New Leafs Joe Colborne & Matt Frattin Make NHL Debuts
Good thing for the Toronto Maple Leafs this was the last game of the season. Otherwise coach Ron Wilson would punish his team with a hard practice this morning – maybe he still might.
The Leafs put on an awful display of defence on Saturday night losing 4-1 against the playoff-bound Montreal Canadiens in front of a season-high attendance of 19,676 at the Air Canada Centre. At least the numerous Montreal fans went home happy.
It was unbelievable how many the breakaways Toronto gave up last night. Montreal could have had six or seven goals if not for Leafs goalie James Reimer making save after save or Michael Cammalleri hitting the crossbar. It looked like shootout practice for the Habs.
This is not how the players and their fans envisaged the Leafs ending the season as Toronto closed out their campaign with three straight losses.
“Our defence had one of our worst games of the year,” said Wilson. “I have a sour taste in my mouth the way things went tonight.”
Perhaps more unbelievable was that three of those breakaways were shorthanded. Tomas Plekanec had two of them and scored on the second, putting the game out of reach with 6:31 left to play in the third period. Habs captain Brian Gionta scored two goals, both on the powerplay and came close to completing the hat trick on a couple of occasions while Ryan White scored the opening goal of the game.
The Leafs had their chances too but were not able to capitalize as Habs netminder Carey Price made big saves as well when called upon. He robbed Phil Kessel twice and was bailed out by the post on a shot by Nazem Kadri. However, Kessel did score the only Leafs goal on a bad angle that Price missed with his glove. Kessel extended his point streak to ten games but he came close to scoring another goal.
It looked like the Leafs had closed the gap to 3-2 on a shot by Kessel at the side of the net that trickled past Price. The puck was spinning and looked to have crossed the line before being swept away by the Habs goalie. The referee called no-goal right away but the play still went to a lengthy review. To everyone’s surprise the call on the ice stood. Habs fans rejoiced while Leafs fans tried to drown them out with a loud chorus of boos. It was a very close call with just over a half the third left to play.
(Click play to watch the video of the disallowed Leafs goal)
With the win, Montreal’s playoff picture became clearer and they will take on their rivals Boston Bruins in the first round.
“It’s going to be an intense one, they’re a good hockey club, they play with a lot of fire,” said Price who made 27 saves for his 38th win of the season. “Obviously, we got a history with them this season. It’s going to be old-fashioned hockey.”
The history Price alluded to were the big battles both teams waged against each other this season and of course the ugly hit by Zdeno Chara on Max Pacioretty in early March.
“He’s always there with us, we talk to him pretty much daily,” said Price about staying in touch with Pacioretty. “Obviously, he’s a close friend if he’s on our hockey team.”
If there was a bright side to this game for the Leafs, it had to be the NHL debuts of Joe Colborne and Matt Frattin.
“They both played well,” said Wilson. “I was probably most impressed with Matt Frattin. He was a dog on a bone with the puck.”
Frattin was all over the ice and had numerous chances to score with linemates Tyler Bozak and Kadri. Frattin arrived to the team on Friday after finishing his college season with the North Dakota. He was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award for the top NCAA player of the year. He led the NCAA with 36 goals and led North Dakota with 60 points.
Colborne collected his first NHL point assisting on Kessel’s goal in the first period. He was acquired in the deal that sent Tomas Kaberle to the Boston Bruins. He was originally Boston’s first choice, 16th overall, in the 2008 Entry Draft. He played 19 games with the Toronto Marlies in the AHL this season registering 15 points (8 goals and 7 assists).
“I think Joe (Colborne) needs some time to get stronger,” added Wilson. “He might have been a little nervous early in the game but that kind of went away and I was pretty impressed. He’s going to be a really good player, no doubt.”
Colborne was pleased with his performance as well.
“It was quite the experience,” said Colborne. “I think the nerves finally caught up with me after the last couple of days, haven’t been sleeping too well obviously. I felt like I was in quicksand, it wasn’t really my game but I felt a lot more comfortable as the game went on. By the third period I felt like I was caught up to the speed and really able to make some plays.”
Frattin felt it was important to get a taste of the NHL before the season ended.
“I thought I had a good game today. Colborne had a great game too and was definitely good first impressions for us to have today before the summer,” said Frattin.
“I definitely wanted to get one game in before the summer so I kind of have a feel of it so when I come to camp I know how things are going to be. That was a good experience.”
With the game over the talk after the game quickly focused to the summer and what to expect next season.
“I have a lot of faith in the group we have in here and in myself and the coaching, management,” said Reimer who made 30 saves on the night.
“They put together a good team and who knows what they’re going to do in the offseason. Hopefully, come next year, we can play with the same passion we did in the past couple of months.”
The Leafs will clear out their lockers Monday morning before officially beginning their offseason.
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