Last night Sportsnet realized people want to watch these games:
PROGRAMMING ALERT— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) July 29, 2020
You want more hockey? We’ve got more hockey!
TOMORROW you can watch the @Canes vs. @Capitals (4pm ET) and @NYIslanders vs. @NYRangers (8pm ET) exhibition games on SN ONE.
We will no longer be airing the Rockies/Athletics and Padres/Giants games. pic.twitter.com/r8y1mp773j
The full schedule is:
Tampa Bay at Florida - noon, NHLN, NHLTV, FS-F, SUN
Colorado at Minnesota - 2:30 PM, NHLN, NHLTV, FS-N, FS-WI, ALT
Carolina at Washington - 4 PM, SN1, NBCSN, NHLTV, NBCSWA, FS-CR
St. Louis at Chicago - 6:30 PM, NBCSN, NHLN, NHLTV, NBCSCH+, FS-MW
NY Islanders at NY Rangers - 8 PM, SN1, TVAS, NBCSN, MSG, MSG+
Vancouver at Winnipeg - 10:30 PM, SN, NHLN, NHLTV
Last night’s hockey game was a lot of fun! The Leafs beat the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 4-2 and went 6/6 on the penalty kill. It was the first game in four and a half months and getting the win, although meaningless, was a breath of fresh air.
I wrote the recap for the game, covering all the goals and some of the performances. Some were good, some were great, some were less than ideal. I couldn’t get into all of it so I negotiated my way into acquiring the FTB for tonight and am going to share the rest of my thoughts now. So here’s who I thought the winners and the losers were from the one and only pre-playoff game.
The Third Line
The third line was the best line of the night in this game. They provided two goals, were world-beaters on the shot clock, and looked miles more valuable than any group we had seen during the regular season.
First with Alexander Kerfoot, he’s become a penalty killer now, which is an instant plus in my eyes. He scored a shorthanded goal and at 5v5 he played incredibly well in and around the net and in his own zone. He was 4-1 (80%) on faceoffs on the penalty kill, and his line comprised the three best corsi players for the Leafs. He’s truly become a jack of all trades for the Leafs now, and something he wasn’t in Colorado and something the Leafs haven’t had in awhile.
Another hard shift by the Kerfoot line ends with a shot from Kapanen pic.twitter.com/bjbS5b7UzT— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) July 29, 2020
Kasperi Kapanen take a bow. That was the first time in so long that I’ve seen vintage Kappy. He was lightning quick all over the ice; aggressive on the penalty kill and relentless in transition. Kapanen’s biggest virtue isn’t his ability to goon up the game on occasion — which he did while in scoring slumps (aka all regular season) — it’s his ability to keep defensemen on their toes and unable to set up. Look at the goal he helped score, and the play with Robertson below. Both were prime examples of the defense not being prepared and Kapanen taking full advantage. I’m going to be a typical Toronto fan in saying this, but this player can win us this series against Columbus.
Kerfoot scores shorthanded off the rebound. 2-0 Leafs pic.twitter.com/EFpB0nsU8d— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) July 29, 2020
Nick Robertson nearly got one there off a great feed from Kapanen pic.twitter.com/7KrSPKT8Dj— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) July 29, 2020
And lastly, hey the rookie looked pretty good! Nick Robertson made his unofficial NHL debut and played really well in sheltered minutes. He was taken off the third line late in the game, replaced with Pierre Engvall, while the team was trying to hold the lead. This is a thing Sheldon Keefe often did in the last 10 minutes of a game, although the guy getting scratched was usually Jeremy Bracco.
As for Robertson, he had a three shot attempts, scored a secondary assist on Kerfoot’s second goal, and was one third of the strong case for this current version of the third line. Especially with Kapanen, they looked super dynamic and tough to deal with coming into the offensive zone at full speed. Keep them together and see how far they take you.
It was a good grinding, fighting shift for Robertson ahead of the goal pic.twitter.com/F9uPxBeuMp— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) July 29, 2020
Rielly made some mistakes in this game, particularly a lack of confidence in his decision making on both sides of the puck. But as the game went on he looked more comfortable and jumped in the play more and looked more engaged. He was on for both Habs goals, but he scored a shorthanded goal and got two assists by the end of the night and nearly set up Spezza for a third goal on created a 2-on-1 in the third period.
Rielly restores the two-goal lead scoring off his own rebound pic.twitter.com/XkPAl6iTUS— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) July 29, 2020
I’m not overly worried about Rielly because despite the things that hold him back defensively, he genuinely makes up for it offensively and does it all playing top competition. On top of that, in this game, Rielly played with the third and fourth lines more than he played with the first and second. All the goals he was on the ice for came with the third line on the ice or with him on the penalty kill. Rielly might be the most underrated Leaf on this team.
Rielly jumps in the play and tries to find Spezza for the tap-in pic.twitter.com/cVoIaUSGUd— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) July 29, 2020
We should’ve gotten him to sign a contract before these playoffs, but the price is going up at an exponential rate. He scored the first goal of the game, was really strong at 5v5 with Tavares and Marner, and on the penalty kill with Engvall. He was fast, he was unafraid, and he was getting after the puck every chance he got.
Willy looked so comfortable in this game. He was great in transition at 5v5 and on the power play, he looks really sturdy on his skates. He played netfront on the power play (imagine your netfront guy transitioning the puck in for you in the 90s), and setup Matthews for a couple really great chances. He was finding seams, getting pucks to the dangerous areas. He genuinely looked like a first line winger in this game and we all would’ve believed it if he or Matthews buried one or two of their scoring chances.
Pretty play between Nylander and Matthews. The backhand goes wide pic.twitter.com/1rqGoL2lu8— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) July 29, 2020
There was a small play in the second period where he was in front of the net and took a centering pass from Matthews. He nearly buried the puck on the short side, but he grabbed the rebound, dangled on his knees while under pressure, and then sent the puck around the net back to Matthews to try and maintain possession. The Leafs eventually got the puck back and stayed in the offensive zone until the end of their shift. It was almost an unnoticeable play, but one that speaks to everything the Leafs want to be.
Nylander got a chance there off the rebound from Matthews' shot pic.twitter.com/Gomd1X2Ymd— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) July 29, 2020
He needed to be bailed out regularly in the defensive zone (by Travis Dermott!) and wasn’t providing any value to the power play in the offensive zone. I just don’t know what Tyson Barrie does for this team after watching this game. Honestly, he did more for Dermott’s case to be in the lineup than he did anything for himself. Dermott was carrying the puck, he was bailing his partner out, he was trying to create things offensively. Barrie was just...there.
Dermott giving Barrie a hand pic.twitter.com/wnGTSzfACq— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) July 29, 2020
The Mitch Thing is just not working on the power play for Mitch Marner. Every time he gets the puck, the defense closes every passing option and directs him to the net like they’re trying to shoo a bee out the window. It’s not working anymore. Teams know Marner’s shot is awful and they’re more than willing to let him shoot the puck from anywhere on the ice because they know he won’t score. He needs to find something new or let someone else try for a while, because this CBJ penalty kill coming up is good and they won’t give him the time and space he was accustomed to before.
The Habs are taking those passing lanes away from Marner pic.twitter.com/giFAb5ZE1G— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) July 29, 2020
Engvall played less than Frederik Gauthier at 5v5 and on the penalty kill. He was a non-factor on offense and defense. He just looked lost. I was fairly certain Engvall was going to win out the 4C job over Gauthier in most scenarios, but this was the one where I’m pretty sure he’s getting the boot out of the starting lineup.
I have a lot of thoughts about Engvall. Defensively, he provides about as much as Gauthier, but offensively, there is a ceiling that he can hit sometimes when he’s hot that is lightyears ahead of anything Gauthier can put together. Unfortunately, he’s in one of those troughs in his career at the moment and it’s come at the worst time.
He’s got a two-year deal so this is not someone you can just drop, but he’ll need to be managed and rejuvenated soon so he can either come back to his old self where he led the Marlies in scoring and went on a massive bender from October to December in 2019, either later in the playoffs or next season.
I believe in Pierre Engvall, it’s just not working for him right now.
The Montreal Canadiens lost as well, just to rub it in.
Various Leafs Branches
Here is the recap from yours truly. Kerfoot and Rielly were great in this one.
Katya wrote about the league’s best penalty kill. No spoilers on who it is.
This just feels gross.
K.#GoHabsGo pic.twitter.com/9CUU3ZaeFU— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) July 28, 2020
Former Blue Jacket Sonny Milano got a contract with the Anaheim Ducks.
ANA signing Sonny Milano to a two-year, $1.7M AAV extension— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) July 28, 2020
Ethan Bear was allowed to wear this jersey by ProAmSports with his name spelled in Cree. I would’ve loved to see Kailer Yamamoto wear the jersey with his name written in Japanese but ah, well.
A really neat undertaking by @ProAmSports here, putting together sweaters with nameplates indicative of both Ethan Bear's and Kailer Yamamoto's heritage, written with traditional characters. pic.twitter.com/piXdbA4jnf— Carter Brooks (@CBrooksie84) July 28, 2020
#Oilers d-man Ethan Bear will honour his Indigenous heritage during tonight's #BattleOfAlberta exhibition game by displaying his jersey name bar in Cree syllabics.— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) July 28, 2020
| #LetsGoOilers https://t.co/7LAtHX6jOK
For your nightmares, Toronto.
The Flyers bought a Gritty billboard in Toronto for the playoffs that can be seen on the way to the Scotiabank Arena because of course they did— Charlie O'Connor (@charlieo_conn) July 28, 2020
(courtesy: Philadelphia Flyers / Steve Dormer) pic.twitter.com/wuSUhOSQdb