By Stan Smith
We are going to start with the biggest “Ugly” of this game. The Maple Leafs were up 4-2 at the 11:40 mark of the third period and seemed to be in control of this game but then gave up three goals in 8:50 of play in the third period and 30 seconds of overtime to lose 4-3.
There was a smaller “Ugly” that had a bearing on the outcome of the game. Just over two minutes after the Maple Leafs went up 4-2, the Canadiens had the Maple Leafs’ fourth line of David Kampf, Noah Gregor, and Ryan Reaves caught in their zone for over a minute.
Max Domi Got Mauled
Max Domi got completely mauled by Montreal defenseman Arber Khekaj inside the Maple Leafs’ blue line as Domi was attempting to exit the zone with the puck. Khekaj got a glove in Domi’s face and then grabbed him by the shoulder with enough force to spin Domi completely around. There was no call on the play.
The contact created a turnover; and, ten seconds later the puck was in the Toronto net from a point shot by Johnathon Kovacevic. That turnover was partially his fault. Domi has to realize he has a 6-foot-4 physical player bearing down on him. He also has to react faster with the puck. He shouldn’t put himself in the vulnerable position he was in. But what Khekaj did was at the very least holding and possibly roughing as well.
After stopping all 17 shots he faced in his first outing in the preseason, Ilya Samsonov did not have the greatest game. In this one, he gave up five goals on 26 shots. Three of those goals were scored on Montreal’s last eight shots of the game. Visually, I thought Samsonov didn’t look comfortable the whole game. He appeared to be fighting the puck. It was only Samsonov’s second start in the preseason. I am sure he will get another full game in before the home opener against the Habs.
The Maple Leafs’ power play went 1 for 5 in the game and gave up a shorthanded goal with 12 seconds remaining in the second period. Interestingly enough, it was the first time in the preseason all five members of the number one power play unit from last season dressed in a game.
Is Max Domi Penalty Prone?
After taking a penalty on his first shift of an earlier preseason game, Domi took a slashing penalty on his second shift of this game. The Canadiens scored 35 seconds into this power play. I hope this doesn’t become an issue for Domi.
Although William Nylander and Domi combined to score the goal that put the Maple Leafs up 3-1 in the game, the line of Nylander, Domi, and Nick Robertson did not look that effective in this game. For the most part, Robertson was pretty invisible. Nylander had a good game. But, at times he appeared to be the on the ice by himself.
The Fourth Line Was the Worst for the Maple Leafs
The fourth line of Kampf, Gregor, and Reaves was the Maple Leafs’ worst line. They spent a lot of their ice time in their own zone. How much time? According to Capfriendly.com, at five on five, they were on the ice for 8.4 percent of Expected Goals For and 91.6 percent of Expected Goals Against.
Gregor did open the scoring in the game with an assist from Reaves. That goal was more on Jake Allen misplaying a harmless-looking shot that should never get past an NHL goalie though.
Should the Maple Leafs Keep Gregor?
While Gregor has looked pretty good on his PTO, I don’t know if he has looked any better than Pontus Holmberg, Alex Steeves, or Robertson. Rather than filling a roster spot with Gregor by offering him a contract, I would rather the Maple Leafs give themselves the flexibility of moving Marlies players in and out of the lineup during the regular season.
In their first preseason game together, you could see some rust in Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner’s game. It was evident in this game as well. They both had their chances and showed some of their usual flair, but the timing was still off a bit. They were on the ice together for the shorthanded goal and the game-winning goal in overtime.
The third member of that line, Tyler Bertuzzi wasn’t effective at all in this game. He appeared to be chasing the play most of the night and didn’t appear ready when Marner or Matthews did get him the puck.
It’s Only Preseason, But …
I want to close the “Bad” part of my post with a caveat that this is only the preseason. But, it was also the first time most of these players had skated together this season. My judgment of these players was how I perceived their play in this particular game just as I would any other game.
The best line in this game for the Maple Leafs was by far the John Tavares, Matthews Knies, and Sam Lafferty line. All three players have a similar element to their game and it appears to work for them. They are all tenacious when it comes to puck pursuit. None of them are afraid to go into the dirty areas of the ice. They gave the opposition little room at both ends of the ice to make plays all game long.
Tavares scored twice in this game, once on the powerplay and once at five-on-five. On the five-on-five goal, the Tavares line along with Timothy Liljegren and Jake McCabe had a shift where they were all over the Canadiens. They spent a full minute in the Montreal zone and had five shots on Jake Allen. Lafferty was stopped down low twice by Allen before Tavares one-timed a setup from Liljegren for his second goal.
For those who like to give meaning to numbers, they mentioned in the broadcast that last season Tavares had 18 power-play goals, 18 even-strength goals, 18 goals at home, and 18 goals on the road.
The Maple Leafs Regular Defensemen
The Maple Leafs dressed four of their regular defensemen in his game, Morgan Rielly, TJ Brodie, Jake Mccabe, and Timothy Liljegren. Of the four, Liljegren stood out as the best. He assisted on both of the Tavares’ goals. He also led the team in minutes played at 23:01 and played 2:58 on the powerplay and 2:22 on the penalty. Liljegren was rewarded for his play in the game by starting the overtime which unfortunately ended badly for him. But, all in all, it was a strong showing for Liljegren.
Sheldon Keefe announced that the injury to Conor Timmins will be “week to week” as opposed to month to month. It would benefit the team for Timmins to be placed on LTIR to start the season. It sorts out the salary cap issues to a point. The Maple Leafs can ice a 12-forward, six-defense lineup for the start of the season.
John Klingberg’s status is still day-to-day. With over a week before the season opener, I am going to guess he will be ready.
The Maple Leafs made their first cuts sending the majority of the Marlies team down. The Marlies play their first of two exhibition games on Thursday against Laval. None of the players sent down had to clear waivers. Both Fraser Minton and Easton Cowan remain with the Maple Leafs.
The Maple Leafs play the Detroit Red Wings at home on Thursday and close out the preseason with a visit to the Little Caesars Arena in Detroit on Saturday.