After tonight, there will be only one pre-season game left. THANK GOD! It’s always too long, and we just want to get to some real games.
Tonight we got to see Kasperi Kapanen starting on the left wing with John Tavares and Mitch Marner, Freddie the Goat starting on the right wing on the fourth line, Sparks started as the coach, Carrick drove a pickup with trucknuts to the game, cats were marrying dogs and it was raining UP!
The Kapanen - Tavares - Marner line starts and they immediately create a couple of chances thanks to a nifty Kapanen zone entry. The Matthews line hops on and they immediately give up a scoring chance — something something fire wagon hockey.
THE DREAM! Kadri scores a goal thanks to a pretty brilliant transition game. Kadri started the play behind the net with Zaitsev. Zaitsev made the pass up to Leivo in the neutral zone, who did a little chip pass to Brown, who fed a streaking Kadri (in his skates but we’ll forgive him this time) for the partial break and goal. That is easily the best the line has looked all pre-season. Assists to Brown and Leivo, 1-0 Leafs.
Matthews had a partial break thanks to another good zone exit, with Dermott feeding Ennis who made a pretty great cross ice pass to the streaking Matthews, catching the Wings’ defenders flat footed.
Gauthier takes the first penalty of the game, giving the Leafs’ PK a chance to work. They start with Tavares and Lindholm, weirdly, and they clear the puck for the next unit. And the Wings make a pretty pass to Nyqvist who gets a breakaway thanks to Rielly’s brain still booting up the regular_season.exe program. 1-1 tie game. Ferraro talked about Marner being partially at fault for not communicating with Rielly, but... I dunno man I’d think the defender’s the one that should be paying attention to the lead forward skating past him.
Justin Abdelkader and Patrick Marleau practice their fencing in front of the benches, but no penalties called.
A nice long shift by the fourth line lead to a weak chance off a point shot, but they held the puck in the offensive zone so long that they had started switching off some of the forwards. After a period of not much going on, Kapanen takes an unfortunate penalty for high sticking as he missed lifting Larkin’s stick and lifted his hairline instead.
Marner on the PK with an absolutely BRILLIANT interception, and set up a 2 on 1 with Gardiner and Gauthier. Somehow Gauthier winds up with the open chance but he evidently went to the Hyman school of goal scoring and can’t put it home. The Leafs end the period with only a couple of seconds left on the PK.
First period impressions:
- The Leafs largely dominated with 18 to 12 CF, and 11 to 5 scoring chances at 5-on-5.
- The Kapanen, Tavares and Marner line only had 1 CA all period, they were the best Leafs’ line. Penalty aside, I thought Kapanen has looked pretty great.
- Dermott and Ozzie were the best D pairing by possession, they were pretty solid.
- Poor old Gauthier was one of two players in the negative, in fact he had zero CF and got stoned on that short handed breakaway.
- The TSN Quiz question about Marner can be summed as: “If you take a player’s best small sample stretch in one season and assume that’s his average, he’d be worth $10+ million AAV”.
The period starts with the Leafs killing off the last 2 seconds of the PK, and when Kappy jumps back on the ice he helps turn a 3 on 2 up ice that led to a Marleau chance off the rush.
Gardiner takes the Leafs’ third straight penalty to go back on the PK, even though it looks like the Red Wings player just sort tripped himself. Oh well, getting good practice in! Marner and Kapanen look good at pressuring the Wings, only giving up one shot against and never looking in danger.
Babcock seems to have gone mad wizard this period. He flipped Kapanen and Ennis earlier, and now Kadri was out with Tavares and Marner for a monster of a line after the PK and they looked all kinds of fun.
Larkin rung the puck off the iron that may be reviewed once the play ends. That follows an uninterrupted stretch of what seems like several minutes of uninterrupted play, where the Red Wings dominated and the Leafs got sloppy. Thankfully the Wings took a penalty and replays how the Larkin shot did not go in.
Miraculously the Leafs first PP unit didn’t score, but the Leafs’ second PP unit did! The puck comes back to Jake Gardiner who flicks a puck on net through screens set by Johnsson and Marleau. Not sure if it was tipped but looks like Jake the Snake got the goal, with an assist by Leivo — Leivo’s second point of the game. 2-1 Leafs!
Following the faceoff, the Leafs start to look less sloppy and Tavares rings the puck off the iron himself. That line stays on and Kapanen gets a great look in the slot that gets stopped. Not long after the Kadri line comes on with an odd man rush, and Kadri had a glorious chance foiled by his stick getting slashed in half... but that draws the penalty for the Leafs to go back on the PP. That... looked like Kadri’s stick just kinda broke but the Leafs took a bad penalty earlier too so, karma?
And right off the faceoff the Red Wings take a delay of game penalty for the puck being shot across the entire rink over the glass. The Leafs have almost two fill minutes at 5 on 3 with alllllllll the big boys on the PP1 out there.
Unsurprisingly, the Leafs make quick work of it. Matthews playing the point makes a hard pass to Tavares by the faceoff circle after selling the shot, and Tavares with the great one timer over Howard makes it 3-1.
And now the second PP unit comes on with over a minute of PP time left.... and they score right away to make it 4-1! Johnsson passes across to Leivo, who misses the net on the slapshot, only for the puck to bounce off the boards right to Marleau for the easy tap in. Leivo’s third point of the game.
And right after that Ozzie took a penalty, sending them back to the PK as the Leafs and Wings look to try and play an entire period on special teams. So far the Leafs have had the better scoring chance with Brown getting stopped by Howard off the rush. BUT RIGHT AFTER BROWN FEEDS LINDHOLM FOR THE SHARP ANGLE SHOT THAT FOOLS HOWARD FOR THE SHORTIE! 5-1 Leafs now!
And even after that Marner and Kapanen have a two on one short handed that gets stopped. They just put on an absolute clinic over the past.... 6 minutes? On the PP, on the PK, at even strength? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Looking it up, they scored 4 goals in under 4 minutes. TSN is now debating if they can score more than 300 goals this year. Well, that’s after Ferraro said “they’re going to score a million goals this year”.
By the way this is with Nylander still having not joined the team yet. LOLOLOLOLOLOL!
Second Period Impressions:
- Leivo’s finally getting some results, but he needs to be more consistent with his game. If he’s going to be all offense he can’t just disappear for large parts of the game.
- Ditto to Johnsson — I thought he was largely invisible until halfway through the second period and seemed revitalized by the PP
- Their PK now is ridiculous. Marner and Kapanen together are just silly, and it seems like all of the forwards are much more aggressive in pushing for an offensive chance. Granted, this Wings’ team is young and not that good, but they’re still short handed and so far they’re making the right decisions about when they can afford to push and when to back off and play safe.
- The Leafs stay strongly ahead in possession and scoring chances.
- The Kapanen - Tavares - Marner line are all 64% or better in CF% for the game... they’re dominating. Kapanen is leading the team with almost 80% CF%. I don’t know how much during the year he’ll stay there once Hyman and Willy are back but my god he doesn’t look out of place there. He can keep up with them.
Just over a minute into the period with the Leafs looking like they came off a massive sugar high, the Wings float a puck from the point that finds its way past Andersen thanks to a Larkin tip. The Rielly-Hainsey pair have not looked that great this game, and I’m still hoping it’s just them only half caring about the pre-season still. 5-2 Leafs now.
The Leafs finally get some action going their way thanks to a nice forecheck by the Kadri line, but they couldn’t get a good scoring chance from it. A follow up shift by the Matthews line led to Ennis drawing a double minor for high sticking, so the Leafs go back to a 4 minute PP.
Despite the third period exploits the first PP unit can’t ever really get settled. The second unit has some troubles too, and we’re past the first minor penalty without them ever really setting up. Thankfully the Wings take a too many men penalty with exactly two minutes left in the other penalty, so they get another full two minute 5 on 3. They do get a couple of shots off but nothing too dangerous.
Mind you, the Leafs put Ozzie out for the 5 on 3 on the second unit so they’re not exactly trying their hardest at this point. In fact they fail to score or even get a single shot on goal for that entire series of power plays. They took a lot of point shots that didn’t hit the net.
This game has kinda coasted for both teams, except for the energetic players fighting for a roster spot on their respective teams. Some energetic players also apparently really wanted to fight Kadri and Brown, and for good measure all four of them got to take an early shower.
Okay I already forgot all about that dumbassery because JESUS CHRIST AUSTON MATTHEWS IS A GOD DAMNED WIZARD! He danced, tied the puck on a string, almost set up one goal before actually setting up Gardiner for a nice snipe for the 6-2 lead.
The rest of the game passes without event, and the Leafs move to 5-1 this pre-season.
Third period impressions:
The Leafs seemed to be pretty obviously coasting this period, except for little bursts either by their depth guys who know they have to look good the whole game... or Auston freaking Matthews just deciding to destroy souls.
This might have been the first pre-season game where some depth guys all looked good: Kapanen, Leivo, Brown, and Johnsson. Kapanen in particular looked great, but I’m sure playing with Tavares and Marner helped. Leivo also by far had his best game of the pre-season. It’s hilarious to think that if the Leafs’ wing depth starts coming through they will be even more hilariously powered on offense.
Rielly... woof, he hasn’t looked all that good this whole pre-season. I really hope he’s just been told to take it easy until the real games start cause he needs to be better than that.
What winger impressed you the most?
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