Toronto Maple Leafs: John Tavares makes presence felt in debut

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 27: John Tavares #91 of the New York Islanders addresses the media during Media Day for the 2018 NHL All-Star at the Grand Hyatt Hotel on January 27, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 27: John Tavares #91 of the New York Islanders addresses the media during Media Day for the 2018 NHL All-Star at the Grand Hyatt Hotel on January 27, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

It didn’t take long for John Tavares to make an impact in his Toronto Maple Leafs debut putting on a show for the fans gathered for Kraft Hockeyville.

If you’re tired of reading about John Tavares then you’ve come to the wrong place especially after he didn’t disappoint in his Toronto Maple Leafs debut.

Granted, it’s just an exhibition game but given the circumstances surrounding his first game with it being in Lucan, Ont., Kraft Hockeyville and a long time coming, fans have a right to be excited. In the Leafs 4-1 win, Tavares scored a pair of goals and added an assist on a goal from Mitch Marner.

Andreas Borgman was the other goal scorer in this game while Curtis McElhinney and Garret Sparks combined to get the win. There were many new faces in this game other than Tavares but No. 91. was the talk of the town in this one.

For anybody confused or annoyed about the amount attention being paid on Tavares especially on Twitter, people need to remember that nobody thought this was a possibility a year ago.

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In this game, Ottawa actually got the ball rolling with a quick goal that definitely caught people off guard and it seemed to light a fire under the Leafs. It all started when the Leafs started to sustain pressure and eventually got a powerplay opportunity.

With the man advantage, it seemed like the Leafs would eventually break through. It all started with a faceoff win then a heads up play by Marner to find Tavares down low and he showed patience and put it by Mike Condon.

This was a tough save to make because once Tavares got the goalie moving he was able to find an opening and get the puck off with a quick release. Once that goal went in, the Leafs didn’t look back and continued to pour it on.

The next goal was a great play started behind the Leafs net with Trevor Moore receiving the breakout pass moving it up to Adam Cracknell who passed it to Emmerson Clark who finished the play by setting up Borgman for the goal.

Tavares’ second of the game was an impressive play because he showed his desire to drive to the net and ability to outmuscle defenders trying to prevent him from getting to the puck.

Not only was he knocked down initially but he quickly recovered and put the puck in the net with the defenceman dropped all over him.

It didn’t end there as Tavares and Marner would connect one final time showing the instant chemistry which shouldn’t come as a surprise given the talent level between both players.

What was impressive about the final goal wasn’t the play by Tavares to get the puck to Marner but his quick release. According to Marner, he worked hard this summer to build up his strength so that he would have a better release and it showed here.

It was a strong goaltending performance from Curtis McElhinney (made 12 saves on 13 shots) and Garret Sparks (saving all 22 shots) so it is tough to judge who the favourite is to win the backup job. You could say Sparks based on him not allowing a goal but McElhinney wasn’t entirely to blame for it.

On the blueline, it was tough to say whether any player stood out but Mike Babcock seemed to be impressed with the effort he got from Igor Ozhiganov.

If he continues to show improvement maybe he can make a push to be in the Leafs top-four depending on how the rest of preseason works out. At the same time, it was hard to ignore Ron Hainsey struggling a bit in this one maybe Babcock would consider a change.

There was one play where Senators prospect Drake Batherson undressed the veteran defenceman leading to a good scoring chance. Considering Hainsey’s usage last season, there’s a legitimate reason for Babcock to consider giving him easier matchups at even strength.

Other than that, it was an encouraging performance for the Leafs and they’ll be back to it on Wednesday against the Senators in Ottawa.

Next. Dubas confident he can sign Nylander, Tavares scores in debut. dark

What did you think about the preseason opener? Who stood out to you and who didn’t have a great performance? Let us know in the comments.