It’s always a good game when the Sabres and Leafs meet, and tonight was no different, as the Buds skated to a tightly-contested 2-0 win at the ACC, their 4th of 2012, their 4th in a row, their 4th since beginning this homestand and perhaps most surprisingly, their 4th since re-inserting Jonas Gustavsson between the pipes. The Leafs got all their offense from one line tonight, but it’s not the one you might have expected, as Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin decided to give the Leafs’ top line a night’s respite from shouldering the offensive load. Solid effort all-around, and while the Sabres aren’t exactly an offensive powerhouse, Toronto did an excellent job of ensuring that they were given no opportunities to close the gap on the lead they took in the first period.
- Anytime Kulemin scores this season, it’s cause for celebration. It wasn’t the prettiest goal, but it’s well-deserved for a guy who has continued to show impressive effort and contributed despite his apparent struggles around the net. Don’t forget his huge hit on Sabres’ agitator Patrick Kaleta.
- Grabovski’s goal, on the other hand, was a thing of beauty, as he backhand-sauced the puck up and over a surprised Ryan Miller. Kulemin and linemate Joey Crabb also factored in nicely on the goal with a couple of nice passes to set Grabbo up.
- Another perfect night on the penalty kill in 2012, and that was more a result of the Leafs’ good discipline than anything else, as they managed to stay off the kill all night. They’ve only had to kill 7 penalties since the end of 2011, and that may be the best medicine for the league’s worst penalty kill.
- Jonas Gustavsson. Not much more needs to be said right now. The Monster has lived up to his name in 2012, with a .950 save percentage, 2 shutouts and only 6 goals allowed over that span. I’d assume he won’t start both games this weekend, but expect Ron Wilson to keep riding the hot goalie.
- Not a real negative, but the Joffrey Lupul-Phil Kessel duo was held quiet tonight. Lupul probably would have murdered tiny Nathan Gerbe for his antics at the end of the game, but I doubt that will be much of a storyline to follow in Thursday’s rematch. Only 3 shots between the two of them, and no points – a rare occurrence for a couple of guys that have both scored points in 33 of the Leafs’ 42 games.
- Not Nazem Kadri’s strongest game, although he did pick it up later in the game. I’d love it if he started scoring a bit more, but if he keeps sticking to what his coaches have obviously been drilling in his head, it will come.