Deja Vu?

This could be a sign of change for Toronto. Last year the leafs had an excellent pre-season, then the real season kicked off and the pre-season leafs were nowhere to be found. In the leaf fans dream world a losing or sub par preseason marks a 10 game winning streak to begin the season. With goaltending and defense demonstrated in last nights 5-0 beating, looks like the same story different season for the boys in blue. The key topic going into this season was an improvement in special teams, penalty kill especially. Watching last nights game I noticed it got worse and to top it off they couldn’t score on back to back five on three’s. I know it’s the first game of the year, limited practice, lack of chemistry are all factored in but if I’m Ron Wilson I would be panicking a little.

Nine quality NHL defense man make up the leaf roster, on paper it looks like a solid group. After watching your captain and top defenseman get burned by a third liner at best, has to make fans and coaching staff wonder. The top six defenseman to start the season is going to be a hard decision for Wilson, too much inconsistency on the blue line for this team. With inconsistent defense comes shaky goaltending, and Jonas Gustavsson proved that last night. Gustavsson looked sharp in the early going, after being pestered with 17 shots in the first period with the first two goals not being his fault, but after that the goaltender seemed lost. Jussi Rynnas came on to get some playing time, hard to judge the goaltender in his first NHL action. Luckily the goaltenders and defenseman have nine games to work out all the kinks before Montreal comes to town for the real thing on October 7th.

Offense looked the same, maybe even worse than last year. Wilson did use a roster full of AHL and ECHL players, but there was still enough fire power to put a few past no namer Robin Lehner. Kris Versteeg and Colby Armstrong made their leaf debuts last night, Armstrong showed some pep in his game showing reason why Burke signed him. Fitting the “Burke Mold” Armstrong will fit well with the leafs this season, with the right line and motivation this could be a breakout season for the former first rounder.  Talent wise besides Armstrong and Versteeg, Kessel isn’t going to get much help. The Leafs better hope he keeps that quick release firing if they want to win some games. After last nights performance Kadri didn’t look out-of-place and showed his speed in a few situations. Wilson and Burke will probably start him out in the AHL to make the NHL transition easier on the rookie forward. Hopefully tonight with a more balanced out roster the buds will be able to fill the score board.

Pressures on Wilson this season, although I highly doubt Burke will pull the plug on Wilson’s tenure a bad start might force the general managers hand. My prediction for the bud’s pre-season, Leafs go 4-5. With key additions coming mid-season and others following during the summer break, the boys in blue seem to be hovering around the ninth spot this year.

Follow tomorrow’s write up for post game analysis, and looking ahead to tomorrow’s game against the Flyers.

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