Maligned Leaf power play rebounds against Sens

[audio:http://www.torontoobserver.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/tyler_leafsPP_podcast.mp3|titles=tyler_leafsPP_podcast]It may be too soon to hit the power-play panic button in Leafs Nation.

After finishing dead last in power-play percentage last season, and opening the 2010 pre-season going 0-for-eight against the Senators, the Leafs rebounded by scoring three goals with the man-advantage en route to a 4-1 victory over Ottawa Wednesday night at the ACC.

A key for Toronto was having many of their experienced, top offensive performers in the lineup that were missing during Tuesday’s loss to the Senators, including their top line of Tyler Bozak, Nikolai Kulemin, and Phil Kessel, among others.

The Leafs went 3-for-9 on Wednesday, with Kulemin shoveling the opening goal at the 3:58 mark of the first, just 36 seconds into the team’s first man-advantage.

Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf was scratched for the game, and the power play revolved around Kessel placed down-low and at the side-boards, rather than seeing Phaneuf’s usual heavy shot at the point.

The team appeared to be less fancy, and fired pucks at the net through traffic much quicker than they did Tuesday night.

“We had two bigger guys [in front of the net], willing to go there, in Kulemin and Luca [Caputi],” said Leafs coach Ron Wilson, “and Phil scores a goal that only Phil’s going to score, on a quick wrist shot that surprised the goalie. It was a little bit closer to what I would hope our power play is going to look like.”

Kessel scored his first of the pre-season on a two-man advantage at 16:52 of the first, and Luca Caputi followed that up with his first just 39 seconds later, with Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson still in the box.

New face contributing

Clarke MacArthur made an impact in his debut with the blue and white, recording two assists, and earning the third star while showing plenty of speed and energy playing on a line with Mikhail Grabovski, and Caputi.

The trio made up the Leafs second power-play unit, and delivered the team’s third goal on the man-advantage.

“He’s very smart,” said Wilson regarding MacArthur. “There seemed to be some chemistry there [with Caputi, and Grabovski]. I like his play, very heads up, and from the blue-line in he’s very dangerous.”

Wilson added that he wished Macarthur would have shot the puck more, saying “he’s got a great shot” and that he probably passed the puck a little too much while trying to get accustom to new linemates.

Hometown heroes

Caputi, a Toronto native, looked very good as he scored a goal and an assist while being named first star.

The winger banged in a rebound on the power play, before setting up Mikhail Grabovski for a tap-in during the second period after some hard work in the corner.

“He did what we expect,” said Wilson.  “He’s much bigger than he was last year and it looks to me like he’s a half-step quicker, and that showed.”

Meanwhile, defenceman Jesse Blacker also had an impressive debut as the fellow Toronto native recorded two assists, en route to being named the second star.

The 58th pick in the 2009 entry draft was paired with another rookie defenceman, Danny Richmond, for the majority of the game.

However, The two were victimized on the only Senators’ goal.

Blacker showed glimpses of his offensive upside, earning both of his points while paired with Francois Beauchemin at the point on the power play.

Goaltending futures

Finally, Toronto’s James Reimer and Ben Scrivens both looked steady despite having little action in their first NHL appearances between the pipes.

Reimer, who was the starter for the Marlies last season allowed one goal on only eight shots, but made the big saves when they counted, including stopping Jesse Winchester on a short-handed breakaway for his first save of the night.

Scrivens, who led the NCAA in shutouts, goals against average, and save percentage with Cornell last season, was perfect while facing 10 shots. He will likely battle Reimer along with Finnish rookie Jussi Rynnas for the Marlies’ No. 1 job.