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Leafs Versus Habs
There’s something premonitory about the pre-season. In many respects, exhibition games are the most decisive segments of the hockey season, as they are indicative of a team’s performance quality during the regular season.
And, if the Maple Leafs play the regular season as well as they played their pre-season, then this might finally be the season that Leafs fans have been waiting for.
Despite already being plagued by physical harm (star winger Phil Kessel missed the final exhibition game due to a lower-body injury), the Leafs were able to dominate teams like the Philadelphia Flyers and the Buffalo Sabres. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the pre-season was Toronto’s 5-1 victory over one of the league’s most vigorous titan, the Detroit Red Wings. Thanks to impressive performances from Dion Phaneuf and James van Riemsdyk, the Leafs were able to clinch the unexpected win.
During the pre-season, left winger Josh Leivo and centre William Nylander made formidable cases for themselves. Leivo and Nylander set themselves apart, and proved that they would be welcomed additions to the Leafs in Toronto.
However, no other Leafs player has made as much as an impression during the pre-season as right winger Brandon Kozun. While Kozun may not be physically intimidating, what he lacks in size, he makes up in speed. Kozun has quite a lot to offer, and his presence would certainly enrich the Leafs should he make the final roster.
But while some players were noticed for of their powerful performances, other players were noticed for their lackluster efficiency. Carton Ashton failed to utilize his potential, and Matt Frattin simply couldn’t stand out among the likes of Kozun and Leivo.
As the Leafs’ regular season opener against the Montreal Canadiens comes into focus, we’ll see which players will have reason to celebrate, and which players will meet the cutting board.