Sabres 2 Leafs 1: Strong Showing

The Leafs lost 2-1 tonight but I think that we saw some great performances up and down the Leafs lineup. The Sabres got on the board first when Dion Phaneuf passed into Keith Aulie’s skates and Corey Tropp buried the resulting turnover. John Michael Liles had a beautiful rush which led to Phil Kessel muscling a defender off and banging in the rebound to tie the game in the second before a Kaleta dive gave the Sabres a power play. Phaneuf blocked a shot and his stick broke and that was all she wrote. Follow me over the jump for some thoughts on the game.

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  • Nazem Kadri was everywhere tonight. He tried some moves that didn’t work and he’ll need to rein it in a little in his own zone but he was buzzing on every shift including a number of amazing moves with the puck. He’s making a strong case to be included on this team on merit.
  • Matt Frattin showed some decent speed tonight, he looked much faster to me than he has previously.
  • Despite the NHL Network’s insistence the Sabres actually iced the more experienced lineup tonight.
  • Shocking: Derek Roy got hurt.
  • I can’t believe referees still call players for Patrick Kaleta’s patented "grab on and fall down" dive.


  • There are three defenders fighting for two spots: Franson, Gunnarsson and Aulie.
  • Franson had a steady game tonight including an excellent PK .
  • Gunnarsson wasn’t noticeable and for a shut down d-man that’s a good thing.
  • Aulie was up and down. He had a couple bad turnovers and took a penalty because of one of them but he got back and broke up a breakaway later in the game.
  • Liles joins the play and brings a ton of offense to the table. We’re going to love this guy if he plays like this all season.
  • Jake Gardiner had another fantastic night. As @blurr1974 suggested on twitter: guys like Frattin and Gardiner are going to make dealing vets at the trade deadline an easy decision.


  • Loved the Kessel – Connolly pair tonight. Joffrey Lupul looks like a dead weight on that line though.
  • Miller’s going to get credit for a "nice save" but Lupul got two shots off standing in the crease with an open net. His first attempt was 90 degrees away from the goal and Miller gave it back to him. Lupul put it into his glove.
  • The Grabovski line did what they do: controlled possession and drove play in the right direction.
  • Colton Orr is still a dead weight on this team. He took a useless interference penalty early in the game and fought no one. His presence didn’t stop Buffalo from boarding Jake Gardiner twice. Weird.
  • Finally, one bad pass aside I think Phaneuf had a solid game. I liked what I saw from him tonight.

The Sabres are where they’ve been for years: a team that will live and die with Ryan Miller. A younger, less experienced Leafs squad outshot them 15-4 in the second period tonight. Tonight’s a good omen for a young Leafs team.

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    • doggit

      I have zero statistical basis for thinking this, but whatever.
      I’ve often thought that defensive d-men take longer to reach their full potential. From a purely developmental point of view I’d like to see Gardiner in the lineup over Aulie, as I see his game being more suited to development and refinement at the NHL level. Keith will be a gem, I agree, no need to rush.

      Also wow skating wow.

  • I actually wouldn’t mind seeing Gardiner AND Aulie in the AHL this year — not because they haven’t impressed, but because I think it would be good to see them playing (and developing) together while giving some vets an opportunity to raise their trade stock.

    If we’re not making a run at the cup this year, why not let the youth play on a dominant AHL team, build a winning tradition and break them all into the NHL next year