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Toronto Maple Leafs defeat Montreal Canadiens 5-1

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We beat them at the Ricoh, now let’s go beat them in Quebec City!

NHL: Preseason-Montreal Canadiens at Toronto Maple Leafs Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

We’re halfway through the pre-season and tonight there were three big tests happening tonight that I hope to have some semi-decent opinion on by the end: Miro Aaltonen as 4C, Calle Rosen on the 3rd D pair and how Ron Hainsey and Morgan Rielly work together as partners. We’ll get to those guys at the end but first, your game recap.

Of note the Maple Leafs were playing above the rivalry tonight and loan the Habs a goaltender from Marlies camp when the Canadiens original back up was injured this afternoon.

The Maple Leafs iced an almost complete NHL line up tonight, clearly ready to get those top three lines gelling before the season begins. We get off to a quick start as Auston Matthews opens the scoring just 47 seconds into the game, after getting a wrist shot past Jeff Petry, who screens AL Montoya.

Leo Komarov got the pass off to Matthews as he skated the puck out of the Leafs zone, as he was ending his shift and Matthews did his Matthews magic.

The Maple Leafs are able to kill off two penalties - Nikita Zaitsev for hooking, and Connor Carrick for tripping - during the first period, and between the penalties Auston Matthews is able to score his second goal of the game:

Nikita Zaitsev keeps the puck in the Habs end as Torrey Mitchell tries to clear it out. Matthews takes it into the Habs net and gets around Karl Alzner, shoots, William Nylander gets the rebound, and Matthews gets that rebound as it bounced straight up and then down, for his second of the game.

The action goes back and forth through the period, with the Leafs getting more offense through to the Canadiens zone, but the Habs are getting more shots on net, which, sure fine our goalie is better.

There’s a bit of a frightening moment halfway through the period when Brendan Gallagher goes over Calle Rosen’s knee and gets wedged between the defender and the linesman, and his skate comes up and cuts Rosen’s chin.

Luckily it’s nothing more than a small cut to the chin, and not another Richard Zednik or Clint Malarchuk. Rosen was tended to on the bench and stayed in play.

In a surprising movie Zach Hyman threw down with Brendan Gallagher near the end of the first period. Gallagher shoves Hyman from behind into the boards a couple times before Hyman has enough, spins around and the gloves come off. It’s not a huge fight as much as it is like brothers wrestling, but Hyman takes the pest down in no time.

The Leafs open the scoring early again in the second period, when Patrick Marleau taps in a puck that gets lost by the Canadiens defence pair of Petry and Alzner.

Later in the Habs zone we see little ol’ Mitchell Marner go shoulder to shoulder with GREAT BIG LEADER MAN Shea Weber and win the puck battle:

Marner then takes the puck and gets it to JVR who tries to get it past Montoya, but is unsuccessful. Just before JVR shoots, Weber tries to take JVR down by the neck, which is bad leadership, Shea.

Halfway through the second period Nikita Zaitsev is in the box for interference, and on the power play Jeff Petry is wide open, and takes a point shot that goes past Frederik Andersen to break the shut out.

In the third period, Auston Matthews scores the hat trick goal, after William Nylander robs Jodie Benn of the puck at the blue line and shoot sit up to the rushing Matthews, who snaps a wrister past Montoya for his fourth of the pre-season and sends some hats flying:

Minutes later William Nylander goes bar down on the power play to put the Maple Leafs up by 4 goals, after taking a pass at the point from Jake Gardiner.

Quick thoughts:

  • The big 3 are already in mid-season form. Matthews is ready for anything, Willie is a little puck theif, and Marner is using his body on plays like we haven’t seen before.
  • The penalty kill so far this pre-season has been fairly excellent
  • The power play needs work, but is slowly coming together.

Miro Aaltonen

  • Aaltonen has been playing well in the 4C role, and was given time on the penalty kill as well.
  • With Connor Carrick off the ice for tripping, Aaltonen was the PK centre as the power play was ending. He won the face off and was able to carry the puck with his stick and foot, up the ice into the Canadiens end. He had a two on one going with Connor Brown and was able to take a shot on Montoya who was able to get the leg out in time and block the shot. It was a well executed play though, and a shorthanded shot speaks well to the Leafs PK development in this pre-season.
  • There’s a sequence on the PK where Aaltonen is so focused on the puck he’s pushing the Habs centre out of his way to get at it:

Races to the centre position where Victor Mete has the puck

But Mete is able to get the pass under the stick of Aaltonen.

The puck gets to Charles Hudon but his shot goes high

  • Aaltonen is playing the centre position well, but he’s maybe trying too hard to stick with the puck. He’s moving a lot laterally when the Canadiens are passing and I was worried it would put him out of position by just enough for passes to get through, like above. This could be put down to roster spot jitters.
  • If we were to start the season as Aaltonen as 4C, maybe rotating on and off with Dominic Moore, I’d be fine with it, he didn’t seem out of place at all.

Calle Rosen

  • Rosen was paired with Connor Carrick for most of this game, and didn’t need a lot of babysitting by his partner.
  • Rosen was playing very well with Carrick, they were connecting passes and had great chemistry.
  • The highest compliment I can pay to Rosen after this game is that I found it hard to notice him, which, as a defender, is a good thing. No obvious mistakes, no glaring errors.
  • Like Aaltonen, if Rosen was to be our 6/7D to start the season, that would be fine by me.
  • With Aaltonen, Rosen was in puck battles along the boards in earnest, keeping up with the Habs.

Ron Hainsey & Morgan Rielly

  • In this one game viewing, Hainsey and Rielly were a fine pairing. The Leafs don’t need to lean on one pair to play 30 min, where they could do Hainsey/Rielly & Zaitsev/Gardiner as the top 4 and be ok. Not world beaters, but just as good as the Penguins defence in the cup finals last season.

[I would have had more notes on this stories but NHL Live isn’t in mid-season form and didn’t care for my constant rewinding and jumping through the game]

The Toronto Maple Leafs next pre-season game is Wednesday night, in Quebec City at the Videotron Centre at 7:00PM on TSN.

Poll

Are either Rosen or Aaltonen ready for the NHL?

This poll is closed

  • 53%
    Both can slide into the Leafs line up easily.
    (489 votes)
  • 33%
    Calle Rosen will make the D corps, Aaltonen will stay in the Ricoh
    (308 votes)
  • 3%
    Miro Aaltonen is our 4C, but Rosen is a Marlie.
    (29 votes)
  • 9%
    Neither are ready, but maybe by mid-season they’ll be up.
    (90 votes)
916 votes total Vote Now