Leafs Postgame – Leafs shut out Flyers, Nylander sets world aflame

Tonight was a lot of fun for a preseason game. It was the first chance for us to see William Nylander play in a Leafs uniform, and the hype leading up to the game was something else. I’m not sure if Rielly or Kadri had this much behind them in their first camps, but from the broadcast crew to the hockey twitter crowd, folks were definitely excited. 

This was probably the most I’ve looked forward to exhibition hockey since the Leafs landed Versteeg in 2010, and the game didn’t disappoint. Neither did Nylander.

The Rundown

The Leafs jumped off to a good start in this one. Nylander lined up with Kessel and Santorelli to start things off, and one thing I quickly noticed was how fast Santorelli can get up the ice. He’s like a Matthew Lombardi but hopefully with better hands. The team just looked fast overall.

There were a few decent carry-ins and the Leafs were alright working the puck in the offensive zone. Their breakouts still appeared confusing and choppy, but they were able to use a generally good first period to take a 1-0 lead after 20 mins on a James van Riemsdyk snipe. And a snipe it was.

(h/t to Jeffler for making these sweet internet moving pictures)

The second period wasn’t as fun, as neither team scored and the Leafs were sort of weak to start, so let’s just talk about the players again. 

It was nice to see Komarov back in the fold. He lined up mostly with Smith and Kozun, and the trio did some solid work in the offensive zone at times. They looked quick, too. Komarov also took a lot of penalty-killing duties, ending up with 4:19 SH TOI on the night, and he handled them well.

Toronto eventually blew things open in the third, as Kozun started things off with a short-handed goal, then Franson used his quick release to bank a shot off Luke Schenn and past Mason.

Then this happened.

It wasn’t the first time Nylander looked impressive on the night. He picked pockets earlier in the game, and nearly scored a couple times. He also ripped a pass from his own zone to set up Broll on a break-away, which was a thing of beauty. 

Overall, Nylander had a somewhat predictable game for a super-talented 18-year-old. At times it was obvious he had trouble with spacing, and held on to the puck a bit too long, but it was also clear just how much skill he possesses. He has “it”.

Blue Warrior

For this game it would have to be van Riemsdyk. He was dangerous all night, and nearly looked out of place he was so good. The Flyers’ lineup wasn’t particularly strong and he ran them over. He should have finished the night with two goals on the scoresheet, but one wasn’t called by the refs and couldn’t be reviewed. 

Notes

  • Gardiner was so, so fast, and made some fancy plays that only he can make. It seemed like he was given a lot of freedom to jump into plays and complete some carry-ins, so it’ll be interesting to see if that applies to the regular season as well.
  • Kessel was dynamite as usual.
  • Nylander saw some good powerplay minutes, and handled them well. He sets up on the wall like Kessel. Having back-to-back options who are confident with the puck in that area will be nice in the future. The kid can pass.
  • Bernier didn’t seem to miss a beat over the summer. He was as impressive as ever, and Bibeau looked strong too. Feels nice to talk about Leafs goaltending without the nightmares.
  • Polak didn’t impress, but it’s just one game. He made some attempts at big hits that put him out of position, and ended up taking three minor penalties. Not good, Roman. 
  • NHL.com boxscore here
  • Possession stats (via @theninjagreg) here.
  • The Leafs are back at it tomorrow with split-squad games against the Senators in Ottawa and Toronto. They’re both at 7:30pm EST, and the Toronto game can be caught on TSN4. 
  • I thought Colton Orr looked really good again. He’s faster than ever and still hitting hard and intimidating the opposition. At one point he dug the puck out from behind the net and threw a sick pass into the slot that the player couldn’t bury. I think he’ll be in the starting lineup when the season starts.

    • STAN

      This is why Leafs fans get made fun of. Toronto is the city where fans love knuckle daggers and boo there high level skill players out of town. Colton Orr sucks,we can only hope and pray that player won’t be in the starting lineup come October.

      • CMpuck

        Toronto’s a city in which bloggers hate hard-working, tough, physical players and wish their contributions away. It’s truly a shame that a veteran who works hard every year to elevate his game and takes punches in the head for this team doesn’t get a mention when he comes out after a summer of dedicated training and makes plays and scored goals. Colton Orr is playing good hockey right now and is still one of the strongest men in the league and he’s one of the longest-serving Leafs and all you guys can do is put him down for the ‘crime’ of being a ‘facepuncher’. Colton Orr is not the problem with Toronto. The problem is the lack of character, the inability to hold leads and overall team weakness when the going gets tough down the stretch.

        • STAN

          Now I get it!! It was character. Man all this time my idiot self was thinking we had no forward depth or defensive depth. Or one of the weakest centre positions in the nhl last year. I really should cheer for a guy that became just the 3rd player in nhl history to play more then 54 games and record 0 points,and add nothing of substance to the leafs. Orr-smithson-fml is what makes me turn on the tv!! Go leafs go!!

    • CMpuck

      Not to pile on but it was clearly Colton Orr’s 3 minutes a night that cost the Leafs the playoffs last year. 4th lines are so so so important. We could have won the cup had we not given up on guys like John Pohl on the 4th line, he even scored in a shootout once. Orr on the Maple Leafs is pretty embarrassing and huge issue. Almost as concerning as who will be our 7th denfesemen???.

  • STAN

    @WesternDp

    He’s 18 for gawd’s sake and in his inaugural NHL game. He’s a mini Kessel who will likely be a more committed backchecker and either this season or next could slot in wonderfully on the second line.

    Komorov just oozes winner. JvR is remarkably solid and Gardiner’s new contract has given him HUGE confidence.

    Relax.

  • Was at the game last night, and it felt like there was buzz every time Leo stepped on the ice. People really love him.

    Really happy with how the Leafs looked last night, even though it’s pre-season. Was paying attention to our changes in the D zone, and the wingers seem to have found an area that allows them to support battling for puck if necessary, while giving them the ability to pressure the points. So far, it’s living up to what changes they said they wanted to make.

    Also, not a ton of dump-ins. Letting skill players make plays. Nice to see.

    I thought Nylander had a good game, which is good because that’s the entire reason I went last night.

    Good lord JVR was toying with the Flyers last night.

    Last thought – I know it’s preseason, but the Flyers looked really terrible, especially on the PP.

  • Poluza

    As much as I like Orr’s character and willingness to drop the gloves, I really hope that he doesn’t make the team. He and FML looked sluggish at best. I was as surprised by Orr’s “sick centering pass” as he probably was himself. This is a team that could have “skill and speed” as its identity. I think players like Orr, FML, and Polak are holding the team back from having a solid identity.