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Recap: Matthews and Nylander roll over the Red Wings while everyone else watches

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Hyman helped too.

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Detroit Red Wings Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Maple Leafs announced a lineup for this second last pre-season game that was mostly their regular lineup. You could make this the team and no one would cry over it.

Zach Hyman - Auston Matthews - William Nylander
Patrick Marleau - Nazem Kadri - Leo Komarov
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Mitch Marner
Matt Martin - Dominic Moore - Connor Brown

Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner - Nikita Zaitsev
Calle Rosen - Andreas Borgman
Marrin Marincin - Justin Holl

Frederik Andersen gets the start with Kasimir Kaskisuo backing up.

There is only one oddity, and it’s the lack of Connor Carrick along with the diabolic plot by Mike Babcock to put the two guys competing for one defence job on a pairing together. We can assume that Marincin and Holl are the scratches.

You cannot make yourself look better than your defence partner. You can only work as hard as you can to make the other guy look good, and both of these guys know that, and sure seem like the types to buy in to that way of thinking.

But are we sure there is just one roster spot up for grabs? That might depend on how good a job Rosen and Borgman do of making each other look good.

Next game Babcock should put Aaltonen, Moore and Fehr on a line together and let each one play C for one period. It would make the game worth watching.

But enough about the man behind the bench, what’s going on on the brand new ice in Detroit?

Period One

Don’t make me watch this panel, Sportsnet. No, Dominic Moore did not get that job for sure on July first. Maybe that’s how the bad Leafs of the past used to do things when you guys were getting jobs there, and deep breath, the pizza box is open, and here we are with the game... Why did they name this new arena the pizza box, anyway?

Oh nice scoring chance for Mantha on the third pair’s first shift when Rosen zigged when he should have zagged.

First power play goes to the Leafs when the Matthews line are too much for the Red Wings, and bing, bang, boom, and Marner sends the puck right past Jimmy Howard. 1-0 Good Guys.

Frk gets a scoring chance. I don’t care, I just like typing his name.

Bam Bam gets Gustav Nyquist hard behind the net, but then they don’t clear the puck, so we might as well have had Roman Polak there. Bam Bam is Borgman, by the way, I can’t stop calling him that.

Bam Bam makes a bad bad play to cough up the puck to the Red Wings, and so far the Rosen - Borgman duo looks like they’re dying to ride the buses in the AHL for a while.

Why is it Nye-Quist but Knee-Lander, anyway?

Zaitsev looks like he’s new to this hockey thing. Let’s hope it’s just the new baby.

I said it in the first game they played, but Matthews’ whole line is in playoff form.

Dylan Larkin outskates the Leafs (Bozak line), gets a scoring change, and Andersen looks annoyed.

Bam Bam and Rosen take turns trying to check the puck off of a Red Wings player behind the Leafs net, and he felt it from one, never noticed the other, and Andersen ends up making a save to end that cycle.

Oops. Rosen takes a penalty when he gets too feisty on the faceoff.

Moore, by the way, is genuinely good on the penalty kill. Everything Ben Smith tried to do, he just does.

Once Moore’s off the ice, the Leafs cannot clear on the PK at all and it become Andersen’s job to do it all. Brown and Hyman are the forwards, and they don’t look very sprightly.

Hyman gets creamed into the boards with a semi-blindside, semi-dirty hit from Mantha. Hey, what if the rules were changed to penalize all blindside hits, and no? Okay, we won’t try to prevent injuries then. Get some more spotters instead.

The power play is over, so Bozak’s line are on the ice, and well. That was just bad in the neutral zone, and then everyone fell down. Hell, I fell down. Nyquist with the goal, and it’s 1-1 courtesy of the man named after a horse.

Borgman with a nice stretch pass that nearly connects with Marleau.

Red Wings show how it’s done when a Green pass does connect, and the Red Wings get a shot.

Matthews line on the ice and suddenly the Leafs look good again.

Leafs try the stretch pass again (is this the only way to play hockey now?) but it’s offside.

The Red Wings are winning the long pass game and catching the Leafs all in the wrong places to intercept them.

Zetterberg is on vs the fourth line and a scoring chance ensues. Shocking.

This is the point at which I’m ruminating on the idea that Ron Hainsey might be the Leafs best D so far, and I don’t want to believe it, but, well, I think it’s true.

Horn goes and let’s check on that wild theory. Perhaps I’ve just been big-mistaking the other guys.

Wow, that’s bad.

Okay, so my wild ideas about D. By the Corsi differential, Gardiner, Zaitsev and Hainsey are all one shot below even. Rielly is two, and the guys trying to get a job here? They are both seven shots in the hole. In three minutes less TOI than Gardiner and Zaitsev. That is deeply, desperately bad.

I’m sorry I ever noticed you falling on your ass and bobbling the puck, Zaitsev, obviously the ice in this old barn is just bad.

Period Two

Kadri line showing some life for the first time.

Bam Bam and Rosen have switched sides, now is that temporary or...I’ll try to notice next shift.

The rolling line change from the fourth line to the fist leaves Martin on the ice to skate with Matthews and Nylander a bit. This is interesting, obviously intentional, and not ineffective. Last year, Martin played the least of any forward. That may change.

Matthews line is on, so there’s left side of the ice action. Nylander harries the poor Red Wings player trying to figure out how to clear the puck, and he’s like a toy poodle after a mailman. It leads to a loss of control, a Gardiner pass and a goal from Nylander! 2-1 Good Guys. (Watch the slo mo, Hyman tips this on the way to Nylander.)

Also Paul Romanuk just debunked the inconsistent Nylander line. SN vs TSN, and the point goes to SN.

Matthews line’s next shift = the Leafs next scoring chance.

Rosen with a decent defensive play, but it was on Glendining, so does it count?

Martin takes a penalty as the Leafs are kind of out of better options behind their own net. Behind the net is where Rosen is really bad, and if memory serves (it might not) that space is larger in Sweden.

Rosen out on the power play. Anyone who says Bacock isn’t “giving chances” here hasn’t looked at how players have been used.

Bozak line in the good end of the ice: scoring chance. Bozak line in the bad end of the ice: scoring chance. Back the other way and Zaitsev playing dwinger gets a chance. (I forget who used that term, and they meant it as an insult for Tyson Barrie, but I like it.)

Whoa, the Leafs power play just suddenly clicked. I heard the sound even. Holy cow, it’s been a while. Not enough shots on goal, but they are finally setting up and moving the puck well.

Hyman got the puck, polished it, gift wrapped it, put a ribbon on it, handed it to Nylander and he misses on the shot! I would never give him another gift again, if I were Hyman.

Komarov loses the puck in the neutral zone, and this line is just not connecting. My diagnosis? The speed difference between the wingers, but then I would say that, wouldn’t I?

NHL: Preseason-Toronto Maple Leafs at Buffalo Sabres Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

So the side swap by Rosen and Borgman was just a temporary thing, but it is a strength of both players that they switch with ease.

Wow the Red Wings are killing themselves with penalties here.

Post power play, Andersen is working hard.

Bozak line is in the bad end, Andersen half-asses it and Glendening with a goal. With less than a minute to go it’s 2-2.

That’s better. Top four D are all equally fine, and the third pair have only added one more to the negative side of their shot differential, so this was a much better period for them. Faint praise, though that is. Leo Komarov has the worst numbers of any forward, worse than his line, which is a trick he pulled through all of last year. I’m deeply unimpressed with him in this game.

Period Three

Pre-season games should be two periods long.

Matthews’ line opens the game with a scoring chance. You know who has leadership and character and grit in this game? Nylander, that’s who.

He agrees. His line makes it 3-2 after he does the dogged puck retrieval act while Matthews waits at the net like it’s a bus stop.

Bozak’s line and then the Kadri line in the good end of the ice. Rosen and Borgman get to just man the blueline and look fine.

Marleau takes a really weak penalty and Babcock is exercising his lungs.

PK is lovely as always.

Nylander and Matthews. Guess how that went? Beautiful scoring chance, and at this point, I don’t care if it doesn’t go in. Howard was great with the save.

Kadri line draws a penalty and the Red Wings want more PK time, I guess.

They like it so much, they take a deeply stupid cross checking penalty with five seconds to go.

Van Riemsdyk gets a chance, but can’t get it near the front of the net, just the side.

Matthews outskates the Red Wings, and it’s beautiful. The power play is not quite what it should be, but there’s progress here on the timing, and Marleau is getting used to the team.

LOL. RedWings take another penalty just as that one expires. Thanks for the practice.

Rosen drops the pass to no one in front of his own net on the power play.

Finally, the Leafs do a thing that can be called a penalty, and I don’t even know what that was. Whistle practice. Four on four.

Borgman plays the dwinger with Matthews and Nylander, and does just fine.

A funny report from the broadcast: Zetterberg told Nylander on the bench, “Hey, kid, slow down a little.”

Komarov with a scoring chance because I said something negative, that’s how it generally works.

Five minutes to go, one-goal lead, and what do you say? Can we just end it now?

Kadri with a chance, and his line is a lot better now than they were in the first period.

Fourth line with a good grinding offensive zone shift. They are good tonight. Brown isn’t very exciting, but the line as a whole is doing what they need to do. I’m still on team Moore for this job.

As we head into the dregs of the game, Nylander has a hilarious 77% Corsi percentage, Borgman has improved more than Rosen and has had a solid third period. Komarov has upped his game, and the times the Bozak line have been hemmed in have left Marner looking very ineffective.

The Leafs have turned this game around, and so they should. This is a tired, old, bored Red Wings team with little to prove, except for the smallest defender, Joe Hicketts, who raises van Riemsdyk’s ire and draws a penalty with a minute to go. Keep him on the big club, Red Wings, what do you have to lose?

The Red Wings immediately take a tripping penalty and wow, Tomas Tatar is mad. But it was a trip.

Leafs play their PK units as the Red Wings pull the goalie and have effectively a power play. Komarov whips it down and into the net, perhaps forgetting he’s not allowed to ice the puck. Hainsey checks to see if he’s really on planet Earth, but the jury is out on that. He got away with it. 4-2 Leafs.

And that’s the ball game.

The winner on the defenceman fight? Martin Marincin. It’s hard to be bad from the press box.

One more of these tomorrow and then the wait for real hockey intensifies. Or drags on, whatever.