Preseason Game 38 – Maple Leafs 4, Canadiens 3 (OT)

Preseason Game 38
Maple Leafs 4, Canadiens 3 (OT)
Wednesday, September 30, 1998
Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, Ontario

Instead of a revival of hockey’s greatest rivalry, last night’s tilt between the Leafs and Canadiens was like a visit to a discount department store.

It was mostly about seconds.

Montréal, with three important players still unsigned, was again forced to ice a second-rate lineup. And the focus of interest in the Leafs’ roster was, again, on its second line centre.

And with cuts to Toronto’s bloated camp numbers expected today – from 38 to about 33 – some of the decisions are coming into focus for a Leaf management team that met after the game.

While a 4-3 overtime win over Montréal likely lightened the mood of that gathering – the Leafs are now an impressive but meaningless 5-0-1 in the fall friendlies – more heartening was the play of some of the youngsters that are challenging for significant roles on the club.

Defenceman Yannick Tremblay, who potted the winner and set up Mike Johnson’s equalizer in the third, continues to win the battle over the demons of self doubt that haunted him last year.

Another young defenceman, Tomas Kaberle, may have also solidified a position for himself on the main roster with yet another solid performance.

The biggest relief for Toronto’s suits, however, was undoubtedly delivered by Alyn McCauley’s play which was both creative and smart. The 21 year old hadn’t played an exhibition game because of a tear in his quadriceps muscle that cost him about two weeks of camp.

But McCauley, who managed just six goals last season, delivered an impressive exhibition debut. Although he didn’t get a point, he mostly teamed with Derek King and Johnson on a line that frequently buzzed the Canadiens’ net.

When Adam Mair was bumped from the game in the first with a minor head injury – he’ll be back skating today – McCauley was double shifted until his limited conditioning caught up to him.

Despite scoring 56 goals and 112 points in his final junior season in Ottawa, McCauley played almost exclusively a defensive role last season. This year, knowing the second line job is wide open, he decided to expand his repertoire.

“I changed my mindset coming into this season with new coaches,” he said. “I know I can score in this league but last year I knew the best way to crack the lineup was to play defensive hockey.”

McCauley, who will play two of Toronto’s last three exhibition games, said he felt more comfortable on the ice than last season.

After the game, coach Pat Quinn described the second line job as “wide open” but he said his ultimate goal is to have three lines that can contribute offensively.

“Hopefully McCauley or (Steve) Sullivan step up and take one of the centre jobs, then maybe (Igor) Korolev or (Mark) Deyell will take the other. Then we’ll slot a fourth guy in who will play a checking role.”

Teams must today submit protected lists – 18 skaters and two forwards – to the league in advance of Monday’s waiver draft. The only veteran Toronto will expose is Glenn Healy, who started in goal for the Leafs last night.

Healy had a typical Healy night. A couple of good saves; a couple of moments when he seemed caught by surprise. It was what Toronto got most of last season and what any team can expect if they acquire him in the NHL’s annual distribution of suspect talent.

The only caveat is Healy comes with a $1.2 million (U.S.) price tag.

Story originally published in The Toronto Star, October 1, 1998

1st Period
TOR PP GOAL – 11:58 – Yushkevich (Johnson, D. King)
MTL GOAL – 19:31 – McCleary (Guren, Bouillon)

2nd Period
MTL GOAL – 14:06 – Poulin (Higgins)
TOR GOAL – 14:29 – Berezin

3rd Period
MTL GOAL – 04:04 – Morissette (Houde, Guren)
TOR GOAL – 08:01 – Johnson (Tremblay)

TOR PP GOAL – 03:29 – Tremblay (Bohonos, Markov)

TOR – Healy (W, 23-26)
MTL – Thibault (L, 26-30)

TOR – 9+7+10+4 = 30
MTL – 5+9+10+2 = 26