Game Recap: Game #49, Leafs 4 vs. Sabres 3 (SO)

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Photo: NHLI via Getty Images

For the life of them, the Leafs can’t put together a pair of ROWs for their burning boat. They still don’t have two consecutive regulation-overtime wins since November 19, but they do have a three-game winning streak underway thanks to their ninth shootout win of the season. Given their ROW was already too far below their nearest competitors to catch up on the tiebreaker, the two points are what matter most.

Obviously, one thing that’s disappointing about the five games versus the Sabres is just how even/touch and go they’ve been. The Leafs clearly have more talent, and who doesn’t, but it was always an eventful game versus this Buffalo team. The Sabres entered this game scoring at a 1.64 goals per game rate. Buffalo has scored three goals in a game only 12 times this season, and four of those came against the Leafs.

The Leafs could’ve had a relatively easy victory here, I think, if they stayed awake to start the 2nd. The first was fine (led 1-0), and the final 12 minutes to the 2nd were pretty good (scored twice), but there was a terrible six-seven minutes to start the 2nd (conceded two goals) that put the Leafs behind 2-1.

The Leafs did outshoot the Sabres 39-31, though, so this win was never in doubt…

Notes:

– Just about every shift from the first line in period 1 was of the dangerous variety. Kessel rang the iron with a rare slapshot and JvR redirected one right in front early in the period. After another good shift, it seemed only a matter of time. Sure enough, a stupid play by Erhroff gifted the puck to Kessel in the slot. Kessel’s 21st of the season made it 1-0 Leafs, which is also his eighth point in his last four games. Even on a shift starting in the neutral zone with just 17 seconds remaining, a clever play by Bozak to intentionally lose the draw and engage in a foot race for the puck led to a little bit of late pressure in the ozone.

– McClement played only 1:55 in the 1st, which was lowest on team (no penalties against). Holland played 4:44. Overall, Holland finished up with over 14 minutes of ice to McClement’s 7. If forced to pick, Holland’s line with Kulemin and Clarkson was arguably the Leafs’ most consistent through 60 mins tonight.

– An anatomy of a bad first 7 minutes to the 2nd period:

  • Bozak wasn’t ready on the opening faceoff, as he got beat by his man and took a hooking penalty. A good penalty kill followed at least, with Mason Raymond preventing a goal with a nice play with his stick to take away a seam pass.
  • Tyler Myers slipped in freely from the point after shedding Holland and found Matt Ellis open on the back post. Reimer nearly pulled off the save, but couldn’t quite squeeze his post. 1-1.
  • A turnover high in the zone on the right board by Kadri, while the left defenceman (Rielly) pinched down even though the Leafs weren’t in safe possession of the puck, turned into a penalty shot (albeit a soft call on the Gardiner hold). A big save from Reimer there.
  • Determined to fall behind to start this period, enter Cody Franson. Franson tried a fancy bounce pass off the boards and jumped ahead into the play, allowing Matt Moulson to intercept and walk in on Gleason and Reimer before absolutely ripping an unstoppable shot (off both posts, hard to tell it even went in, but the mesh below the bar did bulge) to make it 2-1.

– Thankfully, the Leafs mustered a quick response. Pete Holland intercepted a weak breakout chip pass by Mark Pysyk, pulled a few nice moves in tight around two Sabres and found an open Kulemin, who cut into slot and answered Moulson with his own ripper of a wrist shot, bar down. Clarkson supplied the screen. Kulemin tantalizes us with that pure release every now and again. And yeah, Holland never should’ve been sent down.

– A few shifts later, good work by Raymond and Kadri down low and a good finish by Rielly put the Leafs back ahead with nine minutes to go in the 2nd. Good awareness here from Rielly to identify an opportunity, creeping down from the point to beat Miller shortside high. Dreger’s favourite trade target, Nazem Kadri, picked up the primary apple after scooping the puck out of Miller’s kitchen and walking it around the net. Going into those dirty areas is key for Naz in getting his production going again.

– A phantom hook on Dion Phaneuf sent the Sabres to the powerplay to start the 3rd. Reimer gave up an easy one kind of like Bernier’s weak goal against Boston last night. This one was on Reimer. He didn’t seal his post completely and Hodgson found a hole.

– The Leafs actually outshot the Sabres in the third, but man did they look groggy throughout this period. They were outplayed for spells with the game on the line.

– Thank God for the Leafs finding a set of three shooters who can get the job done in the shootout: Lupul, JvR, and Bozak. All three scored in this SO, meaning Reimer only had to stop one. They now have nine wins in the shootout, which is 38% of their total wins (24). It has saved their bacon.

– So many of us were wrong to write off Tim Gleason. He did get beat wide once by Girgensons (wasn’t alone in that respect, as I think he did this three times tonight), but his underlying numbers suggest he’s been winning the possession battle better than any Leafs D the past few games. Just watching him, he’s actually standing up players at the blueline, and he is a determined, nasty individual down low.

– Nazem Kadri and Joffrey Lupul received the most shot attempts against when on the ice. The embarrassing part was that they spent two shifts pinned in by the Sabres’ 4th line in the first period and John Scott almost scored against the Leafs again during one of them.

The Leafs now sit in the first wildcard position with 53 points through 49 games. We’ll have to see where they stand after the upcoming two nights off, but I think this team can finally breathe again. Let’s keep ‘er going against the Habs on Saturday.

Leafs Sabres Boxscore

PLAYERGATOI+/-SOGPIMFWFLHITSBSTAKEGIVE
Carter Ashton003:28010000000
Tyler Bozak0023:2700215163100
David Clarkson0014:30110112200
Cody Franson0021:53-140001132
Jake Gardiner0022:45120002111
Tim Gleason0020:36-100004201
Carl Gunnarsson0020:16210006540
Peter Holland0114:18030541010
Nazem Kadri0120:181107103012
Phil Kessel1023:33030000004
Nikolai Kulemin1016:51020003100
Joffrey Lupul0020:16160002000
Jay McClement007:07-100731000
Colton Orr003:30010002000
Dion Phaneuf0025:37:00164001002
Mason Raymond0117:02130002000
Morgan Rielly1018:09010002200
James van Riemsdyk0022:18040002011

Leafs-vs-Sabres-Shot-location-data

  • Shift_Disturber1

    another 2 points in the bank.

  • Bon Scott was a Leaf fan

    Fantastic review, Alec.
    Never underestimate the power of chocolate milk.

  • Bring the Cup Home

    huge 2 points.  huge timing on a mini winning streak.  

    things i like:
    – holland.  great trade there if you ask me.  
    – clarkson tonight.
    – rielly.  just how good is this kid gonna be?
    – gunnar.  just solid night in and night out.  
    things i don’t like:
    – franson.  sick of his poor decisions.
    – reimer.  looked shaky.  bernier is our guy i think.  reimer will be gone at trade deadline i think.
    – lupul/kadri.  what happened to these guys?  need a strong finish from them this season if we want to make playoffs.

  • Shift_Disturber1

    A win in which we also outshot the competition. This is getting too good

  • wiski

    Shift_Disturber1 Liking the dion avi 😉

  • Bon Scott was a Leaf fan

    Between JVR/Lupul/Bozak for shootouts and the Holland line….seems we have a new lease on life.  Sure took Carlyle long enough to figure this shit out.

  • Shift_Disturber1

    wiskiShift_Disturber1  just for you bud 😉

  • Bon Scott was a Leaf fan

    wiski Shift_Disturber1 
    you are relentless.

  • Cloud09

    Bon Scott was a Leaf fan Real question will be if Carlyle can make the right decisions when Bolland comes back or does he get stubborn with something that doesn’t work.

  • Shift_Disturber1

    wiskiShift_Disturber1actually phook inspired this with his tales of playing D this morning 😀

  • Cloud09

    Shift_Disturber1 wiski What’s the story behind the pylon?

  • Jay31

    Sweet recap Alec and great point about Gleason’s possession dominance so far.. We could use more of that

  • Shift_Disturber1

    Cloud09Shift_Disturber1wiski  that he wasn’t very good? LOL

  • TuckerForPunishment

    Clarkson really has bad form on his triple lutz.

  • Bon Scott was a Leaf fan

    Cloud09 Bon Scott was a Leaf fan 
    He’s got another 6 weeks to figure that out.  A lot can happen or change in that time.

  • vinoa

    Cloud09 Bon Scott was a Leaf fan When Bolland comes back McClement can go back to the wing and we can have a Holland+ wingers to battle with Kadri’s line for minutes.

  • Shift_Disturber1

    Have we gone from train wreck to a train rollin…………i think so

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZFV73EE078

  • Jay31

    Bring the Cup Home I think it’s more Lupul than Kadri. Lupul is either useless at best or incredibly harmful at worst in the dzone, whoever’s with him basically has to carry him.. Maybe try switching Kadri and Holland in the lineup

  • http://mapleleafshotstove.com/ DeclanK

    Refresh; boxscore up

  • Cloud09

    Bon Scott was a Leaf fan Cloud09 It took him force feeding McClement on the 3rd line for almost 3 months before he finally realized he was playing him too much.

  • TuckerForPunishment

    Shift_Disturber1  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wt_VoRZQRZc

  • wiski

    Shift_Disturber1 Never heard of them but I like it

  • DWCMLHS

    6 shots on goal in one game isn’t bad for a guy that apparently can’t hit the net…

  • Cloud09

    DeclanK It doesn’t seem to be formatted properly on the page. No TOI

  • http://mapleleafshotstove.com/ DeclanK

    Cloud09 DeclanK 3rd column

  • wendelsfist

    DWCMLHS What was his shot differential?

  • wiski

    DWCMLHS home judges you can’t trust em 😉

  • Cloud09

    DeclanK Cloud09 No shit, you guys threw a good curve ball there.

  • Coldincowtown

    Here is my dream trade deadline:
    Trade number one – Kadri, Reimer, Raymond to Jets for Evander Kane;
    Trade number two – Franson, our 1st for Girardi.
    Ride Holland, Bolland, Bozak as our centers and see what we have. Can always chase Statsney or ROR in the summer if they fail.
    Our D:
    Phaneuf Gleason
    Girardi Gardiner
    Rielly Gunnar (i like)
    Our forward top three:
    JVR, Bozak, Kessel
    Kane Holland Lupul
    Clarkson Bolland Kulemin
    Fourth line…whatever.
    Bernier in net. this my friends looks like a contending team.

  • Shift_Disturber1

    wiskiShift_Disturber1   Yeah, me either until about a month ago. Grabbed all 3 of their full albums. Absolutely solid group. A little county, a little southern rock, a little rock and roll. Best band I’ve heard in top to bottom in a while

  • DWCMLHS

    wendelsfist DWCMLHS Haha, I dunno. But it’s a fact that Phaneuf is about average in terms of missed shot percentage over his career. The idea that he misses the net too much is absolute bullshit. A perfect example of people “seeing what they want to see”.

  • Alec Brownscombe

    Jay31 Thanks ma

  • DJBrianBurke

    DWCMLHSToo bad there was no traffic on the two in OT.

  • wiski

    TuckerForPunishment Shift_Disturber1 Keep on rollin

  • vinoa

    Coldincowtown Way too much for Evander Kane. Reimer should be a straight up swap for him. Reims is a proven starter and still young enough. Maybe a Reimer + Raymond but nothing more.

  • Alec Brownscombe

    Bon Scott was a Leaf fan Thanks Bon. I won’t.

  • Cloud09

    Coldincowtown The Kane one I can kinda get behind but that second one for Girardi… woof. Franson alone for Girardi would be enough, no way you throw away a first too.

  • TuckerForPunishment

    DWCMLHS wendelsfist He just has a history of ripping them high off the glass.  Makes his misses more obvious.  Especially when the glass explodes.

  • Wilbur

    vinoa Coldincowtown If the Leafs want Kane there’s no way in hell they’ll get him for Reimer straight up.

  • Cloud09

    vinoa Coldincowtown Lol, Kane if moved will command a big return. You need at least two solid roster players, a prospect and more than likely a first round pick.

  • wiski

    DWCMLHS wendelsfist I would like to see those shots hit some twine every now and then

  • vinoa

    Wilbur vinoa Coldincowtown Yeah probably not. That was more hyperbole. Kadri, Reimer, and Raymond is a bit too much though for just Kane. I’d at least want their 1st

  • Coldincowtown

    Cloud09 Coldincowtown Really. You realize Girardi is a 20 minute a night stud right. Plays all the tough minutes. He is tough and talented. He will definitely get a first and a prospect from someone. I hope it is us as he will push Phaneuf for minutes which will be a good thing.

  • T K O

    Just looking at the schedule going forward………..If both Philly and the Rangers go on a little run, they could really help us separate from the pack based on who they play…. have them take the last 2 spots in the Met division with Pitt

  • Coldincowtown

    vinoa Wilbur Coldincowtown Kane is a beast. He will command a premium. We can offer it. Our wingers would be tops in the league with him. Speed to burn and I think he would love playing in Toronto.

  • vinoa

    Coldincowtown vinoa Wilbur Yeah I just saw his contract. For some reason I thought he was a free agent at year’s end but he’s making Lupul money through 2018. Really nice contract for Kane.

  • Coldincowtown

    vinoa Coldincowtown Not even close. Reimer gets you a first round pick maybe, Kane is an elite talent and will require an elite return. I think Jets will make a move for Reimer though. They need a goalie and he is a Manitoba kid.

  • Cameron19

    Coldincowtown With what assets? You gave them all away.

  • Cameron19

    Coldincowtown Cloud09 He’s a UFA, and they won’t be selling while they’re in a playoff push.

  • PEIleafnation

    link to randy presser