By Stan Smith
The Toronto Maple Leafs ventured to Motown to take on the Detroit Red Wings in the first game of a home-and-home series to finish the preseason. Today we will take a quick look at the good, the bad, and the ugly takeaways from the game.
Similar to their visit to Belleville when they took on the Ottawa Senators, the Maple Leafs’ lineup resembled more of an AHL team than an NHL one. The Red Wings iced a roster that could be their opening game lineup.
The Maple Leafs got the jump on the Red Wings, scoring on their first shot and building a 2-0 lead before the Red Wings got on the board late in the first period to make the game 2-1 going into the first intermission.
Adam Gaudette, Alex Steeves, and Nick Abruzzese had a nice dump and forecheck shift that led to Abruzesse scoring his second goal of the preseason on a nice feed from behind the goalline from Gaudette.
Rasmus Sandin, in his first game back since signing his new two-year deal, scored on a wrister from the point, with Nick Robertson and Denis Malgin assisting on the play.
Sandin played a strong, quiet, 22:32 minutes in his preseason debut. It included 2:44 on the powerplay and 2:45 on the penalty kill. He did let one Red Wing player get by him for a scoring chance early in the game when he tried and failed, to intercept the pass instead of playing the man. He also had some nice touches of the puck and showed some of his offensive skills in the game. According to Naturalstattrick, he finished the night with 83% of the scoring chances and 74% of the expected goals while he was on the ice at five on five.
With the talent level of the two lineups being as lopsided as it was in the Red Wings’ favour, the Maple Leafs, as a group, did a nice job of disrupting the flow of the play for the first half of the game. The Red Wings didn’t have their ninth shot on the net until the 29th minute of play.
The score of this game could have easily been six or seven to two if not for the play of Ilya Samsonov. He showed quickness and athleticism after the Red Wings tied the score at 2-2 in the second period. Samsonov made half a dozen saves to rob the Red Wings in the latter half of the second period and early in the third. On the three goals he gave up, he didn’t see two of them until he fished them out of the net as he was completely screened on both.
Samsonov finds himself in both the good and bad sections of our review. The bad was the Red Wings’ second goal when he was beaten cleanly on a quick backhand from Elmer Soderblom as he walked unmolested from the left corner of the Maple Leafs’ zone. We’re sure he would like to have that one back.
Wayne Simmonds did little to help his chances of making the opening night lineup as he was ineffective in 12:17 of ice time. He registered a single hit and was minus-1 on the night in plus/minus. He was actually outplayed by Kyle Clifford who delivered three hits in his 13:44 of play. It would not surprise us if both players found themselves on waivers by the end of training camp.
While the Robertson, Malign, and Pontus Holmberg line played a part in the Sandin goal and did provide some offence for the Maple Leafs, as the team’s top line, they were tasked with playing the majority of the game against the line of Dylan Larkin, Todd Bertuzzi, and Lucas Raymond. Once the Red Wings got rolling, the Robertson, Malign, and Holmberg line was clearly outmatched and finished the night with a collective minus-4 despite being on the ice for the Maple Leafs’ second goal.
Overall, as the night went on, and the Red Wings got their legs, they took over the game and the outcome wasn’t in doubt.
The Red Wings’ second goal may have been a pretty thing for the Detroit fans, but it was a comedy of errors for the Maple Leafs. The fivesome of Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, Bobby McMann, Max Ellis, William Villeneuve, and Marshall Rifai was caught on the ice for a minute thirty-five-second shift. Before the goal was scored they had a total of eleven touches of the puck in their zone without successfully clearing it.
By the time Detroit scored even Samsonov looked exhausted. Looking at the replay of the goal, from the time Soderblom first corrals the puck in the left corner of the zone until the puck enters the net not a single Maple Leafs’ skater takes a single stride to stop him. That is how tired they all were by that point.
The roles for each team will be reversed as they return to Toronto tonight. The Maple Leafs will be icing their NHL lineup, while the Red Wings’ roster will contain mostly AHLers and those fighting for jobs.
It will be interesting to see head coach Sheldon Keefe’s lineup for the game.