In the preseason game on Monday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs started most of their top players for the first time in the preseason. Perhaps they should have stuck with their auditioning troops. The result was a 5-4 overtime loss to an outmatched (but tenacious) Montreal Canadiens team.
It was a game the Maple Leafs should have put away. They held two-goal leads deep into the game but just didn’t hold on. As a result, the young Habs scored three goals at the end and took the victory. The Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, Tyler Bertuzzi line looked rusty. Bertuzzi looked like he couldn’t keep up at times.
Instead of a regular three takeaways post, let’s focus the analysis on Issues, Strengths, and What’s Coming Next for the team.
Takeaway One: Four Maple Leafs Issues from the OT Loss
The game outlined four issues the team must work on. First, the late-game collapse was disappointing. The Maple Leafs squandered a 4-2 lead in the third period and ultimately lost in overtime. This collapse exposed defensive vulnerabilities that need addressing before the regular season begins.
Second, Ilya Samsonov, who had a promising start to the preseason, had a rough outing in this game. He gave up five goals on 26 shots. His performance might raise some concerns; however, it was only his second start of the preseason. The team will be giving him another chance to show improvement before the home opener, I’m sure.
Third, the Maple Leafs’ power play had its struggles, going one-for-five in the game and even conceding a shorthanded goal. This area needs refining to maximize scoring chances and minimize risks. This team should be better than this showing.
Fourth, Max Domi’s tendency to take penalties was on display again. Could this be an issue in the regular season? His discipline will be a focal point for improvement moving forward.
Takeaway Two: Two Strong Showings by Maple Leafs Players
First, one bright spot in the game was the performance of the John Tavares-Matthew Knies-Sam Lafferty line. They displayed strong chemistry and tenacity on both ends of the ice, with Tavares leading the way with a two-goal performance. All three are hard on the puck, and it showed on Monday night. Lafferty seems to be a player on the bubble, but he should be around when the season begins.
Second, among the defensemen, Timothy Liljegren stood out with his offensive contributions and significant ice time. He played a key role in setting up goals and demonstrated his value to the team. If Liljegren can keep this solid play up, the team will benefit in the long run. He was solid in all five-on-five aspects and played well on both special teams.
Takeaway Three: What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
First, after the game, Sheldon Keefe provided injury updates. He reported that Conor Timmins’ injury is “week to week.” The potential to place him on long-term injury allows the team to manage salary cap issues. John Klingberg’s status remains day-to-day, and there’s a good chance he will be ready for the season opener.
Second, the Maple Leafs made their first cuts, sending most of the Toronto Marlies team down. Because some of these young players looked good – especially on defense, I thought – this decision allows the moving of Marlies players in and out of the lineup during the regular season. Interestingly, both Easton Cowan and Fraser Minten remain with the big club. Will we see them one last time before the regular season?
Third, the Maple Leafs have upcoming preseason games against the Detroit Red Wings. One will be at home and the other away. It will provide further opportunities for the team’s improvement and fine-tuning.
The regular season begins in just over a week.
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