TORONTO – With the regular season looming, the Maple Leafs came as close as they could Wednesday to simulating a game.
Three periods, overtime and a shootout in the Blue&White scrimmage at their training centre only seemed to raise as many questions as answers.
Four days into a truncated NHL training camp, things are as clear as mud in Leaf Land—at least in coach Randy Carlyle’s comments for public consumption.
If Carlyle kept his cards any closer to his chest, you’d need a stethoscope to figure them out.
“I think it shows some people have stepped up and done some of the things there they were historically selected for or chosen for. And other people didn’t have such good days, that brought them back in your assessment of them,” Carlyle offered when asked about the scrimmage.
“That’s what training camp and these days are about.”
Thanks to the lockout, there are just six days in camp, however. So Carlyle and his coaching staff are trying to figure out the difference between a bad day and a player not ready for prime time.
“There are some tough decisions going to come,” he added.
Nazem Kadri scored three goals in the scrimmage and still got a mixed report card.
“He had a good first period,” Carlyle said. “(He) scored three goals in the first period. They were power-play goals but goal-scorers’ goals. He found a way to get the puck to the net. But I didn’t think the second and third period were quite as effective obviously.”
Carlyle praised Kadri for his faceoff work, citing it as an example of Kadri showing his willingness to compete.
More was needed, the coach intimated.
“We have to make a decision whether he can continue to make a contributions at the NHL level,” he added.
Cody Franson and Phil Kessel also scored and defenceman Mike Kostka added a shootout goal in what was deemed a 6-1 victory for the Blue squad.
Nikolai Kulemin replied for the Whites, although goalkeeper Ben Scrivens wasn’t sure the puck actually crossed the line.
James Reimer was in the White goal and did well after the first-period Blue barrage.
Scrivens stopped all five shootout attempts, while Reimer was only beaten once.
Carlyle noted that the Blue power play was clicking in the first period while the White man-advantage unit wasn’t.
“I thought both goaltenders did their job,” said Carlyle, who has not given any hints on his starter. “Statistics-wise it looks poor on Reimer but you have to understand the situation was he saw a lot more quality shots and a lot more tenacity around the net early when the power play was out there.”
Carlyle praised his entire team for its work ethic, but added “We have another level to go to.”
Carlyle paired rookie defenceman Morgan Rielly with captain Dion Phaneuf to start, explaining he had talked to the 18-year-old Rielly beforehand about playing to his strengths by showing off his skating more.
“The reason (behind) putting him with Dion is if he’s deemed your best defenceman, you give the kid the security blanket of playing with him,” the coach said. “I thought he showed flashes of his ability to skate and move the puck.”
The Leafs have five games before they have to decide whether Rielly stays with the big team or returns to the Moose Jaw Warriors.
Forward James van Riemsdyk did not take part in the scrimmage as he nursed a bruised foot after taking a shot in practice Tuesday. Van Riemsdyk said he expects to be ready for the season opener Saturday in Montreal.
For the second day in a row in his comeback from a concussion, defenceman Jake Gardiner skated by himself prior to the scrimmage.
Said Carlyle: “It’ll be totally up to him. When he tells us he’s 100 per cent, then he’ll join our team and get involved in practice. Right now he’s not 100 per cent so he’s not on the board.”
Toronto will also be one player short when they next step onto the ice. The Leafs traded centre Matthew Lombardi to Phoenix for a conditional third-round draft pick.