Game in 10: Game 79, Leafs 4 vs. Sabres 3
One team entered the game 7-2-1 in their last ten, and tied for the final playoff spot with four crucial games to go. The other had won four of its last 21, hadn’t won a home game since February 6th, Â and sat second last in the Conference. This game end how you thought it would? Nope.
1 – The Leafs are 34-36-9 and some times it’s an advantage to be the pressure-free team playing an opponent fighting for their playoff lives. The Sabres played last night, too, but a pretty disappointing performance for them given the stakes. LOL!
2 – This was a throwback to Ron Wilson’s Leafs on a good night, a high scoring win to get Carlyle his first victory on home ice. A four goal outburst after the Leafs have averaged well under two goals a game under Carlyle.
3 – The team seemed like it was much more relaxed and less afraid tonight. Carlyle might have eased off the trap game and told them to have some fun. It could indicate Carlyle doesn’t think this current group is capable of playing the game he wants them to play and has afforded his team a little more leash for the final four games. We saw defencemen jumping into the attack with Ron Wilson-like abandon at points.
4 – Make no mistake, this wasn’t an easy situation to step into for Ben Scrivens. It might have been meaningless as far as the standings are concerned, but he had just seen what happened to Marlies teammate Jussi Rynnas two nights earlier, and was entering a hostile home environment at the ACC. Good, composed showing from Big Ben.
5 - Joey Crabb pinches the Sabres for his fifth and sixth points in five career games against Buffalo. A good individual effort for the short handed goal that brought back memories of his shortie in Buffalo last season.
6 – Whether Crabb, a pending UFA, comes back next season is probably up to Joey Crabb. Burke isn’t interested in getting into hardball negotiations with replaceable players, just ask Tim Brent. If Crabb is willing to come back on a one or two year deal again, I’d imagine he’ll get a shot to compete for a checking line role on Carlyle’s team next season. He’s stepped up his play given more opportunity under Carlyle in a contract season, but he wasn’t overly effective for long spells on the 4th line. I doubt he gets paid as though he’s assured his current spot next season.
7 – In hindsight the change in philosophy under Carlyle seemed to paralyze the team with fear more than help them out of their slump. The garbage goaltending played a major role in that, and the team’s lack of grit didn’t help either. You can’t play the style Carlyle preaches when a goalie lets in three stinkers like Gustavsson did against Carolina last Tuesday. The roster is going to need work to play Carlyle hockey and it starts in goal.
8 - Phil Kessel notches a career high 37th goal to mark a great individual season for The Thrill. Can he get three more over his final four for the cherry on top? Kessel’s powerplay goal was the first PP goal the Sabres had conceded in 16 games.
9 – First time in a while I noticed MacArthur‘s presence. He created a lot offensively tonight. A sweet pass to Frattin for the fourth Leaf goal, which proved the game winner. Liles also made an appearance, making a smart decision to join the rush with the clock near zero and getting some luck at the other end for the 3-1 goal.
10 - Everyone will be thinking about the draft implications of these two points, but it’s always nice to give your division rival’s playoff hopes a shot to the groin.