The Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the rival Ottawa Senators 4-2 in preseason action last night. It was a solid effort all around. Granted, it was only preseason but a lot of the projected starters played so take the game for what it’s worth.
Now time to get into detail about the win. Here are 5 things (good and bad) from last nights performance.
1. Tyler Bozak and co. were terrific.
The line combination of Nazem Kadri, Tyler Bozak, and Colby Armstrong combined for 3 of the Leafs’ 4 goals last night. Bozak with 2 and Colby with the other. In all, the line combined for 5 points on the night and were strong all night. Even though Nazem Kadri didn’t record a point, he seemed to play well (both ways). Initially I was a little concerned putting him in a 3rd line, 2 way role, but after last night, I’m fully on board with having him as a 3rd line player (for the time being).
A little more on Bozak. He was the player I was most impressed with last night. Not only did his 3 points impress me, but his overall game. He was 6 of 8 on faceoffs ( the most wins from either team).
2. Rebirth of the Leafs’ special teams?
One of the things that has really killed the Leafs for a number of years now is their inability on special teams. They’ve finished 28th on the penalty kill last year and 22nd in powerplay percentage. Last night showed that this year may be a different story. The Leafs scored 2 powerplay goals last night and were perfect on the penalty kill. One thing that really stood out about the PK was how aggressive the players are. They always seemed to have at least one player dogging whoever was carrying it up ice for the Senators. Could this be a sign of good things to come?
3. The “MacRussian” line (still) looks legit.
The Leafs’ best line last year was the grouping of breakout sensation Clarke MacArthur, up and coming Nikolai Kulemin and talented centre Mikhail Grabovski. Last night they looked like they still had that same great chemistry. Even though they only combined for 1 point, they still seemed to always know where each other was at all times. It remains to be seen if they can put up the same numbers as last year but so far the chemistry is still there.
4. Mikhail Grabovski still struggles on faceoffs.
A major problem why Mikhail Grabovski isn’t a #1 centre is because of his low faceoff percentage. Since he has come to Toronto, Grabovski has never had a percentage over 50%. He did come (very) close in ’09-’10 with 49.8% but he also only played 59 games that year so it could have gone further down. He was 4 for 12 last night, which is obviously really bad. If he wants to take the next step, he needs to improve his faceoffs greatly.
5. The Gardiner Expressway looked impressive.
In a trade that sent struggling defenseman Francois Beauchemin to Anaheim for underrated sniper Joffrey Lupul, a 2013 4th round pick and former 1st round pick: Jake Gardiner. I believe Gardiner was the centerpiece of the that trade on the Leafs’ end. He has very good offensive upside with adequate defensive ability. Many think his career potential is an above average 2nd defensive pairing defenseman. I really like him. In his last year at the University of Wisconsin he had 10 goals and 31 assists (41 points) in 41 games. That’s a point-per-game as a defenseman. Last night he chipped in 2 assists and showed really good speed. He may not start the year with the big club right out of camp with the logjam that’s already there but I think he’ll get at least 15-20 games this year.
As I said at the beginning though, this is only preseason. The first preseason game for that matter so take it for what it’s worth.
Other good things: Kenny Ryan’s shot blocking, Dion Phaneuf’s (clean) hit, and Ben Scrivens’ impressive goaltending.