As mentioned about eight hundred times on the broadcast, the Leafs have trouble playing at First Niagara Center. Their record at the arena heading into tonight was 1-16-1 since February 4th, 2009. It’s a shame that the Leafs are seemingly incapable of playing well in front of their away fans, who arguably show up in stronger numbers across the border than at the Air Canada Centre.
It’s good for the tank, though, and the very same tank got a boost tonight with a 4-1 loss to the Sabres.
It was another one of those “good effort, no result” nights for the Leafs, as the team stayed neck and neck with their opponents from the very start. The scoresheet begged to differ, though, as Johan Larsson ripped a wrist shot through the legs of Morgan Rielly and past Garret Sparks to give his team the lead. The gap was extended late in the period when, with Frank Corrado in the box, Ryan O’Reilly set up his brother Cal O’Reilly for his second of the year.
Cal must have been inspired, because three minutes into the second period, he chased a loose puck down the ice and launched a massive slapshot past Sparks to wide the gap to three. Eventually, Toronto responded with an extremely rare goal from Brooks Laich, but even with 24 minutes left in the game, the team seemingly had hit the point of no return. In the dying moments of the game, Larsson picked up an empty netter, putting an exclamation point on the game. Nazem Kadri created some controversy to end the game off with by hitting Larsson into his own bench,
The Only Stat That Matters
The pre-game narrative was centred around Jack Eichel and Nazem Kadri. Kadri was asked about Eichel and said that he was a great player even if he’s currently not amazing defensively. Eichel said he wasn’t sure if Kadri should be evaluating him but agreed that there were things to work on.
The media created these exchanges and spun them as a rivalry. That wasn’t the case, but what if there really was beef?
Well, they were both 33.3% possession players tonight. Needless to say, both would like to forget their two-way efforts from this one.
How about young Tobias Lindberg! The rookie played his first NHL game tonight, earning the look after some hard work with the Marlies since joining the team in February. He was Toronto’s third-best possession forward tonight (54.2%) and picked up his first career point on the Laich goal. Overall, a solid first impression.
See You Next Time
With that border clash behind the Leafs, it’s time for another! They’ll be taking on the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night, though this game is at the Air Canada Centre. Puck drop is at 7:00 PM.