The Leafs’ first trip to Buffalo of the year is one that won’t soon be forgotten, as a game that was 0-0 after the first exploded into one of the crazier games of the season. A lot of good and bad to take out of this one, but the Buds won’t have much time to think about it as they host the Canucks tomorrow. Toronto appeared to have this game in hand, but a couple of bad penalties completely turned the course of the game.
- Nikolai Kulemin finally broke his scoring drought, and it took a penalty shot for him to score his first goal in nearly two months. Let’s just hope there’s a lot more to come.
- The Phil Kessel-Joffrey Lupul combination continues to be one of the most dangerous in the league. Unfortunately they weren’t able to pull any more magic out at the end of the game, but the emotion Kessell showed throughout the closing periods is something we didn’t often see in the past.
- Despite being on the penalty kill for almost half a period longer than the Sabres, the Leafs outshot Buffalo 33-29, and, I felt, outplayed them at even strength.
- A great game from Matt Frattin, who came damn close to scoring on a number of occasions. Mikhail Grabovski also had a solid game at both ends of the ice, and scored a clutch goal to keep the game within reach.
- I’m not normally one to bitch about referee-ing, and I’m not complaining about the calls made against the Leafs. I’d argue that Dion Phaneuf should have been given a boarding call, but I’m not convinced on the five, ten and a game he got. Even worse, the non-call on Mike Weber led to Thomas Vanek’s 2nd goal of the night, the eventual game-winner. Weber clearly cross-checked Kessel, from behind, no less, and instead of a penalty, the Sabres got a goal and the win.
- James Reimer made a number of big saves, and played a pretty good game all-told. Unfortunately, the weak goal he gave up just a minute into the Leafs’ kill on the Phaneuf penalty should have been an easy save, and it ended up costing them the game.
- The penalty kill continues to be absolutely atrocious, and tonight it was so bad that, not only were the Leafs unsuccessful in killing off their penalties, but managed to take even more, totally turning the game on themselves. The league’s top-ranked powerplay is coming to town tomorrow night, and it won’t be any easier unless they get their crap together ASAP.
- Jake Gardiner and Luke Schenn had a rough night, with Gardiner’s giveaway less than half a minute after the Leafs’ second goal being the tipping point that set off the cataclysmic chain reaction that cost them the game. Best for both players to put this one behind them and move on.