The Toronto “Maple Leafs” are in Montreal tonight to face a slightly stronger group in the Canadiens. What could be an eventual loss considering the state of the lineups, could prove to be a useful game to see some Marlies talent against some NHL regulars.
It’s the fifth game of the preseason. We’re almost there. Just several more days until the puck drops and the 2019-20 regular season starts.
#Leafs lines for game group in Montreal:
Neuvirth is absent
— Kristen Shilton (@kristen_shilton) September 23, 2019
Well, it’s the Marlies. Could either be fun to see Egor Korshkov run into Price “by accident” or kill all hopes and dreams of some prospects being good enough to play for the Leafs in the near future.
Canadiens defence pairs this morning
— Аrpon Basu (@ArponBasu) September 23, 2019
Looks like the Canadiens are going full-throttle at home against the Leafs when it comes to the top players anyways. Tomas Tatar, Max Domi, and Jonathan Drouin will be interesting against a top defensive pairing of Ben Harpur and Justin Holl, but that’s where we are right now.
1) The “Top” Line
The line of Kenny Agostino, Nick Shore, and Nic Petan should cause some problems for Montreal tonight, but won’t necessarily see any full-time NHL action when it comes to the regular season.
If they play well tonight though, it could force a tough decision for Dubas and Babcock when the final roster needs to be made. There are so few forward spots available for the Leafs, that whoever fills that role and wins the position, will have other players breathing down their necks for every shift they take.
All three of these players aren’t guaranteed spots, but have been able to historically produce well in the past in depth roles for their past clubs.
If it were up to me, I would be tempted to run out these three as the Leafs’ fourth line to start the season.
2) Jeremy Bracco
The leading scorer on the Marlies last year might be heading there again to defend his title. Bracco was able to make some good plays earlier this preseason, but has since been lowered into the group of AHL-bound players that will start their season out of Coca-Cola Coliseum.
It’s not like there was a spot for him anyways, with the top three right-wing positions – when healthy – taken up by Marner, Nylander and Kapanen. A tough group to try to crack, but if Bracco is able to improve some even-strength production and get better at the whole defence thing, it could be interesting 12 months from now.
As for tonight, he might be the go-to guy on a line with Darren Archibald and Adam Brooks. He will definitely see some powerplay time.
3) Some Goalie Thing That’s Happening
Michael Hutchinson will be in net tonight, but Michal Neuvirth – who was supposed to take the trip to Montreal with the team – is unable to play.
Whether it’s a health-related decision or something else, concerns over which Neuvirth can realistically stay with the Leafs organization is at the forefront. There is no clear backup as of right now and that’s a problem just over a week away from an extremely important regular season for the Leafs coming up.
Be it Hutchinson, Neuvirth, or some other random career backup, it should be an important role to fill if Andersen is ever hurt or in need of some rest. Don’t know how the Leafs will make it work, but someone will be sitting on that bench for 60 games.
4) Liljegren vs. Sandin
With all the attention around Rasmus Sandin’s rise to becoming the next Lidstrom – only somewhat joking – it seems like Timothy Liljegren has lost some of his shiny new prospect glow.
He’s currently in the group of players that will start with the Marlies in October, but he should be able to steadily improve. It’s often forgotten, but he’s only 20-years-old right now. This would be the first season of professional hockey if a player was to go the CHL route for development, while Liljegren is going to have played over 100 games in the AHL in a couple of months.
It’s going to be an important season for both young defenceman and the Leafs need some players making basically nothing to contribute on the NHL level.
5) Basically, the Marlies
If you love to watch/talk/tweet about the Marlies, this preseason game is for you. This will be – except for a couple of NHL veterans – the starting roster for the majority of the 2018 AHL Champions.
Catch the exciting development track of Pierre Engvall. Watch Egor Koshkov and constantly think about Alex Debrincat. Adam Brooks once put up 100 points in the WHL. Justin Holl is a cool guy.
It would be hilarious if they score a bunch of goals against Carey Price.
The game will be on TSN2 and TSN4, with it slotted to start at 7:00 pm ET.