By Stan Smith & The Old Prof
The first two exhibition games of the 2022 preseason are in the books for the Maple Leafs as they split Saturday’s doubleheader with the Ottawa Senators, winning the first game 4-1 and losing the nightcap 4-2.
While these are just two preseason games and the first time that 40 Maple Leafs’ players had competed in games this season, there are some nuggets to take away from the matches.
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William Nylander came to play. He was the best player on the ice for either team in both games. He was dangerous every time he touched the puck and was not shy about going into the dirty areas of the ice. If he continues to play as he did in this game, it should be exciting to watch.
Denis Malgin was the second-best player in the first game of the two. He continually demonstrated his playmaking ability. Again, it is just one game, and a game where his adrenaline was high, but if he keeps playing like that he has a good chance of making the opening day roster.
We just want to add that Nylander, Malign, and Pontus Holmberg were tasked for the majority of the game with facing the number-one line of Tim Sutzle, Claude Giroux, and Alex DeBrincat. They looked good doing it.
Ilya Samsonov, Erik Kallgren, and Dylan Ferguson all played well. The only goalie of the three to allow a goal was Kallgren on Tim Stutzle’s breakaway. Ferguson looked a little shaky at first when he came in in relief of Kallgren to start the third period and was almost beaten by a slow-motion shot that changed direction, but he settled in and played well the rest of the way.
The most impressive thing about Samsonov was his quickness. A couple of times he looked like he was out of position only to recover and make the save.
Calle Jarnkrok has a good quick shot. On both of his goals and the post he hit that would have given him the hat trick, he didn’t take a big windup like some players do when trying one-timers. His first goal was a wrist shot that was on and off his stick in an instant. The other two shots were quick snapshots with little windup. If Keefe wants to remove Alex Kerfoot from that second line, Jarnkrok gave a great audition for the role in this game.
While Adam Gaudette did not do much with the puck playing alongside John Tavares and Mitch Marner, he played a good game without it. He also showed some physicality in his play. He acknowledged in a between-periods interview that he recognizes the physical role he has to play to be a part of this lineup. We could see his offence being a little off kilter as he gets used to the 20-plus lbs he put on over the summer.
Sheldon Keefe stated that players like Wayne Simmonds and Kyle Clifford were going to have to earn a spot in the lineup. Simmonds played exactly how he has to accomplish that. He seemed faster than he was last season and much more engaged. The Maple Leafs took the first game over in the second period and Simmonds played a big part in that.
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Maybe calling this the bad isn’t quite correct. Perhaps it would be better named the so-so. But, using the phrase “the good the so-so, and the ugly” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
With the Maple Leafs being depleted on defence, both Victor Mete and Jordie Benn might be in the lineup to start the season. We just hope it isn’t together. Both Mete and Benn got caught out of position several times in this game and was guilty of following the puck out to the blue line or into the corner while not engaging anyone and leaving opposing players uncovered in front of their net. Benn had a couple of ill-timed pinches as well. Interestingly enough, the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Mete seemed more physical than the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Benn.
We debated on whether this next thing should go in the bad or the ugly. Ultimately Keith Petruzelli giving up three goals on ten shots falls into the latter category. We don’t place much importance on those goals, however. Petruzzelli is signed to an AHL contract and is ranked between fifth and sixth for goalie depth in the organization. Plus he’s only 23 and his pro career to date consists of 23 games in the ECHL and five in the AHL.
Justin Holl scored a goal and added an assist, but on the Tim Stutzle goal, Holl jumped up from his defensive position and followed the puck deep into the Senators’ zone about a step and a half behind the play. He had no chance of actually doing anything. That left Giordano alone at the Maple Leafs’ blue line where he was caught flatfooted by Stutzle.
We just want to add that there were some good and bad plays by several Maple Leafs’ players that we didn’t have the space to mention here. The ones we have itemized here were the ones that stood out the most.
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