Look, the actual outcome of last night’s preseason action probably isn’t at the forefront of your mind right now. It’s not for me, either. Writing about a game in which the on-ice events weren’t the main focus of attention is, frankly, a pretty weird thing to do. But the Maple Leafs did their best to block out that noise on Monday night while taking on the Montreal Canadiens, ultimately capping the bottom half of their home-and-home set the same way they did the first: a 3-0 shutout win.
Many things happened. Let’s take a look at five that stood out.
— The Leafs Nation (@TLNdc) September 21, 2019
1) Trevor Moore Scored
I just feel the need to mention this whenever it happens. Trevor Moore is a very good hockey player. Good enough to earn a promotion to the third line during the most wide-open training camps of the Leafs’ contention window, and good enough to make the most of that promotion by scoring grimy, strap-on-your-lunchpail goals.
If he sticks alongside Kerfoot and Mikheyev, I’m officially on the “Trevor Moore for 15 Goals” bandwagon. Like I ever wasn’t in the first place.
2) Frederik Gauthier is a New Man
I don’t know exactly how FREDERIK GAUTHIER spent his summer but, gosh darn it, whatever he did likely saved his NHL career. I had the Goat pencilled entirely out of the Leafs’ roster picture heading into training camp this year, personally — I even mused about him starting the year with the Marlies thanks to the Mitch Marner induced 21-man roster — and even believed a trade was imminent sooner rather than later.
None of those possibilities look like they’ll play out now. And, if The Goat’s preseason performance is to be considered the new normal, then I could not be happier to be wrong.
Even with the preseason caveat, Gauthier looks more aggressive than he ever has in the six (!!!!!) years since the Leafs drafted him. The former first-rounder is hunting down the puck more often in the offensive zone — both off the sticks of active puck carriers and along the boards –, turning into a needed net-front threat, and finally, FINALLY weaponizing that legendary thiccness to become the bull in the china shop everyone thought he could be.
Will Gauthier be a demonstrably better option than the litany of other depth hopefuls vying for a spot on Toronto’s fourth-line? Honestly, I don’t know. But this Goat has more than earned the chance to prove himself.
He IS 6’5″ every day, you know.
3) Rasmus Sandin is a Friggin’ NHLer
Yeah, this is no longer up for debate. At 19, Rasmus Sandin has shown things in his limited preseason action that Leafs fans waited three years for Nikita Zaitsev to do, only to eventually watch him leave town disappointed.
Sandin is a remarkably talented young player — which is funny, given how there isn’t one particular skill of his that really stands out. Sandin is not the fastest skater out there; his shot isn’t the hardest; his offence isn’t overly dynamic. Yet there he is, consistently winning one-on-one footraces against his opponents, producing effective shot volume from the point, and, last season, putting forth the highest-scoring campaign of any 18-year-old in AHL history.
Maybe you don’t need a specific flash. Maybe being pretty-to-very-good at almost everything works, too.
What makes this preseason performance from Sandin all the more impressive thus far is just how limited his ice time has been. The coaching staff only threw Sandin out for 9:40 at even strength on Monday — a number that jumps to only 10:40 when accounting for special teams work — and he still managed to chip in an assist while driving the play throughout. Not to mention, the Maple Leafs surrendered just two shot attempts against with Sandin on the ice, per Natural StatTrick. That’s, frankly, just absurd.
Thrown into a notoriously bereft roster position in years past, Sandin has made a difference on Toronto’s third pair. Even if his NHL cameo this season is short-lived, even if nine games is all he gets, it’s hard not to fawn over what this kid can do.
4) Frederik Andersen is (Obviously) Quite Good
A few months before Andersen would make his first start in Toronto, Nick Kypreos made an appearance on the Steve Dangle Podcast in which he declared the Leafs would go only as far as Frederik Andersen could take them.
That prediction, now almost four years removed, has been proven startlingly correct.
Andersen is the most important player on the Toronto Maple Leafs. On a roster filled with stars, his performance dictates the ceiling of this team more than anyone else, which is why the Leafs (coach aside) have seemed to place such an emphasis on managing his load. A rested Freddy is the best Freddy. Science says so.
What the preseason has done thus far, aside from making us eschew life’s responsibilities in favour of watching ultimately meaningless games, is give us yet another glimpse of what Rested Freddy™ looks like. Boy, is it ever glorious.
Andersen just looks so poised, so comfortable, so at home in the net. In turning aside 26 shots last night with almost apathetic ease, Andersen extended his shutout streak to two games and hasn’t surrendered a goal since September 17th — almost 10 full days. I think he’s feeling himself. And that’s exactly what Leaf fans should hope to see heading into a legitimate contention year.
5) If Timashov Makes This Team, Don’t Expect to See Him Much
Much has been made recently of Dmytro Timashov’s unlikely ascension to the Maple Leafs’ roster. It really has been unlikely, too. Having covered Timashov for the past two years, watched every one of his home games live, and been around the team throughout, frankly, I was just as shocked as you were.
Timashov earned this look, though. The 23-year-old has been a tenacious puck hound throughout his early preseason play, seems to have cut down on the mistakes that otherwise limited him in the AHL, and has clearly attracted the eyes of Mike Babcock with his Trevor Moore-esque, I’m-small-but-thick-so-I-can-crush-you physicality.
That being said, if Timashov really does survive the Cutdown Day carnage and makes this team, he won’t be stepping into a featured role. In fact, you may barely see him at all.
Timashov logged a minuscule 6:57 at even strength last night — by far the lowest of any Maple Leaf. Ten of his twelve total shifts happened to come on the fly, with none being in his own end and only one in the offensive zone. And while it’s not exactly a shock that the Leafs are sheltering the scant minutes they choose to give Timashov, it’s interesting nonetheless how Babcock seemed to decide against giving the one true bubble forward in his lineup an extra bit of spotlight to perform under in what was ultimately a make-or-break showcase.
Timashov could very likely be a Leaf on October 2nd, but you might forget that by October 3rd.