Goaltender Matt Murray and the Maple Leafs are almost ready for opening night after beating the Canadiens


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MONTREAL — If Monday was a dress rehearsal for the season opener, the Maple Leafs are looking very sharp, while the Montreal Canadiens still need wardrobe help.

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A near-complete Toronto roster behind Matt Murray’s 28 saves in a 5-1 win gave the home side a taste of what could happen in nine days when their NHL schedule kicks off at the Bell Center .

Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe expected his best players to dominate; it was the bubble boys he was examining on Monday.

Nick Robertson almost retired as one of those question marks, with another night of three assists. His speed earned him the first penalty that William Nylander and the league’s top power play last year quickly buried.
Robertson moved to the left side with Alex Kerfoot and Nylander, with Kerfoot replacing injured center John Tavares.

“He’s moving his feet, he’s competing, he’s on the puck creating turnovers, making good decisions,” Keefe said of Robertson. “Whether it’s making a play, throwing it or putting it in a good position for someone else, he’s doing what he has to do to show he’s ready to play in the NHL.

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“As he continues to pile on those plays, of course we’re paying attention.”

Keefe was also brought up in Murray’s first full game as a Leaf. Positionally solid, Murray looked at a few lunge opportunities and a 5-on-3. Some of those opportunities resulted from the new Leafs being too creative and Keefe seeming less enthusiastic about the play of some of the last six players. and defense.

Still, there were no major concerns as of Monday that would affect the main body of players who will travel to Gravenhurst, Ont., on Tuesday for a three-day team bonding exercise, golf outing and two practices ahead of the finals at home and- exhibition games at home this weekend against Detroit.

Robertson continues to rack up the points after it looked at the start of camp that he would be lost in the crowd of veteran newcomers.

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“It would be nice if it was the regular season, but I’m still trying to make the team,” Robertson said. “It starts with my feet, a very strong part of my game. A few of those assists (digging up a puck for a wide open Nylander and one of two assists on two late goals from Kerfoot) allowed me to make a forecheck and try to keep the game simple.

Winger Zach Aston-Reese improved his profile with a goal, but also put the Leafs down when the Canadiens’ first draft pick Juraj Slafkovsky turned at the last second and Aston-Reese l addressed. Aston-Reese’s PTO contract reaches critical stage.

It’s no secret that Montreal’s to-do list is long after a 32nd-place finish last season and a winless preseason so far, but the Leafs spared some horsepower on Monday. When the Canadians broke through, Murray was there, having now stopped 45 of 46 shots so far.

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“As a team, it was good to get the guys together tonight,” said Murray, who loved how Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, Michael Bunting, Morgan Rielly and Nylander spun the puck on the first power play goal. “We try to build every day. It was good to see a 5v3 in preseason because you know they’re coming.

Jonathan Drouin eventually cashed in a 5-on-4 later in the game, although, as Keefe noted, Murray also made the initial save on that.

For what it’s worth, the Leafs have secured themselves a preseason winning record (4-1 so far), though surviving the Eastern Conference in real games against playoff contenders will be harder for seven months.

Other Leafs looking to impress in Monday’s tune-up were Aston-Reese’s linemates Pontus Holmberg and Nicolas Aube-Kubel. The latter had a second-period brain cramp trying to cross traffic which Murray eased.

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Adam Gaudette, slowed by a shoulder injury last week, was on the left side of center Denis Malgin and Alex Steeves.

Defender Victor Mete did well on hearing the footsteps of returning Rasmus Sandin and soon-to-be-recovered Jake Muzzin.

On the Canadiens side, Slafkovsky needed to show something after a few run-of-the-mill exhibition games in which the first overall pick didn’t score or threaten much. It didn’t provide a good tailwind to his first week as an NHL player, but he was all around Murray and got the assist on Drouin’s goal.

Montreal coach Martin St. Louis gave the 18-year-old dynamic teammates such as Kirby Dach as well as some power-play minutes.

“I think he’s right in the middle of (acclimating),” St. Louis said Monday morning. “It will be a real test for him as we progress here you are going to see deeper rosters in the NHL. I can’t wait to see what it looks like for him. But he’s been exposed to a lot and tries to do his best.

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