Irwin, Scrivens Solid In Loss
Sunday, 09.12.2010 / 9:57 PM ET / Mike Ulmer's Blog
By Mike Ulmer - Mapleleafs.com commentator
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Out with a hip flexor until Tuesday.
Marcel Mueller? Impressive in the Leafs’ rookies’ first pre-season game, but out of the rotation Sunday night.
So what was the storyline for the Leafs rookies who fell 2-1 to Pittsburgh at the John Labatt Centre in London?
Well start with centre Brayden Irwin.
Forgotten in the furor over Kadri and growing interest in Mueller, Irwin was terrific last night. He scored the Leafs only goal, played both special teams, won face-offs on both hands and was the best position player wearing blue and white.
Dallas Eakins, who handled the Toronto bench, said it isn’t hard to determine Irwin’s best feature.
“His shot is as good as any on our NHL team,” said Eakins.
Irwin’s goal was eye-catching. The 23-year-old Toronto native ripped a perfect shot under the crossbar to beat Pittsburgh goaltender Brad Thiessen in the first. It was the one thing you look for in a rookie game: a big time play.
Irwin said he is good with all the attention focused elsewhere.
“I’m fine with the idea of being under the radar. I just want to continue to do my thing and focus on getting better.”
Kids from US schools are a weakness for Leafs GM Brian Burke who often describes them as a found wallet on the street, but never remembers that when you find someone’s wallet you are supposed to give it back.
What Burke, means, of course, is money from the sky. The Leafs, unlike most NHL outfits, feel hampered in their number of draft choices and by the salary cap. They do not, however, have to deal with an ownership unwilling to fish for free agents.
That system landed them Tyler Bozak, projected as the club’s number one centre, and Christian Hanson who had a middling rookie year.
Last season, with the Leafs schedule down to a handful of games, Irwin left the University of Vermont signed with the club in late March and played in two NHL games.
Another free agent wild card was performing well in the Leafs cage, Sunday night.
Ben Scrivens, a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award and a native of Spruce Grove Alberta was signed at season’s end after four distinguished years at Cornell. The 24-year-old was blameless on the one Pittsburgh goal and stopped 31 of 34 shots. He was beaten with 35 seconds left by a close-in backhander off the stick of Pittsburgh’s Dustin Jeffrey.
“I thought I played pretty well but I was upset about giving up that second goal,” Scrivens said.
Notes: For the second game in a row, Jerry D’Amigo proved himself an able attacker. D’Amigo’s skating is a hair above just-so but he looks like the kind of player who will score wherever he goes. He has one goal in two tournament games. D’Amigo has hit from behind head-first into the boards, but was uninjured. Try-out player Mike Liambis was involved in a long second period fight. Defenceman Dallas Jackson rode a Pittsburgh player into the ice after the player interfered with Scrivens. The Leafs play the Senator rookies Tuesday at 7 p.m.