The Toronto Maple Leafs prepared for the regular season with a scrimmage game.
It was refreshing to see the Toronto Maple Leafs back on the ice for a game on Saturday night even if it was a scrimmage.
The team was split into two squads with an even split of players from the NHL group at training camp. The three goaltenders played two periods each in order to get them in for an equal amount of game time.
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Team White ended up winning the game 7-3 over Team Blue with the Leafs also working on the shootout and overtime. One thing that was clear from watching the Leafs practice the skills portion, they still need to work on it considering Mikko Lehtonen and Morgan Rielly were the lone goalscorers in the shootout.
Usually, these scrimmages have a tough time replicating the intensity of a normal regular-season game but it didn’t feel like it at times. Of course, some expectations have to be tempered but it’s also hard not to be impressed with some of the players trying to showcase themselves.
Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews didn’t miss a beat and seeing Joe Thornton in a Leafs jersey was a surreal sight as well as Wayne Simmonds. It was Team White, however, that had quite a few impressive players headlined by their top line of William Nylander, John Tavares and Jimmy Vesey.
Tavares got the fun started with a nifty goal while Nylander had two goals including a wicked one-timer that went top shelf and not too long after Nick Roberton scored with a blistering shot after he was left wide open in the slot.
There was a lot of talk about the changes Sheldon Keefe made to his lines in training camp but it can’t be denied the impact Ilya Mikheyev and Zach Hyman will have together on the third line. There were several instances where that line was relentless on the forecheck which led to several chances.
A player who was in the crosshairs of Keefe was Pierre Engvall who received some harsh comments from the head coach saying “I expect Pierre to be better, to be honest.” It was hard to disagree with that considering the injury to Alexander Kerfoot opens up a chance for Engvall to get into the opening night lineup and he made a questionable decision that led to Matthews’ goal.
The important thing is that the players who the Leafs are counting on to lead this season didn’t disappoint. In this case, the Leafs’ top two lines didn’t make any glaring errors and we even saw some encouraging plays from Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren.
All in all, the real test will begin on Jan. 13 when the Montreal Canadiens make their way to Toronto and hopefully, COVID-19 doesn’t become an issue as it has with other NHL teams.
What did you think about the Leafs’ play during the scrimmage? How excited are you for the start of the season? Let us know in the comments below.