Buffalo is projecting as one of the worst teams in the modern era, but this win was convincing and much needed.
If you want to put a positive spin on it, the Leafs have been generous with their shots allowed against even the worst of opponents in the past year; tying a franchise record for fewest shots against in a game – 10 – is a plus regardless of the opponent.
The decision to go with Bernier over Reimer seemed somewhat curious given their recent form, but both goalies got the night off as it turns out. Bernier was credited with the easiest shutout of his career, facing a 60-minute shot volume he’s faced in the first 10 minutes of many games since arriving in Toronto.
It obviously speaks more to Buffalo’s downright awfulness than it does the Leafs’ abilities as a shot suppression team.
That said, the Leafs needed this win on home ice in order to feel a little better about themselves and get the fans and media temporarily off their back. TSN was calling it a ‘must win’ before the game; that’s a little dramatic, but from the perspective of how the ACC might have reacted to a loss tonight, it maybe wasn’t that crazy of an interpretation. There’s been a build up of toxic energy from last season’s collapse bleeding into four bad showings in five games on home ice to start this season. The Leafs needed to have this one in their home rink, and won convincingly.
The positive takeaways are that the Maple Leafs’ newfangled top line was dominant, outshooting the opposition 16-1 at evens, and some players – Jake Gardiner most of all – hopefully grabbed some much-needed confidence from this win to take forward against the bigger challenges ahead this weekend (Columbus, Chicago).
The upcoming back to back will be a good chance to actually evaluate the new lines, but it was a good start for new line #1 nonetheless.
TOR has outshot BUF & COL by a combined 77-34 (69% of shots). Against all other opponents this year, TOR has been outshot 203-247 (45%).
— Draglikepull (@draglikepull) October 29, 2014
Notes by Anthony Petrielli
- Phil Kessel – Took his foot off of the pedal once the Leafs potted a few, but before that he created a lot of scoring opportunities including a beautiful pass to spring Bozak for the game winner.
- Nazem Kadri – He is clearly the Leafs best center. The question for me has always been whether they lose too much on L2 by taking him off of it.
- Joffrey Lupul – Came out with a purpose, hitting the crossbar early and knifing the goalie more than a few times going after pucks in the slot. Unsurprisingly led team with 9 SOG. Said after the game, “I’ve had scoring droughts, but I’ve never had a run like this where I’m getting so many chances, hitting so many posts, and not scoring.”
- JVR – Scored a goal and missed a breakaway, but I wonder if his spot on PP1 will be safe forever if Lupul and Kessel continue to play together and excel.
- Tyler Bozak – Line took some time to gel, but got better as the game went on. His best attribute for the past few years has been that he’s crafty offensively, and he beat Neuvirth clean on a partial breakaway for the game winner.
- David Clarkson – Thought he meshed well on a scoring line compared to last year and was able to be the first man in on the forecheck and create some cycles.
- Daniel Winnik – Is usually pretty good about throwing a few pucks to the net, but went shot-less tonight. But, the Sabres couldn’t take it off of him on the wall.
- Mike Santorelli – Nice cycling on the Kessel goal; instead of throwing the puck away while his line changed, he made the extra effort to hold onto it and found an open Kessel, who buried.
- Leo Komarov – Dog of a game doesn’t really cater to Komarov’s skill-set, but was still effective on the cycle and PK. Needs to get to the net more with the puck.
- Richard Panik – Like Santorelli, was the only guy on his line to record a SOG tonight. Still struggles to handle the puck in the defensive zone through the neutral zone.
- Peter Holland – Great play on the PK to draw a penalty and create a JVR breakaway. Has quietly begun to settle in as a regular PKer.
- Matt Frattin – Was able to carry the puck a few times through the neutral zone and manufacture some zone time, which was a decent game for a guy who hasn’t played much this year.
- Dion Phaneuf – The 5v3 missed his big shot and looked a little lost. Was surprised to see him start running guys up 4-0.
- Cody Franson – Had a quietly decent game with 3 SOG, playing 22 minutes, and stepping up a few times in the neutral zone and blue line to force dump-ins and prevent entries.
- Jake Gardiner – Hard to not defer to Kessel, but that 5v3 needed a QB, not Kessel roaming with the puck wasting time; the whole unit looked confused, which is not just his fault. Great goal, though, which hopefully ups his confidence.
- Stephane Robidas – Still looks tentative and a little weak on the puck. Of course, he’s old and missed training camp, so he’s probably going to need 20 games to really get going.
- Morgan Rielly – Pushed the play and took advantage of the time and space available when playing the Buffalo Sabres. Next step is doing it against good teams. 6 SOG.
- Roman Polak – Didn’t stand out in anyway, which is a good thing for the type of player he is.
- Jonathan Bernier – Easiest shutout of his pro career, most likely.
Shot Location Chart
Toronto Maple Leafs vs Buffalo Sabres Possession Stats
|Player||All Situations||Even Strength|
|#||Name||Position||Corsi For||Corsi Against||Corsi||Corsi For%||Zone Start%||Corsi For||Corsi Against||Corsi||Corsi For%||Zone Start%|
|21||JAMES VAN RIEMSDYK||L||25||11||14||69||90||11||8||3||58||83|
Toronto Maple Leafs vs Buffalo Sabres Stats
|NO.||PLAYER||POS||G||A||P||+/-||PIM||S||HITS||FO%||PP TOI||SH TOI||TOI|
|21||J. van Riemsdyk||L||1||0||1||1||0||3||0||-||4:51||1:30||19:02|
|NO.||PLAYER||SAVES - SHOTS||SV%||PIM||TOI|
|34||J. Reimer||0 - 0||0||0||0:00|
|45||J. Bernier (W)||10-Oct||1||0||59:25:00|