Preseason Game 15 – Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 2

Preseason Game 15
Maple Leafs 2, Canadiens 2
Saturday, October 7, 1978
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

It took until the end of the National Hockey League exhibition schedule, but the Toronto Maple Leafs finally have their act together.

When they open their regular season Wednesday in Pittsburgh, it should become apparent whether the ice act is best suited to comedy, tragedy or high drama.

The Leafs finished their 10 game test run Saturday night with a 2-2 tie against a depleted Montréal Canadien lineup. The draw gave Toronto an unimpressive preseason record of two wins, seven losses and one tie. Toronto has not defeated Montréal in their past 13 meetings.

Nevertheless, Toronto coach Roger Neilson found hope in the fact that Toronto allowed only six goals (plus two empty net goals) in its final three exhibitions.

“That’s encouraging, because it’s right where we should be,” said Neilson. “It seems we’ve tightened up and we’re ready for the season. We’re undefeated in our last two games and we came through training camp in pretty good condition.”

It is easy to accept what Neilson says until one listens to his comments on Montréal.

“They had five or six really good rookies, working like hell to get into the lineup,” Neilson said. “In preseason games, they’re better than the veterans because they work so hard.”

The Canadiens played without Guy Lafleur, Steve Shutt, Bob Gainey, Yvan Cournoyer and Réjean Houle. Rookies Normand Dupont, Pat Shutt, Rodney Schutt and Dave Lumley put on a strong show, but no one could believe that they could do as well as the absentees.

Toronto had an opportunity to break the winless chain. Lorne Stamler gave the Leafs a first period 1-0 advantage until Montréal defenceman Larry Robinson tied it up. Ian Turnbull again put Toronto in front late in the second period with a power play goal. Mario Tremblay scored the equalizer with less than two minutes remaining.

The most encouraging part of the Toronto game was the improvement of the penalty killing. The Leafs have not been scored upon in their past 13 shorthanded situations. Toronto had given up 18 power play goals in their first seven exhibitions.

Jim Jones and Jerry Butler have returned to their penalty killing form of last season. The Leafs have also added centres Walt McKechnie and Garry Monahan and left winger Stamler to the list of two way men who can serve in shorthanded situations.

Stamler had been the big surprise of a package deal that sent defenceman Brian Glennie and right wingers Kurt Walker and Scott Garland to the Los Angeles Kings for defenceman Dave Hutchison and Stamler.

The left winger scored goals on Thursday (in a win over Buffalo) and Saturday (in the tie against Montréal).

“We had expected that he would be headed straight for Moncton, but he’s worked very hard,” Neilson said.

When training camp opened 22 days ago, the biggest problem facing Toronto was the shortage of good centres. Stan Weir had been released as a free agent and signed with the Edmonton Oilers of the World Hockey Association. George Ferguson was dealt to the Pittsburgh Penguins with Randy Carlyle in return for defenceman Dave Burrows.

Now, if Toronto does not have a wealth of talent up the middle, it does have experience in Darryl Sittler, Jones, McKechnie and Monahan.

“Our young centres didn’t quite look as though they were ready. When they didn’t come to the fore, we got Walt,” Neilson said.

The Leafs are tough on the left wing with Dan Maloney, Pat Boutette, Dave Williams and Stamler. On the right side, they have the checking of Jerry Butler, the shooting of Ron Ellis and Lanny McDonald and the speed of John Anderson.

Toronto will go with five defencemen – Burrows, Hutchison, Trevor Johansen, Turnbull and Borje Salming.

A possible spare will be Ron Wilson, an all purpose player who could play the point on power plays while Turnbull is shifted to left wing.

The goaltending will be divided between Mike Palmateer and newcomer Paul Harrison. Both had excellent performances in exhibition games and could share the work load equally. The poor exhibition showing could not be blamed on them. Palmateer played most games last year, with Gord McRae seeing only spot duty.

“The Bird (McRae) was pretty capable, but I think getting Paul was the steal of the year,” said Palmateer, who admitted to being tired by the end of last season. “I like being the number one goalie, but there’s no way you can keep going out there every night.”

Could Harrison be impressive enough to dethrone Palmateer?

“If he beats me at my best, how can I be upset about it?”

The Leafs will trim four or five more players from their roster today after the intraleague waiver draft. The only NHL veteran whom they did not protect was Bob Neely, who had some of his best moments at defence during the exhibition season. Toronto may lose him. The first selection in the draft probably will be Montréal defenceman Pierre Bouchard, left unprotected by the Stanley Cup champion.

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, October 9, 1978

1st Period
TOR GOAL – 06:25 – Stamler (Anderson, Monahan)
TOR PEN – 07:25 – Monahan, slashing
MTL GOAL – 11:46 – Robinson

2nd Period
TOR PEN – 15:18 – Salming, tripping
MTL PEN – 16:45 – Chartraw, interference
TOR PP GOAL – 18:39 – Turnbull (Anderson, Monahan)

3rd Period
MTL PEN – 03:36 – Dryden, delay of game
TOR PEN – 03:56 – Turnbull, holding
MTL PEN – 10:26 – Robinson, fighting major + misconduct
TOR PEN – 10:26 – Williams, roughing double minor
TOR PEN – 10:26 – Hutchison, fighting major
MTL PEN – 13:15 – Napier, interference
MTL GOAL – 18:18 – Tremblay (Lambert, Savard)
MTL PEN – 19:49 – Risebrough, roughing
TOR PEN – 19:49 – Williams, roughing

TOR – 13+11+7 = 31
MTL – 8+10+20 = 38

TORGoaltenders: Paul Harrison, Mike Palmateer. Defence: Dave Burrows, Dave Hutchison, Trevor Johansen, Borje Salming, Ian Turnbull. Forwards: John Anderson, Pat Boutette, Ron Ellis, Jimmy Jones, Dan Maloney, Lanny McDonald, Walt McKechnie, Garry Monahan, Darryl Sittler, Lorne Stamler, Dave Williams, Ron Wilson.
MTLGoaltenders: Ken Dryden, Rob Holland. Defence: Rick Chartraw, Rod Langway, Guy Lapointe, Gilles Lupien, Larry Robinson, Serge Savard. Forwards: Cam Connor, Norm Dupont, Doug Jarvis, Yvon Lambert, Pierre Larouche, Jacques Lemaire, Dave Lumley, Pierre Mondou, Mark Napier, Doug Risebrough, Rodney Schutt, Pat Shutt, Mario Tremblay.