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Pre-Season Game Recap: Tavares scores another two goals, Leafs win 5-3

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Tavares better save some goals for the regular season, Hyman has a bone bruise, and SDA sure is fun!

NHL: Preseason-Ottawa Senators at Toronto Maple Leafs Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight the Toronto Maple Leafs play against the Buffalo Sabres in their first game in the newly minted Scotiabank Arena, or SBA for short.

Tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs will see the pre-season debut of their youngest prospect, 3rd round pick Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, or SDA for short.

Tonight, PPP is proud to announce the debut of our own advanced metric: Screen Cat Attacks, which measures when the critters from the Kitten Ranch notice the cursor on your monitor and pounce on them like it’s a bug. My new kitten is the first of the three cats I’ve had that’s ever done this. It was cute the first time...

FIRST PERIOD

The Hyman - Tavares - Marner line starts us off, and GAME ON!

And just like in their first pre-season game, they give up a goal in the first 30 seconds. Marner chipped the puck up the boards softly, but the forward waiting had turned up ice. The Sabres pounced, and off the point shot Sparks gives up a rebound where Carrick couldn’t block out someone named Andrew Ogilvie. 1-0 Sabres.

But wait! 30 seconds after that , the Leafs with the Leivo - Kadri - Brown line gets into the zone and Hainsey scores off the point shot! 1-1 tie game.

BUT WAIT! Less than 30 seconds after THAT, the Leafs’ third line quickly enters the zone and Engvall puts home a nice passing sequence from Greening and THE SUPERIOR RASMUS! ENTER SANDMAN! 2-1 LEAFS!

Okay... I can’t keep up with all of these goals, but the 3-1 Leafs goal was beautiful so I have to take the time on this, so nuts to any other goal they score in the next 30 seconds. The Sabres dump the puck in, Lijegren makes a nice play to get it to Sandin. Sandin makes the nice pass up to Tavares for the quick and clean zone exit. Tavares finds a streaking Marner, who drops it to SUPER KAME LILJEGREN for a rocket of a slap shop. Ullmark stopped it, but JOHN TAVARES WHO IS A LEAF PUTS HOME THE REBOUND! 3-1 LEAFS!

Liljegren and Marner with the apples.

If that’s the future of the Leafs, making good decisions to exit the zone and launch a lightning quick attack up the ice with speed, I am so excited. Liljegren and Sandin started that goal brilliantly.

Sandin and Liljegren’s next shift continued to make me excited. If that’s the future of the Leafs’ second pairing, TAKE ME THERE NOW I WANT TO SEE IT! I am also looking up tickets online to join the “make room for Sandin in the AHL please” bandwagon.

We have our first significant SDA sighting in the SBA! He plays a little give and go on a rush up the ice with Timashov, but Ullmark managed to get his arm in the way of the shot in time. This game is a lot of fun.... can you tell it’s against a bad team’s worst half of their pre-season roster?

Well, I apologize for jinxing it. Off a defensive zone faceoff the Leafs get caught puck watching and Sparks over commits, leaving himself well out of position for the Sabre — who I am being told is called a C.J. Smith — to put it in the mostly empty net. Hainsey and Reilly are the D that got burned, and I’m pretty sure at least one forward missed his assignment too. The Leafs’ lead narrows to 3-2.

Sparks has responded to the goal by making a couple of nice saves, as the Sabres have started applying more pressure on the Leafs.

OH MY GOD I NEED A VIDEO OF ALL THE NEW LEAFS GETTING LOST TRYING TO FIND THE DRESSING ROOM SOMEONE MAKE THAT PLEASE.

First period impressions:

  • The Sabres are not playing their best roster and it is showing — the Leafs’ NHL players are largely dominating when they’re on the ice.
  • Sparks let in a couple of iffy goals, even if the team in front of him allowed a breakdown leading to the scoring chance. He did recover with some other nice saves.
  • Sandin and Liljegren were the most impressive in that period. Their passing, skating and zone exits between them were a lot of fun to watch.
  • The Leivo-Kadri-Brown line was the most successful from a possession perspective, and it’s hilarious that it’s at least 23 of their likely “third” line this year.
  • SDA didn’t look overwhelmed, but only had a flash or two of his potential. Were you expecting more from a kid that just turned 18?

Okay, not about this game but in the intermission did I actually, seriously just hear Max Domi say “it’s a pretty tough situation for everyone involved” and “I didn’t mean to hurt him” in regards to him PUNCHING EKBLAD IN THE FACE WITH HIS BARE FIST?? AND! Did I then hear the Sportsnet segment host refer to Domi as “obviously pretty contrite”???

You know, after hearing that I think the league should suspend Aaron Ekblad, because clearly the real victim here is a) Max Domi and b) all of us thanks to the asshole that invented the passive voice so we would all be subjected to that level of blame-dodging.

SECOND PERIOD

The period starts! I’m setting the over/under on the goals scored this period at 12. Any takers?

Tavares had a... turnover? That led to a breakaway? NOOO THE ILLUSION OF HIS PERFECTION IS RUINED! Sparks made a nice save on the partial breakaway at least. Greening responds with his own partial break, but he wasn’t able to get a good shot off. Sandin responds to Tavares’ poor leadership with his own rookie-turnover.

Leivo with a brilliant pass to spring Kadri on a breakaway that drew a slashing penalty, and the pass was totally intentional and not a somewhat desperate clearing attempt around the boards that took a lucky bounce to get through two Sabres. It’s the pre-season though so we’re gonna let him have it.

The top PP unit can’t get anything to happen, so a second unit featuring Liljegren, Leivo, Greening, and eventually SDA get a shot and generate a few shot attempts, but nothing too dangerous.

The PP ends without a goal, and after getting a few chances right after Marincin whiffs on a bouncing puck and the Sabres come back on a 2 on 1. Carrick dove and whiffed, and Thompson dangles around him and wires a shot clean by Sparks. 3-3 tie game now.

From bad to worse, Hyman left to the dressing room... hope it’s nothing serious. Looks like Brown is filling in for him on the top line, and I expect Timashov and Engvall to get some more time up the line too.

Okay, gotta say the Marincin-Carrick pairing has looked pretty poor this game.

Okay, phrase of the night to Katya: “Okay, I know why SDA is so small. His balls are 30 lbs each. He has no fear. I am blown away by the shit he’ll just do.” And right after that, the SDA line off the draw leads to Mueller basically forechecking the puck into the net. 4-3 Leafs.

McElhinney now replaces Sparks to play the last half of the game. The Leafs have largely taken back over the game for the past few minutes. Leivo’s been quietly effective again, stealing some pucks, forechecking hard, getting some shots off but once again just can’t convert anything.

Tavares and Marner put on a pretty 2 on 1 play, but Ullmark makes a real nice save against Marner. The Kadri line follows that up by puck watching and parting like the red sea for the Sabres’ defenseman to just walk in for a clean shot.

With Hyman coming back for a bit but then leaving, Leivo got a shot on the top line with Tavares and Marner and had a good chance. He wants an opportunity to play up in the lineup? He’s gonna have to make the most of times like that.

Just before the end of the period, Jooris takes a tripping penalty. They get out of the period still ahead 4-3, so they’ll start the third period down a man.

Second period impressions:

  • A less noticeable but still effective period from Liljegren and Sandin. Methinks Babcock might have told them to save the Globetrotter bit for practices.
  • Leivo looked more noticeable this period, probably in part thanks to joining the Tavares line. Let’s see him bury one!
  • It was also a much more noticeable period for SDA, who as Katya mentioned above has made a number of ballsy plays and helped create a goal.
  • It was a pretty bad period for MarMar and Carrick...

Oh man, Carrick made up for it by learning how to cook an omelette with Kadri and a french guy in a Leafs jersey. “Don’t dry out the ham, Naz!” Golden.

THIRD PERIOD

The period starts, and the Leafs have to kill off just under 2 minutes of a PK with a one goal lead. They kill it off pretty easily, with the Sabres never really being able to set up in the zone.

Engvall - Jooris - Greening became a line now, and they had a real good shift cycling the puck and almost getting a goal. I haven’t said much about Engvall yet but he’s been pretty impressive this game as well.

Liljegren gets caught for holding and the Leafs go back to the PK. The Sabres actually generate some chances this time, but McElhinney stops what they throw at him. We got to see Marner on this penalty kill a bit and they do escape it still holding to the 4-3 lead.

Another turnover by the Leafs (thanks ref) leads to Thompson getting another partial break, where he again dances around a sprawling Leaf defender (Sandin this time), but he missed the net. Aaaaaand right after Liljegren took a hooking call to go right back into the box. Marner is back out on the PK and generates a nice chance, but Jooris got tied up without being able to get a shot off and the Sabres rush back the other way for their own chance.

Off the end of the penalty, Greening races down for a partial 3 on 1, and feeds it to Rielly to set up a cross ice pass that Ullmark makes another great save on. He might have let in 4 goals but he’s had to stop a lot of quality scoring chances.

SDA might be small but he’s fearless along the boards, and is both willing to put his tiny middle-school body between the puck and his opponent and actually out-muscle them for it. Video evidence...

Timashov gets a good shot off a partial break, but Ullmark makes the stop again. Leivo jumps on the ice with Tavares and Marner in the offensive zone and once again gets a good chance but can’t put it in the net. On the ensuing faceoff, the Leafs get another chance off a scramble but Ullmark stands on his head again.

With two minutes left the Sabres pull Ullmark and McElhinney had to make two very good stops to maintain the lead. He’s been flawless since entering the game.

A Rielly clearing that’s JUST called off for icing, followed by a nice forecheck by Timashov leads to Tavares stealing the puck and scoring his second goal of the game to seal the win. It’s the second straight pre-season game that Tavares has two goals. 5-3 Leafs.

Just for good measure before the end of the game, Brown and Leivo have a nice give and go with Brown getting stopped by Ullmark, who has been good.

Final impressions:

  • I haven’t mentioned them much in the whole recap but but both Timashov and Engvall were good for the whole game.
  • Sandin and Liljegren might have started strong but they had some problems with turnovers in the third while trying to continue their hot dogging ways.
  • John Tavares is still a Leaf, and it is still glorious to say that.
  • Marner on the PK was interesting... he create a scoring chance, but in doing so also led to a turnover and a Sabres chance back the other way. Not sure Babs is gonna like trading chances when they’re a man down. You can see the potential with Marner’s speed and ability to steal the puck, but he’ll have to learn to pick his spots trying to create a scoring chance on the PK.
  • Leivo looked like he got stronger as the game went on, but neither he nor the people he passed the puck to could buy a goal.
  • SDA did not look out of place at all this game, even out muscling his opponents at times with some smart positioning and clever tricks.
  • McElhinney played well. Sparks less so.
  • Carrick and Marincin did not acquit themselves well in this game.

Let’s see how the second squad fares in Buffalo tomorrow night!

Poll

Which prospect was the most impressive this game?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Liljegren
    (36 votes)
  • 18%
    Sandin
    (75 votes)
  • 4%
    Timashov
    (16 votes)
  • 18%
    Engvall
    (74 votes)
  • 49%
    SDA
    (195 votes)
396 votes total Vote Now