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Recap: Preponderance of Penalties Provided Power Play Practice, Primarily

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Leafs lose 3-2 in a shootout in an ugly, ugly game.

NHL: Preseason-Detroit Red Wings at Toronto Maple Leafs Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Maple Leafs wrapped up their final pre-season game against the Detroit Red Wings at Ricoh. After playing most of their NHLers last night, tonight’s lineup a split squad that was made up of pretty much everyone who didn’t play in Detroit. So for any of the guys left who have an outside shot of making the roster, this was their last chance to impress the Leafs’ brass. Looking at the roster, that’s probably really just Josh Leivo, Miro Aaltonen, and maybe Ben Smith or Eric Fehr. Here were the lines:

Leivo - Aaltonen - Kapanen

Johnsson - Fehr - Soshnikov

Greening - Smith - Grundstrom

T. Moore - Mueller - Rychel

Nielsen-Carrick

Dermott-Polak

LoVerde-Liljegren

That was.... a terrible looking defense group. McElhinney got the start for the whole game, with Mr Sparkles backing him up.

The Detroit Red Wings didn’t ice their NHL-best lineup either mind you, so I settled in for an AHL-quality game essentially.

Period One

Before the game even starts, Sportsnet feels the need to praise a kid from the Red Wings who might not even make the team but he threw a couple hits late in the game, so good for him I guess?

The Leafs start the game with the Leivo-Aaltonen-Kapanen line at forward and the Nielsen-Carrick pairing on defense. Puck was dropped, no faceoff penalties were called, and the game is on!

- Leafs get the puck and get a sorta chance with Leivo battling in front. Not long after, Nielsen makes a poor pinch and a poorer check that was more of a tackle and led to a quick penalty. Leafs to the PK less than a minute into the game.

- McElhinney made a few saves on point shots, but had a good look at all of them and the Wings were never really able to get any screens or tips. Leafs kill off the penalty!

- Nice to see Polak get back into a game. I hope the Leafs don’t think to sign him but I feel for the guy and wish him the best.

- Liljregren juuuuuuuust misses a long pass to spring Leivo, and nothing comes from it. He’s looked good early on, using his skating to jump into the rush and making quick and crisp passes to avoid pressure and move the puck up.

- Leivo had a great chance after fighting through the defender to get a shot off, and drew a penalty as the defense had to drag him down. Leafs to the power play!

- Nielsen with two big blasts from the point that the Wings’ Matt Ford blocked both of them.... ouch.

- McElhinney stops Abdelkader on a clear breakaway. Right after, Nielsen gets involved in some behind the play horse play and some coincidental minors for slashing and roughing. That’s four PIMs for Nielsen in less than half of the first period.

Leafs can’t do anything with the rest of the power play, but....

GOAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLL!!! Fehr makes it 1 - 0 Leafs!

Right after the power play expires, LoVerde with the point shot and Fehr has the most awkward looking redirect I’ve ever seen but a goal’s a goal!

- From the few times I’ve noticed Dermott I’ve liked his play. He’s made a couple of smart plays retrieving the puck on a dump in and getting it away from pressure. He also broke up a zone entry attempt by aggressively pressuring the puck carrier.

- Not much exciting action since the Leafs’ goal. Soshnikov blew by a stumbling Detroit defender and had a decent chance off the rush, but shot it right into Mrazek’s pads.

- McElhinney with another save off a point shot. He’s looked sharp for the few shots against he’s had to face, which from what I can remember has either been clear point shots and that one short handed breakaway.

- McElhinney has one of his Out Of The Crease Adventures(TM) that led to a tense moment, but the Leafs managed to avoid a goal against.

- Leafs get another power play after Clendenning shoves Liljegren to the ice from behind in front of the crease.

......and their power play is very quickly erased by a Leivo slashing penalty. So time for some 4 on 4 hockey I guess!

- Polak and Rychel between them create a pretty good scoring chance. Exactly the two players you’d expect me to say that about.

- Good grief. Just as Detroit gets on their power play the Wings get called for a pretty weak interference penalty, so it’s back to 4 on 4 and then back to the Leafs getting a power play.

The first period ends before the 4 on 4 can end. It wasn’t exactly a dominating game but the Leafs looked like the better team for me. The Leivo - Aaltonen - Kapanen line has looked the most dangerous for the Leafs, had a couple of chances on one shift with sustained pressure in the offensive zone. Carrick and Fehr looked good too, and I’d say Dermott and Liljegren looked competent if unspectacular against a mostly AHL-lineup which probably says a lot about their NHL readiness. For the bad... I hate to beat a dead horse but Nielsen really never looked good. To quote our alliteratively eloquent overlord: “You don't want to be worse than peg-leg Polak.”

Now I can either spend the intermission watching Sportsnet’s quality team of hockey analysts pound the desk and rant and spit their hot takes at me, or.... I could do literally anything else. So instead I’m going to pet my puppy that’s lying next to me for the next 20-30 minutes.

Paint me like one of your french dogs

Period Two

We’re back! The Leafs start the period pretty much back on another power play.

- Abdelkader got ANOTHER short handed breakaway after a brutal defensive zone turnover by Grundström, but McElhinney stopped him again.

- After the power play ends with not much created by the Leafs, McElhinney makes a pretty nice save off a cross-ice pass. Off the ensuing faceoff he makes another nice save from a shot from the outer hash-marks. He’s looked solid.

- Kapanen turns on the jets to create the Leafs’ first real chance of the period. A few shifts later Greening gets a nice chance from the slot, but can’t convert.

- The announcers can’t praise Leivo enough, even dropping a “best shape of his life” sort of comment. He has looked good this game, but I do have to remind myself it’s against a lot of AHLers and he’s looked good against AHLers for a few years now.

- McElhinney makes ANOTHER solid save from the point, he’s been much busier this period so far. Not long after Dermott draws a penalty by having his stick slashed out of his hands.

- Greening with a GREAT chance early on the PP but Mrazek made a nice save. Not long after Detroit took ANOTHER slashing penalty, so the Leafs will get a 5 on 3 for 1:27. The Leafs get a few clean blasts from the point that Mrazek was able to glove, and that’s all they really generated for the rest of the PP.

-Hilarious moment when Abdelkader had a one-timer all lined up in the slot but fell comically to the ice as Leivo deftly stole the puck juuuuuust before it got to him.

- Johnsson and Grundström making themselves visible in a good way this period, with Johnsson drawing a penalty to send the Leafs back to the PP.

- The less said about that power play the better. It didn’t look good, nor has it really looked good all game. They’re now 0 for 6 on the PP now including a 5 on 3.

- Maybe the refs are feeling bad enough to let them have another chance at it, because only a minute or two later the Leafs draw ANOTHER penalty.

- It didn’t help. The PP was so bad that the fans started booing them, in a PRE-SEASON game, and then Dermott got his pocket picked coming out of the defensive zone where McElhinney had to stop ANOTHER short handed breakaway, but not without Dermott took a penalty trying to break it up.

- The Wings generate more chances in their one powerplay than the Leafs did in their last 4 or 5. McElhinney had to be real sharp and has probably been the Leafs’ best player this game.

- Leivo creating a great chance a big hit by........... Aaltonen? (Yup... that was the mini-Finn alright) freed up the puck.

- McElhinney makes another solid stop on a partial rush by the Wings, which did however draw a penalty from the Leafs. Aaaaaaaaaaaand maybe a few seconds into the power play Detroit scores a goal in the slot after McElhinney got caught pushing across the crease too far.

Game tied 1 - 1 after two periods of play.

That was a not great looking period for the Leafs. They had plenty of power plays but no finish, meanwhile they gave up two more good scoring chances against while on the power play, and Detroit eventually started creating more chances later in the period leading to the tying goal.

Uh oh, I hear the unmistakable voice of Nick Kypreos starting to climb onto a soap opera box. Time to switch back to Mochi-cam.

After watching all those power plays, I don’t blame her

Period Three

- Detroit picks up where they left off, buzzing around the Leafs net in the first minute or so.

- Leivo - Aaltonen - Soshnikov are a line now, and they helped create some offensive pressure. Grundstrom has a great chance on the next shift, and his line also sustained some good pressure.

- Liljegren just missed a short-side connection, then just missed Grundström on one of his long-bomb passes.

- Now the Leafs take a slashing penalty, even the colour guy on the broadcast sarcastically quipped “oh another slashing call, what a surprise!” That’s the 8th slashing penalty of the game, apparently.

- Sosh caused havoc on the PK for the first half of it, using his speed to create a rush and harass them so they couldn’t set up a zone entry. The Wings got a brief chance off the rush that McElhinney made a nice pad save on, then Kapanen took over the speed-related-chaos-causing.

- After a few minutes of non-action, Trevor Moore gets called for a stiff-arm interference penalty in a race to the puck.

- Sportsnet can NOT stop talking about that guy Hicketts. I think they’ve shown the replay of him throwing those two hits in the LAST game at least a few times in this one broadcast. Then again this has been some bad hockey to watch so maybe I shouldn’t blame them for trying to show something eventful.

- Aaltonen used his speed like Sosh and Kapanen before him, harrying the Red Wings as they tried to set up a zone entry and keep them uncomfortable. That’s about as much as I can say about the Wings’ power play. It was as boring and uneventful as the Leafs’ were last period.

- While I’m watching this bad excuse for a hockey game the rest of the masthead are shaking their collective heads over the NHL network’s Top 50 NHL Players. Poll question: What’s worse, that list or this hockey game?

- “Funny how the penalties even out as the game goes along”, says Romanuk as Polak takes a penalty, the Leafs’ third of this period. By my count that is the 98,143rd penalty called this game.

- Andreas Johnsson had a GREAT short handed chance off a LoVerde point shot, but Coreau made a pretty nice glove stop. Leafs kill off the penalty and then Rychel and Grundström JUST miss finishing off a 2 on 1.

- I can’t even make it to the end of this game before switching my eyes over to Mochi-cam. Might as well as this game’s been ruff to watch.

You and me both, dog...

- Polak of all people has had a pretty solid period. The PPP Masthead is discussing juicy Polak-related rumours and hypothesizes that he will return to his homeland as the lost heir to a dying, wealthy Duke where he will have to learn how to rule the land while also learning to rule his heart around the beautiful young noblewoman that visits his castle FUCK I DON’T KNOW SOMETHING HAPPEN IN THIS GAME DAMMIT!

- Welp, got what I asked for I guess. The Leafs gave up a partial break and McElhinney can’t go 4 for 4 on stopping breakaways.

2 - 1 Red Wings late in the third period.

- That goal seemed to kick the Leafs in the pants and they pull the goalie and absolutely SWARM the Wings in their own zone.

GOAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLL!!! Travis Dermott sneaks a wrister from the point through to tie it up 2 - 2 with less than a minute in the third period! Kapanen and Carrick with the assists.

- Wait... that means this game is going to overtime, which means I’ll have to watch even more of this god forsaken game... NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Period Four - The Revenge of Overtime

Maybe a 3 on 3 overtime will liven the game up, or at least keep it as exciting as it ended when the Leafs were trying to tie it up. Here we go!

- Aaltonen starts with Johnsson and Carrick, Aaltonen streaks down the wing and gets a shot off the rush.

- An offside is called and I am actually offended that off sides exist during a 3 on 3 OT.

- Kapanen and Leivo jump on the ice and look dangerous, but can’t get a shot off.

- Soshnikov jumps on with Grundström and Liljegren, also known as the “Fuck Don Cherry” line. Grundström gets a good shot off, but nothing more.

- Leafs controlling play pretty much this whole overtime.

- HOLY CARRICK! Brilliant rush and deke almost puts it away, Johnsson had a good chance right after. Alright, I admit, this overtime makes up for the flaming pile of trash that was the rest of the game.

- The Red Wings have a rush but Dermott erases it and his man against the boards. He’s on with Kapanen and Leivo. Leivo gets a good chance and draws a penalty (because of course there is) in the process.

- Unfortunately we all know that the power play is the bane of the Leafs’ offense this game. Leivo had a sort of chance with a cheeky chip shot, but that was pretty much all they managed.

- Oh god now they’re going to a shootout WHAT DID I DO TO DESERVE THIS!!!

Shootout

To make this more exciting than the giant bowl of Weetabix that is the shootout, there’s going to be some stream of consciousness going on between shooters.

- McElhinney should have the edge. He’s been stopping breakaway chances all game!

- Fehr is the Leafs’ first shooter because why wouldn’t he be. Of course he scores a nice goal because of course he would! There’s our solution to all our shootout problems this year folks!

- Parenteau snipes a goal, evening up the shootout at one each.

- Going back to Fehr, honestly I thought he’s looked pretty good this pre-season. I wouldn’t mind him as the extra forward riding the bench... except for all the other guys who are probably still better.

- Soshnikov takes a long, winding route and tries to fire a five hole shot, but can’t get it.

- Detroit scores to go up 2-1, but contrary to what Romanuk said (lol) that did NOT seal the win.

- Carrick tries to tie it up, but can’t do it. Or... did he? When the goalie got up it was on the line, there was talk of review but after talking about it everyone realized that might just mean this keeps going on for longer so they just called it a wrap.

Concluding Thoughts

- Leivo and McElhinney were definitely the best players for the Leafs this game, from the drop of the puck to the end of the game. Honorable mentions to Kapanen, Carrick, and Fehr.

- The game was pretty ugly. Lots of penalties, lots of sloppy play, lots of relative inaction for prolonged periods.

- If no one else stood out, that pretty much confirms they’re not ready for the NHL yet considering it’s against other AHL players.

That concludes my first ever recap for PPP. I picked a ringer of a game to make my debut. But like the ancient text, The Life of Brian, once advised: “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life”.

Take it away, Mochi!

TIME FOR REAL HOCKEY YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!