Miller time in Toronto: Leafs lose home opener to Sabres 2-1

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Well… that was some game. Down 2-0 to the Buffalo Sabres late, the Toronto Maple Leafs nearly came all the way back against a red-hot Ryan Miller and a strong Sabres’ defensive performance. After Nazem Kadri made it 2-1 with 1:42 to go on a 6-on-4, Joffrey Lupul had a goal waved off after batting in an elevated puck with his glove. Phil Kessel had a wide open backhand that was stopped by Christian Ehrhoff. Way back in the first period, the Leafs had a string of power plays that resulted in a couple of two-man advantages, but Miller stopped them all.

So the Leafs meet the same fate as their division rival Montreal Canadiens and drop their opener at home, although they gave their fans a show, opening up the plan in the third period. Some details below.

-Again, our scoring chance application has yet to be updated for the 2013 campaign. Tomorrow I’ll go through manually and count out which Leafs were on the ice for each scoring chance. What I can tell you is that Toronto actually had double the scoring chances of the Buffalo Sabres, an incredible 20-9 margin. I should note that nine of those came on the aforementioned string of power plays in the first period. At even strength, the teams were closer, 8-7 in favour of Toronto, with the advantage coming because the Leafs were pressing late in the third period. 

-In score-close even strength situations, Buffalo had a 3-2 advantage. 

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-The most dangerous Leaf on the night? Phil Kessel. 4 of the Leafs’ 20 chances came off his stick, although he didn’t get an opportunity after the midway point in the game. In the third period the Leafs were paced offensively by Nazem Kadri, who was used by Randy Carlyle as the extra attacker, and I quite like that. Kadri has a air of workmanlike quickness and he seems to read plays, and does what it takes to go where he thinks the puck will go. Both of his goals on the season have been cases of him getting to the right place before anybody knows he’s there.

-The most dangerous Buffalo Sabre? Take your pick. Outside of their first line of Cody Hodgson, Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek, there was really not a lot going on for the Sabres. That first line though is magical. That line has contributed for all five even strength Sabres’ goals this season, including both tonight. 

-Cody Hodgson’s first goal wasn’t recorded as a scoring chance. It was a long drive from Christian Ehrhoff that went right off of Hodgson’s body and in. Really, nothing any Leaf could have done on that one, especially Ben Scrivens. Sometimes, deflections are deliberate. This one wasn’t. 

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-The second Sabres’ goal was much prettier, Vanek working the puck to Jason Pominville off a three-on-one at the end of a long second line shift for the Leafs. It was a very Leafy thing to do, and Carl Gunnarsson got caught up ice as the three most dangerous Sabres players came on in with numbers. Hey Korbinian and Ben, I know you have 15 games of NHL experience between the two of you, but try and stop those guys next time… 

-Carlyle is really working in that Kadri line. It looked like he was trying to avoid a matchup against the Sabres’ top line, preferring to see them play against Mikhail Grigorenko, Jochen Hecht and Matt Ellis. Grabovski’s line, no surprise, worked against the toughs primarily. I thought they did a decent job, minus getting caught on that goal, but they held the puck in the Sabres’ end for 30 seconds before the 3-on-1. One guy was pinching that shouldn’t have, but when you’re facing a goalie in the zone like Miller was, it’s probably not a bad idea to try and crowd the net a little bit.

-The Maple Leafs missed the net 20 times tonight. 8 of those misses were on shots in the scoring chance zone. Yeesh. 

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-You know who missed the net only once? Dion Phaneuf. You know who had six shots on goal? Dion Phaneuf. You know who played a staggering 28:43, at all strengths? Dion Phaneuf. He played a fantastic hockey game and would have been first star easily if the Leafs hadn’t run into such a red-hot goalie on that early powerplay.

-Colton Orr played 4 minutes. Mike Brown played 4 minutes. Jay McClement played 11 minutes. Commentators keep talking about the importance of depth and quick turnaround, and I think unless the Leafs slip some players into those extra roster spots soon, these back-to-backs and three-in-fours we’ve heard so much about could catch up to them.

-At least they weren’t John Scott, who played a grand-total of 1:58.

-Tyler Bozak had a sneaky good game in the face-off circle, going 22-4. I did notice that line was victimized a few times at the other end of the ice and spent a lot of time recovering the puck. When the puck-possession numbers come out, we’ll be able to see whether that line’s defensive ability is closer to matching with its offensive ability. Thus far this season, the three have zero goals. I don’t think it’s fair that people will talk about them the way they will for the next couple of days, since they are getting their chances. 

Scoring chance tables. Toronto first:

  Chances Taken Set Up Total
Phil Kessel 4 1 5
Dion Phaneuf 3 1 4
Nazem Kadri 2 2 4
Joffrey Lupul 3   3
Clarke MacArthur 2   2
John-Michael Liles 2   2
James van Riemsdyk 2   2
Tyler Bozak   2 2
Nikolai Kulemin 1   1
Mike Brown 1   1
Jay McClement   1 1
Leo Komarov   1 1


  Chances Taken Set Up Total
Jason Pominville 3   3
Thomas Vanek   3 3
Tyler Ennis 2   2
Drew Stafford 1 1 2
Cody Hodgson 1 1 2
Jochen Hecht   2 2
Mikhail Grigorenko 1   1
Patrick Kaleta 1   1

And team totals:

  1st 2nd 3rd Total
BUF (EV) 2 (2) 3 (1) 4 (4) 9 (7)
TOR (EV) 11 (2) 2 (1) 7 (5) 20 (8)

TLN’s Three Stars

  1. Ryan Miller
  2. Dion Phaneuf
  3. Jason Pominville

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