Maple Leafs lose game but gain perspective

Puzzle pieces are falling into place for Mike Babcock's roster

Maple Leaf hopefuls are scratching and clawing their way to a roster spot. Adam Kirshenblatt/Toronto Observer

HAMILTON, Ont. – This game may have been muddied up but Mike Babcock’s roster is becoming clearer.

As the pre-season winds down, players who have been on the bubble did what they could to show their team’s they can grind it out.

It wasn’t the prettiest thing in the world but it got the job done.

“It was a muddy track out there for both teams, the ice was just awful,” said Babcock, post-game on Friday. “There wasn’t a lot of room and guys are trying to make an impression.

“I don’t know if it was a lot of fun for anyone to watch.”

The result of the game was a 2-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings, led by 19-year-old prospect Evgeny Svechnikov, who scored a pair, while Brendan Leipsic potted the lone goal for the Maple Leafs. However, it is the right fit for Babcock’s team that matters more than the result.

Friday and Saturday’s games are the final exam for those players who look to crack the regular season roster as the Leafs head coach indicated that there will be few, if any, changes to the lineup in their final pre-season tilt.

Frank Corrado is one of the players who will make this roster or find his way out of town.

Frank Corrado is one of the players who will make this roster or find his way out of town. (National Hockey League)

One of the players who need to pass this test is Frank Corrado, who the Maple Leafs acquired off the waiver wire a year ago from the Vancouver Canucks. After not making the Canucks’ roster, he was left exposed and he could be in danger of doing that again.

“He’s in a position now where he has to stay in the NHL,” said Babcock. “You want to go from an AHL player to an NHL player, then you want to play regularly, and then you want to move into the top four. So there’s always a progression you want to make.”

Corrado knows his Toronto future is in the balance, but feels as though he has put his best foot forward.

“I played my game, I did what I could, and I controlled what I could,” said Corrado. “It would be great to get one more crack at it. If not then you move on and you get ready for the next opportunity.”

Leaf fans also had a chance to see backup goaltender Jhonas Enroth for his first full game on Friday. The Swedish goalie took part at the World Cup of Hockey and did not join the team until later in the pre-season.

Enroth stopped 24 of 26 shots, giving the Leafs a chance to win the game.

“First 10 minutes were tough there, they were buzzing in our zone,” said the goaltender. “I think we played solid the last 30 minutes. We didn’t give up many chances and played pretty simple.”

Prior to Friday’s game, Babcock emphasized that the Leafs’ compete level needs to be a lot higher in order to be successful in the NHL. That compete level might just be the difference for those looking to crack the lineup.

“Things get clearer and clearer,” said Babcock. “You get excited about a kid early and then the lineups get better and you’re not as excited about him anymore.

“(The players) are just grinding, trying to scratch and claw to find a way to make the team. We’ll watch our team play again tomorrow against this same Detroit team and we’ll make our decisions.”

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Posted: Oct 8 2016 9:53 am
Filed under: Hockey