Leafs 4 v. Habs 3: Marlies Bring Down Habs
The Leafs (3-1) continued their solid pre-season with a 4-3 victory over the still winless Montreal Canadiens (0-4). Toronto fielded an NHL-minimum 8 veterans as the Marlies made big contributions to the win over what was an almost full-strength Montreal team.
Andrew Raycroft got the start and pushed the string of strong goaltending performances to three. He was the best penalty killer on a night that saw four 5-on-3 deficits for the Leafs. Andrew also made a variety of big saves including one on Guillaume Latendresse (overrated) on a breakaway with the paddle of his stick. I think that those people hoping for the Great Andrew Raycroft Experiment to blow up in JFJ's face will be sorely disappointed. If anything, Habs fans should be worried that Huet looked pretty bad again last night. If he cannot repeat last season's heroics then the Habs will have to hope that Aebischer can step in.
Another JFJ gamble looked great last night. Michael Peca, looking much more like the playoff version of his 2005-2006 edition, seems intent on proving some ex-fans wrong. He buzzed around, won 57% of his faceoffs, and was one of the Leafs stronger forwards. Peca was also a big part of Toronto killing off 15 straight penalties until Mark Streit's goal on a two-man advantage. The penalty kill is rounding into form. They killed 9 of 11 penalties with one coming on the aforementioned 5-on-3 and the other coming as a result of a failed Raycroft clearance and a scrambled rebound.
The big star of the night was Suglobov who was the most dangerous forward. He was not afraid to take on defenders (Maurice mentioned maybe he was too willing) or to shoot the puck. He also formed a promising trio with Alex Steen and Matt Stajan that caused the Habs headaches during their short time together.
The Leafs defence handled their NHL counterparts well. They rarely had any real problems dealing with the Montreal forecheck. White and Bell showed a facility with the puck that belies their years and will make it very hard for Paul Maurice to send them across the Gardiner to the Ricoh. New signing Hal Gill also had a much better game. He used his long reach to keep the Habs forwards off balance and looked much more disciplined than last year (except for a penalty he took after Kilger was lowbridged by Komisarek but that's standing up for your teammates so he gets a free pass).
Maple Leaf Goals
Erik Westrum sent Jeremy Williams down the right wing. As soon as he got a stride on his defender he shot and missed the net. Luckily, the puck rebounded off the end boards to Suglobov who made a sick shot over Price's right shoulder and into the top left corner. It was such a tight shot that it needed a video review to be confirmed.
Kyle Wellwood lost the puck at the blueline after taking a great pass from Wozniewski. Bates Battaglia, who was following up the play, slid the puck through the defenceman's legs to Wellwood who proceeded to leave Huet searching for his jock strap.
A picture perfect break out saw the puck move from Wozniewski to Harrison to Westrum to Suglobov. Aleksander attacked his defender and wanted to fire a shot through the screen. Fortunately, he fanned on the shot and the puck bounced to Jeremy Williams who knocked the puck out of mid-air and directed it over Huet's shoulder.
Suglobov, Steen, and Stajan were AMAZING on this shift. They pinned the Habs inside their zone. They twice kept the puck in the zone and created three goal scoring opportunities before before Stajan finished off a one-two with Suglobov with a shot under Huet's arm. Huet does not look like the goalie that made the Habs think that they could give up on Theodore.