By Stan Smith
The Toronto Maple Leafs pushed their preseason record to 4-1 with a 5-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Monday night. Once again, we will look at the game’s good, bad, and ugly takeaways.
The ugly part of last night for me was me. I was not a happy camper. I pay for a sports package and the NHL Live package with my television. I live in the combined Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens region. The game last night was on TSN2, TSN4, RDS, and NHL Live.
I discovered that my sports package gives me TSN1, TSN3, TSN4, and TSN5 but not TSN2. TSN4, which is not my region was blacked out. NHL Live was blacked out because the game was available on TSN2 and RDS. I don’t have RDS on my package (something I plan to change).
I was not able to watch the complete game last night. I listened to some of it on the radio but I cannot analyze what I can’t see.
I am basing my report on the highlights I was able to watch from the Maple Leafs’ and the Canadiens’ feeds. As a result, I am sure I missed things from this game and for that, I apologize.
From what I saw there was lots of good in this game if you are a Maple Leafs’ fan. It involved more NHL players and players who will most likely start the season for each team. While still not an NHL game that counts, it is the closest thing to it we have seen in the preseason.
The Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and Michael Bunting line was intact. With John Tavares out head coach Sheldon Keefe had Alex Kerfoot between William Nylander and Nick Robertson.
The third was made up of Pontus Holmberg, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, and Zach Aston-Reese. The fourth line was Adam Gaudette, Denis Malgin, and Alex Steeves. Matt Murray got the start.
Nylander, Robertson, Kerfoot Dominant
The Kerfoot, Nylander, Robertson line stole the show. Nylander led the way with two goals and an assist, Robertson had three assists and Kerfoot added two snipes. That line combined for 13 of the 31 Maple Leafs’ shots in the game.
From what I saw in the highlights that line did not just rely on talent and fortuitous bounces, they worked hard with the puck and worked hard to get the puck.
Robertson started things off by taking a tip-pass from Kerfoot in the first minute of play and drew a hooking penalty that led to the power play where Nylander opened the scoring from Marner and Bunting.
Robertson followed that with a relentless forecheck in the Montreal zone to get the puck to a wide-open Nylander who went skate, forehand, backhand, roof, for his second goal.
Shortly after, the Canadiens scored a power-play goal of their own to make the game 3-1 Maple Leafs Nylander won a battle in the corner to get the puck back to Robertson who relayed the puck to Kerfoot. Kerfoot scored from an impossible angle as Habs’ goalie Jake Allen must have expected him to pass the puck. Allen moved away from his left post leaving the short side wide open.
On the fifth Maple Leafs’ goal, which was a power-play goal, Kerfoot corralled the rebound of a Robertson shot and backhanded it over a sprawling Allen.
Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Robertson, Murray & Muzzin
Murray Was Solid
Matt Murray had another solid outing for the Maple Leafs. After stopping all 16 shots over two periods in his first outing, he stopped 29 of 30 shots in this game, allowing just the one power-play goal by Jonathan Drouin when the Maple Leafs were up 3-0.
Murray’s best save of the night was a glove save on Montreal’s first pick in the 2022 entry draft, Slovakia’s Juraj Slafkovsky.
Both Murray and Ilya Samsonov have looked sharp to this point in the preseason.
I hate to pick on Justin Holl, but there were some plays in the game where he was either a step behind or way out of position.
Holl was at center ice, nowhere near the puck, or any Canadien’s player, creating the two-on-one where Murray made the big save on Slafkovsky.
Later in the game, he got stripped of the puck from behind when he jumped into the rush creating another odd-man rush the other way forcing Murray to make a big save.
In the third period, he got walked by Sean Monohan, who went in alone on Murray.
Strangely enough, and partially due to Murray’s stellar play, Holl finished the night at plus three in plus/minus.
The bottom six did their job in the game. They combined for 15 hits and gave up nothing on the scoreboard at even strength. Aston-Reese scored on a lucky bounce and Malgin tallied an assist on the Kerfoot power-play goal.
The Maple Leafs now get three days of practice before they play back-to-back games against Detroit to end the preseason. They cut ten players from the roster before the game in Montreal. I expect them to make more cuts to trim the team down to close to their opening day roster by Friday.