The Maple Leafs made played their first game of the new season last night at home against the Canadiens and while there were some positive signs, there is still room for improvement.
I have to start off by saying that the montage played at the start of last night’s game really tugged at the heart strings. It showed everything it means to be a Maple Leaf and I have attached it as the featured video of this article. This team is 99 years old and has had so many great players, coaches, executives, and fans over those many years and this video showed everyone exactly why. Heart, soul, determination, intensity, and sacrifice are all what makes this Maple Leaf team so popular year in and year out (even if it hasn’t been as apparent in recent years) and it was nice to see that represented in such a thoughtful way. The new era begins by remembering where this team came from.
The Leafs lost to the Montréal Canadiens 3-1 last night on goals by Max Pacioretty (2) and Alex Galchenyuk. Pacioretty’s first goal hit Bernier in the shoulder and fell into the night while his second goal came in the empty net. Galchenyuk scored after Toronto couldn’t clear the puck mid-way through the third period and would prove to be the game-winner. Montréal also had a goal called back due to goaltender interference on the first Coach’s Challenge in NHL history from Mike Babcock. James Van Riemsdyk was the lone goal-scorer for Toronto.
He had this to say about last night’s game:
James van Riemsdyk mentioned that the Leafs did a lot of good things against Montréal while still conceding that they have work to do and have to stick with the gameplan. I have to agree with JVR here. The Leafs played a fairly solid game against the Canadiens last night not allowing a lot of odd-man rushes and playing a strong possession game. Unfortunately for Toronto, they couldn’t get more than 1 puck behind Carey Price who made 36 saves against the Leafs.
Nazem Kadri talked about a good effort in the first game and the difficulty in getting the puck past Price:
Daniel Winnik talked about being a better possession team and the difference between this year and last year on shot differential:
A surprise addition to the lineup was defenseman Scott Harrington who was acquired over the summer in the Phil Kessel deal. Harrington spoke to reporters on how it felt to play his first game as a Leaf and the feelings he had being sent down to the Marlies only to be called up to the Leafs for the game.
There were questions as to Jonathan Bernier’s ability almost immediately as a Pacioretty shot bounced off his shoulder and into the net. Bernier rebounded well for the rest of the game though and only allowed one more for the rest of the game. Bernier has always reminded me of a 1993 Félix Potvin in that he is calm under pressure and doesn’t let bad goals rattle him. A lot of people give up on him way too easily, he’s a very good goaltender and one that will help this team a lot if they can score some goals. Bernier talked about the goal, nerves, and the team after the game.
Babcock provided the best analysis of the game in his post-game press conference. He went into detail about getting carried away and not being patient enough when they were pressing for a goal late in the third. He addressed the fact that they need to be able to bury their chances in the back of the net. He talked about winning the first coach’s challenge in NHL history as well as providing insight into what he thought about Nazem Kadri’s game last night.
Babcock then went on to talk about the scratches of Roman Polak and Michael Grabner from the first game and looking forward to the game against Detroit tomorrow night.
Toronto will go to Detroit Friday night to take on the Red Wings in their home opener before going back home to face the Ottawa Senators. Hopefully they can keep trending in the right direction, but as it stands they are 0-1-0 on the season.