The Toronto Maple Leafs went into Buffalo and beat the Sabres 4-3 tonight in an overtime thriller. The Leafs have been allergic to playing well in Buffalo in recent years, so getting a victory at the First Niagara Center was no easy task. It was mostly a strong effort all around and here are a few things that stood out from the game.
Jay McClement made an impact
It’s one thing when one of your fourth line players gets a goal, but being a difference maker in a game is even better. McClement opened the scoring for the Leafs and he was a force all night. He also posted three shots and three hits, as well as created several scoring chances. Kudos goes to the Leafs for using McClement correctly and in his proper role this season, instead of what they typically do by hoping another team’s fourth liner can magically become a second line player in Toronto.
James Reimer was once again solid
The Leafs were badly out-shot and Reimer was able to keep them in the game. You could hardly fault the Leafs goalie for any of the three goals that beat him and he made several key saves throughout the night. Reimer has now faced 73 shots in his last two starts and has shown he has been up to the task. Ben Scrivens may not see another start until the next back-to-back situation.
Defensive play starting to fall back into old habits
All three Sabres goals came on breakdowns of sorts. Jason Pominville was left unmarked in the high slot after the Leafs failed to clear the puck on Buffalo’s first goal. Then James van Riemsdyk completely lost track of defenseman Andrej Sekera who slid in from the point to make it 2-1. Finally, Mikhail Grigorenko capitalized on a rebound that John-Michael Liles couldn’t clear. Toronto had strong defensive performances in their first three games, but in their last three they have really struggled in that area.
Matt Frattin with timely scoring
After making a downright mess of a 2-on-1 with Cody Franson early in the game, it didn’t look like it was going to be Frattin’s night. However, he came back strong and scored the overtime winner with 1.5 left to play in the extra frame. Although Frattin was the hero, a goal earlier in the game was just as crucial. After the Sabres made it 2-1 thanks to an aforementioned blown coverage by van Riemsdyk, the wheels were in danger of coming off for the Leafs. Just over a minute later, however, Frattin responded with a crucial tying goal to crush any Buffalo momentum.
Please play Cody Franson more!
Franson had a goal, an assist, two shots, three hits, and finished as a plus-3 on the night. All this with just over 13 minutes of ice-time. Could Mike Komisarek just somehow be promoted to a different position in the organization? Preferably one that doesn’t involve skating or playing hockey.