The Toronto Maple Leafs came out strong against the Montreal Canadiens, but gave up two goals in the span of 2:21. They would come back in the second, before giving up another three very sloppy goals. All in all, the roster comprised of a bunch of fringe players and the Marlies would get beat up by an equally weak Habs roster by a score of 5-1.
Kasperi Kapanen, who didn’t look great himself, scored the only goal for the Leafs, while Garret Sparks gave up five in the loss. It wasn’t any one player’s fault, but I think this tweet sums up the night pretty nicely.
The list of Leafs who needed a good game tonight is a list of guys who have had a bad game tonight.— Steve Dangle Glynn (@Steve_Dangle) September 25, 2018
Right off the bat, the Canadiens have been giving the Leafs defense no problems. Martin Marincin looks like he did when he was playing the Laval Rocket with the Marlies, which makes sense.
Justin Holl and Andreas Borgman have had good communication between each other. The mobility of those two have really helped them find space and transition effectively.
Jordan Subban showed his shot early. It’s a sneaky fast one that might turn into one of his big assets down the line, despite his size. He consistantly reminds me of Connor Carrick, especially from the American’s time with the Marlies. The way he and Sandin have communicated on the ice, and been able to cover for each other is also nice to see. Feels like the Kyle Dubas style of defending is exactly what this team needs.
Nick Suzuki gets the first big chance of the game between the two sides when his shot off the rush pinged off the crossbar. Up until the Leafs got Timothy Liljegren, Suzuki was the guy I really wanted the Leafs to draft. Now that the Habs have him, I’m certain they’re going to find a way to ruin/waste him — as well as Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and Ryan Poehling — like they did with PK Subban, Max Pacioretty, and Carey Price.
Former Leaf Byron Froese gets called for tripping Colin Greening, giving the Marlies their first power play of the game. Subban, Jeremy Bracco, Adam Brooks, Carl Grundstrom, and Trevor Moore are the first unit. Perhaps that becomes a full-time thing at Ricoh Coca-Cola Coliseum.
Subban really does like to shoot, eh. By the end of the period, he was tied with Kapanen with three shot attempts, and behind Bracco who had four. It should also be said he has zero shots.
Sandin is really impressive with the puck at the blueline on the power play. He did a great job avoiding his checker and attracting Froese coming out of the box in order to give Timashov sufficient space to move the puck to a less dense area.
rasmus sandin is perfect pic.twitter.com/FGMqbXsrQJ— dylan (@DylanFremlin) September 25, 2018
Borgman, Holl, and Par Lindholm get caught chasing the puck in their own zone and forget to cover Artturi Lehkonen following Kotkaniemi getting the puck in the slot. Kotkaniemi’s shot hits the maze of scrambling bodies and falls to Lehkonen, who makes no mistake. Tough first goal against for Garret Sparks, who had no chance. Really would’ve like the only NHL line to not give up a goal tonight.
Sparks gets shafted yet again as an Xavier Oullette shot from the point gets deflected in front of the net and in. Mike Babcock challenges the call for goalie interference (c’mon, Mike) and loses. Good goal.
The Leafs generally out-performed the Habs in that period, but one big defensive gaff, and another unlucky shot have put them down two after 20 minutes. Leafs are ahead 24-17 in shot attempts, 16-11 in shots, and 12-9 in scoring chances. Hopefully there’s enough shooting talent on the ice that will allow them to actually put one behind Antti Niemi. Bracco might be that guy, he has been 4/4 in shots per shot attempt so far tonight and with three scoring chances on his own.
The Leafs get the second period started with a bang. Actually, it was more of a flutter. With Brooks and Michal Moravcik in the box for not playing nice, Marincin was able to get to the middle of the ice for a shot. Kapanen would whiff on the rebound, but former teammate Rinat Valiev would assist in knocking the puck into the net with his stick.
kasperi kapanen enters the zone w control, feeds marty marincin at the point and then scores after the missed marincin shot pic.twitter.com/ogkZGHdM4F— dylan (@DylanFremlin) September 25, 2018
Oullette, who I swore was still on the Red Wings, would get his second goal of the game after his point shot gets through Sparks again. Gord Miller on the TSN broadcast showed some frustration when he said that goalies can’t just shrug their shoulders when they’re screened and a shot gets through. They have to find a way.
In a play eerily similar to Jake DeBrusk vs. Jake Gardiner, Charles Hudon is able to bounce off a check from Borgman and beat a poke-checking Sparks through the five-hole. DIdn’t quite get the decision to poke-check, Hudon had no where to go, but the main point is that the Leafs are now down 4-1 barely 26 minutes into the game. The Leafs have the Habs right where they want them, right?
Following this goal, the Leafs looked, I don’t want to say bad, but they were bad. Johnsson and Kapanen were each able to get away from their defenders off the rush, but neither hit the net. Beyond the first goal of the period, the team hasn’t been able to get anything going offensively.
Okay. So, what bugs me most about this goal isn’t that Sparks was so nonchalant with the puck behind the net and tried to make a play that was definitely not there, it’s that after he (or Subban) makes the initial save, NO ONE FEELS THE NEED TO DO ANYTHING. Sparks starts spinning in a circle, totally pulling himself out of the play. Subban gets out of the way of the shooting lane. And Adam Brooks’s controller turned off on him and doesn’t even bother to cover his man (the one who scored).
I know it’s a preseason game, but where is this team’s sense of urgency? You are embarrassing the goalie who won you the Calder Cup in his one big chance to make the NHL. The guys on this team who are trying to win a job out of camp, no matter how faint their hope is, seem to have resigned themselves to the Marlies instead of actually giving a damn.
The Marlies were so dependent on their confidence last season. One month, they could barely beat the Belleville Senators. The next moment, they make people think they can beat NHL teams. Sparks has been the poster child for this kind of thing for years. When he’s in a down spell, it takes a while for him to get back, especially in games.
I’m not trying to pick on Sparks, this is an issue that has plagued this whole team. They nearly bowed out of the Calder Cup in the first round to Utica before Johnsson and Travis Dermott came to save the day.
These guys are all great players. They are talented, and as a team, they are nigh unbeatable. I thought winning the Calder Cup would have made these guys realize, but it seems there’s still some more to work on here.
But it’s preseason, so why am I yelling...
I assume Curtis McElhinney is going to get the third period tonight. I doubt the Habs are going to try, I doubt the Leafs are going to do much to make them nervous. It’s preseason, after all.
Okay, so I was wrong. Shows you that I do these live!
My assumption is Babcock is giving Sparks the opportunity to reset mentally after the second and give him a chance for some redemption. Hope is he doesn’t give up another goal.
Sparks coming out to start the third. #Leafs— Michael Augello (@MikeInBuffalo) September 25, 2018
Carrick takes an interference penalty four minutes into the period after losing his man in front of the net. He looks more like an AHLer than an NHLer tonight. He should be above his peers and he is not (and hasn’t been all preseason).
In the back half of the third, Johnsson followed by Kapanen both showed some skill with shots that nearly beat Niemi. Kapanen hit the post, while Johnsson was able to cut to the inside of his defenseman and just miss on the short side high. Neither scored, or got a shot on goal for that matter. They definitely needed to not only be better, but show that they can be on for an entire game. They’ve had flashes, but that’s about it.
Late in the game, Borgman hit Hudon with a nasty-looking knee-on-knee hit in the Leafs’ zone. Hudon was slow to get up and his status is unknown. Borgman would serve a penalty for the hit.
That's a pretty ugly knee-on-knee by Andreas Borgman on Charles Hudon. Hudon skates off in pain, Borgman goes to the box. pic.twitter.com/JhrHs4NXMi— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) September 25, 2018
Who was the least worst Leaf tonight?