Since I’m going to go ahead and assume that if you’re reading this site, or any other Toronto Maple Leafs related material, you probably don’t need to read your 500th game recap telling you who scored and when. Instead at Tip of the Tower, we’re going to provide a few quick thoughts from what transpired throughout the game.
Jonathan Bernier Is Smooth
Since he was the back-up goalie on a team that primarily played in the Pacific time zone, I hadn’t seen much of Jonathan Bernier (aside from a highlight binge after the trade) since he was a goalie on the Canadian World Junior Team in 2008. So seeing him play (half of) a game last night for the Leafs was my first real opportunity to take in how he plays goal (Disclaimer: I play goalie, and have since I was about 6, so I think I know more than I probably do about the position)
My first impressions of Jonathan Bernier is exactly what the header above says, he is ridiculously smooth, which in contrast to James Reimer‘s more robotic and explosive movements is certainly a contrast (it’s not any better or worse, just very different).
There is very little excess movement in Bernier’s game, he looks calm, cool, and collected in the net. Bernier was a magnet for pucks, seemingly absorbing everything that came near him with ease. I don’t know if Bernier is going to be a good goalie for the Maple Leafs, but I can guarantee he’s going to look like a good goalie.
David Clarkson Is….Something
I was not a huge fan of the David Clarkson signing during the offseason, and after last night my concerns haven’t really been alleviated. Despite Sportsnet’s “experts” extolling the grit that Clarkson was apparently bringing to the line up, I just couldn’t picture him as an effective top-6 forward.
Clarkson is a big body, and his game would lead some to label him as a prototypical power forward. Last night he showed his ability on the forecheck, and to create mayhem in front of the net, but his so-so skating, and lack of “skill” that elite power forwards of the past like Todd Bertuzzi had should be a concern for those expecting him to live up to his contract.
On the other hand, I may be (and probably am) vastly over reacting to one preseason game and Clarkson may very well be a much better player than my pessimism will allow me to admit.
Nikolai Kulemin looked like he had an extra gear last night as he was flying around the ice. Whether it’s just he’s in better shape to start the season, everyone else didn’t really care, or his offseason training pushed him to a new level, he was skating like the wind last night. It’s abundantly clear that Kulemin isn’t going to be a 30 goal scorer again for the Maple Leafs, but the way he was skating last night, the Leafs potential 3rd line of Kulemin-Bolland-Raymond looks like it could cause some havoc.
On the other end of the spectrum was Tyler Bozak. The off-criticized and newly rich Leafs centre proved that paying someone to be your first line centre doesn’t magically give them the skill to fill that role. Bozak was clearly the inferior player next to his line mates Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk (JVR looked great by the way), and unless Nazem Kadri forces Carlyle’s hand and takes the first line centre job, it’s going to be a two-man show with Kessel and JVR.