Welcome to the second game of preseason! Only 7 more to go, and then we get real hockey. As much as it can be boring to watch crappy hockey, the preseason is a necessary evil. Not just for the players. Us bloggers need to get back into the swing of things after a long summer in our basements.

With that in mind, I’m going to try a slightly different recap format. Typically, my recaps are kind of a Bill Simmons-esque retro-diary. I publish my notes and observations as the game progresses (timestamped so you can follow along). It has its pros and cons relative to a traditional recap, but one of the cons is the annoyance with time-stamping things. It means I have to rewind a lot, and I don’t particularly enjoy the increased time I have to spend listening to Romanuk.

So all that being said, for the first period, I’ll try and do fewer blurbs, but each one will be longer and recap more of the game. I’m thinking roughly 5 minute increments. Let me know if you like the change or prefer the old way, or something else entirely!

So with the preamble out of the way, let’s get into the game!

First Period

  • [20:00] Here we go! This is the preseason debut of Patrick Marleau, who starts with Leo Komarov and Nazem Kadri. A lot of people wanted to see Marleau play with Auston Matthews’ left side, but I think it’s a good idea to give Kadri someone else who can put the puck in the net. To some degree, Matthews is the guy you want monopolizing shots on his line.
  • They will obviously be the main point of focus today. I’m also interested in the battle for the last LD spot. Martin Marincin and Andreas Borgman are also playing, and after Travis Dermott played nicely yesterday, pressure is on them to perform.
  • The other forward lines are the standard Bozak group, and two groups of players who are almost certainly not making the main roster, but include some fun players like Carl Grundstrom. Freddie Andersen starts in net for the good guys. Let’s get into it.
  • [20:00 - 15:00] Pretty standard and uneventful first shift for the Kadri group. Good shift from Bozak group, hemming in the other line. Gardiner - Borgman also on the ice for that. Leafs getting the better of the early action, Ottawa threatening to counterattack. Grundstrom and Johnsson have a strong first shift, forcing a turnover off an aggressive forecheck. Condon with a good save. Marincin draws a high stick, and the Leafs go to the power play. The Leafs elite power play from last season reprises their role and look good to start. However, Kerby Rychel cuts the PP short by taking a penalty. The Leafs second PP was not nearly as strong, which was to be expected.
  • During the transition between 4-on-4 and 5-on-4, the Senators score, after Marincin randomly bobbles the puck when trying to exit the zone. The Senators, with the man advantage, stretch the Leafs out and Logan Brown scores. 1-0 Sens. /
  • [15:00 - 10:00] Shortly after, another penalty from Rychel, this time for slashing, which as we all know, is a renewed point of emphasis for officiating. Marleau and Komarov are a PK unit in this game. Aaand Komarov picks up a slashing penalty, and this game is becoming a parade to the box. The Senators end up with a 5-on-3 for well over a minute. Marincin marginally redeems himself by playing decently on the PK. The Leafs kill off the penalty and stop the bleeding. The Senators actually didn’t get a tone of shots on the power play - just one. Kadri line hasn’t gotten anything going offensively so far. The Grundstrom - Smith - Johnsson line has been really nice so far.
  • [10:00 - 5:00] Leafs score! Patrick Marleau gets his Leafs career started right, as he chases down a dumped puck from Komarov, streaks in 1-on-1 with the defender, and snipes it top cheddar. 1-1 tie. Really impressive speed from the veteran./
  • Rather uneventful after the goal - the Bozak line continues to have territorial advantages against whoever they play against, and are also helped by playing with Gardiner/Borgman a lot. The other Leafs D have been largely unnoticeable, barring the Marincin error in the leadup to the Senators goal.
  • [5:00 - 0:00] I like Trevor Moore as a player. Probably doesn’t become anything big, but he knows how to play hockey. Meanwhile, Kadri is in midseason form, and draws a holding penalty. Another very strong showing from the Leafs main PP unit, who are generating chances for fun, but can’t yet score. Borgman goes solo with an intrepid rush, and an Ottawa defender (that jagoff who injured MacArthur a year ago) basically lies on the ice to trip him. Leafs with a 47 second 5-on-3 here.
  • And they take advantage almost immediately. 2-1 Leafs on a fantastic goal by the main PP unit (with Marleau replacing Kadri). Marleau to Gardiner to Marner to JVR, all one touch cross-ice passes, leaving JVR with nothing but net to aim at. Bozak does a clever job impeding the Senators defender as well. That looked like Barcelona circa 2008. The unit centred around the Bozak ES line looks great. /
  • As the power play continues, Kadri takes a goaltender interference penalty. Kadri giveth, Kadri taketh away. The 4 on 4 and penalty mostly go without incident, and the Leafs exit the first with a lead.
  • There was a lot of special teams in that period, but as should be expected, the Leafs largely carried play in the first period. They’re playing much more of their real roster than the Senators are (the reverse was true yesterday). The Bozak line has been strong, and the Johnsson - Smith - Grundstrom line has looked good too. Marleau had a nice goal, but that line didn’t do much otherwise. And the fourth line... existed.
  • As for defense, I think Marincin was largely fine, besides that one ridiculous error that led to the goal against. Typical Marincin, in many ways. Gardiner and Borgman have both looked good - I like Borgman’s skating a lot. /

Second Period

  • [20:00] The Leafs start the second period on the penalty kill for about 25 seconds.
  • [19:43] Andersen with a nice save on that power play on a tip by Chris DiDomenico.
  • [19:30] Kadri steps back onto the ice and we go to 5-on-5 again. For how long, who knows?
  • [18:45] First really strong shift from the Kadri group (along with LoVerde and Holl) as they establish a cycle. No dangerous shots, but an encouraging sign.
  • [17:41] Borgman makes a really nice defensive play, rubbing his guy out on the boards and poking it to his winger for an easy zone exit. Small play that adds up if you do it a lot.
  • [17:00] Grundstrom must be so annoying to play against, my God. He’s such a pest. And absolutely relentless. His line is spending oodles of time in the offensive zone so far.
  • [15:54] As I say this, the Sens get a nice shift against that line. No real chances against though, just cycle time.
  • [15:40] After Borgman comes across the zone to hit Mike Blunden (it was a little high), Borgman fights him. Incidentally, it cuts off a Leafs rush, which is a minor annoyance. They do get a power play out of it, as Blunden gets the instigator.
  • [14:42] Typical work from the Leafs top power play unit, as they get some more zone time and shots.
  • [13:33] The power play passes without much occurring, as the lesser of the Leafs PP units fails to amount anything in the way of chances.
  • [12:52] Another shift ends with the Smith line taking a shot and Grundstrom mixing it up in front. Their games seem to sync up nicely, at least today.
  • [12:40] Marincin fires a shot directly into the shinpads of a Sen under pressure, but recovers well, and the Leafs regain possession without issue.
  • [11:51] Later in the shift, Marleau is sprung on a partial break, but the Senators defender (Mark Borowiecki) makes a solid play to stick-check him and prevent him from getting a shot away. Could’ve been called a slash under the new rules, but it’d be kind of ticky tack.
  • [10:50] Holl makes a weirdly aggressive play in the neutral zone, which allows the puck to get by him and Max Reinhart to get a decent shot from the flanks. Andersen saves it calmly. Not a horrible play by Holl or anything, but it struck me as odd. He left a reasonably solid position to apply puck pressure without much support behind him besides Gardiner.
  • [10:14] Marincin fails to clear the zone adequately, pinging it off the glass to no one in particular. As Katya menioned in her game preview, his defensive ‘success’, such as it is, is more the result of his ability to prevent the puck from entering his own zone rather than any particular success within it. This is borne out by his poor zone exit numbers too, covered in a recent piece by Ian Tulloch at TLN.
  • [9:50] We get a goalie switche for the Senators. Some guy whose name I don’t care to learn comes in for them
  • [9:50] Fine, his name is Marcus Hogberg
  • [8:55] Borgman aggressively pinches and it more or less results in a 2-on-1 for the Senators. Good play by Gardiner and the backchecking forwards (Marner in particular) to help snuff it out without any real danger arising.
  • [7:31] Marner nearly springs Ben Smith(!) for a breakaway, clearly trying to compete with Timothy Liljegren for the prize of setting up the most doomed breakaway possible.
  • [6:40] Another shift where the Kadri line establishes dominance in a cycle, but don’t generate much in terms of shot attempts. That is the bare minimum of what they should be doing, against a largely AHL side.
  • [5:49] Another slashing penalty gets called. Marincin gets the book, and this is a very different call than the usual slashing. He made the standard slashing motion at the blade of an opposing stick. Kind of unprecedented call, even for this preseason.
  • [4:08] Senators score! 2-2 game. Andersen had made a few good saves on the penalty, but he can’t keep it out here. Ottawa wins a board battle, and Max Reinhart has an easy pass to Frederik Claesson, who walks in off the point, shoots, and scores./
  • [2:43] The Kadri line is still working on developing chemistry. Some ‘nearly great’ plays.
  • [1:47] Kerby Rychel gets his third penalty of the game, this time for a faceoff infringement. As stupid as you think the rule may be, it will not impress Mike Babcock that he’s spent as much time in the box as anywhere else. He’s been largely invisible outside of this, spending time on the fourth line of this Leafs semi-roster.
  • [1:01] This power play will extend about 10 seconds into the third - but not a lot has happened on it so far.
  • [0:58] Cuthbert and Ferraro have some nice discussion about Kadri and Gardiner, and how their roles and level of play have changed under Babcock. I disagree with them in some respects - I think both of those guys were always very good, and just needed a competent coach to trust them and let them shine. Nonetheless, it’s great to see them getting their due.
  • [0:04] As I’ve been waxing poetic about Jake and Naz, Andreas Johnsson eats a high stick, nullifying the Ottawa power play.
  • End of the second - much less eventful than the first. The Senators outplayed the Leafs in this period, outshooting them at evens and overall. The fourth line has gotten really brutalized, and has generated literally nothing on offense. The Bozak line has continued their strong play, while the Kadri group has underwhelmed in terms of putting chances on the board, which they absolutely should be doing against a team this weak. Surprisingly, the Johnsson - Smith - Grundstrom line has been the Leafs second best tonight.
  • As for the defence... not a lot to say. Gardiner is great. Borgman has seemed reasonably competent, in an obvious way, while Marincin has seemed reasonably competent in his typical, Marincin, bumbling way (barring his initial gaffe). The other defencemen have largely been bit players, and have not done well. Against this level of poor competition, competent is the absolute base that we have to expect for anyone hoping to be a NHLer./

Third Period

  • [20:00]  So we start the third, and if we’re being honest, the Leafs should be doing better than they are against what amounts to an AHL team, and not a great one either. The Bozak line has pulled their weight, as has Gardiner. The Smith line has done well too - everyone else could improve.
  • [19:40] The Leafs have just under a full power play to start the period, and Kasimir Kaskisuo takes Freddie’s place in net.
  • [19:13] Another slashing call, and the Leafs get a length 5-on-3 to potentially break the tie. Another habit penalty.
  • [19:09] Interestingly, Marleau seems to take over Kadri’s role on the top power play if it’s 5-on-3.
  • [18:08] Marner with a great pass, Bozak fails to finish. Midseason form for both, as the first penalty expires.
  • [17:39] Marner is RUNNING this power play, as he sets up JVR for what should be a tip-in, but Marcus Hogberg covers it up.
  • [17:05] A few more half-chances, but the penalty expires and the game is still tied.
  • [16:40] Borgman has evidently made a positive impression on Ferraro, who praises him for a bit, for what that’s worth.
  • [15:45] Games like this remind you that Ben Smith is actually a very good player against AHL competition.
  • [15:14] Kaskisuo makes a hash of playing the puck behind the net - before then, Holl had interfered with his man at the blueline, so the Leafs head to the penalty kill.
  • [14:52] Almost immediately, Ottawa gives the penalty right back. Another slashing call. 4-on-4 beckons!
  • [14:44] A running theme through this game has been Bozak getting tossed out of every other draw. One wonders how this will impact his face-off value (which is not negligible) and how Babcock chooses to use him.
  • [13:14] The Leafs get about 20 seconds of power play to work with now.
  • [13:10] I want to say the Leafs have played better in this period, but there’s been so little 5-on-5 that it’s kind of hard to get a sense of the flow of it It feels like they have had the better of it though?
  • [11:56] Hey, Rychel did something that wasn’t taking a penalty.
  • [11:41] Probably the most dangerous shift for the Kadri group, as they cause a mad scramble in front off a Gardiner point shot. Max Reinhart saves a goal by pulling a puck off the line, but Ottawa takes a penalty in the scramble. Leafs to the power play.
  • [10:56] I said it before, but Marner is absolutely running this power play, and has all night. A tonne of chances again for his power play unit, but they’re just not getting it over the line.
  • [9:29] Ottawa scores! 3-2 Senators. As the Leafs get chance after chance on the power play, the penalized Sens player is sprung on a breakaway. Kaskisuo stops the breakaway, and stops the rebound, but can’t stop the rebound of the rebound. Neither he nor his defence could locate either of the rebounds. Apparently someone named Erik Burgdoerfer scored? He had one goal in the AHL last year, so it’s that kind of night./
  • [9:09] The Leafs nearly get it back, as Rychel and Moore find themselves on a 2-on-1. No dice though.
  • [9:09] Why did people think Justin Holl could make the Leafs? I imagine they didn’t watch the Marlies?
  • [8:47] Not gonna lie, I’m totally cool with the Leafs not scoring, because I want to go to sleep and stop watching this crap hockey.
  • [7:34] Okay, I have no idea what the hell happened there. Marincin pinched, Kadri couldn’t keep it in at the line, and the Sens kind of had a 2-on-0 breakaway? Somehow they messed that up. Kadri shoves someone into the net, and eventually he and McCormick of the Senators take offsetting roughing penalties.
  • [5:30] Back to 5-on-5. Speaking of things we’re back to, Fulemin and I have a hockey podcast called Back to Excited. You should listen to it. New episode out this Sunday!
  • [4:37] Valiev makes a shockingly nice play to deke past a few Senators and nearly get in alone. He gets pretty obviously tripped, but there’s no call.
  • [3:25] Once again, the Bozak line has been quite strong in this period, as they should. Kadri’s group hasn’t been as strong, but the third is undoubtedly their strongest period of the three, even accounting for Marleau’s goal in the first.
  • [1:36] Babcock pulls Kaskisuo early, and Filip Chlapik pots it into the empty net to seal the game for Ottawa. 4-2 Senators.
  • [0:39] Patrick Sieloff adds another. 5-2 Senators.
  • [0:00] That’s a wrap. The Leafs lose both legs of the back-to-back against Ottawa. Despite the loss, the Leafs were, as expected, the better team tonight, and in particular, most of the realistic NHLers looked the part against a weaker squad. /

In my opinion, Marner was the best skater on either team, and dominated on the power play. His linemates were similarly strong. The Kadri group didn’t start particularly well, but got better as the game progressed - still need to see more from them. Against a weak set of players like the Senators had, they should dominate, to be honest.

Ottawa’s goaltending was very strong, with Condon in particular making some fantastic saves. Overall, I don’t think there was too much to be disappointed by in the loss here. What is most interesting are the battles for edge positions on the team. Marincin and Borgman both looked solid to my eye today. Marincin had a failure of a moment that will be much discussed, but otherwise, he did quite well, with fairly solid possession numbers, for whatever that’s worth. Borgman was more visible, and his game is certainly flashier than Marincin’s. One thing that may help MarMar is his PK utility.

No real waves were made on the fourth line front today, but all of Ben Smith, Andreas Johnsson, and Carl Grundstrom played well, and all of Trevor Moore, Kerby Rychel, and Colin Greening were horrific. The former have their stocks rise slightly, the latter have theirs fall. That will only really affect the Marlies pecking order, if it affects anything at all.

Anyways, with all that being said, that’s it from me. Hopefully the Leafs don’t start the regular season the way they have in the preseason.