November 16 2013 08:28PM
You know how sometimes the Leafs lose two games in a row and it feels like everything is about to fall apart? Well, this game didn't really do a whole lot to improve that feeling (especially in the third period), but two points is two points and getting them by any means necessary is what the Leafs needed to do in this game, and they managed to pull it off.
This game was a lot of fun to watch (unless you're a Sabres fan, but if that's the case I assume you're used to this by now). It got off to a fantastic start for the hometown team (78% Corsi For in the first!!!!! What!!!!!), and the Leafs kept it up for most of the game. James van Reimsdyk scored twice after a good start with sustained offensive zone pressure, and both goals were assisted by Cody Franson. The new guy, Peter Holland, played well in his first game, starting on a line with van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel.
The second period got going with an entirely unnecessary fight between David Clarkson and Buffalo captain Steve Ott (someone needs to tell David that he's not going to get a goal if he's sitting in the penalty box for five minutes). McClement took the first Leafs penalty of the game, and Holland followed suit shortly thereafter (McClement penalties are especially terrifying). Reimer had not had a whole lot coming his way up until this point, and he handled anything the Sabres threw at him without any trouble (but he needs to stop getting his helmet knocked off). Nikolai Kulemin scored his first of the season, putting the Leafs up 3-0 halfway through the game. The period ended with some four-on-four hockey after Carl Gunnarsson and The Spawn of Satan took off-setting penalties.
The Sabres ended Reimer's shutout bid early in the third, on a hard shot from Jamie McBain. Throughout the game I was wondering when we would see John Scott do something dumb, and I was not disappointed. Phaneuf took an awkward fall in a collision with Cody McCormick, after which he got up and cross-checked McCormick in the chest, leading to a stupid brawl between the goons from each team and a power play for the Sabres. McLaren and Scott were both given game misconducts and spent the rest of the third period in the dressing room. The Sabres scored on the ensuing power play, making it 3-2 with 13 minutes to go. The Leafs were badly outshot by the Sabres in the third (score effects!), bringing the Sabres shot total up to 35 in a game where it looked like the Leafs might finally control possession (the silver lining here, I suppose, is that it improves Reimer's save percentage). The Leafs put this one to rest with a power play goal from Mason Raymond on a badly timed penalty from Ville Leino late in the third.
WHY THE LEAFS WON
The Leafs won because of a very strong first period, and because of two boys named James. After scoring two goals and dominating possession early in the game, they took too many penalties in the second and began to slip badly in the third, but a yet another solid goaltending effort from Reimer kept the Leafs in the game. Reimnier forever (their average save percentage is .940) (when was the last time the Leafs had anything close to that?).
Though I was tempted to go with James Reimer here, I think it would be unfair to choose anyone but van Riemsdyk - the move back to left wing seems to have been magical for him, as his two goals scored early in the first period that proved to be critical. Thinking about where the Leafs would be if they'd never made the Schenn-for-van Riemsdyk trade is simultaneously horrifying and delightful.
- You can call me a jerk for not being too upset about Mark Fraser's injury if you must, but if it means Rielly gets more ice time I will be able to manage. Go Rielly go.
- Is there a hasclarksonscoredyet dot com? One of you should get on that.
- Jake Gardiner had a solid game, and led the team in ice time with 24:12 minutes. It appears Carlyle is back on board.
- Christian Ehrhoff in this game was very much preferable to Christian Ehrhoff in yesterday's game.
- Mason Raymond goals are my favourite goals because mmmm. Value.