As players return to the ice after the summer break, everyone is at least a tad rusty.
So, the Leafs rookies’ 5-2 loss at the hands of their Montreal Canadiens counterparts surely can’t be blamed solely on Toronto’s 2017 first-round pick, defenceman Timothy Liljegren.
Nevertheless, under the microscope of the Toronto media who gathered in droves at Ricoh Coliseum for the first of three weekend games, Liljegren had an inauspicious performance. He was caught flat-footed on the first goal of the game, scored by the Habs’ Thomas Ebbing who waltzed around the 6-foot tall Swedish rearguard.
The back-breaker occurred in the third period when Liljegren turned the puck over to Ebbing from behind the Leafs goal; an ill-fated attempted pass which was quickly converted past netminder Ian Scott to extend Montreal’s lead to 4-2 at the time.
Toronto rookie coach was loath to single out Liljegren, or any player, for criticism.
“It was a pretty sloppy and (dis)organized game by us, and that doesn’t play into his kind of game,” Keefe said. “But on the power play he showed some real positive things.”
Martins Dzierkals and Jeremy Bracco had the Leafs’ goals. Kasimir Kaskisuo had a strong outing as the starting goaltender for Toronto, stopping 14 of 15 shots including a pair of difficult pad saves.
Mason Marchment was lauded by the hometown crowd after an energetic shift during which he delivered three hits and a shot on goal.
Eemeli Rasanen left the game in the first period with a lower-body injury. Keaton Middleton did not finish the outing with an upper-body injury sustained in a spirited fight against Montreal’s Michael Pezzetta.
The Habs play the Ottawa Senators on Saturday. The tournament concludes on Sunday afternoon when the Leafs take on the Sens’ rookies.
In 2016, Rob wrote “Hockey’s Enforcers: A Dying Breed”, now available at Chapters and Indigo stores everywhere.