Postgame: No More Dress Rehearsal

It’s over, finally. The Leafs wrapped up what felt like a marathon of a preseason tonight with their final exhibition tilt against the Wings in Detroit.

Toronto had cut their camp group down to 29 players today, and perhaps the lineup for this game is what we should focus on here the most, as it gives us a good look at what we’re likely to see Wednesday when the games count. 

This is more-or-less what we thought we’d see as camp winded down, but it’s notable that Prust (who’s on a PTO), Greening, and Froese are looking at being the odd men out. Kadri didn’t suit up due to what’s being called a minor injury issue, but the assumption would be that he slots in here with JVR and Marner, bumping Bozak to Holland’s spot on the third line, or Naz just bumps Holland out himself for the season opener.

As for the blue-line, the pairings set out for this matchup were Rielly-Marincin, Gardiner-Carrick, and Zaitsev-Hunwick, with Corrado and Polak likely looking at press-box duty to start the season and Andrew Campbell certainly headed to the Marlies.

Now, to the game. The Leafs dropped a close one, 4-3, but handily out-shot the Wings 33-23 and controlled possession throughout. As far as “confidence builders” go, this game should definitely serve as that as the team moves their focus to Ottawa in the opener.


An encouraging part of this one was once again how comfortable and established the rookies – Marner, Matthews, Nylander, and Hyman especially – continued to look as this preseason wraps up. If anything, it’s almost jarring to see these kids put on such a display of talent and overshadow the longtime pros, which really hits home how bad this team has been over the last few years. The Nylander-Matthews-Hyman line, which appears to be a sure thing now, was especially dominant tonight. They’re going to be a handful on a lot of nights. 

Some brutal breakdowns in their own zone continued (and will continue) to cost the Leafs dearly but that’s to be expected with such a young and unfamiliar group (or with Matt Hunwick on the ice). It didn’t help that at the other end of the rink Mrazek was a major difference-maker. 

Now Toronto will have a few days to work on some things with their final group after some cuts tomorrow, and Andersen looks like he needs to clean up his game before it gets serious on Wednesday. Either way, if the team can play like they did tonight they’ll be a lot of fun to watch on a lot of nights this year. Who knows, they might even win a few. 

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