The Toronto Maple Leafs still seem to be working through systemic issues, learning new defensive and neutral zone systems, but the shots against remain a red flag.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs Buffalo Sabres Player Notes
Tyler Bozak – Had an up and down first game. Bozak had three points, but he also gave up the puck in the middle of the D zone leading to a goal, and had an opportunity to make a play on another puck during a different goal against (albeit, it was a tough play and bouncing puck). Was nice to see him producing without Kessel though, and he showed some of his crafty work which can be a little underrated. He does have a deceptively good shot and elevated the puck quickly in tight to beat Neuvirth. Also threw a crisp and strong back door pass with ease, and created some turnovers leading to scoring chances.
Joffrey Lupul – Had some nice zone entries, curling up around the top of the circle and finding the open man in deep. Appears uncomfortable when he’s on the right wing and trying to pass it back to the point; when he plays his off wing he’s excellent at shielding the puck with his back and passing it to the point on his forehand. In this game, he set up Phaneuf for his goal on the left side of the ice off the cycle. His skating has been good so far and he looks strong and ready to go for the real thing.
Josh Leivo – Sent a statement tonight that he’s serious about making the opening night roster. Three points, but all in different fashions. An assist from working the cycle, an assist from working a give and go, and a goal from going to the net. Was strong on the puck along the wall in the offensive zone which allowed him to create space and opportunities, and he had some solid chip outs of the defensive zone (although he also had a nice fall leading to a long cycle for Buffalo; it happens). He didn’t look out of place in the NHL last year, set a Marlies rookie record for goals, and is having a good camp so far. One more game like that and it will be extremely hard to send him down.
Nazem Kadri – Only played 15 minutes and change. Made a nice flip pass to the point leading to a goal and created some good cycles. Frankly, it looked like a game where the Leafs wanted to get Bozak some ice time and see what Holland/Carrick could do. Kadri’s line appeared sheltered and Carlyle was (rightfully) looking at other players. Nazem’s been one of the better players on the ice in each of his first two preseason games. With Bozak looking good with Lupul and Leivo (it’s only one game), it’s time to try Kadri with Kessel again for a full preseason game and see what happens.
David Clarkson – Had a good start to the game, working the cycle and winning battles down low to not only knock the puck loose, but retrieve it all on his own, too. Went to the net and got his stick on a point shot, and overall began to play the game people expected of him. But, and there’s always a but, he fought a plug and got hurt. Now we wait to hear the aftermath of that closed eye.
William Nylander – Only played 13 minutes and wasn’t very electric, but he had his moments and didn’t make a big mistake like his backhand sauce pass against Ottawa that led to a goal. Got crunched into the boards pretty hard behind the offensive net, which we’ve seen a few times; he simply isn’t physically ready to compete with the strength and size of NHL D-men in the corners. When he gets the puck in open ice he’s still as dangerous as ever, though. Nylander has flashed enough to think that he’s going to be a productive NHLer down the road, but now isn’t his time.
Peter Holland – He has a prime opportunity to be a 3C starting game 1, and he isn’t seizing it. Didn’t make any glaring errors, but again he didn’t make impact plays showing he’s ready to go and produce. We saw this last year with Colborne, so you can’t give up on him, but he just might not be ready to produce to start the year if this continues.
Leo Komarov – Nice keep and bury on a 2v1, which we didn’t really see in his first go around on the Leafs. In his short stint in the NHL he had hands of stone, and while he isn’t suddenly skilled, his play so far suggests there’s a little more offence to be tapped. Was effective again on the penalty kill. He’s replacing Kulemin there essentially, and while he isn’t as big or as strong, he reads the game a little better and extends his stick to block off passing lanes well. Made a few nice bounce passes off the boards to get the puck to the point on the 5v5 cycle.
Brandon Kozun– Speed was noticeable; like every game he got pasted a few times and got right back up. Made a quick pass to Komarov in the neutral zone leading to a goal. Didn’t have the dominant cycle shifts that he had in previous games, and his effectiveness is starting to slow down as he plays against more and more NHLers. Komarov fed him a few poor passes when he was in mid stride streaking down the wall too, though.
Sam Carrick – Fought Chris Stewart, took a piece off of Tyler Myers then grappled with him, killed penalties, also got a good piece of Zadorov and had a nice rush in the third period creating a rebound opportunity. He did a bit of everything, and he’s really leapt off the page for one positive thing or another in all three preseason games he’s played in so far. And, maybe most importantly for the Leafs, he can play centre. Like Leivo, he’s making a case to start with the big boys.
Troy Bodie – Stride elongated today for the first time and began getting in on the forecheck. Wasn’t on the puck working the walls, which is where his game was at the end of last season. He can play an okay shift, we know that, but he isn’t doing anything to demand that he start the season in the opening 12.
Daniel Winnik – Played the type of game I’d expect from him on a nightly basis. He worked the wall a few times hard (one leading to the Polak goal), killed penalties, had a few shots on net, and took a regular shift.
Dion Phaneuf – Continued his trend of taking more wrist shots, and he scored on a nice short side snipe. Looks comfortable getting the puck in the offensive zone on his strong side, and is pinching in, which he never really did before. He led the team with 3 SOG. Noticeably playing more up tight in the neutral zone and pressuring guys. Needs to stop yelling “wheel” at his partner and instead get open to provide an outlet. Hilarious sidenote from long-time Phaneuf supporter, ‘wiski’—Dion had a Gordie Howe hat trick tonight.
Peter Granberg – Was unfairly criticized on the McCormick goal for backing in– it was a slapshot from the blue line, your goalie should save that and you shouldn’t lunge yourself out of position to prevent it. Played a lot with Dion and with neither of them being fast skaters, it hurts both for quick transitions and skating out of trouble.
Stuart Percy – The only defenseman tonight who consistently reversed the play and helped his D partner out. The first time on the PP he was not assertive and deferred the puck even though he was the QB, but the second time he relaxed, walked the line, and let go of a nice low shot which was tipped in for a goal. He was getting beat in his last preseason game, and showed a lot of progress tonight.
Korbinian Holzer – Wasn’t assertive, nor did he do anything spectacular, but he wasn’t a problem either. Just took a regular shift and was solid on the PK (as usual).
Roman Polak – Some scary no look passes into the middle of the ice in his own zone, but also showed something sneaky about him– he doesn’t mind pinching into the slot in the offensive zone when the cycle is occurring. Was more controlled in his physicality in the corners compared to his first outing, which was nice to see
Henrik Tallinder – Really feel for Tallinder getting hurt on a PTO. Hope he recovers and doesn’t have to end his NHL career this way.
Player notes from Anthony Petrielli
Toronto Maple Leafs vs Buffalo Sabres
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