Leafs Fumble Preseason Opener

In an all-too familiar scene for those Leafs that struggled through the valleys of last season, the fans at the ACC booed their beloved Buds as the horn sounded on the final period of a disappointing 5-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators tonight. I’m not one to put much stock in the preseason – if preseason decided anything, the Leafs would have had a hell of a lot better start last year.

An inept Leafs’ powerplay went 0-8 on the game, including a span of 3:19 when they held a 5-on-3 advantage at the start of the 2nd period, failing to spark much hope that things had changed. Some of the old blunders and mistakes were present as well, as the Leafs managed to cost themselves at just about every turn. You can’t even really blame it on the rookies, although, to be sure, there was very little chemistry displayed between any of the players on the ice tonight, at least between the guys in blue jerseys.

The first goal of the game was a direct result of some poor defensive coverage by Brett Lebda and Tomas Kaberle, mainly Kaberle, who coasted past the back post and out of the play before the puck was chipped in. The 2nd goal, although it was a nice shot by Nick Foligno, probably would have been saved if Gustavsson hadn’t bit on the first move like he was Goldberg after a binge at the Eden Hall Academy buffet. Of course, if Phaneuf hadn’t missed a hit at the blueline, it wouldn’t have happened in the first place. Captain Dion coughed up the puck at the Ottawa blueline late in the 3rd to allow the 5th goal, as well. A co-culprit on the first goal, Lebda was the primary villain on the 3rd Ottawa tally, as he took down Chris Neil behind the net and earned a penalty, but before the Leafs could touch the puck, Lebda managed to blow more defensive coverage by failing to watch the backdoor and the puck was in the back of the net before he turned around.

On to some of the better things I saw. While Gustavsson did give up 3 goals, he finished the first period with 15 saves as the Leafs came out terribly flat in the first 20. Not the shutout I would have liked against a half-strength Ottawa team, but not there wasn’t a ton I did like about this game. Jussi Rynnas looked pretty solid, until of course, I wrote it down in my game notes and he gave up two quick ones, both of which probably only went in because he made rookie mistakes, over-committing on the first and not covering his short side on the second. Carl Gunnarsson looked good most of the night, but missed the net with a couple of shots. Kadri will need to play infinitely better the rest of the preseason or he’ll be starting the year in the AHL.

Honestly, the best efforts I saw tonight came mostly from the newcomers. Armstrong busted his ass all night, and I can already tell I like him on the team. Versteeg played well across the wing from him on the top line, and would have had at least one goal if he hadn’t gotten hauled down and drawn a penalty. Mike Zigomanis was the closest of any Leaf to scoring, putting one off the post late in the 3rd.

We’ll look a bit closer at some of the Leafs’ individual performance, but for now, it’s time to get into that old Leaf-fan habit of immediately putting one game behind us and looking forward to the next one. Good thing we get a rematch tomorrow night, and, based on the frequent fisticuffs in tonight’s game (3-0 Leafs in that department), there’s probably a good chance that big, bad Colton Orr will be in the lineup.

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Tags: Brett Lebda Carl Gunnarsson Colby Armstrong Dion Phaneuf Jonas Gustavsson Jussi Rynnas Kris Versteeg Mike Zigomanis Nazem Kadri Ottawa Senators Tomas Kaberle Toronto Maple Leafs

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