A good start to game in which the Leafs took a 2-0 lead, played with structure and looked good on the breakout gave way to poor puck management and inept special teams (three powerplay goals against, one shorthanded goal against).

All told, it was a sloppy ten-goal affair split 6-4 in favour of the Sabres, as the Leafs dropped their first preseason game of 2015.

Mike Babcock called this one “reality therapy” after the game.


Player notes:

  • Stuart Percy – Good job two games in a row. Nice show of patience on the goal from the point, moving from the middle slot to the left side to open up a shooting lane. He doesn’t put a lot on his shots in terms of windup, but he’s figured out how to generate a lot of torque with very little movement and it’s handcuffed two goalies two games in a row. Removing the two goals from the equation, he’s moving the puck more efficiently and quickly.
    I
  • Nazem Kadri – Lots of pep in his step tonight and he looked confident handling the puck; in the first, backing off the defence, holding, and finding the trailer, Stuart Percy, who buried a nice snipe from the tops of the circles in traffic. Hit the post in the second period on a nice, quick release. Nice tip goal on the play with Lupul. He was good all night, but made some questionable decisions in the neutral zones when outmanned and was stripped a few times.
    I
  • Joffrey Lupul – Good game from Lupul, although he was trying to do a bit too much offensively and was making poor decisions in the offensive zone, which resulted in dangerous turnovers. Nice play with Kadri on his goal.
    I
  • Mitch Marner – Looks really tight still, and is getting overpowered easily in one-on-ones. He’s mishandling the puck under pressure and that’s not really something you see from him normally. He had some nice moments, but it’s the pretty standard line for an 18 year old here: has to get bigger and stronger. Babcock did say he liked that he wanted the puck more last night.
    I
  • Daniel Winnik – Nice breakaway goal. Didn’t look as comfortable handling the puck as he has in the past; lots of bobbling and fumbling. Some rust to shake off here.
    I
  • Sam Carrick — A better game from Carrick last night. He was more physical and wasn’t getting killed on possession.
    I
  • Matt Frattin – Nice PP goal that will allow him to breathe a bit as he fights for his NHL career. Got some PP time on the second powerplay unit in the second period as the Leafs tried to get a good look at him in an offensive role. He looked better tonight and may have earned some more opportunities to see if he can play higher up than the fourth line.
    I
  • Matt Hunwick – Looked slow and was making slow decisions with the puck, but wasn’t awful. Not sure this can be a paring with Phaneuf long-term—it’s hard to see it doing the Leafs any good, but it’s early.
    I
  • Dion Phaneuf – Looked tentative and slow when skating and moving the puck in the first, but got quicker as the game wore on. Lacks chemistry with Hunwick so far. Looks like he did in pre-season last year, and we know he hit the switch and looked like a different player once the regular season started.
    I
  • Scott Harrington – Paired with Rielly and was killing plays by skating into dead areas of the ice and not transitioning the puck properly. He’s not a natural with the puck, but does well in his puck battles. Seems to be struggling with the pace of play at the moment.
    I
  • Morgan Rielly – Bailed out Harrington with a strong back check in the first that saved a strong scoring chance against. Great job on the PP holding the puck under pressure and controlling the game from up top. Clear to see that this is the best defenceman on the Leafs right now and a case can be made he’s been the best player on the team in the preseason. Covered in the broadcast: It’s obvious that he’s been working on his one-on-one battles, and if he was training with Santorelli again, we know that he’s been practicing with a player that works as hard as anyone does in that regard. Looks excellent and had a great scoring chance in close that he didn’t all of, or get up quick enough. He’ll start to polish areas of his game once there’s more structure to the hockey.
    I
  • Viktor Loov – Nice game from Loov. He’s in a tight race with Percy and Marincin for the bottom pairing left-side defence job and was probably in the lead to start the pre-season, but Percy has caught up and is arguably ahead of him right now. 3 SOG for Loov on the evening, which is excellent considering he played 17:20.
    I
  • Jonathan Bernier – Nice and tidy to start the game; was stopping plays and gobbling up rebounds, but things slowly unraveled from there. Can’t be blamed on some of the goals, but a few weren’t impossible saves to make. The team was out of sorts in front of him. It is what it is — junk preseason hockey.

 

All Situations Possession Chart

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Buffalo Sabres Game #4 Preseason
All situations possession

 

Mike Babcock Post Game Presser