TORONTO - Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke said last week that there really is only one roster spot open on the team this season, apparently on the third line.
Surely, Big Burkie jests, because the way goaltender Ben Scrivens has played so far in the pre-season, the native of Spruce Grove, Alta., should be given serious consideration for making the big club.
Scrivens’ stats with the Marlies last season (a save percentage of .924 and goals against average of 2.33) were excellent and his play in two pre-season appearances for the Leafs even better.
Scrivens allowed one goal on 14 shots against the Ottawa Senators on Monday and no goals on 10 shots against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday night. (He was also lucky. The Flyers hit the post twice).
Jonas Gustavsson, who allowed two goals after replacing Scrivens half-way through the second period Wednesday night, seems to have been already awarded the job as James Reimer’s backup this year.
The Monster also looked pretty good against the Flyers. Still, the job as Reimer’s backup shouldn’t already be decided. Whichever goalie plays best in the pre-season should be rewarded the gig as Reimer’s backup.
If anything should happen to Reimer during the regular season, the backup spot becomes a big deal.
ROSEHILL STEPPING UP
Kudos to Leafs tough guy Jay Rosehill, who twice stood up for his teammates, first after Flyers forward Andreas Nodl made a stupid play by shooting the puck at the net long after the whistle had sounded, and then in the second period when Jody Shelley hit Darryl Boyce from behind. Rosehill went right after Shelley.
WHAT WAS THE POINT?
Rogers Sportsnet analyst Nick Kypreos made a good observation following Tuesday’s roster moves, after the Leafs reassigned and cut 23 players. How can you invite 70 guys to a two-day training camp and expect players to make a real impression? Obviously, some players were invited to camp as some kind of reward, with no expectations to actually make the team.
A SLIPPERY SLOPE
Greg Millen, one of the best analysts in hockey broadcasting, had this to say when Luke Schenn was slapped with a questionable boarding penalty in the first period: “If we’re going to get to that level in the National Hockey League, my goodness, we’re in trouble.” Millen was right on. Schenn’s penalty was nowhere close to being boarding and if the refs, who are being ordered to crack down on head shots this season, starting making that call, NHL hockey will no longer be NHL hockey. NHL players have to be able to ride guys into the boards and deliver clean hits. It’s going to be an interesting, if frustrating, season in terms of the refs calling penalties.
AROUND THE RINK
Various broadcasters keep telling us that there are “huge expectations” for the Leafs this season. Really? Somebody is expecting “huge” things from the Leafs this season? Why is that exactly? Making the playoffs would be a start ... Defenceman Jake Gardiner seems to have skills to burn ... I can hardly wait for the Sportsnet magazine to finally come out so I can see the “stunning photography” ... The theme music for that Gears of War 3 game, or whatever it is, is weirdly haunting. Makes you want to put on a bandana and protest something.
GOOD & BAD (NO UGLY)
Good: Philippe Dupuis, with a nice set-up on the Juraj Mikus goal and tussle with Max Talbot, had a solid game, as did Matt Frattin (who scored two goals), Colby Armstrong, Tyler Bozak, Gardiner, Mikus and Jerry D’Amigo.
Not so good: Veteran defenceman Mike Komisarek, who is playing for ice time, still looks a little uncertain, though he did play better as the game progressed. He needs to play tough hockey, but his interference penalty in the second period was more dumb than tough. Rookie forward Greg McKegg was largely invisible.