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Photo Credit: Kevin Hoffman / USA TODAY Sports

LGD: Those Pesky Sabres

With a look at the remaining schedule for the Leafs – these next five games in seven days – you’d perhaps pencil tonight’s game as the most winnable, given the standings. But I’m probably not alone in being absurdly nervous about the prospect of Toronto getting two points in Buffalo this evening, especially with the way the Sabres handled the Leafs last Saturday in the same setting.

Divisional games are often tough, no matter how far apart the teams are points-wise. They’re even tougher when a group feels they’re being ridiculed, which is likely how the Sabres felt last weekend when all the talk around that matchup was about how many Leafs fans would be invading their arena to watch the visiting team try to seal up a playoff spot. The Sabres, and Jack Eichel specifically, seemed to take it personally, and humbled the Leafs pretty quickly.

Toronto is in somewhat of a better position entering tonight, as Buffalo comes in as a tired team on the second half of a back-to-back. I still fully expect the Sabres to give them a lot to handle.

These are two enormous points, and grabbing both would essentially lock things up for the blue-and-white, pushing them to greater than 99% to secure a playoff spot according to some probability models, and keeping them in the driver’s seat for 2nd in the division.

The Leafs

Defensive Pairings
Morgan Rielly
Morgan Rielly
Connor Carrick
Connor Carrick
Jake Gardiner
Jake Gardiner
Nikita Zaitsev
Nikita Zaitsev
Matt Hunwick
Matt Hunwick
Roman Polak
Roman Polak

The Sabres

The Sabres’ blue-line is atrocious, but that forward group again looks like a lot of trouble for the Leafs. It’s also worth noting that Young Nylander has been called up from Rochester, and will go up against brother Bill for the first time this regular season. Cody Franson is also set to return to the lineup, so that’s two goals for the Sabres from the outset.

Starting Goaltenders

Lehner (0.921 sv%) goes for the Sabres. Andersen (0.919) will get the net for Toronto, with McElhinney taking tomorrow night’s game against the Capitals.

Numbers

TOR BUF
Points-Percentage 0.591 0.487
Power Play 24.2% (2nd) 24.9% (1st)
Penalty Kill 83.0% (8th) 77.4% (26th)
Score-adjusted Corsi (5v5) 51.0% (11th) 47.0% (27th)

Where to Watch

Game goes at 7:00pm EST at KeyBank Center, and will be nationally televised on Sportsnet.

  • lukewarmwater

    I watched the Sabres play last night and a couple of their D boys must have made a bundle from Vegas last night as they obviously wagered their money on their opposition. Just garbage defence as they simply earned beautiful assists on Islander goals. They literally quit last night against the Islanders. The Sabres are a bum of the month club and the way they went after Andersen last game, the leafs should have all the ammunition they need to send this garbage club on to the golf course where they belong. Sabres as usual truly suck. Go leafs Go.

  • The Russian Rocket

    This is a game we absolutely need to win, especially if Buffalo is tired from playing last night. If we grab 2 points here, you’d have to think we’d only need a couple more wins on the season.

  • Gary Empey

    Sabres never have any problem getting motivated to play the Leafs. Toronto will have to keep their heads up as the Sabres have injured quite a few NHL players this year.

  • FlareKnight

    I hope the Leafs bring their best to this. Buffalo shouldn’t be so tough to beat, but they will be. Give the best they have and see how things shake out. Every point still matters. Keep winning!