We’ll share points after every game throughout the Toronto Maple Leafs season.
Break up the Buds! The Toronto Maple Leafs won a third consecutive exhibition contest on Friday night, sending a minor-league-heavy lineup into Detroit and leaving with a 4-3 shootout win over the Red Wings.
Here are three points from the win:
First Point: Sandin clears toughest hurdle
You can include Rasmus Sandin’s pregame demeanour on the list of signs pointing to the 19-year-old defenseman indeed cracking the Maple Leafs’ lineup on opening night.
Smiling, laughing and willing to engage more than he had in previous scrums, Sandin candidly talked about the opportunity to log top-pairing minutes versus the Red Wings before the split-squad made its way to Detroit on Friday afternoon. Within the exchange, and when asked about the physicality he showed in his last outing, Sandin offered a gem of a quote that pretty much encapsulates why the organization is so high on him.
“It’s about getting the puck, right?”
And that’s just what Rasmus Sandin does.
Logging nearly 31 minutes (!!) mostly with his partner throughout the bulk of camp, Martin “Big Safety” Marincin, Sandin turned in another complete performance. Toronto finished with 16 shots for to just six against with Sandin on the ice in all conditions, including some work at three aside in overtime. And though he was on the ice for two goals for and two against, he finished the game with 87 percent expected goals.
Sandin’s possession numbers did begin to wane after a dominant start and when he had to reach deep into the reserve, but he was very much a positive influence in a game where the coaching staff was intent on testing his limits.
Second Point: Liljegren needs some seasoning
As impressive as Sandin’s been, the other high profile defensive prospect in the system has been equally disappointing.
Timothy Liljegren looked far from comfortable and, in some ways, indifferent in likely his final showcase opportunity for Maple Leafs brass in training camp. His shot metrics sagged considerably in a game largely dominated by the Leafs, and he routinely seems to fail at executing simple plays.
The former 17th overall selection will undoubtedly be optioned to the Marlies to begin his third season in the minors, where the coaching staff will continue to try to set Liljegren back on a trajectory that will have him one day contribute to an NHL roster.
At this moment, it’s looking like a heavy lift.
Third Point: Nothing fancy about it
There was nothing exceptional on display from the candidates up for the forward depth roles with the Maple Leafs.
And that should please Mike Babcock to no end.
After challenging Nic Petan and Dmytro Timashov (without naming them specifically) to sustain a fourth-line grind across top-line minutes, the wingers submitted a dominant, and yet workmanlike, performance along with centre Tyler Gaudet. With strong shot and scoring chance shares with the most ice time they have seen in the preseason to date, Petan and Timashov manufactured their looks predominantly through a tireless forecheck, not by deviating from their two-way responsibilities.
Isolated from the NHL-ready split-squad roster for most of camp, it appears the coaching staff has pressed the right buttons with Petan. He had two high-danger looks on his first shift alone and was certainly Toronto’s most dangerous forward throughout.
But if it’s a competition between the two for a potential roster spot, Timashov didn’t move an inch. Matching Petan with six shot attempts, stepping into lanes to block a few shots and also drawing a penalty on the forecheck, Timashov answered the challenge from Babcock too, and to this point has had more time to build chemistry on the fourth line with Jason Spezza and Frederik Gauthier.
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