Five Maple Leafs takeaways: Is the real Morgan Rielly back?

Morgan Rielly had a goal and two assists, and Alexander Kerfoot scored twice to help the Maple Leafs to a 4-2 win over the Canadiens in their return to NHL action.

TORONTO — “There were a lot of positives today,” captain John Tavares summed up Tuesday after finally returning to Scotiabank Arena for the first time since March 11.

While the circumstances were vastly different, the result was the same: a Toronto Maple Leafs’ victory buoyed by some stellar penalty-killing work, solid goaltending and, yes, a decent defensive effort.

Without diving too deep into the Nick Robertson debate — which is bound to rage on in this hub city — here are five things we learned from the Leafs’ 4-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens.

Looks like Morgan Rielly might be back to being Morgan Rielly

What do you do when you’ve played but one NHL game in the past 198 days?

If your name’s Morgan Rielly, you throw down with a three-point effort and generate a team-high four shots on net.

It would appear the extra rest has given the Leafs’ top offensive D-man plenty of time to heal what was ailing him in the regular season.

Keefe praised his skating in particular and noted that Rielly told him he’s feeling as good as ever from a health standpoint.

“There was a couple times the puck kinda wobbled on him and got away from him and things like that, but Mo’s at his best when he’s flying up the rink and he’s joining the rush and he’s playing with authority,” Keefe said. “If you’re looking at what you would want to come out of this game for someone like Mo, it’s the confidence to be up and skating and kind of pushing the pace with the way that he moves and joins the rush. And then to have the reward of the goal is a really positive thing for him and us.”

Muzzin is in mid-season form

Jake Muzzin, making his first appearance since suffering a broken foot in February, led all Leafs in ice time (20:26), blocked shots and hits.

The rare Maple Leaf that hits put Habs depth centre Alex Belzile out of the game with this takedown:

Montreal has three days to summon some magic

It was probably not a positive sign Canadiens fans when “Lafreniere” began trending midway through the Leafs-Habs exhibition tilt.

The Canadiens generated a bunch of shot attempts but few scary ones, as the Leafs outpaced the home team 14-5 in high-danger chances and underscored their foes’ soft power play by killing off all six minor penalties.

“I’m gonna be honest with you: I could definitely see some rust in our team,” Canadiens coach Claude Julien admitted.

Not a good look, when you consider the Penguins — deep up the middle, swift with the counterattack, potentially explosive on special teams — share a similar blueprint to the Leafs.

Things didn’t feel right from jump. Changing in the Leafs’ spacious home dressing room threw the Habs for a loop than the Leafs.

“I assume for them, it’d be kind of weird getting dressed with Maple Leaf logos all over the locker room and whatnot,” Leafs captain John Tavares said. “I’ve dressed over in the visitors’ locker room before.”

“It was not a good feeling,” Phillip Danault confirmed.

Leafs’ mediocre penalty kill and third line spring to life

Not only did Toronto’s 27th-ranked 4-on-5 unit kill off six(!) odd-man chances for the Canadiens, they scored twice with a man down.

Toronto’s kill has improved under Keefe’s watch, and the Leafs have quietly allowed just one power-play goal against in their past eight outings. We needn’t remind you how viciously the Boston Bruins torched Toronto’s PK the last time this group played an elimination round.

The coach was impressed with the way his killers pressured and cleared and limited Montreal’s zone time.

“I thought we had some terrific efforts. Kerfoot and (Kasperi) Kapanen, in particular, I thought were really, really good today. We’re looking to get Kerfoot more involved in our penalty kill, and it’s been very positive all through camp,” Keefe said.

By his own admission, Kerfoot wasn’t “overly thrilled” with his first regular season as a Leaf, so seeing him score twice and generate positive shifts with Kapanen on a rejuvenated third line is promising.

“With those two guys, it carried on to 5-on-5 play as well,” Keefe said. “It’s good as we’ve seen Kerf play. And that’s a really healthy sign for our team, obviously. If we can get he and Kappy playing like they were today, that makes us a tough team to handle.”

Mikheyev finishes camp as strong as he started it

Ilya Mikheyev is looking like a fine addition to the top six, needing all of 33 seconds to open the scoring by beating Carey Price on a buttery feed off the rush from Tavares.

“The way he can play the game and the work he puts into performing at a high level,” Tavares said, “there’s so much room to grow for him. He’s just scratching the surface. So, very fitting for him to open the scoring today with how long he was off.”


The stress point at Leafs camp was to tighten defensively and sharpen the details of their game. Toronto won more face-offs, blocked more shots and had fewer giveaways than Montreal…. Despite the NHL’s protestations to the contrary, ice quality will pop up as a topic of conversation when you play triple-headers in August. Kerfoot said “the ice was sloppy and it was hard to make plays,” which helped the Leafs’ penalty kill…. Despite Nick Robertson’s strong showing, Keefe insists Sunday’s Game 1 lineup has not been finalized: “I wouldn’t make any assumptions on Nick or some of the other positions on our lineup.”… Toronto and Montreal were the only teams Tuesday to not use both goalies in their exhibition game. Edmonton, Calgary, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia all went the tandem route. No Soupy for you.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.