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Maple Leafs beat Maple Leafs on national TV

And somehow William Nylander lost twice.

NHL: SEP 29 Preseason - Maple Leafs at Senators
OTTAWA, ON - SEPTEMBER 29: Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Rasmus Sandin (38) talks to Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Ondrej Kase (25) before a face-off during third period National Hockey League preseason action between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators on September 29, 2021, at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, ON, Canada.
Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Toronto Maple Leafs held a full Blue vs. White scrimmage on national TV (sorry Nucks fans) to a final score of 7-6 for Team White (lines below).

The game consisted of a weird schedule; two 5v5 periods, which the Leafs called “two halves,” then there was a shootout with three guys on each side (which turned into eight guys each). Finally, the third period was basically a special teams shootout with 20 minutes of alternating four-minute power plays. Team Blue won the 5v5 stuff and scored in the lone overtime after the first period. Team White won the special teams thanks to specialist Nikita Gusev.

Before the special teams section, William Nylander swapped his White jersey for Blue jersey so he could work with Tavares, Rielly, and Marner on the first unit. After losing the 5v5 game with his first team, he ended up losing the power play despite scoring a goal and getting a primary assist on a Tavares goal. Poor Willy, he can never win.

Again, a weird format, but it allowed us to see the hockey players, and that is the important thing at the end of the day in preseason.

If you don’t want to follow all the action, scroll down to the bottom where I laid out some of the camp battles and how this game affected them.

The First Period

Brooks kicked the game off with this goal off a turnover from Holl before he skated around Marner and beat Källgren from a weak angle.

Willy just out here doing Willy things.

Marner scored the 1-1 goal after getting pulled down. Instead of a power play, the Leafs do a Jack Sparrow style breakaway. On the chance, Robertson caught up to Marner and stopped him from taking the shot, then checked him into the boards. Marner was upset by that and let Robertson know when Ritchie threw the puck back into the front of the net and Marner scored. First of all Mitch, you’re Mitch Marner. Second of all, Robertson is playing for a job. Don’t be upset when you’re the “try hard” guy on the team and another guy is trying harder than you.

At the end of the first period, the two teams played five minutes of 3v3. Sandin scored in the first 90 seconds after stepping into a point shot from the slot. 2-1

Timothy Liljegren took the puck for a skate in the offensive zone and nearly beat Hutchinson glove side after getting around Amadio and Holl. It was a really impressive show of puck control and deception. I’m telling you this guy is NHL calibre.

Nylander stole a stretch pass from Tavares and nearly scored a buzzer-beater at the end of the overtime fun. Hutchinson got the pad on the first shot and Nylander’s rebound chance went high just as the horn blew.

The Second Period

Mikheyev scored to open the second after Nylander set him up from a takeaway in the corner. This goal was all Nylander and all Mikheyev had to do was tap it in. 3-1

Much to Omar’s delight, Michael Bunting got Team White back into the game with this tip-in goal set up by David Kämpf. Bunting got himself away from Holl and had an open net to aim at once the puck got to him. 3-2

Before Michael Hutchinson made that save, Kirill Semyonov made a really good play with Brett Seney and Marner to set up Sandin for the shot. Just by the numbers Seney is going to be in the AHL, but I think Semyonov could be an NHLer if given the right situation. He’s has some offensive to him and plays at a good pace.

Liljegren with another chance after a setup from Spezza! He nearly beat Källgren with the deke, but got stopped with the stick. I’m still really impressed with how he can jump into the rush and show some skill. He’s been miles better than Holl in this game.

In the final minutes of regulation, Team White pulled the goalie while down 3-2. Sandin bobbled the puck at the blueline with about a minute to go and Nylander nearly had a breakaway, but Sandin got back and used the tip of his stick to drag the puck away and stop the chance. A mistake, but he made up for it.

The Shootout

This was the point when my timeline went to go watch the baseball. I hope the Jays won!

Bunting vs. Källgren - no goal

Nylander vs. Hutchinson - no goal

Robertson vs. Källgren - no goal

Marner vs. Hutchinson - no goal

Spezza vs. Källgren - no goal

Mikheyev vs. Hutchinson - no goal

Ho-Sang vs. Källgren - no goal (but he made a great move!)

Rielly vs. Hutchinson - no goal

Kaše vs. Källgren - no goal

Kerfoot vs. Hutchinson - no goal

Gusev vs. Källgren - GOAL!

Sandin vs. Hutchinson - GOAL!

Tavares vs. Källgren - no goal

Ritchie vs. Hutchinson - no goal

Der-Arguchintsev vs. Källgren - GOAL!

Semyonov vs. Hutchinson - no goal

Team White wins 2-1 meaning the score going into the Special Teams was 4-4.

The Special Teams Shootout

14 seconds into the power play shootout, Nylander (who was traded to Team Blue) took a shot-pass to Tavares in front who tips it home. Again, Nylander making the power play super effective. Mikheyev then set up Tavares in front from the opposite wing. Hutchinson saved that one.

Gusev scored twice on Team White’s power play chances, showing his shot from distance and being able to make the most of the increased space. I think we all know Gusev isn’t going to get an NHL contract, mostly because he’s really struggled at 5v5. He’s a great special teams player and in the shootout, but that’s not enough.

Nick Ritchie also scored for Team White. He was set up by a nice zone entry and move to the middle of the ice from Bunting.

Nylander scored again after being left way too open by Dahlstrom and Kral.

Team White ended up out-scoring the Big Blue power play unit 3-2.


Interesting Battles

Kerfoot-Mikheyev vs. Kämpf-Kaše

Here’s my take on these four players. I think they’re all good enough to play on the third line, but I think Kämpf-Kaše are players that can actually make a difference on the ice. Whether that’s taking the puck away from the opponent in the defensive zone along the boards like Kämpf has showed, or working really hard and making plays in the neutral and offensive zones like Kaše has done.

Basically, I was much more impressed with Kämpf’s pass on the 3-2 goal than Mikheyev’s tap-in on the 3-1 goal.

Battle for the Fourth Line

So there are a few players on this team that are desperately trying to stay off the fourth line. I’m talking about Mikheyev, Kerfoot, Kase, Kampf, Bunting. However, there’s also a bunch of players trying to get themselves onto the fourth line. Engvall, Robertson, Semyonov, Amadio, but Adam Brooks stood out above all of them (Engvall didn’t play) in this game with both his offense and responsibility defensively.

In the AHL, Brooks was a true clutch player who did everything necessary as the 1C on the team. He’s bringing all that ability with him to the fourth line and I think he’s the best pick to centre that line with Spezza and Simmonds. He works hard, he doesn’t make mistakes, and he can create chances and score when given the chance.

Sandin vs. Dermott vs. Liljegren

Sandin and Holl have a pretty bad penchant for giving the puck away. As you are probably aware, Justin Holl tends to lose the puck in his skates and get poke-checked pretty easily. He showed that in neutral zone whenever he was forced to play the puck (like in the example above). As for Sandin, he makes the odd dumb pass that creates chaos in the defensive zone. Later in the period he dropped the puck behind him at his own blueline with no one there in support and a guy on him going the other way. It obviously turned into a chance the other way. It’s that kind of stuff that worries me sometimes.

Sandin’s offense and puck-play is pretty undeniable at this point, his mission this preseason is to show that he can be a reliable defenseman in both directions. I think those mistakes are ones the Leafs can live with on the third pair, but it’s not something that’s going to push him into the top-four this season.

I was really impressed with Liljegren’s offensive game in this one, mainly because we didn’t get to see much of it in the preseason up to now. Here in this game you saw him jumping in the rush, commanding the puck, and making plays to the wingers. This is all exactly what you want to see from him on the Leafs (and what we have seen from him on the Marlies).

Dermott had some typical Dermott moments, namely jumping around a lot in the defensive zone and combining good defensive plays (like laying out to cut off the pass) with bad defensive plays (like letting the rebound sit in the slot and not get it cleared). Overall, I really didn’t notice him as he blended into the background while Rielly did a lot of great work. Cheryl Pounder talked about how good his movement was, but then noted how hard it is to play your off-side as a defenseman (which she has lots of experience at). It’s a tough job and I don’t think he’s done enough to say that he can do it as well as a natural righty, even if he’s good on the left side. That’s certainly going to be a topic for debate for the next couple weeks and presumably into camp.

For me, Liljegren has done enough to get at least a semi-regular look in the NHL if the Leafs can manage to get Liljegren onto the roster (which almost certainly is going to need a trade to facilitate).