Brad Treliving’s summer slam of signings was on full display Saturday night, both in the penalty box and in the vitals of the stat sheet in the Leafs’ 7-4 win against Minnesota.
Tyler Bertuzzi, Ryan Reaves and Max Domi all passed through the sin bin, the latter two for fighting and roughing, respectively, Bertuzzi for a trip that preceded his first goal as a Leaf. New general manager Treliving brought them in to add more “snot” in what was considered a soft lineup, at least in recent regular seasons.
“Minnesota is a big group that play heavy, so that (Reaves fight with Marcus Foligno after he crushed Federick Gaudreau) was a great moment for him and for Domi (a tussle with Connor Dewar) that really helped our group early on,” said defenceman Morgan Rielly.
Reaves, after keeping his gloves on through exhibition play, has now fought twice in as many games. To find the last Leaf to do that in back-to-back games, NHL Stats had to go back to the truculence era of Brian Burke when Frazer McLaren did it April 18-20 of 2013.
HATS OFF TO AUSTON
Auston Matthews’ three-goal games no doubt did wonders for Leaf hat sales at Scotiabank Arena the past few days. After the chapeaus floated down again Saturday, Matthews gave his first-star stick to a kid in a sequined vest and decorative white sombrero. The lad had a placard in the end platinum seats during warm-ups celebrating their shared Mexican heritage, Matthews’ through his Mom, Ema.
“I didn’t see him in the warmup, but he had a nice little get-up there that I signed,” Matthews said. “I’m glad I caught him.”
TIME TO PLANT FARM CROPS
The Marlies began their American Hockey League season at home Saturday, apparently needing an autumn refresher in protecting a third-period lead.
Up 4-1 with 18 minutes to play, they fell 5-4 in overtime to the Rochester Americans at Coca Cola Coliseum. It spoiled John Gruden’s regular season coaching debut, though Bobby McMann came back from both an injury and clearing NHL waivers with a two-goal game. Captain Logan Shaw had two, plus two assists. Keith Petruzzelli made 27 saves in net.
Gruden was glad to get his first game in the books, but added “obviously we didn’t like the result. For me I got to learn a lot about our players, (they) probably got to learn a lot about me. It’s one game and it’s a stepping stone for us.”
On Saturday morning, Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said he looked forward to a mutually productive relationship with Gruden, as he had with predecessor Greg Moore. Gruden joined Keefe and his new Leaf assistants, Guy Boucher and Mike Van Ryn, during mid-summer meetings as players dropped in for workouts, including many who’ve since been moved to the Marlies or ECHL Newfoundland Growlers.
“We have a very unique situation with John,” Keefe said. “He come in as an AHL coach, but also has a lot of experience in the NHL as an assistant with Boston and the Islanders, a head coach in junior and he played a long time.
“So, he adds a lot of perspective. He was part of our plan getting ready at camp and I enjoyed using him as a resource.”
Back to Keefe’s days as a Calder Cup winning coach with the Marlies, players coming up the Lake Shore from the CNE have generally had a seamless transition to the parent club.
“Certainly we want things to be as uniform as possible (in the whole system), especially play without the puck and how we defend,” Keefe said. “Yet John and I have talked, as I did with Greg, that’s it’s two different teams, two different leagues, two schedules. They have to coach their team and it’s important they have flexibility as coaches and their own identity.
“But it’s also very important that the players we recall, for their own good, not so much as us, want to do well when they get here, be more in tune with what we’re doing.”
The Marlies began the year without new assistant coach Eric Wellwood. The brother of former Leaf Kyle has an undefined medical condition that has necessitated an indefinite leave.
“He’s okay,” Marlies general manager Ryan Hardy assured earlier this week. “I know people are wondering where he is. But any time you have a medical situation, just for respect for the family, and for Eric, as he works through that process, that’ll probably be all I’ll touch on.”
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It was go time Saturday for the ex-Minnesota Golden Gophers on opposite sides of the Scotiabank ice.
Former college teammates Matthew Knies and Brock Faber said they were putting friendships aside, including what’s traditionally a Friday night dinner before a Hockey Night In Canada game in Toronto.
“We’re both giving each other a little bit of space,” Knies laughed at Saturday’s morning skate.
Faber, like Knies, came up late last season after the Gophers season ended with an overtime loss in the NCAA Frozen Four.
“Brock was one of my best friends in school, he was our captain and I looked up to him a lot,” Knies said.
Faber had an assist Saturday and both came close to goals.
“Matt’s a great guy and a hell of a hockey player, too,” Faber said. “The day he stepped on campus, everyone loved him. He’s always worked his tail off.
“We made the decision (to leave Minnesota early), but it’s fun we get to face off so early. We were all so close and that’s a bond we hope will last forever. But when playing against them … they’re not friends.”
BALLAD OF THE GOAL SONG
It’s clear that Dup Dup by Mickie Krause is the new leader for a Leaf goal song, sounding seven times in its Saturday debut.
While a third tune, geared to Original Six opponents, will be heard Monday against Chicago, don’t be surprised if the remixed ‘Pursuit of Happiness’ by Kid Cudi does not return after opening night. There were some on-line complaints, though Dup Dup was scheduled for a Saturday launch anyway.
The game began with a pre-anthems’ plea for peace in the Middle East, read by announcer Mike Ross, and a moment of silence for innocent victim on all sides in the conflict. The message was a Leafs’ initiative though other NHL teams had their own versions the past couple of days … Saturday was also the 62nd anniversary of Paul Morris’s first game as p.a. man at the Gardens, a 3-2 home opener win over Boston. From there, the Leafs went on to win three straight Cups, while Morris and his distinctive delivery did not miss a game for more than 1,500 nights up to the close of the Gardens in 1999 … How big an impression did Toronto and St. John’s leave on ex-Leaf and now Wild assistant coach Darby Hendrickson in the ‘90s? “I still listen to the Tragically Hip and Blue Rodeo”.