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Leafs win last preseason game before the real thing on Wednesday

and a Mikheyev injury creates some questions.

Montreal Canadiens v Toronto Maple Leafs - Game Seven
TORONTO, ON - MAY 31: Pierre Engvall #47 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Montreal Canadiens during Game Seven of the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on May 31, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

The Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Ottawa Senators 4-1 at home to finish off their preseason. Morgan Rielly and Pierre Engvall scored power play goals (ok, Engvall’s wasn’t quite within the two minutes), while John Tavares and Nick Ritchie also netted some puck. Tavares led the team with two points and Jack Campbell stopped 18 of 19 shots in the win.

This was the final tune-up before the regular season starts on Tuesday and the Leafs play their first game on Wednesday. Ilya Mikheyev hurt his hand in the first period of this game, opening the door for a great game from Engvall, but also some uncertainty when it comes to the roster after cuts are made. We’ll have more on this in the coming days.

Boxscore

What we learned

Ilya Mikheyev on the second line

What are we doing here, guys?

Pierre Engvall

Now that he’s healthy — and unfortunately just as Mikheyev gets injured — Engvall has played some good hockey. He carried the puck a lot for Spezza and Simmonds on the fourth line, looking in control and making the smart play when necessary. He also played on the penalty kill with Marner, taking the job normally occupied by Mikheyev. And then when Mikheyev got injured after the first, Engvall took his spot on PP1 (earmarked for Matthews) and finished off a great play from Tavares.

Engvall looks like he’s returned to his rookie season form in both his confidence with the puck and defensive intensity.

I think in the competition for the last roster spot (and likely a lineup spot on Wednesday), Engvall has the edge over Brooks. And if I’m being honest, I think Mikheyev doesn’t have much of a future here anymore.

Travis Dermott / Justin Holl / Rasmus Sandin / Timothy Liljegren

Sheldon Keefe has said Liljegren has done everything he can to make himself an option moving forward, which tells me one of Dermott or Sandin need to lose a spot (or get injured) for them to actually play Liljegren. Sandin hasn’t had a good preseason but I think the Leafs want to ride him through the ups and downs. It’s hard to start yoyo-ing him now. When it comes to Dermott, Keefe has shown some frustration that Dermott hasn’t taken a spot higher in the lineup or solidified himself as a dominant player on the third pair (I know what his bar charts look like, but all regular fourth line forwards look like that too).

When I watch Dermott play, I’m often wondering what he actually does other than execute the dump-and-chase, make a good first pass, and take the odd shot from the point. I feel like every season we’ve seen less dynamism and movement from him. He’s tried to simplify his game to get his defensive game up to scratch (though he’s lost PK time so far in place of Rielly) but he’s lost any offensive upside he showed as a rookie. I don’t think he’s getting waived or anything but time’s running out for him. It might be his last season with the team.

Nylander on the Penalty Kill

There were a lot of penalties to start the game, starting with a couple penalties against the Leafs. Nylander didn’t show up on the penalty kill in the first period, but after Mikheyev’s injury he was skating with Engvall on the second shift. To be honest, I think this is just a narrative to say Nylander is better defensively so we’re going to play him more or that his PK means he’s earned playing on the PP or something dumb and coachy like that. Either that, or they’re using the PK time he now has to justify his low minutes at 5v5 from last season (13 minutes a night).

Wayne Simmonds

To whom it may concern, but Wayne Simmonds is an NHLer and he fully deserves to be on the Leafs. I get there’s a faction of this fanbase that decided old = bad and he was overrated on the fourth line last year because of his salary, but SImmonds on this contract is much more reasonable. On top of the obvious off-ice stuff that he brings, Simmonds still has some really good hands and feet on him that he showed off on Ritchie’s goal in the second period. He’s not as good as Spezza, but he’s a step above the likes of Brooks, Semyonov, Amadio (and god forbid we compare him to Kurtis Gabriel).

Complain about him or not, but he’s going to be on the team and he’ll have earned it.

Nick Ritchie

TJ Brodie took a penalty in the first period where he slashed the stick of a Sens player after he got behind Brodie’s pinch. In fact Brodie wasn’t at fault for the penalty happening, it was Ritchie who jumped into the play as well instead of backing up Brodie. He kinda went in between a hit and a poke check, got neither, and realized in the middle of the play that he made a mistake. Stuff like this is why I don’t trust Ritchie on the top line.

Ritchie then took two more penalties that could be summarized as a lazy stick trip and shoving a guy away from the play while the team was in the offensive zone. I’m not going to survive 82 games of this.

First Period

Bunting nearly scored early in the game, but Kämpf had actually taken a penalty a second before on the forecheck when he took the feet out from under a Sens player (I didn’t catch who, you don’t care anyway). The next penalty was Brodie, but it was a result of a mistake from Ritchie noted before.

1-0

Rielly scored on the power play with a point shot but I couldn’t forget Mikheyev whiffing on a snap shot from the Matthews position right at the start of the shift. I enjoyed watching Rielly and Nylander saucer passing to each other, their passes are really impressive and smooth.

One note on Omar’s tweet, him “doing this more” refers to scoring a 2% shot more. Not exactly something you should expect to see work more than 2% (or by god 3%) of the time.

Sabourin went after Holl after this hit on Stützle from him.

1-1

This goal was coming for a few minutes after the Leafs just couldn’t get organized in the defensive zone.

Second Period

The Leafs opened the second period reporting Mikheyev wouldn’t return to the game after suffering a hand injury. He took a hard fall later in the period after getting hit from behind (linked below) that could’ve been the cause.

Bunting replaced Mikheyev on the Tavares line and immediately looked so much better. He was set up for a shot from Nylander in the slot and made it a great chance.

2-1

Richie got the Leafs back on top after burying an incredible pass from Wayne Simmonds.

3-1

PIERRE ENGVALL FROM THE MATTHEWS SPOT ON THE POWER PLAY JUST LIKE WE WROTE IT UP. This was vintage AHL Engvall, who scored a crapton of goals from the wing. He might not steal Matthews’ job (ok he 100% won’t steal that job), but he’s definitely shown more puck skill and competence than Mikheyev. I’ll also shout out Tavares who made an unbelievable play to get the puck to Engvall there.

Marner missed the net on three breakaways up to this point, and showed his frustration after the latest miss.

4-1

The Captain brought the lead up to three with this tip from Brodie. Tavares might genuinely be the most underrated player on this team.

Third Period

The third line for Bunting-Kämpf-Kaše had another strong shift in the offensive zone, creating movement and opening lanes for cross-ice passes. The Sens eventually got desperate and Zaitsev took a cross-checking penalty.

On the power play Tavares set up Marner for yet another chance, but his baseball hit got stopped by Anton Forsberg.

The rest of the period was moderately interesting — including penalties for both teams — but nothing really of note beyond a Simmonds fight with Sabourin.