Rejoice. The Leafs have proven they can defeat a beat a Buffalo team that featured none of its top players. A shutout is always nice so we won’t dwell on things like this game being meaningless, the rosters being mismatched, and just generally that beating Buffalo should always be expected. We’re going to focus on the win, and that a lot of the players we wanted to look good, looked pretty darn good.
The Leafs picked up a 3-0 win during their first true home game of September. Matthews scoring on a gift wrapped pass from Nylander is a nice reminder of what is to come this year, and Freddie Andersen is looking like he’ll be starting strong this year. All and all, a good Friday night. Here are the five key takeaways…
#1- Rasmus Sandin should be a Leaf
At this point we’re past Rasmus Sandin playing his way onto the Leafs and now it seems like he’s trying to make a case for playing his way into the top four.
It’s preseason and it’s easy to get carried away with how good players do against weak competition, but Sandin absolutely looks like he belongs and that he can carry a pairing. He seemed a lot more comfortable with Martin Marincin, who also had a solid night, than he did with Ben Harpur. He played a ton, and his decision making, calm presence, and offensive skill set were all on display.
I’ll do my best to not put insane expectations on the kid, but he’s earned his regular season tryout at this point.
#2- Ilya Mikheyev is pretty darn good too
He looked solid in the loss the other night, but looked even better in the win tonight. At this point I’m a lot more comfortable with Mikheyev on the third line then I am with Kerfoot, though to be fair, Mikheyev is playing a position he played last season.
Mikheyev uses his size well, and has many of the characteristics that have served Zach Hyman well on Babcock’s Leafs. Arguably Mikheyev has even more talent to go along with that style, but I will try to remember to dial things back after a preseason win. The point is, he’s showing a lot of promise, and the Leafs having affordable secondary talent is a huge win.
#3- We should be worried about Cody Ceci
It definitely takes time for defensemen to adjust to a new team and new defensive system, but Cody Ceci looks like he took a step back from the other night against Ottawa, where he was average at best.
Tonight Cody Ceci was a liability, and the lack of chemistry with Rielly seemed to drag Morgan down as well. It’s hard to beat up on the defense too much during a shutout, but his questionable positioning, ridiculous stretch pass attempts, and panicked outlet passes have me hoping that Dermott is penciled in as Rielly’s partner once he’s healthy.
#4- Agostino and Read made their cases
After a couple of nights where it seemed like everyone wanted to join the Marlies camp early, both Matt Read and Kenny Agostino showed off not just their offensive abilities by picking up some points, but that they are competent at reading a play and have a strong transition game. The makeup of the fourth line seems like it’s completely up in the air at this point, but right now I’d love to see these two wingers flanking Jason Spezza.
#5- Penalty Killers
If there is any hint into who might have a future on the Leafs of the bottom lineup players, it may come from the penalty killers. Nick Shore played almost three minutes, Ilya Mikheyev had over 2, and Matt Read had a minute. Of course you could also credit Aberg and Agostino for getting some power play time, but once the Leafs condense their lineup, there will be a greater need for PK specialists. Shore and Read might have made a good case tonight.
The Leafs and Sabres are back at it again tomorrow night at 7PM ET in Buffalo. Different lineup, hopefully the same results. And cuts are likely to follow later this weekend.
Buffalo is one of those teams that could probably ice their roster from any given preseason game and they’d probably have about the same results in the regular season
— The Leafs Nation (@TLNdc) September 21, 2019