Maple Leafs v. Wings Postgame Thoughts

The Toronto Maple Leafs had a game to forget tonight.

This is not exactly the most enjoyable game to share my postgame thoughts, but here we go:

- Although Luca Caputi has been impressive in the pre-season, he caused the first goal after a poor attempt to clear the puck from the defensive zone. The extra 15 pounds of muscle he added has been noticeable, especially when he drives the net, but he has to utilize that strenght in his own end as well.

- The Leafs’ defence was far too soft tonight. Tomas Kaberle left Jiri Hudler all alone in front of the net on the second goal and did little to clear the front of the net. To be fair, the goal was a direct result of Jussi Rynnas’ poor rebound control, who is in need of American Hockey League seasoning before getting exposed to the NHL. In any case, the Leafs defense were often caught flatfooted once challenged by the Wings’ speed and struggled to maintain positioning. That, coupled with a horrid showing from Rynnas, led to an embarrassing loss—even if it is pre-season.

- It’s easy to forget Kris Versteeg is only entering his third NHL campaign. His poise in the offensive zone is welcome to a team in dire need of some firepower upfront. He continiously had the Wings hot on his trail, using his speed and stickhandling abilities to create space. In fact, his patience with the puck left Phil Kessel unguarded in the left circle, who capitilized on a nice feed. With Versteeg and Phaneuf now in the mix, there’s at least hope to expect more goals on the powerplay. And let’s face it, the special teams will once again determine the Leafs’ positioning in the Eastern Conference standings this season. Still, if this is a precursor of things to come, Ron Wilson will have some options on the powerplay. Not only does that mean more goals for the Leafs, but most likely Phaneuf as well, who will benefit from not having his slapshot blocked a thousand times per game.

- If the Leafs’ defence is supposed to be among the league’s best, it certainly hasn’t been on display. The Leafs currently rank last in the league with 29 goals against in eight games. I know it’s only pre-season, but not all statistics are irrelevant during the nine-game warm-up, especially considering the Leafs’ struggles in that area last season. Yes, Rynnas had an awful game and looked like a fish out water, but the Leafs have to tighten up defensively. Even with a medicore goaltender, 29 goals against is far too much with the league’s most expensive defense corps.

- Nazem Kadri had a quiet game and wasn’t particularly noticeable (finished with one shot on net). It now seems like a foregone conclusion that he’ll report to the Toronto Marlies, as his chances to make the opening-night lineup were low to begin with. Nothing wrong with letting him develop in the AHL. If his confidence is shaken from the experience, then it’s clear he doesn’t have what it takes to thrive in Toronto. He only turns 20 on October 6, so fans must remain patient.

The Leafs are back in action tomorrow night against the Wings at the Air Canada Centre. Hopefully there’s more positive things to discuss after tomorrow night’s game.

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