September 19 2013 08:26PM
I'm never quite sure how to write about preseason contests. I feel like the majority of the hockey world is looking for something different than I am. I don't attempt to look for the matchups and possession battles that I would in a regular season contest and dissect how players did relative to others in the league.
When I was a kid, I'd known preseason contests as "exhibition" games, marked with a '†' symbol on those little pocket schedules you could grab at a grocery store. I would have been about four or five years old, but the term 'exhibition game' stuck with me. It wasn't until a couple of years ago that these became available for public consumption, but tonight's Maple Leafs and Senators contest was broadcast nationwide on the largest sports cable channel in Canada.
Toronto won 3-2.
It was a good hockey game, and enjoyable to watch. A lot of players from both teams were skating well, and while they were a little behind on passing and shooting, I appreciate good skating more than anything. It's something to watch players play effortlessly.
There's nothing to "look" for in these games. I was going to pay modest attention to the Mason Raymond, David Bolland and Nikolai Kulemin unit, but they weren't put together as much as I was expecting they would. The Leafs had to kill a lot of penalties in the early going of the game, which consumed a lot of the ice-time Bolland could give you, and he'd been playing with Carter Ashton on the penalty kill.
Otherwise, Bolland had a great game. I avoided making a snarky comment or two on Twitter when he missed the net on two scoring chances in the first two periods, where I may have suggested that he waits until the Stanley Cup Final to bury those. There's no real reason to tee off on Bolland—in a vacuum, acquiring him was an excellent move, to pick up a former defensive gem of a forward that had had back-to-back tough seasons, for absolutely nothing. I think that there are some expectations heaped on him that he won't reach, but he had a very good game. Four unblocked shot attempts was actually second on the Leafs behind just Morgan Rielly.
Bolland scored the winning goal in the crease. Because it's Bolland, it's a "gritty" goal. Had it been Mason Raymond scoring the same goal, maybe people would have pointed to "dose hands" displayed in close to manipulate the puck in such a tight spot.
Raymond also scored, and it happened very fast. He did it away from the Bolland-Kulemin line and instead receiving a pass from James van Riemsdyk, who was horrifically silent on a top line with Joe Colborne and David Clarkson. Raymond scored cutting to the net, something he was criticized for not doing enough of in Vancouver. I'm still not sure if he'd work with Bolland and Kulemin on a checking line, but I certainly like his speed. It's too bad there's no hole in the top six that needs filling, and it's too bad that Randy Carlyle likely won't entertain the suggestion of having skill guys like Colborne and Raymond on the fourth.
To kick off the broadcast, Aaron Ward mentioned how all the Leafs needed in Game Seven against Boston was "one save" and insinuated that Jonathan Bernier would have provided that "one save". That is a silly thing to say. The focus on Bernier vs. James Reimer will be strong this season, and I think there are too many people placing themselves in camps of "Bernier is the best thing since sliced bread" and "Bernier will be a huge flame-out". It's not worth discussing his game tonight. He made some saves, let in a goal, but it's preseason, and even if it wasn't preseason, you can't judge a goaltender based on a period of play. You need about 300 periods to do that.
It's also unfair to judge the defence. Rielly looked excellent, but had his wonky moments in his defensive zone. Ditto Paul Ranger. Without a bunch of games of statistics to point us in the direction of whether the team is generating shots with a defenceman on the ice as well as preventing them, it's awful hard to judge the way a d-man plays. I was also cooking dinner for much of the second period so may have missed some moments.
The big news is that Nazem Kadri blocked a shot and left the game. He came back, but then he left again. It was his left (lower on his stick) hand. I'll wait for the doctor to make a judgment, but it didn't look good.
It seems Bernier left after the first because he got hurt. Probably precautionary. Kadri has a bruised hand.
Jonathan Bernier is nursing an undisclosed injury. Suffered it this morning, but wanted to give it a go. Didn't feel great, left after 1st.— Jonas Siegel (@jonasTSN1050) September 20, 2013
Bruised hand for Kadri.— Jonas Siegel (@jonasTSN1050) September 20, 2013
X-ray negative for Kadri. Unable to grip his stick comfortably after brief stint in the third.— Jonas Siegel (@jonasTSN1050) September 20, 2013
If somebody can photoshop a mustard stain onto Dave Nonis' tie using a screenshot from his interview during the first intermission, I'd appreciate it. Thank you.