After four and a half months without hockey, the Toronto Maple Leafs came back to their building and beat the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 4-2 in their opening exhibition game ahead of the 2020 Playoffs.
Alexander Kerfoot scored twice in the second period, including the game-winning goal, Ilya Mikheyev and Morgan Rielly scored at the beginning and end of the game to seal the deal. Rielly led the team from the back end with three points (1g, 2a) playing in all situations, including next to Cody Ceci all night.
Frederik Andersen played the whole game, stopping 28 of 30 in the win. He looked largely unbothered, except for a few larger rebounds and a stretch in the game where the Leafs took their foot off the gas and he got shelled a bit. The Big Four were largely unimpressive in this game, they had their moments but apart from John Tavares’ assist, they were kept off the scoreboard.
The Leafs will now stay in their hotel room until Sunday where they will begin their best-of-five Qualifying Round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets. CBJ will play Boston on Thursday in their tune-up game, we’ll provide coverage of that as well.
Right off the bat, Ilya Mikheyev scores off a 2-on-1 with John Tavares and the Leafs get the early lead 32 seconds in! Cody Ceci stole the puck from the forechecking Habs, worked it around with his teammates behind the net before starting to move forward. Eventually Morgan Rielly got the puck and released Tavares, who set up Mikheyev for the goal!
Ilya Mikheyev puts the Leafs up 1-0!!! pic.twitter.com/W58OTZqy3H— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) July 29, 2020
The Leafs tried a similar move later with the third line, opening the back door for the left winger with a diagonal pass from the right side. It looks like a really smart tactic used to exploit a rusty group of opponents in their own zone. It certainly beat Price the first time.
Jordan Weal took the first penalty of the game, a slashing call, proving the point that away teams get all the calls at the Scotiabank Arena. William Nylander looked really good in transition on the power play, he set up a good chance in the slot despite a lot of pressure on him. Unfortunately the puck got partially cleared away and Mitch Marner couldn’t feed Auston Matthews for a one-timer while there was a melee in front of the net.
PP1: Nylander - Tavares - Matthews - Marner - Barrie
PP2: Kapanen - Kerfoot - Spezza - Robertson - Rielly
18-year-old Nick Robertson got his first NHL shot at the tail end of the power play. There was no one around him, no screen in front, but he gave it a good honest try. It was definitely a junior play that probably works a lot there, but not as much against NHL goalies. I feel like it was an instinct/habit that he should eventually get out of his system.
Robertson also got his first NHL penalty in the game, when he got an arm in on Joel Armia. The Habs didn’t do anything with it, so no harm no foul for his first offense.
PK1: Marner - Hyman - Muzzin - Holl
PK2: Kerfoot - Kapanen - Rielly - Ceci
PK3: Engvall - Mikheyev - Dermott - Marincin
(I’m okay with those three sets of defensemen being the three pairs, by the way.)
Can I just say, Robertson and Kapanen together is an inspired pair of wingers to put on a third line. They’re both so fast and can keep up with each other so they can string passes together. This chance by Robertson was a lot of fun.
Nick Robertson nearly got one there off a great feed from Kapanen pic.twitter.com/7KrSPKT8Dj— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) July 29, 2020
The Leafs were clearly the better team between themselves and the Canadiens. The Leafs got better chances and were more organized. The Leafs were pretty much rolling four lines so no player got more than five minutes of icetime in the period, except Morgan Rielly who had 6:19 thanks to minutes on the power play, penalty kill, and one shift near the end of the period where Montreal got a few low danger shots against before taking a penalty and putting the Leafs on the power play.
As far as scrimmages go, this was more intense than the last couple weeks of practice and the 4pm game between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.
In the second, the Leafs started on the power play. Marner did his classic Mitch-Thing, which has now turned into the defense covering off every pass and pushing him to the goalie so he can take a shot into his chest. Marner needs something new, his tactic on the power play is stale now.
This goal starts with the penalty called before it. Paul Byron snuck off for a breakaway after a mis-play in the neutral zone. He was getting set to shoot on Andersen but Cody Ceci lifted his stick CLEANLY and got the puck away from the net. For some reason, Ceci got called for a hooking penalty, sending the Leafs to the penalty kill.
Karma then showed up and gave Alex Kerfoot a shorthanded goal after a great breakaway chance by Kasperi Kapanen. 2-0 Leafs!
Kerfoot scores shorthanded off the rebound. 2-0 Leafs pic.twitter.com/EFpB0nsU8d— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) July 29, 2020
Mikheyev took a penalty later in the period and.......did Max Domi get hit in the balls with a puck??? Hahahaha.
Nick Suzuki fooled both Rielly, Ceci, and Kapanen just as the power play expired when he sent a seam pass through to Tomas Tatar on the back door.
Nick Suzuki with the moves and he feeds Tomas Tatar for a Habs goal. pic.twitter.com/T3E9Pc8nS4— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) July 29, 2020
Alex Kerfoot two-goal game? After after roofing one shot, and tipping in a second, Alex Kerfoot is your leading scorer after two period of the exhibition game. Morgan Rielly sent the shot along the ice (would be nice to have that on the power play) and Kerfoot got on the inside of his defender and tipped it home perfectly. And even better news, Nick Robertson got the secondary assist on this play!
Kerfoot tips in a Morgan Rielly shot and it's 3-1 Leafs pic.twitter.com/YJXV53A5un— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) July 29, 2020
Another good period for the Leafs. It never looked looked like they took a shift off, which has sometimes killed their momentum in the past. They out-scored the Habs, extending their advantage. Montreal’s power play mostly sucks, so I can’t really draw much from their penalty kill, but the forwards look great at the “power kill” and the defense were holding their own until things kinda fell apart at the end of the second power play.
Speaking to expected goals, the Leafs have looked damn good.
A tale of two teams at even strength pic.twitter.com/qdfIUBT9Qc— Evolving-Hockey (@EvolvingHockey) July 29, 2020
The pace definitely took a dip in the middle of the hthird period, which I was kind of happy to see in the Leafs. No one needs to overdo it in their pre-playoff game.
Byron scored in the third off a shot from Ben Chiarot. Rielly and Nylander both were too late to catch up to Byron and stop him from finding the rebound and scoring on it. Definitely would’ve preferred some more urgency on the goal, or at least some communication that Byron was coming from up high. Rielly got caught puck-watching a massive rebound from Andersen there.
And Rielly gets it right back for the boys in blue. On the penalty kill, Zach Hyman got the puck to the slot, opening up a lane for Rielly to come down and take a shot from a wide angle, which he buried. The goal was his third point of the game.
Rielly restores the two-goal lead scoring off his own rebound pic.twitter.com/XkPAl6iTUS— Omar (@TicTacTOmar) July 29, 2020
Bad news, the Leafs took six penalties in this game.
Good news, they killed them all!
Also good news, the giant offensive blob of death is back!
Also also good news, Leafs win!!
Who was the best Leaf tonight?