Another day, another scrimmage. And not a bad one. End-to-end shinny at a much quicker pace than yesterday’s first helping, a few decent hits, our first couple two-line passes -- even a penalty. Hurrah for the new rules!
Who looked good?
I’m quickly beginning to understand why the Leafs like this Alex Steen kid. Good wheels (when he wants to use them, anyway), nice passing touch … perhaps it’s a September mirage, and he did seem to diminish as the game moved along (hey, Alex, there’s this thing called backchecking … ), but we’ll keep watching.
First, some line notes: Sundin-Tucker-Antropov started for the Whites (and was minus-1 early on when farmhand defender Ben Ondrus scored the first goal for the opposites in deepest Maple Leaf blue). Others remained unchanged from yesterday’s workouts: Steen and Marius Czerkawski skated with either Shaun Landolt or Tucker, and Clarke Wilm was with Brad Leeb and John Mitchell.
But it’s Jeff O’Neill in those blues who’s got the early fire going strongest. The O’Neill-Jason Allison-Alexei Ponikarovsky line generated some good chances – would’ve been more on one promising breakout if not for a Ponikarovsky lack of awareness at the opposition blue line.
As it was, O’Neill had two goals, was tidy coming back into his own end to cover any trailing forwards, then skated hard in the ensuing workout. Allison also got some time between Martin Sagat and Ondrus, and looks like he’s going at about half-speed – which is, nevertheless, an improvement over Tuesday’s halted beginning. He didn’t come out for his team’s drills session after the scrimmage – and speaking of that, they’re already chuckling in Vancouver about Allison’s sore hip news.
Bryan Marchment, playing for a job, made his biggest impression on the back of Antropov when he chopped him down from behind in the goalmouth.
Other bits: Marc Moro went off for treatment early after falling heavily into the boards, but came back to action. Marchment and Wilm got up slowly after colliding with great drama behind the net. -- Wilm landed best check of the day honours with a nice open-ice hip check on Ondrus.
Final score was 3-2 for the Blues, with Sundin and Tomas Kaberle scoring for the losers – and Ed Belfour letting in all three of the winner’s goals. And oh yeah, that O'Neill guy? He’s got three goals in two scrimmages, and he scored the shootout winner Tuesday. I could be wrong, but I’d say he’s doing fine.
Meantime, missed this one on the morning links, an ode to Brendan Witt from Tony Kornheiser: "Goodbye. Good luck. Get out."
For a happy ending to this posting let's bid farewell to ex-Leaf and NHL great Ron Francis, who announced his retirement today. Only played a dozen games in Blue & White, and a dozen more in the playoffs, but best wishes to league's third all-time scorer.