The Buffalo Sabres have relished in their ability to ruin the Toronto Maple Leafs enjoyment of hockey. The Sabres have made it sport to defeat the Maple Leafs, and for the most part the rivalry between the two cross border teams. The Leafs have been thoroughly owned for most of these games, and if they want to compete for a cup this has to change.
The Leafs opened the scoring blowing up to a 3-0 lead with Kessel running his point total to 81. Then the Sabres woke up and began to do what most other teams have done to Toronto over the past month. The Leafs fell asleep and allowed the Buffalo back in the game at every corner snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. Toronto blew a lead that was established early in the game and got absolutely no help from anybody in doing so. The officials are now in playoff mode, so unless it is cut and dry (puck over the glass), the calls will not come. This is a mistake on the NHL’s part which is a philosophy that is horribly flawed as it is sucking the speed back out of the game and bringing back the obstruction that occurred pre lockout. This was not the cause of the demise of the Leafs as Toronto simply did not play well enough to win.
The fifth Sabres goal was an embarrassment to the sport of hockey. It starts out with Komisarek pinning Marcus Foligno to the ice, who really should not have been in the game after the hit he laid on Carl Gunnarsson. Compare the Foligno hit on Gunnarsson to the one that Phaneuf threw on Zach Kassian earlier in the year. Never the less, the 20/20 vision of the official managed to keep the play alive for more than 40 seconds with players laying on the puck. Through all of this madness Jordan Leopold found the puck and poked it past Ben Scrivens for the game tying goal. This was not a hockey play, it was a rugby scrum, and how it was allowed to go on is beyond me.
What happened next is rather unfortunate, as it really is not just bad for hockey but rather all of sports. Marcus Foligno apparently took exception to having to play physical with Mike Komisarek all game long, and decided to go over the top while celebrating the tying goal. To kick a dead horse does not even begin to describe it, as Foligno crossed the sportsmanship line by a country mile.
A word to the wise for Foligno: after you score sit down and shut up. There is no problem with celebrating a goal, but to extend yourself in a manner that is Jack Edwards like is beyond wrong. This comes from the book of Scott Hartnell. The goal was good due only to the fact that the on ice official felt the need to overextend himself in keeping the play alive in a rugby like fashion. Nothing about this was part of hockey, and nothing about Foligno’s celebration was sportsmanlike. Hopefully next year Brian Burke will build Randy Carlyle the type of team he had in Anaheim that did not tolerate this kind of behaviour. Rant over.
There were some positives in the game as Phil Kessel did hit a milestone while in a Leafs uniform. Jake Gardiner also played hopefully what is a preview of coming attractions, scoring a highlight reel goal. The benefit for the Leafs is that they did fairly well against their little sister to the south this season. Toronto will have to remember exactly what went on tonight and the complete lack of respect they were shown. The Sabres apparently understand that at home the only people that are entitled to hospitality are the paying fans, a lesson the leafs could learn.
To not say it would be unfair, the Sabres deserve credit for the way that they came back this season and in this game. They are a gritty bunch and would give the Rangers a very difficult run if they happen to surpass Washington in the playoff race.