The Toronto Maple Leafs won their preseason opener over the Philadelphia Flyers in London, Ontario by a score of 4-3 tonight. The Leafs were powered by three first-period goals and although the Flyers came back to tie the score at 3-3, Paul Ranger scored the game-winner midway through the second frame, and the Leafs held on for the win. Here are some points I took from the contest:
Rielly Looks Like An NHLer
Morgan Rielly is obviously very young at 19 years old, but the defenseman was still very impressive tonight. He showed the skating, puck-moving and passing ability that scouts rave about, but also showed the poise and confidence of a much older player. One preseason game obviously isn’t enough for anybody to make a final decision on a young player’s fate with a team, but if he continues to play at this level, he’ll leave the Leafs’ brass with a very interesting decision when it comes time to finalize the roster.
Raymond Turns Heads
Mason Raymond didn’t garner much interest from teams when he hit the free agent market this offseason, eventually signing a professional tryout contract with the Leafs a week ago. If those teams weren’t interested before, they’ll definitely be interested now, because Raymond showed he’s still a very useful hockey player tonight. He terrorized the Flyers with his speed all game, even scoring a shorthanded breakaway goal after stripping a Flyers defenseman of the puck in the first period. The Leafs should work on getting him locked-up to a contract now, because if they don’t, teams will be lining up at the door to offer him one.
These Veterans Can Still Play
Paul Ranger and John-Michael Liles are in two very different scenarios. Ranger hasn’t played in the NHL since 2009-10, while Liles has played many games since then. Ranger was just signed to a very reasonable one-year, $1-million deal this offseason, while Liles is often the target of fan scorn for his onerous contract that still carries two more years at a $3.875-million cap hit. Despite their differences, these two players can still play, and have both made cases they deserve spots on the Leafs’ blue line. Ranger scored the game-winner after making a very smart play to join the rush to create a three-on-two, banging in a rebound. Liles looked like an older version of Rielly out there, moving the puck well and showing a lot of offensive savvy. Again, it is the preseason, but they both looked good nonetheless.
Gibson Closes The Game Out
James Reimer of the Leafs and Steve Mason of the Flyers were both taken out of the game just past the 12-minute mark of the second period, and in came the backups: Christopher Gibson for the Leafs and Anthony Stolarz for the Flyers. Gibson didn’t face a ton of work and none of the ten shots he faced were what you would call “dangerous”, but still, he acquitted himself well in his first time in an NHL crease and didn’t allow a goal. The second-round pick of the Los Angeles Kings in 2011 looked calm and collected in goal, refusing to get himself flustered or out of position. Gibson will battle Garret Sparks for the right to back up Drew MacIntyre with the Marlies, and if his play tonight is any indication, it looks like Sparks will be in tough to win that battle.