LEAFS POSTGAME: It’s actually the Eichelbowl

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Something to remember as teams rapidly tailspin their way into the bottom of the standings? The thirtieth place team isn’t as likely to win the draft lottery as they were in previous years. In fact, you only have a one in five shot to end up with Connor McDavid, which realistically means that the Buffalo Sabres are tanking for Jack Eichel. The Leafs are trying their best to catch down to them, however, and had a chance to give the Sabres a big two points tonight. The end result? Well, they gave them one, but unfortunately for the tank, kept a pair for themselves as well.

The Rundown

The Sabres struck first in this one, taking advantage of Dion Phaneuf, who misplayed the puck in comical fashion and allowed Buffalo to get a few cracks at it. In fact, it took three players to make the magic happen, with Johan Larsson eventually beating a sprawling Bernier. Late in the period, however, the Leafs caught lightning in a bottle. Brandon Kozun scored his second goal, firing a wrist shot which gave Joakim Lindstrom his first point as a Leaf and Andrew MacWilliam his first as an NHLer.

Just twenty one seconds later, Leo Komarov noticed that David Booth’s shot was going a hair wide, and tipped it past Anders Lindback to give the Leafs a lead, that would last… a minute and a half. The Moulson-Ennis-Larsson line struck again, this time with Ennis being left wide open in front of the slot for an easy wrister.

Surely, all that was left was for Moulson to score next! Oh, but he did. Midway through the second, he finished off an EA Sports-esque cross crease play to regain Buffalo’s lead, which carried into the third. All was going according to plan, but then, the Leafs picked up a powerplay in the game’s closing minutes. On that man advantage, Phil Kessel fired off a howitzer of a slapshot, Tyler Bozak made contact with it, and deflected it into the net to tie the game. This brought the game into overtime, where the two teams traded chances, but ultimately ended up going to a shootout.

In that shootout, the Leafs only scored one goal; a wrister from Bozak, who hesitated and threw off Lindback. However, it was enough to win them the game; Jonathan Bernier’s “go low and kick out the left pad” would seem predictable, but it also predicted the location of the three shots he faced. 

Blue Warrior

I’m going to give this one to Andrew MacWilliam, who has blossomed into a point-per-game NHL defenceman despite all of the doubters. Erik Karlsson better watch out.

Notes

  • Jonathan Bernier found himself between the pipes tonight, and stopped 30 of 33 shots. He looked shaky at times but came up big as the game progressed; obviously, performing best in the shootout.
  • It takes a remarkable lack of talent to be considerably outshot by the Buffalo Sabres, which was the case until the final minutes of the third period.
  • Tyler Bozak played some of the best hockey he’s played this year in the final minutes of this game, and was rewarded with the game tying goal and the shootout winner. Even if the fans don’t want to see it, the players still want to do it, and its always good to see a guy get a result that he’s gunning for.
  • I’d just like to point out that every player on a line that consists of “extra piece in a trade for a second liner”, “guy who is the second best athlete with the same name”, and “made great by John Tavares” scored a goal against the Leafs tonight. Obviously, not giving a lot of credit to Larsson, Ennis, and Moulson here, but that’s a pretty underwhelming line to allow such results from.
  • The Leafs will continue to cause agony on your television on Friday night, against the Flames.

  • Poluza

    Zero agony Jeff against a fired up Calgary squad as Burkie seeks revenge. The agony was tonight as the refs hosed Buffalo in the third period. But was Buffalo complaining NOOOOOOOOO. Yep Phil the thrill with a wicked shot that his missing in action teammate deflects to enable the leafs to get into the shoot out and heavens forbid Bernier actually wins one to enable the leafs to get a valuable 2 points to strive for 6th or 7th which means you get an equivalent of a Nazeem Kadri. How did that 7th picked worked out for the leafs. Say where was Kadri tonight, the soon to be 25 year old trying to become freaking mature after being drafted goning on seven years. This freaking team can’t even lose properly.

  • Poluza

    leafs barely won vs the sabres. they got lucky with that penalty otherwise they would’ve probably lost. just like they barely won vs the panthers with 2 barely alive goalies. i have faith that we will have a truly awful western road trip if we keep playing like we have recently. no more points please. just keep losing in regulation for the rest of the season.

  • Poluza

    Phil’s shot was going in. Typical Bozak taking all of the credit for his piggy bank’s hard work and getting the goal. I can’t wait until he’s finally gone. I’ve had enough of his mediocrity. Also, the Sabres lost on purpose judging from all 3 shooters doing the exact same move without any result.

  • Poluza

    Amazing tip by Bozak. It looked as though Phil’s shot was going way wide for a tip. It was a hard slap-shot. I don’t remember Phil using a slap-shot before. I can’t believe Bozak saw it and managed to deflect it. These two are truly special. Phil was shooting on all cylinders. Phaneuf played really well. A really nice third period and overtime. Booth is a force out there.

    • Poluza

      where you watching a game from last year? phaneuf literally pulled a clarkson and fell down by himself, turned over the puck at the blue line and the sabres scored. he was on the ice for every goal against. he made some bad plays that cost the team some goals but overall, he looked ok. not as atrocious as that first goal. the first line only had 1 shot on goal in the first 2 periods and most of their shots finally came but only on the powerplay. none on 5 on 5 as usual and of course bozak got his goal on the powerplay because 5 on 5 scoring is too hard for his “talent”. the only thing special about bozak is his uncanny ability to remain in the nhl for this long. he can thank kessel for that too along with his salary and supposed value to this team as a “#1 centre”. i truly don’t see him remaining in the nhl as soon as the leafs manage to finally get rid of him. maybe 4th line centre but if not, ahl player similar to the other bums kessel was forced to waste time playing with (crabb/stempniak/steckel)

  • acg5151

    I saw this on NHL.com and I actually said to myself “Wow, lucky I worked today. Dodged a bullet on that one, because I’m sure as heck not going to watch that game!”

  • Jeremy Ian

    One point I like that Jeff’s making is that the bottom teams are realistically tanking for Eichel, since none have more than poor odds of winning the lottery.

    I am OK with this win. Sure, it sabotages the tank. But losing to this version of the Sabres would have been truly, truly awful — as if the team we saw in the second period was the true Leafs. Ew. Not sure there would be anything to “rebuild” on.

  • Jeremy Ian

    Build around morgan reilly and your netminder again just like the Habs did with Price and Subban (athough I still don’t see Bernier beng him,,,wow won a shoot out, give the guy a big fat contract hahaha….he’s no where worth a big money.lenghty contract,,they never should have wasted thei money,,,Nonis you suck in this contract toooooooo)

    Than you got a team……

    Can’t wait for the new Reimers heading off to a real team…can’t come fast enough…Bernier cann have this clown of a team…..

    • MacTwoTimes

      A couple of weeks ago I made a comment saying Kozun would be one of the ‘un-tradeables’ on my list. I got so much crap for posting that, and then all I said was “just watch… he’ll show you what he’s worth”.

      Glad I’m not the only one that can see this guy’s value. *high-five*

  • MatsSundin#13

    Silver lining of this mess is that I can now actually afford and purchase tickets to Leaf games. I saw my second ever game at the ACC last night and had half decent tickets that cost me $40 online. What a world to live in!