With a lineup that - on paper - didn't inspire a ton of confidence, the Habs walked out of a mostly uneventful game in Toronto feeling pretty good about a number of performances.
The Canadiens struggled out of the gate, giving up scoring chances early which goaltender Mike Condon was able to turn aside. Nobody was able to find the score sheet in the opening frame, though Zack Kassian and Mark Fraser became well introduced to each other in a lengthy fight which Fraser would ultimately win by decision. The first frame came to an end with the Leafs likely feeling a bit better about their performance.
The second period was a different story, as Dale Weise found the back of the net early on to open the scoring. The goal came as a result of a strong offensive effort from his linemates, as well as Mark Barberio who made a crisp pass to David Desharnais to set it all up. Desharnais found Weise all alone in the slot, and no mistake was made on the finish.
The Habs managed to control the flow of play for the rest of the period, as the Leafs went into the dressing room with just 4 shots in the second stanza.
The third featured more of the same, with the Leafs struggling to generate any shots on net. Those that came, Condon dealt with calmly: not an easy feat for the goaltender after being run over more than once over the course of the game. The Leafs would pull their goalie near the end of the game, but the Habs were able to ward off the ensuing frenzy with relative ease, securing the shutout for Condon as Dustin Tokarski watched from the bench.
The game did, of course, go to 3-on-3 overtime regardless of the final score; this a result of being designated one of 45 contests to test the new format. The OT period had its desired effect, with James van Riemsdyk waltzing past Weise with ease to lift one over Condon and end the period less than a minute in. Despite the small blemish at the end, it was the Habs who came away with the victory - their first of the preseason.
Condon was the steadiest Habs player of the night, as he seemed to be in perfect position to deal with every shot that came his way. The most impressive aspect of his performance was his ability to keep his cool despite being ran over in a big way twice, and having a lot of traffic around him for the majority of his saves. It never looked like a game that would be easy for Condon, at least going into it, as the Habs iced a very green defensive lineup, but the 25-year-old came up in a big way. Finishing the entire game and recording the shutout, Condon has a legitimate chance to become an NHL backup, and possibly this season.
It was more of the same from Tomas Fleischmann on Saturday night, as the camp invitee put on another solid showing. It would come as a surprise, at this point, if "Flash" is not offered a contract by the Habs. The Czech national has found instant chemistry on the left wing of Desharnais and Weise, which many now expect to be the Habs' third line come October seventh. Fleischmann recorded three shots in 20 minutes of ice time, and also played a part in the only goal of the game.
Michael McCarron had another fairly impressive effort against the Leafs, and while none of his plays will necessarily be showing up on the highlight reel, he proved his worth as a defensive centre. With limited offensive opportunities, McCarron still managed to drive possession very well and it seems as though the work he's done over the past season to become a more sound all-around player has been paying off.
Greg Pateryn has proven to be a reliable, steady presence on the blue-line all preseason and we saw that on display once again in this game. He brought an edge to the game once again, laying the body into opponents for 4 hits on the night, and finishing with the second-highest CF% on the team. He looked very good early in the game, sending two shots towards goalie James Reimer mere minutes into the contest, and his play was consistent from there.
Jarred Tinordi, who was paired with Pateryn for much of the night, also looked pretty solid. He may not have hurt his chances to make the big club this year - as has been his goal all summer - but he didn't necessarily stand out as much as his partner either. The big defenseman did manage five hits in the game, including a notable one in the first period which took out van Riemsdyk, but also Mike Condon and nearly resulted in a Leafs goal.
Darren Dietz formed the second pairing alongside Mark Barberio, and the duo had an up-and-down type of game. They had their struggles throughout and finished with less than favourable possession numbers, though Dietz especially came up with a couple of strong plays in the defensive zone, making smart decisions with the puck. They were regularly featured on the Habs power play, which was a dismal 0/6. Dietz will, of course, spend the year in St. John's, while Barberio hopes to avoid that same fate.
The Habs will hit the ice again on Monday at 7:00 PM EDT, with a lineup that should look very different. More cuts are expected to come before the puck drops in that game, which will take place in Quebec City against the Pittsburgh Penguins.