Preseason Game 25 – Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 3

Preseason Game 25
Canadiens 4, Maple Leafs 3
Wednesday, September 28, 1983
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

With two games left in the preseason, centre Bill Derlago figures he still has a chance to prove he belongs on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ big line.

Right winger Frank Nigro is hoping he still has a chance to show he belongs on the team.

It is an important time for both players, striving to impress the coaches and management.

Despite a 4-3 loss to the Montréal Canadiens last night, they made the best of their opportunities.

Nigro scored two goals and Derlago continued to show improvement after a slow start at camp. He scored only once, but it was a well earned point.

In the second period, Derlago fought off a much bigger man in defenceman Jocelyn Gauvreau in front of the Canadien net before getting the puck and scoring.

Twice, Gauvreau knocked down Derlago, but Derlago got to his feet after the first hit, took a pass and scored from the crease as Gauvreau lifted his skates out from under him.

“I didn’t know whether to duck or shoot,” Derlago said. “The big guy was trying to work me over, but I stood my ground. Hey, I’m the veteran. He’s the rookie.”

Derlago’s inspired play and the manner in which Nigro excelled with Dan Daoust as his centre has forced the Leaf coaching staff into some tough decisions.

Derlago, you see, plays his best hockey with Leaf captain and 50 goal scorer Rick Vaive on his right wing. Without Vaive, Derlago is often ordinary.

But Daoust is Vaive’s usual centre, and the feeling among many of the Leaf brass is that the job should be Daoust’s until somebody proves he is better.

For his part, Daoust, the aggressive little centre acquired from Montréal last year, says he doesn’t care who he plays with – but admits he sees the writing on the wall.

“It looks like they’re favouring Billy with Rick,” he said, “and, frankly, I don’t care. The way Frank is shooting, I might get just as many points with him.

“Honestly, I’m not going to cry about it. If they want Rick with Bill, that’s fine. I just want to play. I don’t care where.”

Daoust has been working with Nigro in practices and says his advice is paying off.

“I’m telling him, don’t be afraid of taking a hit to make a play. That’s all part of the game. And I’m also telling him to shoot as often as possible. He’s got a helluva shot. Even if it’s stopped, there’s a chance for a rebound.”

Rebounds weren’t needed when Nigro fired the puck last night. On the first one, he crossed the blueline, wound up and neatly placed the puck under the crossbar to the left of rookie goalie Greg Moffett.

The other was a slapshot, too, and on both goals Daoust got assists.

Nigro played in 51 games last year, collecting six goals and 15 assists. With the additions of wingers Basil McRae and Pat Graham this year, Nigro is in a tight battle for a spot on the right side.

“I still feel there are a couple of spots open,” Nigro said. Coach Mike Nykoluk noted that Nigro has been one of the pleasant surprises at camp.

So, the coaches are happy and the players seem content. The only real problem when deciding between Daoust, Derlago, and, for that matter, Peter Ihnacak, will be on the power play. Both Derlago and Daoust say they want their share of work when the Leafs have the advantage.

Last night’s game was chippy. There were fights, roughing penalties and high sticking infractions.

The Canadiens, with six rookies in the lineup, took a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Chris Nilan and rookie defenceman Kent Carlson, from St. Lawrence University in New York. Carlson is impressive and will make the squad for the regular season.

Goals by Derlago and Nigro put the Leafs ahead 3-2 in the second. But in the third, Montréal’s Mats Naslund cashed in on a clearing error by rookie Gary Leeman and, later, Pierre Mondou scored on Leaf goalie Rick St. Croix to put the Canadiens ahead to stay.

The Leafs (3-4-1 in the preseason) play tonight in Québec against the Nordiques and finish off the preseason on Saturday at home against the Canadiens (4-5 in exhibition games).

Story originally published in The Globe & Mail, September 29, 1983

1st Period
TOR PEN – 07:10 – Poddubny
MTL PEN – 09:55 – Gainey
MTL GOAL – 15:29 – Nilan (McPhee, Allison)
MTL PEN – 16:53 – Delorme
MTL GOAL – 19:22 – Carlson (Napier, Acton)

2nd Period
TOR GOAL – 01:49 – Nigro (Leeman, Daoust)

TOR GOAL – 03:51 – Derlago (Stewart, Gavin)
MTL PEN – 09:08 – Lafleur
TOR GOAL – 12:25 – Nigro (Salming, Daoust)
MTL PEN – 12:25 – Nilan
TOR PEN – 12:25 – Vaive
MTL PEN – 19:15 – Allison
TOR PEN – 19:15 – Ihnacak

3rd Period
MTL GOAL – 04:02 – Naslund (Carbonneau)

MTL PEN – 05:55 – Allison, major
TOR PEN – 05:55 – McRae, major
TOR PEN – 09:26 – Nigro
MTL PEN – 10:15 – Tremblay
TOR PEN – 10:15 – Korn, double minor
MTL GOAL – 11:27 – Mondou (Lafleur, Carbonneau)
TOR PEN – 11:20 – Gavin
MTL PEN – 12:03 – Carlson
TOR PEN – 12:03 – Poddubny
MTL PEN – 17:32 – Hunter

MTL – Moffett (W, 31-34)
TOR – St. Croix (L, 26-30)

MTL – 9+8+13 = 30
TOR – 12+14+8 = 34