only put so much stock into one game.
Miro Aaltonen and Calle Rosen were average at best tonight. Aaltonen was a regular on the penalty kill, but he did not exactly dominate at 5 on 5. I’ll be a tad surprised if either player makes the team, but there are still plenty of preseason games left to make a better impression.
Kapanen’s speed continues to make him a force in terms of zone entries, but his line failed to get much going. The Matthews line was Toronto’s best line by a country mile, and this is the only trio that is expected to start the year together. Rielly showed off his offensive flair shift after shift, but tonight was a rough start alongside Ron Hainsey, at least during the first.