September 9th 2018. There were two separate games this afternoon between the Canadiens and the Maple Leafs’ rookies in Laval, Québec. The first one lasted 15 minutes and showed a dominant, confident, skilled and also intimidating Toronto team. The power play was producing, thanks in good part to players like Timothy Liljegren, Rasmus Sandin, Jeremy Bracco and Carl Grundström, the execution was there and made their opponents look puzzled in their own end.
And then there was a hit from behind by the Leafs’ defenceman Hudson Elynuik on the Canadiens’ 2017 fifth rounder, Jarret Tyszka. The new Laval Rocket (AHL) head coach Joel Bouchard sure did not appreciate the hit, but mostly the lack of character showed by his players as he benched all of his players on the ice at the moment of the hit for the remaining six minutes of that first period.
The message was clear and was certainly heard as the Canadiens jumped on the ice hungry and intense after the first intermission. Within the first 30 seconds of the second period we saw at least three solid hits, including a dangerous elbow to the head by Canadiens’ Morgan Adams-Moisan which rightfully got him expelled from the game.
For the reminder of the game, the Canadiens played with more grit and intensity when entering the offensive zone. The Montreal’s defence was also able to limit the opposition to 9 shots in the last 40 minutes of the game. Toronto’s netminder Zachary Bouthillier was solid to say the least and still managed to get the win for his team, a 4-2, one including an empty-net goal at the end of the third.
Here are notes from key players in this game:
Toronto Maple Leafs:
Carl Grundström: Not nearly as physical as the day before against the Sens’ rookies. It was difficult for him and his linemates to enter the offensive zone efficiently. He still managed to show his offensive skills on a couple power plays, including the first goal of the game on a two-man advantage early in the game.
Timothy Liljegren: The Swedish was once again the main piece of his team’s power play with efficient puck-moving skills and offensive sense. He didn’t hesitate to carry the puck and once again felt very comfortable doing so.
Semyon Der-Arguchintsev: The speedy Russian couldn’t use his skating as he would have liked to against a much tighter defense and was a bit less spectacular than yesterday. He got a helper on his team’s game-winning goal with the man advantage and was still among the bests of his team today.
Rasmus Sandin: A bit more implicated than yesterday, The Leafs’ first round pick in last June was able to control the puck and set the pace, showing an upgraded confidence compared to his first game. He was also on the ice for all of his team’s three power play goals.
Zachary Bouthillier: Drafted in the seventh round of the 2018’s NHL amateur draft, the 6-2 goaltender played a very solid game. He got beaten by a bubbling rebound after a save on a breakaway in the second and by a deflected puck from one of his defenceman to tie the game 2-2. He came with big saves in key moments of the game and easily deserved today’s first star of the game. He will be among the most interesting netminders to watch this season in the CHL (QMJHL’s Chicoutimi Sagueneens).
Jesperi Kotkaniemi: Played with way more confidence in this game, the third overall selection in 2018 was able to show his great playmaking skils and was more involved, going for the smart play instead of the hit like he unsuccessfully did Friday. He was able come out of battles with the puck most of the times. In both his weekend games, he has drawn at least four penalties while trying to control the puck. The pace is much faster for him, but his ability to adjust to it is also pretty impressive.
William Bitten: Bitten never looked tired in this one. He was all over the ice and most of the time at the right place. He didn’t back down from any battle in the corners and also made great offensive plays, including an assist on Cole Fonstad’s goal in the second period as he was stopped on a breakaway before his linemate could scoop in the rebound.
Lukas Vejdemo: Montreal’s third round selection in 2015, Vejdemo showed good speed and was part of at two of his team’s scoring chances. He also played a very mature defensive game with simple-but-efficient plays for most of his shifts. It’s easy to understand how he was so important to his SHL team last year and he will be among players to watch as he tries to climb the remaining ladders to the NHL.
Phélix Martineau: Played a very fast-paced game for most of his shifts. Martineau was alsways in the mix as he used his tireless skating to play an in-your-face kind of game. He was also very useful defensively, breaking plays and blocking shots. The 5-11 is still many steps away from a NHL career, but he should be among the fans’ favorites in Laval next season. Carl Sinclair
Here are some highlights:
Authored by: Carl Sinclair