Leafs lose 3-2 to the Flyers in the shootout, JVR is still awesome so whatever

Steve Dangle
September 16 2013 09:40PM

The Leafs lost a preseason game. We'll be holding a jersey-burning ceremony outside of the Air Canada Centre tomorrow at noon. Bring your flame-throwers.

Seriously though, the Leafs lost a tight game to the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 at the Air Canada Centre.

The lovely and talented Cam Charron usually writes the postgame blogs here at TLN, but he's out saving kittens from trees and talking to dozens of beautiful women right now, so I'm going to fill in for him. This isn't going to be a very stats-heavy post. Instead, it will be more on what I noticed.

Monday's game was a little more NHL-heavy for the Leafs. Sunday's game saw the Leafs use a lot more kids, while Monday's roster had six regulars from the Leafs lineup last season, including what was often their top line in van Riemsdyk, Bozak, and Kessel. JVR had the Leafs' first goal with a snipe on Flyers goalie Cal Heeter, who played the entire game and didn't allow three goals on four shots like Steve Mason did the night before.

This game also marked the blue and white debut of both Jonathan Bernier and David Clarkson. Bernier wasn't challenged much in his period-and-a-half of work, but he looked good in the Leafs' net, stopping 15 of 16 shots. The only goal Bernier allowed, a Luke Schenn point shot to tie the game at 1-1, would have probably gone wide had it not bounced off of Mark Fraser in front.

David Clarkson was getting into the mix all game, getting physical and beaking guys at every opportunity. He also added a goal in the shootout, using a little heel kick-forehead-backhand move. That's usually a gimme in chel. For me, anyway. I'm great.

Clarkson got a roughing minor midway through the second frame from a minor altercation he had with Nicklas Grossmanm, who promptly slammed Clarkson to the ice. Kessel was also chippy in the early going, getting two slashing penalties in the first half of the game.

I like guys showing tenacity and being competitive as much as the next guy, even if it is just preseason hockey, but seeing Kessel and Clarkson mixing it up in preseason games makes me a bit nervous. We've already seen one close call for a star with Alex Ovechkin suffering a brutal high stick that just narrowly missed his eye. Hockey's a tough game, so it's to be expected, but you'd hate to see a key part of your team get injured in a game that doesn't even count in the standings.

Jake Gardiner was named the 1st star of the game on NHL.com. He played more than anybody on the Leafs or Flyers with 25:18 in ice time and was a plus one. He didn't really have any particularly shining moments. There was one play late in the game where Gardiner made a bad pinch, the Flyers got a 3-on-1, but Gardiner flew back in time to help out a bit.

Jamie Devane put the Leafs up 2-1 in the second with a blast from the point. I doubt many people saw that coming. Many have him written off as just a face-puncher, but like fellow Leafs prospect David Broll, he's been trying to shake that stigma with some solid play in camp this September. 

Drew MacIntyre replaced Bernier in net for the second half, and he stole the show for a little while. He stopped 13 of 14 shots, including at least four great saves in the second frame. The one goal he allowed, a solid slap shot by Bruno Gervais in the third period, probably should have been stopped.

In the shootout, MacIntyre left something to be desired. Four of the seven Flyers shooters scored on him, including a trickler that went over the line at the speed of smell that MacIntyre just couldn't flick out in time. The Flyers scored four, the Leafs scored three, Bob's your uncle and the Flyers win.

The good news is three Leafs scored in the shootout, which you couldn't say last season. JVR added to his regulation goal, and Clarkson potted one as I mentioned earlier. Tyler Bozak, the only Leaf to score in the shootout last season, scored another one in this game. Say what you will about Bozak playing with Kessel, and I often do, but he's dirty in the shootout. In fact, he's pretty dangerous on the breakaway in regulation, too. 

The one gear-grinder for me was that Kessel missed in the shootout. Again. Listen, he is hands-down one of the fastest, most lethal players in all of hockey. He's fast as lightning and he has a shot that's even faster. But he stinks in the shootout. He missed both his shootout attempts in 2012-13, went 1-for-7 in 2011-12, and 1-for-8 in 2010-11. Since his first two seasons in Boston when he went a very respectable 9-for-20, Kessel has gone 3-for-26 in the shootout. I don't care if he breaks all of Gretzky's records - stop using him in the shootout for a while, unless he turns into a shootout magician in practice. I know it's preseason, but I said this during last regular season as well. Like it or not, shootout points matter. Maybe it'll even out and he'll score in the shootout again like he once did in Boston, but until then, he's in a hell of a slump in that department.

You can catch the Leafs' next preseason game on Thursday as they visit the Ottawa Senators. What will the roster be like? Who's going to get cut by then? Keep checking us out here at TLN and we'll keep you posted!

In the meantime, what have you thought about the preseason Leafs?

EDITOR'S NOTE

This tweet is a very good point.

Kessel is the Leafs' best scorer. Period. They need him to be better in shootouts. Not putting him in any won't help him improve. Practicing will. So why not use him in exhibition games, which for stars like him are just that - practice. My point still remains that Kessel has been brutal in the shootout, but this guy's right. If he's going to improve, he's got to do it.

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Steve Dangle has a YouTube channel with over 3 million views and is the co-host of the Steve Dangle Podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud. Steve has also worked for CBC, the NHL Network, Leafs TV, Nike, the KHL, and most of all, the Toronto Zoo. stevedangle.com
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#1 nonikhanna
September 17 2013, 12:18AM
Trash it!
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Hey Steve is there no podcast for tonight?

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#2 Ella A
September 17 2013, 04:54AM
Trash it!
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I love when "facepunchers" can actually play.... Makes me feel less nervous about having them in a lineup. I'm optimistic that maybe Carlyle might have something to do with it too, as he also mentioned giving McLaren a broader role (on the penalty kill, once his finger decides to reattach itself). As a whole, I was less than excited about a lot (but not all) of the moves this summer, but I will gladly reconsider if the "facepunchers" are encouraged to play and play well.

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#3 Arny
September 17 2013, 07:45AM
Trash it!
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I thought TJ Brennan played a solid game. Moved the puck well, a cannon of a shot from the point. Wouldn't be surprised to see him remain on the team as a good depth defenseman, or perhaps turn into something more?

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#4 simon
September 17 2013, 10:52AM
Trash it!
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Kessel sucks at the shoot out because he isn't a threat to go to his back hand. Like at all. I honestly can't remember him ever scoring on a backhand, shootout or otherwise.

I'm not sure this is fixable either, largely because of one issue: Kessel uses a really long stick for a player his size.

Using this stick, he has one of the best snap shots in the game, and the length probably helps him keep possession against bigger players.

The consequence of such a long stick for a shorter player however is a terrible backhand shot, which Kessel basically never uses as a result.

But Kessel probably shouldn't change his stick, given that he's already a top NHL player, and losing anything off of that killer snap shot would be a disaster.

Bottom line: it isn't a slump, Kessel will likely never be a great option on the shoot out unless he develops a back hand. Somehow.

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