Leafs Postgame: Buffalo’s Wild Centres Steal Points

There has to be something possessed about the Leafs right now (and I’m not talking about holding onto the puck). The Leafs, starting the game off with a 2-0 lead against the Buffalo Sabres which they then moved up to a 3-1 lead right before the end of the second period, looked to be in the clear to snap their five-game losing streak. 

But Buffalo fought back, forced overtime, and handed the Leafs their fifth consecutive one-goal loss (and seventh in nine games), albeit this time in a shootout. When it was all said and done, the Leafs were looking up at the scoreboard and seeing a 3 next to their name and a 4 next to Buffalo’s. 

The Rundown

The game started off quite well for the Leafs, seeing recent call-up Nikita Soshnikov continue to ride the wave of his first few games in the NHL, sliding accross this nice pass over to Leo Komarov for the game’s opening goal just 25 seconds into the game.

It wasn’t all smiles for Soshnikov, though, as he exited the game just moments later after crashing hard into the board on a whiffed hit. He did return, but you’d have to hope the medical staff handle the situation properly for a promising young player.

Easy jokes (myself included) were made all around on Twitter for Toronto’s second goal, which resulted when Jake McCabe scored on his own net. It looked at first glance like Brooks Laich had netted it originally, but the replays showed it was just another classic McCabe move at the ACC that resulted in Brad Boyes recieving credit.

Mark Pysyk got the Sabres on the board wth his first goal of the season, cutting the lead in half. Sam Reinhart picked up an assist, in what would be a big night for the young player.

Zach Hyman opened his NHL account with 19 seconds to go in the second period by crashing the net, and the Leafs were cruising heading into the game’s final third.

However, the young Jack Eichel reminded us that currently, he’s arguably the most impressive player on the ice with the brightest future. Eichel nabbed his 20th goal of his rookie season on a slick snapshot that caught Garret Sparks offguard. Eichel doesn’t have Crosby-like numbers, but his goal total is actually higher than anybody on the Leafs this season (Komarov’s goal was his 19th.)

Reinhart then found Evander Kane for a goal with just over nine minutes left in the period to tie it up, in the final regulation goal of the night.

Overtime solved nothing, except for the handing out of five penalites after a scuffle and a tripping call handed out to Nazem Kadri, so the Leafs and Sabres took it to the shootout.

Peter Holland, Jack Eichel, Nazem Kadri all missed, but a fourth consecutive former first-round pick in Sam Reinhart came up with the shooutout’s only goal. 

William Nylander’s first NHL shootout attempt went wide, ending the Leafs’ chances at gaining a second point. Chalk one up for the tank, I guess.

The Stats

Screenshot (20)

via hockeystats.ca

I’ve run out of ways to explain the Leafs dominating the possession charts and continuing to lose games. They probably just didn’t try hard enough.

Blue Warrior

Zach Hyman earns his first NHL goal and his first spot in the Blue Warrior column.

Up Next

The Leafs host the Islanders on Wednesday night at 7.

  • Gary Empey

    I maybe in the minority but prefer the leafs getting dominated in possession and actually winning under caryle rather then this reversal of fortune of always losing while outshooting the other team..

    For tonight, I thought the game got away from the leafs when no on the leafs stood up for sparks after gionta ran another of our goalies. You could tell the leafs were just not that into the game and there skill couldn’t stop the sabres wanted it more.

    • TGT23

      Instant gratification vs. The Big Picture. You like them occasionally winning but finishing 9th and out of the playoffs, or losing in the first round, over hope for the future. Real, tangible, bright eyed hope.

      If you can’t take a bad year or two and get excited about Nylander, Sosh, Hyman, Kap, Carrick, Marner, Leipsic, etc. than clearly you can’t see what it means for the future of the team.

      This rebuild is our chance to actually have a sustainable system that facilitates winning. A Detroit model organization. One that actually recognizes and develops young talent properly.

      If that isn’t worth a couple losing seasons than nothing is.

    • JB#1

      He makes a valid point about the running of Sparks. I was a little disappointed someone didn’t come in and stick up for him on that play.

      Buffalo was taking liberties all night and rarely did the Leafs push back.

  • magesticRAGE

    Reilly got to cute in front of his own net. He actually had a good game, but that gaf was bad. Kadri didn’t even expect it, and he always expects to have the puck.
    More and more in noticing Nylander is good with positioning within the system, but he’s to soft on pucks. If he becomes harder on the puck, I think we’d see more of his dangerous rushes.
    Sparks had a solid game, he deserved a better outcome. He had a few big saves, looked calm in net, but needs to limit his rebounds.
    Soshnikov and Hyman are quickly becoming fan favorites, congrats Zach.

  • jimithy

    It’s about a millennium when the limp Leafs could never beat the Sabres’ slick hockey sense. But since then, things have not changed, except for the ticket prices. But that was yesterday. Actually, it was today and it’s what’s going to happen the day after tomorrow. And for the next three, four, five, yikes, six years or whatever. But who’s counting now that there’s new management.

  • jimithy

    Another solid loss in the incredible tanking performance although we did get a point. Tend to agree with T.G. some of the youngsters are giving us a taste of the future and with so many draft picks in the next couple of years, obviously there are more to come. As I’ve stated I think the leafs are close to clinching at worst the fourth pick in the draft.

    Now the leafs have to get lucky with little white ball in the order of drafting.

    From day one the new management stated it would indeed be painful at times and next year will obviously be another year of numerous defeats. But this is all part of the game plan. Even the hopeless Oiler organization is actually starting to make some progress with their insistence of drafting a forward each year with most being centers.

    Tank leafs Tank Tank leafs Tank.

  • I’m starting to get a little worried, just because losing all the time is not ideal for the guys you want to try and bring with you for the long haul.

    Morgan Reilly and Jake Gardiner are at risk of getting badly poisoned much the way the Oilers have been.

    They’ve done well to strip it all back but I am praying the Hockey Gods give us what we need, which is a top 3 pick.

    • ccliff

      I would agree that this would be an issue, except that the drive the team has day in and day out are enough to keep the production and growth from deteriorating

      The lacklustre play of last year, transitioning to this year would be concerning, but the attitude in the dressing you and they inability to roll over and die are obviously not apparent in their current system

  • Jeremy Ian

    Ever deepening the mixed emotions. The Leafs outplay their opponent, the kids show their stuff, guys getting their first goals, and we still lose.

    It has to be about the process because the end result sucks. This is where Babcock has to take the long view and treat these losses as teachable moments. The fans should do the same.

  • silentbob

    Very discouraging losing to the lowly Sabres at home.

    Marlies’ prices should be offered till the end of the season 😉

    As far as I recall this is the fewest goals the Leafs have scored in a season thus far. They have to open it up imo. What difference does it make this season?

    • JB#1

      “Opening it up” is literally the worst possible idea.

      The whole idea of these types of years is to establish structure and systems that the players know will be expected of them year in, year out. Once the skilled prospects are assimilated to the team, the scoring will start to come within the structures set in place.

      Edmonton played open for years, and they’re still terrible because there wasn’t a Babcock to establish systems and get players to buy in to a team game.

  • silentbob

    I was at the game and for the most part the two young players I was more excited to see (Nylander and Eichel) were both largely invisible for most of the game, but you couldn’t help but notice Rielly every time he stepped on the ice. There were shifts when he took over the play both offensively and defensively.

  • silentbob

    I don’t know if it was shown on TV, but in the 2nd period at the start of the play that lead to the Sabers first goal Kadri got hit. After he was hold his face and skated to the bench and got off the ice.

    But we was insanely slow getting up and just kind of lazily glided to the bench.

    That kind of lazy, unaware play really left a bad impression about the kind of player he has and might very well have contributed to that first goal.