Here are five takeaways from the Maple Leafs' 2-1 pre-season loss the Detroit Red Wings Friday at FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton, Ont.:
Leafs surrender first goal early, but strike late in first period on Leipsic marker. Giving up an early lead has been a pattern for the Leafs in this pre-season, and that continued Friday when the Wings went up 1-0 just four minutes into the opening period on a goal by rookie forward Evgeny Svechnikov. However, with 44 seconds left in the first, winger Brendan Leipsic fired a wrist shot past Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard to pull the Buds even heading into the first intermission. Leipsic had a solid season with the American League's Marlies last season and is likely to start this year in the AHL again, but he's got the speed and hand-eye coordination to make opponents pay.
Second period strikingly similar to the first. Any momentum the Leafs had built on Leipsic's goal didn't carry over into the second frame, as Svechnikov took advantage of a defensive breakdown early in the period and beat Toronto netminder Jhonas Enroth for his second goal of the night. This exhibition lineup for the Leafs was comprised largely of younger players, but after their 6-1 loss to Montreal Thursday, the Buds were intent on cleaning up their play in their own zone - and that process still needs some time.
Enroth settling in nicely. Like teammate Frederik Andersen, Enroth is experiencing his first season in Toronto, and as the coaching staff is easing him into game action, the veteran is looking increasingly comfortable tending goal. Enroth held the Wings off the scoresheet after the second Svechnikov goal, stopped 24 of 26 Wings shots on the night, and gave the Leafs a chance to pull even. In the parity-filled NHL, where games are decided by a single goal more often than not, that ability to keep things close doesn't go unappreciated by management, and as he gets to know the Buds players in front of him, Enroth's impact should improve for the better.
Leafs outshot, but pushed for game-tying goal until the final buzzer. The Buds fired 19 shots on Detroit's net - seven less than the Red Wings fired at Enroth - but Toronto continued to battle and came close to sending the contest to overtime on a few occasions in the third period. Unfortunately for the thousands in attendance, they were unable to bury the tying goal and now have managed just two goals in their past two games, but head coach Mike Babcock likely will be happier with this effort than the previous one against Montreal. The Leafs had some push-back to their game, just not enough finish.
One more game to go before the regular season - and the celebrations - begins. The Leafs will conclude their exhibition schedule Saturday at Joe Louis Arena as they take on the Wings for the second time in as many days, and given there were flare-ups of emotion Friday, it should be an intense battle.
After that, the team will prepare to kick off the regular season with a showdown against the Senators Wednesday in Ottawa - and in Toronto, the organization's celebrations of its centennial anniversary begin Thursday with the unveiling of statues of Leafs legends Dave Keon, Tim Horton and Turk Broda on Legends Row. The festivities continue the next night when the team announces the 100 Greatest Leafs honourees; and on Saturday, the Buds' home opener takes place against the Boston Bruins.
All in all, it promises to be an exciting week.