Leafs Postgame: Doesn’t Matter, Got Marner


The Leafs kicked off their preseason in Halifax, Nova Scotia. A bunch of the team’s top players were out due to their cameos at the World Cup of Hockey, Mike Babcock is still drawing up structured plays for superstars, and I assume Tyler Bozak and William Nylander had world-class donairs to attend to. All of this considered, the Leafs lineup was pretty bare.

Granted, so was the lineup of the Ottawa Senators, so that might not be a passable excuse for the 6-3 loss that we all watched tonight, but it did mean that Mitch Marner got to play top six minutes for the Leafs tonight, and oh boy, it was fun.

Like I said, the Leafs lost this game, and they weren’t helped by the fact that they let in two goals quickly. Phil Varone opened the scoring by banging home a juicy rebound in the opening minutes, and Logan Brown soon followed by making the most out of a scramble in front of the Toronto net not much later.

But then this happened, and we all got a bit excited:

The game took a very weird turn when Andreas Englund hit Nazem Kadri with a huge open ice hit. It was a completely legal blow, Kadri respected it, but Kerby Rychel looked to win some favour by standing up for his teammate. Englund had no interest in dropping the gloves, but Rychel filled him anyway. This led to a five-minute penalty and an ejection for a player who has little margin for error in this camp. What sh- oh hey, it’s Mitch again.

Eventually, the Leafs found themselves on a powerplay of their own, and Andrew Nielsen made the most of it, engaging the cycle before slipping home a point shot past Andrew Hammond to close the gap. Not long after, the very same Nielsen had a scary moment where he appeared to injure his knee, but he came back before people could start reshuffling their prospect pyramids.

The Leafs tied the game shortly after, following up a nice deke and unconverted chance by Marner with a gorgeous, Phil Kessel-esque snipe that… didn’t actually go in, but nobody actually noticed that until it was far too late.

Toronto roared into the second period with a ton of offensive pressure, taking the first ten shots of the frame. That lopsided total was encouraged by great zone exits and opportunities like this one:

And this one too:

A flurry of goals eventually came, with the Senators kicking it off first. It didn’t take long for the Leafs to bounce back, thanks to a play by Connor Brown that Jake Gardiner finished off:

But that was the last time that the Leafs would be within grasp of points in this game. Varone picked up his second rebound goal of the night after finishing off a play by Casey Bailey, and while Kasimir Kaskisuo came in to relieve Antoine Bibeau at the beginning of the third period, he fared no better as the Senators added two more tallies to give a 6-3 final score.

Ultimately, it wasn’t the result the Leafs wanted. One of their most shrewd summer acquisitions had his preseason debut cut short by a misguided choice of his own doing, Nielsen provided a brief injury scare, and neither goaltender looked particularly great. Jake Gardiner also bounced between looking in elite shape and stuck in cobwebs, and one of the Leafs’ goals shouldn’t have even counted.

But hey, Marner was the player everybody came to see tonight, and boy, he was a treat.