Toronto Maple Leafs rookies look to shake off rust following opening game

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 19: Frederik Andersen
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 19: Frederik Andersen /

With the first game of the rookie tournament in the books, the Toronto Maple Leafs rookies did not have an ideal start but there is still a chance to turn things around.

For most of the Toronto Maple Leafs rookies, Friday night’s opening game of the annual rookie tournament was the first time playing since the end of the season. The first two periods went by without many issues until the Montreal Canadiens capitalized on some careless mistakes winning by a final score of 5-2.

The roster was missing defenceman Travis Dermott and Adam Brooks who were both scratched for the game and will not play this weekend because of an illness. Had those two been in the lineup things might have gone a bit differently for the Leafs but there was some obvious rust with some sloppy mistakes being made.

“It is the first game coming out of the summer so you expect a lot of mistakes,” said head coach Sheldon Keefe after the game. “We will focus on the positives that we can find through the game and there were a lot in the second period. It’s about the individual’s here and we will try to clean things up to be better as a group on Sunday.”

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It was a tough night for Timothy Liljegren who got caught on a couple of pinches and made a bad turnover which led to a couple of goals against. However Keefe and teammate Andrew Nielsen were quick to come to the aid of the 17th overall pick of the 2017 draft.

“I thought the real bright spot was the powerplay in the third period, it was an opportunity for him to showcase what he can do and I saw some really special things there,” said Keefe.

“He’s a great player and he is going to be a great player in this organization for a long time” said Nielsen. “You just got to tell him to shake it off and I think he bounced back pretty well.”

The players did say that they hoped to be more aggressive as they prepare to play the Ottawa Senators in the tournament finale on Sunday. What could help is trying to capitalize on the powerplay more and getting more chemistry as a unit. Martins Dzierkals and Mason Marchment were players that stood out with strong efforts but Michael McNiven was up to the task finishing the game with 34 saves.

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There is no need to panic after a rough outing like this especially from Liljegren who is still trying to get used to the Leafs system. It might benefit him in the long run because it shows that the team will have to be patient in his development.