MAPLE LEAFS at CANADIENS
As the NHL preseason winds down Toronto Maple Leaf hopefuls have just a few more chances to prove they belong on a NHL roster.
Tonight the Leafs are guests of Shea Weber and the Montreal Canadiens. This is actually the first of three games in three nights. This is not a scheduling quirk though. Mike Babcock revealed this week that tonight and Saturday night he will ice a NHL caliber roster while tomorrow night the lineup will have a Marlies oriented lineup.
This will also be a first glimpse of Montreal’s Weber against the Leafs since the blockbuster trade sending PK Subban to Nashville in exchange for Weber.
It will be different not seeing Subban and his booming slap shot on the PP unit tonight. Weber plays a much different game. Some experts say Weber possess’ a better defensive game than Subban.
Carey Price is back from a successful WHC and was able to prove that he has recovered from his injury last season that saw him play a mere twelve games. It was no coincidence that once he hit the injured list the Canadiens went into a tailspin after a strong start to last season. Carey Price is that valuable when he is in the lineup.
For at least the next few weeks Montreal coach Michel Therrien will be under the microscope. Towards the end of last season there were tidbits of information leaking that the dressing room was unhappy with certain characters starting with the coach. Last season Montreal GM Marc Bergevin laid blame at the players feet. It doesn’t appear that will be the case if the Canadiens falter at the start this season.
While many NHL teams have pared down their roster in preparation for the 2016/2017 season, Toronto is still carrying 48 bodies. To say that Leafs brass has carried out a thorough evaluation this preseason would be an understatement. Not surprising considering they are now in year 2 of scorched earth and there are many positions up for grabs.
Tyler Bozak will not be in the lineup tonight due to an upper body injury incurred sometime this past week. It is unclear when he will be returning to the roster or how serious the injury is. This likely is not the scenario Bozak envisioned after playing only 57 games last year and having only 2 complete seasons in his NHL career. Josh Leivo is also not taking part in camp due to injury and the Leafs coach seems a bit irritated at the situation. Babcock stated . .
“But I know you can’t make an impression when you are injured.”
Perhaps the Leafs coach is sending a not so subtle hint.
Soshnikov also continues to be hampered with hamstring issues and appears to be heading to the AHL for the start of the season.
The Leafs projected second line tonight is Martin, Matthews and Marner. The M and M’s line has been garnering anticipation within Leafs Nation since Martin signed with the Leafs back at the beginning of free agency this summer. Clearly Martin was brought in to help protect and open up ice for Matthews and Marner. It was a clear message to the rest of the NHL not to mess with the kids. It will be interesting to watch how the chemistry unfolds tonight and as the season progresses.
Frederik Andersen will see action for the second consecutive game with Enroth also in the lineup tonight. Andersen played well in his preseason opener having stopped 13 of 14 shots he faced. The Leafs invested heavily in Andersen this past summer and the puck stopper is looking at a strong start for his new team.
The season is a short 6 days from today. After a year of being relatively tame during the rebuild, Leafs fans are now becoming more vocal. As the roster of the future takes shape between now and when camp breaks in a few days, no doubt the NHL’s best armchair GM’s will have a lot more to say.
Discuss among yourselves.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Michalek — Kadri — Komarov
Martin — Matthews — Marner
JVR — Nylander — Hyman
Brown — Gauthier — Kapanen
Marincin — Rielly
Gardiner — Carrick
Hunwick — Zaitsev
Andrighetto — Galchenyuk — Gallagher
Lehkonen — Plekanec — Radulov
Carr — Desharnais — Shaw
Danault — Mitchell — McCarron
Beaulieu — Weber
Markov — Petry
Emelin — Sergachev
Players After Morning Skate