It’s nice that hockey is back, even if it was only a preseason game, and even if that preseason game wasn’t that particularly thrilling. Facing off in London, Ontario, the Leafs defeated the Flyers this evening by a score of 3-2, digging a hole throughout the first half of the game (as is tradition), then fighting back to force overtime and eventually win it in a shootout (which isn’t tradition at all).
It’s great to see the Leafs get a win and all, but preseason games are fun for one fun reason and one fun reason only – watching guys earn their full time roster spot. That didn’t really happen tonight, save for former top-pairing defender Korbinian Holzer, who I’d say took the early lead in winning that last ‘D’ spot.
It was a relatively uneventful first period until the Leafs took control in the final three minutes of the frame. First, a controlled zone entry (!!!) from Carter Ashton brings the puck deep into the offensive end, where Nazem Kadri picks up a loose puck and dishes to Josh Leivo in front who nearly buries it. A minute later, a back-checking Sam Carrick strips a Flyer of the puck in the neutral zone, pivots quickly, and splits two still-standing defenders for a breakaway chance. A couple shifts later, Kadri draws a penalty down low, because that’s what Kadri does and that’s what Kadri does well. The period ends 0-0, but not for lack of late chances for the Leafs. It was perhaps the best three minutes of the entire game.
That positive play didn’t exactly carry over to the second period. Matt Read would put the Flyers ahead with a power play goal, and Michael Raffl would soon after extend that lead to 2-0.
Soon after, romance would strike.
Zach Stortini would go to the box for kissing or roughing or something. I don’t know what he was called for, but I do know that Josh Leivo is a lucky boy.
Toronto would capitalize, with Kadri banging in a loose puck in the crease to cut the lead in half. Kadri would then go on to beautifully set up Tom Nilsson’s one-timer goal to tie the game up at two. I mean, look at this. It’s #breathtaking.
Skip through a rather uneventful third and a rather uneventful overtime, and we arrive at the shootout. Cal Heeter, who split the game with Chris Gibson (12 saves, 1 GA), would shutout the Flyers shooters while new Leaf David Booth would put one past Stolarz for the win. It was nice.
It was a big night for Kadri, who looked constantly dangerous in his return to his Junior hockey stomping grounds. Kadri was involved in all of the Leafs’ offence, save for Booth’s shootout snipe.
Kadri will be the Leafs’ second line centre no matter what, so it isn’t like Kadri’s performance necessarily surprised for impressed Coach Carlyle. It’ll believe Kadri has a shot at Bozak’s top billing when we see him play this well alongside Phil Kessel, perhaps sometime later in the preseason. One can dream.
- Using my eyeballs, I’ve concluded that Peter Holland and Korbinian Holzer had pretty nice games. I think Holland will get a long look for that third line centre job, and Holzer is probably the best, most logical choice to be the seventh defender over Petter Granberg and Stuart Percy. That is, unless, Henrik Tallinder earns a contract.
- I say this a lot, but I like Troy Bodie. He’s big, he’s fast, he’s got half a brain, and he’d be a fine fourth liner. Still think the Leafs’ depth at forward pushes him to the press box, or maybe even the Marlies.
- Wayne Simmonds got tossed out of the game, which was fun to watch. He’s so good, and so annoying, and so good.
- Leafs play again tomorrow night against the Flyers at the Air Canada Centre at 7:30pm. You can watch it on TSN4 or NHL Network in the U.S.