The Toronto Maple Leafs kicked off their stupidly long pre-season against the Ottawa Senators in Lucan, Ontario, which was chosen as the site for this game because they won a contest for Hockeyville (or something).
We got to see John Tavares — who is a Toronto Maple Leaf — play his first sorta-real hockey game for the Leafs. I mean sure, it’s only pre-season, but...
ItsHappening.gif pic.twitter.com/OdgkvrvK6r— Flintor (@TheFlintor) September 18, 2018
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH JOHN TAVARES IS A LEAF AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!
The Leivo - Kadri - Brown line starts with Dermott and Ozzy, and HERE WE GO!
The Leafs get hemmed in their own end early and Kadri tries a hilariously dumb move behind the net that gets stolen, passed in front, and put past McElhinney in the first 30 seconds. Nooooot a great start. 1-0 Ottawa Team.
Didn't take long for @Ryandzingel to give the @Senators the lead. pic.twitter.com/Veky4r6chZ— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) September 18, 2018
The game has already settled into a dump out fest. Not a lot of smooth transitions going on, with the Leafs throwing in some sloppy turnovers.
The Leafs get a chance with Trevor Moore leading a 2 on 1, but his cross ice pass was blocked.
But they’ll get another chance as Borowiecki takes an interference penalty, so the Leafs go to the PP. Rielly flies into the zone and Tavares winds up with a good shot in the slot, but can’t put it home. BUT OFF THE FACEOFF IT’S A DIFFERENT STORY AS TAVARES GETS THE PUCK ALLLLL ALONE IN FRONT AND MAKES NO MISTAKE! SCORE TIED AT ONE.
Not long after, the Leafs score a pretty goal off the transition game. Borgman retrieves the puck, passes to Holl behind the net, and after a few passes up the ice Borgman flies down the middle to receive a one-touch pass in the slot. 2-1 Leafs.
Leafs largely have turned out to be the better team now (quelle surprise) and Hyman gets sprung on a breakaway thanks to a brilliant pass by Dermott. He didn’t score, showing that he’s already in mid-season not-goal-scoring form. Not long after a point shot by Holl almost goes in, and after a frantic scramble the Leafs came close but couldn’t put it home.
Great pass by Travis Dermott to spring Zach Hyman, though Hyman doesn't convert pic.twitter.com/405n9QEdf4— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) September 19, 2018
Liking the look of the Cracknell line with Grundstrom and Moore. As Katya said, they will dominate the AHL and piss a lot of AHL teams off. They’re quick, they are pesky hunting down and stealing the puck, and they’ll engage physically too.
The Leafs put on a Yakkity Sax performance trying to pass back to guys without a stick and some poor line changes that led to a few chances for the Ottawa Team, but McElhinney made some good saves to preserve the lead.
Big Mac with a whopper pic.twitter.com/NKrMTJsLME— Flintor (@TheFlintor) September 19, 2018
Tavares comes on (they seem to be using him sparingly this game, perhaps not surprising) and draws a penalty. Leafs to the PP! The Leafs can’t quite put home some almost-chances, with poor little Nitro Mysteron (aka Timashov) getting hit in the face by a stick twice on the same shift. The second PP unit comes on with Dermott, Leivo, Moore, Grundstrom and Mueller. They move the puck well and Dermott gets a great look that got stopped by a nice Condon glove save. Leafs can’t score on the PP.
Adam Cracknell tries to throw a big hit on Sieloff but goes off for tripping? kneeing? he got a penalty. Interestingly, the opening PK unit features Tavares and Brown as the forwards. Second unit featured Moore and Hyman, and another interesting name on defense in Justin Holl. McElhinney stands tall on a couple of Ottawa Team chances, and the Leafs kill it off.
The first period ends not long after, and the Leafs take a 2-1 lead in goals and 15-9 lead in shots into the second period.
First period impressions: the guys we expected to be good looked good. I liked both Borgman and Ozhiganov. Ozzy wasn’t very flashy but was quietly effective without any Polak-like gaffes, and did not always just settle for the safe chip off the glass play. You could say he was out of position on the goal against, but I’m not gonna blame him for Kadri’s boneheaded giveaway. Leivo looked like a guy who wants to actually play NHL games this year, and played well with Kadri and Brown. Dermott was as impressive as he was last season.
Dubas was interviewed during the intermission. Pretty much the first thing he’s asked about is Nylander’s contract negotiations. Amazingly, Dubas broke down the Nylander negotiations, gave firm numbers, and said what Matthews has already verbally agreed to sign for too!
Second period starts with not much exciting action, with Borgman continuing to impress me with his speed and being in the right place in the right time to make a play.
Tavares quietly dazzles with an easy zone entry, even if it doesn’t turn into a scoring chance. That stick handling tho...
Leivo gets a decent chance off a Sens turnover, but can’t put it home. He’s looked good against the Ottawa Team, but we already know he can look good against AHLers. He probably needs to start looking spectacular if he wants a full time spot on the gameday roster.
Halfway through a pretty uneventful second period, and we have Garrett Sparks in for McElhinney to play the last half of the game.
Leivo misses on another chance in the slot that he can’t get his stick on. That was the most exciting thing to happen in the last 10 minutes of gametime.
Oh look! Dermott takes a penalty on a good chance from the point, so they’ll go to the PK again. We got to see Marner on the PK for a bit, and he promptly steals the puck behind the Ottawa net and almost creates a chance for himself/Hyman, but neither could get a clean shot. Leafs kill off the rest of the penalty. That was a pretty terrible PP by the Ottawa Team.
Leivo had a nice pass to the slot by a pinching Holl, who got a good clean shot but couldn’t put it in the net.
Second period impressions: as excited as we were to see some hockey, ANY HOCKEY! we are now at the point where we all remember how boring pre-season hockey can be. It looks like the Leafs are using the Tavares line and Rielly pair sparingly, and getting more of a look at everyone else. The Leivo - Kadri - Brown line is the most visible in creating zone time and chances, but didn’t have much in the way of spectacular plays. The two ‘Marlies’ lines were at least boring in terms of preventing any scoring chances against, but did a whole lot of nothing offensively too.
On defense, I continue to be impressed by Borgman. He looks too good for the level of competition. Ozzy looks at least good enough for the level for his first game on North American ice, but not really sure what that says about his NHL chances... but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt for his first game that’s not even real.
The period starts with a bang, as Kadri throws a big hit on Borowiecki to avenge an earlier hit in the game.
Borowiecki, who the colour guy seems to have dedicated himself into talking up, rings a point shot off the crossbar. Off the faceoff, Sparks has to make a good save.
Another long stretch of boringness is INTERRUPTED BY JONATHAN A. TAVARES WHO IS A TORONTO MAPLE LEAF AND SCORES TO MAKE IT 3-1!! The Ottawa Team got caught with a tired line after an icing, and on the faceoff Holl makes a good play to create the chance that Tavares put home.
Kadri falls awkwardly after a hit and looks a bit hurt, but stays on the ice after and takes the next faceoff.
The Sens have taken the lead in shots, but haven’t had many great chances and Sparks has stopped everything thrown at him. LOL and now a Tavares steal at his own blue line leads to a Mitch Marner goal on a wicked snipe. Love that PING! sound. Assisted by Tavares, of course, and both Mitch and Tavares now have three point games. 4-1 Leafs.
After another period of not much, Leivo gets a partial break on his off-wing and wires a wrist shot that missed the net. That line continues to look too good for the Ottawa Team, but Leivo is just lacking some finish — that’s why I wanted Kapanen on the Kadri line, by the way.
The Tavares line comes on for their rare shift and hems the Ottawa Team in their own end, generating a couple of scoring chances. Time winds down in the game in an uneventful fashion, with the Leafs sealing the 4-1 victory.
Tavares and Marner looked fantastic together. The Leivo - Kadri - Brown line seemed to play more and were clearly superior to whatever the Ottawa Team could throw against them, but they never generated scoring chances like the top line did.
For guys who are seriously fighting to make the Leafs’ roster out of training camp, I was expecting to see them dominate in this game. Dermott and Borgman were clearly there with the effort and the skill. Holl, Leivo and Ozzy were solid, if unspectacular. I was pleased by what I saw from Ozzy. He was quiet but not boring, and seemed willing to at least try to transition the puck cleanly rather than be a Polak clone. I want to see him against tougher competition though.
The guys who we were pretty sure will be Marlies clearly looked okay against other AHL-like competition: Timashov, Grundstrom, Cracknell, Moore, etc. Grundstrom might have been a bit disappointing in my opinion, just by how unspectacular he was — this depends on if you think he had a serious shot at making the NHL roster to start the year.
On the backup goalie front, both McElhinney and Sparks were pretty much exactly as good as they needed to be. McElhinney had to make more impressive stops, but Sparks shut down everything in a quiet and composed manner.
One pre-season game down, seven to go.
JOHN TAVARES IS A LEAFFFFFFF AAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
Who most impressed you in the first pre-season game NOT-named John Tavares?
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