In many ways, the Toronto Maple Leafs delivered what was expected in their season-opening victory over their original-six rival the Montreal Canadiens.
The Toronto Maple Leafs displayed offensive wizardry and filled the opposition’s net. They also made mental gaffes and defensive miscues that are to be expected in the first game of the season, but which are probably not anything to worry about (thinking specifically about a couple big gaffes by Brodie and Liljegren, both of whom otherwise played well).
In the end, the home crowd went home happy and abundantly entertained. The Leafs came up with a win, but there was no shortage of items for head coach Sheldon Keefe and his staff to address.
The Minnesota Wild are the next opponent on the schedule. With it comes another snapshot of this new Leafs team and trends that may develop, good or bad.
Toronto Maple Leafs Second Chance to Make a First Impression
Much offseason noise surrounded the acquisition of new players John Klingberg, Ryan Reaves, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Max Domi.
Their first appearance in front of the hometown fans was a mixed bag.
Bertuzzi showed flashes during the game, but time will be needed before he gets in sync with superstar linemates Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.
On one particular play, at the edge of the Canadiens goal crease, Marner delivered a beautiful behind-the-back pass, that an unexpecting Bertuzzi whiffed on.
In Bertuzzi’s defense, Marner’s pass was slightly off target, perhaps not knowing exactly where his new linemate was. The first game showed more time is needed for the top line to mesh.
Domi didn’t have a memorable debut. No doubt he was fighting nerves in father Tie’s old stomping grounds.
A game that featured lots of special teams play limited his flow on a regular shift. He also had a terrible own-zone giveaway that led to Montreal’s fourth goal.
Klingberg and Reaves did what was expected.
Reaves delivered a couple of hits, followed up by a fight on the same shift, that temporarily ignited an otherwise sleepy crowd for a season-opener.
Klingberg contributed two assists, one a gorgeous power-play feed on William Nylander’s goal. He also made an underrated nice play on the third-period tying goal, keeping the puck in at the blue line.
He and his defence partner Jake McCabe, however, were absolutely destroyed at even strength. This is probably what the Leafs will get with Klingberg.
The surprise of camp, Fraser Minten, was not very noticeable against the Habs. This is to be expected for a teenager making his NHL debut at home.
Clean Up In Aisle 3
Three past concerns for the Toronto Maple Leafs continued to be evident in their game against the Canadiens.
Mental lapses, overpassing or careless passing, and giveaways were all part of the ugliness. You could see the pain and frustration in the close-ups of Keefe behind the Leafs bench.
The Toronto Maple Leafs had multiple offensive-zone penalties. Infractions far away from your team’s net can not happen.
During the first half of the game, the Leafs appeared to be passing too much or were careless with the puck.
Toronto Maple Leafs: What to Watch For vs The Wild
The Wild is a team that looks to counterattack off of the opposition’s turnovers. The Leafs are unlikely to get another victory if they aren’t more careful.
The Leafs power play continued to impress after one game of the new NHL season. They officially scored two goals while up a player, but also scored two goals with goaltender Ilya Samsonov pulled for an extra attacker.
New assistant coach Guy Boucher will gain lots of fans should the Leafs improve their already potent power play.
The Wild, with last year’s top-ten-ranked PK unit, should provide a tougher test during Saturday night’s game.
Whether backup goaltender Joseph Woll is used in this game or Monday against Chicago, the Leafs will be looking to tighten things up defensively. If Samsonov is in the net, he will want to put the opener behind him and rebound with a better performance.
The Leafs could also use a boost from the hometown crowd for their first Saturday night home game. Mid-week crowds at Scotiabank Arena have a history of being stagnant or indifferent, but the season’s first-weekend tilt should see an uptick in energy.
The matchup with the Wild is the Toronto Maple Leafs second of three home games to start the season. With a difficult, five-game road trip looming, they must bank some points now.