I have to imagine that "Ehrhoff" will be seen as a curse word for the Toronto Maple Leafs as they head back home from Buffalo tonight. Turning a sure Leafs goal into the icing on the cake for the Sabres in less time than it takes to blink is nothing short of impressive, and probably one of the highlights of his last few years. But the Leafs aren’t around to make opponents look good, but unfortunately did so tonight, dropping their first of back to back games against their 29th placed division rivals by a score of 3-1.
The two teams started this game fairly evenly matched, with neither getting significant changes to score, but making Ryan Miller and Jonathan Bernier work for their opening saves. The Sabres made things easier for their goaltender, though, forcing half of the Leafs’ attempts away from the net while turning almost all of theirs into shots.
The Leafs opened the scoring six minutes into the second period, thanks to a wrist shot from Trevor Smith just above the hash marks. It wasn’t a "snipe" by any means, but Smith found himself an open space to receive the pass at and threw what he could on the net, getting the result he wanted. The lead didn’t last very long, though. While Mark Fraser sat in the box for a cross check, Steve Ott picked up a loose rebound and snapped the shutout bid for Bernier. Just five minutes later, the Sabres Captain contributed again, feeding Marcus Foligno, seconds removed from the penalty box, for an easy rebound to give his team the lead.
In the third period, the Leafs appeared to take control of the momentum of the game, throwing shots left and right in the direction of Miller. Penalties to Drew Stafford and Henrik Tallinder gave them more room to push for an extra goal, and they nearly got one in the final seconds, but as mentioned in the opening paragraph, Christian Ehrhoff slid in front of James van Riemsdyk and fired a 180 foot wrist shot into the empty net to seal the deal.
Why The Leafs Lost
If you believe everything that the broadcast tells you, it’s because the Toronto Maple Leafs treated John Scott like a hockey player instead of a goon, which made Phil Kessel scared and ruined the gravitational pull of the puck past the opposing goalie. Okay, they didn’t mention gravitational pull, but fear-of-Scott was an actual topic brought up, which I find silly.
Reasonably, Ryan Miller had a very good game and a spectacular third period. In particular, his second period save on a van Riemsdyk baseball swing connection was particularly good, but he was the more elite of the two stellar goaltenders tonight. But, I mean, it was a game against the Leafs, in Buffalo; this isn’t a new development. At least Toronto was heavy on the late game effort in an attempt to reverse their luck.
For the second consecutive game, Jonathan Bernier was the standout despite a loss. He maintained a 0.923 SV% with two goals against on 26 shots, including some prime scoring chances. In many situations, this would have been a good enough start to give the Leafs a win.
- This was a surprisingly disciplined game, in the sense that both teams combined for only twelve penalty minutes. No fights, just minor penalties, and one was a Phil Kessel "puck over glass" special.
- On the subject of the penalty kill, Jay McClement’s usage is hitting hillarious levels. Of the 5:43 of PK time he played 3:35 tonight, second only to Dion Phaneuf (3:39). He also ended up playing just under 17 minutes of actual time.
- As much as I like James Van Riemsdyk, and as much as I enjoyed that near-goal swing, it’s a little obvious that he’s out of his element at centre. He tends to find his way back on the left wing quite a bit, which looks to be throwing off some set plays. Quality of talent aside, that line needs Tyler Bozak to come off IR.
- Speaking of Bozak, his "favourite" stat didn’t take the beating you’d think tonight, with the Leafs only losing 5 fewer draws than they won. That’s to the credit of McClement though, as none of the other centres were at or above 50%.