The Toronto Maple Leafs opened the season with a win on the road against their arch rivals in Montreal. The scene now shifts to the Air Canada Centre for the home opener against Buffalo, who also won its first game.
Ben Scrivens made 21 saves in the season opener and has been named the starter for tonight’s game. Nazem Kadri impressed Leafs Nation with the first goal of the season after just cracking the roster, thanks in part to the recent departures of Matthew Lombardi and Tim Connolly. Tyler Bozak, who has also been the center of attention in the Luongo trade rumours, also made a statement by scoring the game-winner in Montreal; Phil Kessel assisted on both goals.
The Leafs are historically successful in home openers with a 44-32-3 record and 15 ties all-time. However, the past is behind this current team and this season’s home opener won’t come easy against the Sabres.
Thomas Vanek led the Sabres to a 5-2 win versus Philadelphia, scoring an astounding two goals and three assists. Ryan Miller stopped 27 of 29 shots as Buffalo finished 3-for-6 on the power play. This is worrisome for a Leafs team who has struggled on the penalty kill during their playoff-drought.
The Leafs allowed a power play goal versus the Canadiens, so this should have been the main focus in the game preparation.
For the Sabres, Ville Leino has been listed as doubtful to start tonight after missing the season opener against the Flyers. Nathan Gerbe (back) and Cody McCormick (finger) also remain on injured reserve.
For the Leafs, Jake Gardiner will also miss back-to-back opening games due to his concussion-like symptoms.
Keys To Victory
-The Leafs will need to stay away from the penalty box, for the most part. The Sabres choked out the high-octane Flyers with three power play goals yesterday afternoon.
-The Leafs scored both goals on the powerplay in Montreal and will need to continue this trend against a team who had a very strong outing with the man-advantage in their opener. The deciding goal could very well come on the power play.
-Ben Scrivens will also likely face a lot more action than he did against the Habs. He will need to stay strong between the pipes to avoid any controversy with James Reimer. Goaltending was the biggest question mark coming into the season and Scrivens will need to continue to silence his critics.
One of these teams will open the season 2-0-0 in the shortened campaign. With this being another divisional game in a tough Northeast, this game could prove very important later on in the year.