Rookie Leafs cough up late lead, beat baby Pens in shootout

Hey look! The Leafs coughed up a late le- OK there’s only so many times I can make that joke.

The Leafs remain undefeated in rookie tournament action as they top the Pittsburgh Penguins rookies 4-3 in the shootout.

Here’s a brief recap, followed by some thoughts.

I emphasized this last game, but you can’t read too much into these games. Most of these players have no idea what their linemates are like, and there’s a wide array of size and skill involved, with everyone from 18-year-old junior players, to guys in their 20’s who have some pro experience under their belt. Some guys have to step their game up, while some of the better players even need to dumb their game down.

On to the game…

Right off the bat, this quote from Toronto Marlies coach Steve Spott, who is the Leafs coach for the rookie tournament, had this quote that’s guaranteed to set the comment section on fire:

I mean, Spott has a point.

We yell and scream about how fights are useless to the game all the time. There are stats available that also suggest this. That being said, the Leafs were getting their asses kicked on the shot clock and losing 1-0, and two fights seemed to change momentum a bit. David Broll and Jamie Devane, two enormous human beings, can really chuck knucks.

Just as they did against Chicago’s rookies, the Leafs managed to capitalize on the powerplay. Matt Rupert potted the tying marker to make it 1-1 before the 1st frame was over.

Chris Gibson, who got the call in net for the Leafs in this one, made several saves before the Penguins’ 2-1 goal went in. Unltimately Gibson gave up the rebounds, but he got no help from his teammates.

Once again however, the Leafs tied it up before the period’s end. Fabrice Herzog, a 2013 Leafs pick, sniped an off-balance shot to make it 2-2 heading into the third.

About halfway through the third, Andrew Crescenzi, who Steve Spott coached with the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers, crashed the net to pot a go-ahead goal for the Leafs. 3-2 game.

Unfortunately for the Leafs, and in Leafy fashion, the Penguins scored with with goalie pulled and just 19 seconds remaining. The Pens’ extra attacker flew straight to Gibson’s crease for traffic, and Tom Kuhnhackl completely ripped a shot. 3-3 tie, overtime solves nothing, so we go to the shootout.

Stuart Percy and Brad Ross both score, Ross scoring the winner in the 4th round, and the Leafs win. Hooray!

Some thoughts…

  • The Leafs were without Morgan Rielly, Greg McKegg, Josh Leivo, Andrew MacWilliam, and Garret Sparks.
  • That’s the player that has the best chance to actually make the Leafs this season (Rielly), two of their better offensive weapons (McKegg, Leivo), one of their oldest defenceman (MacWilliam), and likely their best goalie (Sparks)
  • The votes were pretty unanimous on Twitter. Stuart Percy was the Leafs’ best player in this game.
  • Percy also scored in the shootout, which is noteworthy because the Leafs are terrible at the shootout…oh, and he’s a defenceman.
  • This isn’t new territory for Percy. I watched Mississauga use Percy in the shootout in the OHL this past season. He scored in the shootout there, too. He’s got great hands.
  • Percy didn’t have a bad game against Chicago, per se. He played a lot of minutes, and assisted on Leivo’s goal. He just had a couple rough-looking defensive plays. This game was a great "bounce-back" if we can even call it that.
  • Percy’s defensive partner and one of the Leafs better prospects Matt Finn left the game due to injury. "Shoulder stinger" according to TSN’s Mark Masters. Doesn’t sound serious, but he may miss the Leafs’ next game against the baby Sens.
  • Referee Scott Ferguson broke his ankle. Hockey’s so intense that even the refs aren’t safe.
  • More and more, I think David Broll is going to make a lot of his doubters feel really stupid. We had Broll at 20th in our Top 20 Leafs list. He has been cast as a goon. After watching his fight, it’s easy to see how he got that perception. Despite that, Broll had at least two scoring chances by my count, including a sneaky stealing play that saw him zip around the net and almost set up a goal. Like I said last game, Broll’s speed for his size is surprising. There’s a reason they call him the Brolldozer.
  • Carter Verhaeghe is another player that’s proving people wrong in these games. We didn’t even rank him in our Top 20, and for the second straight game he was one of Toronto’s more active offensive players. If you watch Herzog’s goal, the main reason he had such a wide-open shot is because the Penguins locked in on Verhaeghe. If the Penguins identified Verhaeghe as a scoring threat, surely the Leafs’ management is thinking the same.
  • Brad Ross continues to look like he’s too good for this level of hockey. He’s one of the few full-time pros on this squad.

Here are the highlights for the game in case you missed it. Since the Broll fight isn’t included in the highlight pack, I will embed that separetly underneath.

Oh, and happy birthday to TLN writer Justin Fisher. Drunk bastard.

  • Broll is a tough guy that can actually play. I would have put him in the top 15 among prospects. He can hang on to the puck and make a good pass

    Another tough guy, Jamie Devane had a an assist. He surged past his man, got to the puck first in the corner and threw it out to his center for the goal. Colton Orr doesn’t do that.

    An interesting thing about Broll is that he can also play center. You can see it in the way he distributes the puck. Biggs, Broll, Devane would be a very intimidating line for the Marlies this year and perhaps for the Leafs 4th line sometime in the future. In short, our face punchers are becoming better hockey players.