Preseason Game 33
Canadiens 8, Maple Leafs 3
Sunday, September 22, 1996
Centre Molson, Montréal, Québec
Maple Leaf coach Mike Murphy will today perform the difficult task of separating the wheat from the chaff on his hockey club.
Difficult only in that there is undoubtedly a lot more chaff than he expected.
Murphy – with yesterday’s 8-3 embarrassment here fresh in his mind – will pare his team from 30 down close to the 23 he hopes to carry this season.
Some decisions will be obvious. Rookie goaltender Francis Larivée is already gone. He brought his suitcase to the Molson Centre yesterday and will rejoin his Laval junior squad today.
Unfortunately, his most vivid memory will be of the six goals he allowed in the 20 minutes he played yesterday in his first action against NHL shooters.
However, goaltending – though bad – was not Toronto’s only problem.
It’s becoming apparent that some players will be in Toronto by default. Young skaters such as Todd Warriner, Brandon Convery, Mike Craig, Mark Kolesar and Kelly Fairchild have shown little in exhibition games, when they should be hungrily trying to assert themselves.
Not one has scored a goal yet, but Murphy can’t cut them all. Somebody has to be in uniform when the Leafs open the season at home against the Mighty Ducks October 5.
“I have to show patience with those players,” said Murphy, when asked specifically about Warriner and Convery. “So far, not much has gone well for them, but I still believe that if we stick with them, something good will happen.”
But Murphy’s patience – a commodity he’ll need in abundance – is also being tested by several veterans.
Defence partners Jamie Macoun and Dmitri Yushkevich, for example, had a horrid evening against the Habs. They looked totally confused whenever Saku Koivu and Martin Rucinsky were on the ice. They finished a combined minus 10 for their efforts.
“I didn’t like either of their games tonight,” said Murphy. “If those two played all year and didn’t score a goal it wouldn’t bother me. They’ll be out against the top players in the league this year. That will be their job. They will have to get down and dirty every night.”
Although Toronto has been mostly pathetic through the preseason, the rookie coach is doing his best to keep his team’s 0-4 record in perspective.
“I think we’ve skated lineups so myself and (assistant coach) Terry Simpson, who are new to the organization, could get a good look at all the players in different situations,” said Murphy.
The frightening aspect of this approach from a Leaf perspective is that so few players have grabbed that opportunity.
On a team that desperately needs to replace offence it traded away, the only young player who looks like he can be a consistent scoring threat is Russian rookie Sergei Berezin.
Berezin, Toronto’s best player apart from goaltender Félix Potvin, potted his first two goals yesterday, but said he can still improve.
“I’m playing a little bit better, but I still need time to get to the top of my game,” he said.
He’ll get the time. Some of the other Leafs may not.
Story originally published in The Toronto Star, September 23, 1996
MTL GOAL – 00:28 – Koivu (Recchi)
MTL GOAL – 00:58 – Damphousse (Rucinsky)
TOR PEN – 01:31 – Zettler
MTL PEN – 02:33 – Rucinsky
MTL PEN – 07:04 – Savage
TOR PP GOAL – 07:35 – Berezin (Sundin, Muller)
MTL GOAL – 11:46 – Damphousse (Richer, Rucinsky)
MTL GOAL – 12:49 – Ryan (Convoy, Quintal)
MTL PEN – 15:00 – Brunet
TOR PEN – 15:53 – Craig
MTL GOAL – 16:23 – Koivu (Malakhov)
MTL GOAL – 09:16 – Rucinsky (Richer)
MTL GOAL – 13:01 – Malakhov (Richer, Damphousse)
TOR GOAL – 13:36 – Sundin (Convery)
TOR PEN – 14:46 – Kypreos
MTL PEN – 14:46 – Brown
MTL GOAL – 15:03 – Savage (Koivu)
TOR PEN – 15:58 – Yushkevich
TOR PEN – 18:27 – Kypreos
MTL PEN – 18:27 – Brown
TOR GOAL – 05:53 – Berezin (Craig)
MTL PEN – 07:10 – Stevenson
MTL PEN – 11:30 – Ryan
MTL – Théodore (W, 10-11), Thibault (23-25)
TOR – Larivée (L, 13-18), Potvin (15-18)
SHOTS ON GOAL
MTL – 18+12+8 = 36
TOR – 11+12+13 = 36