The Habs hoped for a better effort from many prospects as they got back to the ice for their second preseason contest after taking one on the chin on Saturday night. This team was entirely different than Saturday’s as is usually the case in the preseason, as seen below.
Obviously, many fans had their eyes glued to some prized prospects as Mattias Norlinder and Kaiden Guhle were both in the lineup. Others were more interested in the team’s should-be second line featuring Jonathan Drouin, Josh Anderson, and newcomer Christian Dvorak. The starting goaltenders were Jake Allen and Jack Campbell.
The first shift saw Guhle find Anderson on a stretch pass that was just offside. After that, the Leafs controlled the 5-on-5 play but spent most of the period in the penalty box. Norlinder played a decent period, but I think Guhle was more noticeable as he involved himself at both ends of the ice. In fact, Guhle was directly responsible for the first two penalties against Toronto. At the 9:24 mark, Dvorak tipped a Drouin pass by the Leafs defenders and Anderson used his speed to get to the puck and roof the game’s first goal over Campbell’s shoulder.
Three minutes later, with David Kampf in the box for high-sticking Joel Armia, the latter player found a cross-ice seam to make a great pass to Drouin who made an even better one-touch pass to the front of the net where Dvorak only needed to tap home the game’s second [pwer play goal.
The Drouin-Dvorak chemistry appeared evident all period long, but the most impressive player in this period was Guhle. The period ended with Evans having a dangerous shift as he butt-ended a Leaf before delivering a dangerous-looking hit that drew a crowd. Nick Ritchie forced Chiarot to fight out of the scrum after the Evans hit and Ben was not too happy to be fighting during a preseason game.
The second period started with a four-minute penalty kill after Evans took two penalties on the play described at the end of the first. The most dangerous chance of the entire sequence was a near-break created by Dvorak. Having escaped the extended penalty, the Habs were still on their heels and mostly playing in their defensive zone. This meant that Allen was the best Hab in the first half of the period. At 9:46, some good forechecking by Michael Pezzetta, Gabriel Bourque, and Jan Mysak allowed the first offensive push by the Habs which eventually led to a Mysak point shot that Pezzetta tipped home to extend the lead.
The goaltenders switched for the second half of the game as Kevin Poulin and Petr Mrazek entered the game. Poulin was immediately beaten by an Adam Brooks slot shot after a great Mitch Marner pass to the slot. However, Poulin caught a break as the Habs challenged the play for offside successfully, so the score remained 3-0.
The Habs were then on the power play when Poulin completely misplayed the puck, giving Kampf a tap-in to get the Leafs on the board. The Habs did get that one back as Anderson fired home a shot from the top of the circle that Mrazek likely wanted back.
Mrazek got himself under control after that as Armia found Bourque with a great pass and Bourque one-timed it only to see Mrazek make a nice save. Armia was then penalized on a call that reminded fans everywhere that it’s the preseason for the officials too, a total ghost call. With a minute left in the period, Mysak lost his man in coverage as Ondrej Kase was able to get open and get a cross-crease pass to tap home a late goal to make the game interesting heading to the third.
The final period saw the Leafs push the pace and Poulin did a bit better than his first presence in the second period. Truthfully, Poulin was likely the standout in a period that was rather boring as both teams were guilty of going the motions on most shifts. Play was so disorganized that both teams had difficulties completing a single pass.
With six minutes to play, Savard delivered a nice stretch pass to Pezzetta who was stopped with a nice glove save by Mrazek who then completely robbed Anderson with a similar glove save after Drouin completed a nice pass to send Anderson in alone. Toronto emptied the net with over three minutes to go and Pezzetta got his second of the game as he fired it in from his own blue line.
HabsWorld Habs 3 Stars
1st Star – Christian Dvorak
This isn’t yet a game that counts, but Dvorak had a good one as he picked up points on the first two goals, was a strong penalty killer that created offensively on the kill, and he won some important defensive battles to kill some momentum for Toronto.
Stats: 1 goal, 3 assists, +1, 3 shots, 15:37 T.O.I.
2nd Star – Josh Anderson
Involved physically and making good reads off his two new linemates to create some great chances for himself all game long.
Stats: 2 goals, 1 assist, +1, 3 shots, 15:50 T.O.I.
3rd Star – Kaiden Guhle
Guhle had a really strong first period as he made strong defensive plays and got involved offensively too. He was more stay-at-home in the second and third, but there was no need to get involved offensively as the Habs had a rather comfortable lead. He was still physical enough though as he notably went toe-to-toe with Wayne Simmonds and came out on top.
Stats: +1, 1 shot, 4 hits, 23:44 T.O.I.
Honourable Mention – Joel Armia
Armia had a strong game as he completed some excellent passes all night long.
Stats: 1 assist, 1 shot, 2 hits, 17:31 T.O.I.