The 2010 Toronto Maple Leafs rookie tournament in London kicked off Saturday afternoon with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators facing off. Ottawa kicked off the scoring when Bobby Butler took a pass from Mike Hoffman and tucked it between the pads of Pens goaltender Brad Thiessen, but the Senators' rookies fell far behind with a brutal start to the second period, going down 4-1 before the middle frame was half over. Butler and Eric Gryba scored while the Senators waged a comeback effort in the third period, but Dustin Jeffrey scored into an empty net to ice away the Penguins victory by a 5-3 score.
The game started on a sorry note, with David Dziurzynski laying a big hit on Pens' defenceman Alex Grant less than three minutes into the game. I didn't get to see the hit, but on the radio, it sounded like it was from behind, and boarding. Dziurzynsky was assessed five minutes and a game misconduct, but Grant was taken off the ice on a stretcher and went to hospital for observation. The Sens killed off the penalty (and Hoffman had what was likely the best scoring chance while short-handed).
(More of a write-up plus the heroes, zeros, and other notes after the jump.)
As should probably be expected, the Senators' game suffered from lack of structure, especially in the defensive zone. A lot of these players are playing with one another for the first time ever, not to mention the first real game this year, and new Binghamton coach Kurt Kleinendorst hasn't worked with any of them yet. So while it's an understandable weakness, it's something the team will have to correct if they want better results in the next two games of the rookie tourney.
Sens hero: Bobby Butler
With two goal on the night Butler looks like an easy choice, but he was definitely the Senators' best forward today. His first goal wasn't easy, as he had to receive a pass that was a foot in the air and behind him, but he managed to get the puck under control in time to cut in front of Thiessen and slide it in. His second was a result of good positioning and hockey sense, as he jumped on a turnover in the Pens' defensive zone and deked out Thiessen to go five hole. It's still very early (and let's not forget how well Keegan Dansereau did in this tournament last year), but Butler looks like a definite AHL scorer--and maybe better.
Sens killer: Brad Thiessen
The Penguins goaltender wasn't overly busy (he faced maybe 25 shots tonight), but Thiessen was big when he needed to be. The Senators had a powerplay just seconds in that could have made things ugly early, but Thiessen kept things scoreless. His rebound control was solid, and that really limited the few chances the Senators ended up getting.
Sens killer: The powerplay
Ottawa's rookies were a measly 1-for-6 on the powerplay. Not that they've had any time to organize themselves or come up with any PP strategy or anything, but the skilled players didn't shine through with the man advantage until Butler scored his second of the game midway through the third. The Sens rookies were hardly able to maintain possession of the puck for any extended periods of time, or generate many scoring chances. But again, it's early in a tournament with a bunch of strangers; tough to be too critical.
Fight of the Night: Tim Spencer and Ryan Schnell
Rookies on the ice, but this was a big-league fight. Tough to pick a winner because both fighters landed some solid punches (Spencer even got some kidney shots in before the dust-up ended), but Schnell came out with the blacker eye, for what it's worth.
The guys you want to hear about:
Mike Hoffman: Had a solid assist and looked good with Butler. If both of them are sent to Bingo, they'd make a good two-thirds of a scoring line.
Jared Cowen: Wasn't overly impressive tonight, but he was solid enough. His skating does look smooth, which is reassuring given the knee injury he's coming off, and he had good puck control, too. I'm looking forward to seeing more from him.
Eric Gryba: Okay, maybe not a guy you were initially looking to hear about, but someone who Bryan Murray is high on, and who scored a sick goal: Pinched in and called for a pass at the opposition blue line, faked out the defender, and rifled a shot far-side past Thiessen.
Robin Lehner: Lehner wasn't bad, but he didn't look good, either. I think a lot of it was resultant from the lack of structure and defensive coverage in front of him; at least three of the goals he let in were off odd-man rushes, and the other one was with two opposing forwards right on the lip of the crease hammering at the puck. With a bit more support, he'll do well.
Patrick Wiercioch: Played well enough, but didn't stand out. He's obviously a smooth skater, and can handle the puck, but is going to need to do a bit more.
Brandon Foote: Played backup like the best. Can't ask for anything more from a backup goaltender who doesn't see a second of ice time.
Jim O'Brien: The play-by-play guys on TV liked what they saw from O'Brien, but I was't impressed. I can think of a few lost battles in the corner, and at least one great scoring chance that was flat-out blown.
Corey Cowick: Siiiiick hit in the first period. Not much offensively, but Cowick was the checking forward he's been billed as.
I think that's enough (probably too much) of a write-up. Game two comes tomorrow at 2 p.m.