The NHL made its long awaited return Saturday, and it didn’t disappoint. Mind you, most fans have been so starved for a little hockey action that all the games could have been complete duds and nobody would have cared. The Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens 2-1 in what was anything but a classic. Nevertheless, the Leafs escaped with two points. Here a few things that stood out from game number one.
Ben Scrivens came away with the victory, but he never really gave you the sense that he is ready to take the reins between the pipes. He didn’t play poorly by any stretch of the imagination stopping 21-of-22 shots, but at times he looked a little shaky. There were a few occasions that routine shots seemed to trickle through his equipment and he wasn’t sure where the puck was. Not to mention he had some adventures behind the net playing the puck, which culminated in a Benny Hill or Mark Sanchez like spill. Scrivens picked up the win, but something tells me we will be seeing plenty of James Reimer this season.
Kostka Earning His Keep
If many were wondering who Mike Kostka was before this one, they certainly know him now. Randy Carlyle gave him a shot out of training camp, and in his debut Kostka played nearly 23 minutes and picked up an assist. He also made a few strong defensive plays and it’s good to see the excellent work by Dallas Eakins down with the Marlies starting to pay dividends at the NHL level.
Shout Out To Bozak
Although Phil Kessel was probably the best player on the ice tonight with two assists, Tyler Bozak gave him a run for his money. With rumours swirling that he could be shipped to Vancouver as part of a Roberto Luongo deal, Bozak stepped up and scored a goal, had two shots, and threw two hits. And he was rocking the classic “hockey” haircut. Bonus points for that.
Every goal in this one was scored on the power play and that could be a sign of things to come in the early part of this season. Without a ton of training camp and no exhibition games, teams haven’t had time to work a lot on the penalty kill. You could say the same thing about the power play I’m sure, but it’s always easier to play a man up, than a man down. Expect special teams to play a huge role in this shortened campaign.
This line looked really sharp and created a lot of havoc out there on the ice. Leo Komarov had a feisty effort and wasn’t afraid to throw his weight around. James van Riemsdyk was using his big body to create chances in front of the net, and Nazem Kadri scored a beautiful goal and was everywhere in the Montreal zone all night. It’s early, but this group has the potential to be very versatile for the Leafs. They can be a scoring threat as well as a checking unit if necessary. A legitimate third line has been but a mere mirage in Leaf land over the past few seasons, so this is a good sign.
P.K. Subban’s Stock Went Up
While there were some good signs for Toronto, Leaf fans should take this win with a grain of salt because Montreal looked awful. Other than Carey Price, the Canadiens struggled to do anything well and lack explosive players. There wasn’t much expected from them this season, but if they don’t get P.K. Subban signed soon, Montreal could be looking at the number one pick this summer. Which might be Marc Bergevin’s master plan after all. Well played, sir. Well played.