On paper, the Ottawa Senators should have beaten the Toronto Maple Leafs easily last night. The Senators iced a solid, NHL lineup. The Maple Leafs mostly iced a group of young players seeking jobs and without much NHL experience.
Surprise. The Maple Leafs beat the Senators 6-3. And, after going up 3-0 in the first period, the Senators mounted a comeback – of sorts – but couldn’t sustain it. The Maple Leafs had more get-up-and-go on the ice and simply looked like they wanted to win more.
It was an impressive game that way. Whether the team can keep up this level of intensity or not, who knows. Still, they outplayed the Senators and – even with youngsters, rookies, and a few veterans – just looked like the better team.
The score didn’t lie. In this edition of Maple Leafs’ Takeaways, I’ll share what I think are three key takeaways from the game.
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Takeaway One: Nick Robertson Has a Chance to Make this Lineup
If there’s one thing we know about Nick Robertson, it’s that he can shoot. The 21-year-old winger scored two pretty goals in last night’s 6-3 win over the Ottawa Senators. He now has scored three goals during the postseason.
That scoring and the confidence that seems to be growing will give him his best chance to actually make this team out of training camp. He did more than just score in last night’s game. He had energy all over the ice – fighting for pucks behind the nets, winning battles, engaging in scrums, being knocked around but not down. He fought hard and showed well.
He looks so much stronger than he has before, which was the goal of his off-season strength-building. It worked.
Coach Sheldon Keefe noted as much when he said after the game: “What you’re looking for a guy like him is will he be able to make an impact offensively. That’s what he does, that is what he is best at. You want to see him convert at a higher level and I think we’re starting to see that. The games will get harder, but I can see him improving and his confidence growing daily.”
Related: Maple Leafs Lines & Pairings for Friday’s Game vs Senators
Takeaway Two: A Different Wayne Simmonds Has Showed Up this Preseason
Wayne Simmonds is a 34-year-old veteran who’s been around the block a few times in his career. Once one of the premier power forwards in the NHL, he knew he was in tough to stick around this season on a re-made Maple Leafs’ forward group. That’s why he put in tons of work during the off-season. He’s fighting for his place in the lineup.
If tonight was any indication, his work has been successful. He’s faster and more involved than he ever seemed to be last season. By his own admission, he prepared hard to build up his strength, generate more power in his lower body, and work on his skating – especially his first “couple of strides.”
As he noted, it was “what I focused on in the gym.” (from “Robertson continues to give himself every chance of sticking, scores twice in Maple Leafs’ pre-season win, Terry Koshan, Toronto Sun, 30/09/2022).
However, he also feels a bit bad for the young players who are fighting with him for a spot in the lineup. He noted after the game that “We’re all pushing each other. We’re all part of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ organization. We’re all trying to get better. Our main goal is to win a Stanley Cup, so the more internal competition you have, the better it is for everybody.”
The journey is still out for him. He might lose his job to a younger player with more potential upside. But the next weeks of training camp will tell the story.
Takeaway Three: Ilya Samsonov Looked Good Until the Last Minute of the Game
Until the last minute of the game when the Senators put one through him – it seemed like a sloppy goal that he’d love to have back – Ilya Samsonov looked really good in the net. He was calm in close; he made some great saves; and, he looked in position – as I say, until the very end of the game.
Samsonov looked like the kind of goalie the team could count on. He made 27 saves during the game; and, let’s hope the last goal was simply a temporary lapse because he thought the game was over and his team was up four goals.
Had it not been for the Senators’ third goal, I would have lauded his work in the crease. As it is, he’s still going to have to convince fans, teammates, and the coaching staff that he can be trusted for 60 minutes. He was good, but not great.
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October 1, 2022 at 12:27 am
I know it’s early but Robertson’s shot looks like the real deal. Why not start him on the first line. Move bunting beside tavaras. Kerfoot 3rd line center and kampf 4the line center. Its a good way of optimizing his shot and the play making of marner and mathews, as well as filling the second line left wing spot, while strengthening the overall center depth.
October 1, 2022 at 2:05 pm
I get the positive nature – it would be hard to move out Bunting – he was such a good fit. Thanks for your note –
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October 1, 2022 at 12:57 pm
When watching Nick Robertson in games against NHL players in the past he seemed to spend as much time on his keester as he did on his skates. As you mention, none of being pushed around or knocked down showed up in his game last evening.
It also seems that his added bulk has increased the velocity of his shot.
Now I am forced to concede that I was wrong about him never becoming a fulltime NHL player, which I am quite happy about. I would go as far as saying that I don’t know how they could keep him and Denis Malgin off of the team.
October 1, 2022 at 2:07 pm
He was pushed – as you note – but not moved – it seems we agree on both Robertson and Malgin – I love the Malgin story – he just keeps looking good
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