In a perfect world I would have watched the entirety of the game last night and written a summary to slake the interest of those who are not blessed with LeafsTV. However, I do not live in a perfect world and the pre-season status of the game relegated it to second-class status so I could only muster a period before the cries of 'It is only a pre-season game!? so this game doesn't matter!? CHANGE!' became defeaning.
Through My Eyes
The line-ups were obviously lacking some starters but there were a few good things that I can report based on the 20 minutes of hockey that I watched. The most important was that the new Sabres' jersey is terrible. It features numbers on the chest, white body, dark sleeves, and the colours are nothing like the original. Although, apparently, Martin Biron likes it. My guess would be that the terrible fashion in Buffalo has inured him to the hideousness of the jerseys.
Aside from the crimes against fashion I felt that the Leafs did well in the first period. They skated with the notoriously fast Sabres (I guess it is the law now that you cannot mention them without saying how fast they are), Antropov looked like he had taken advantage of his first summer not spend re-habbing something, and Raycroft reminded me of Ed Belfour. No, not the 2006 vintage but the 2004. He was very well positioned, squared up to the shooter, and did not have to rely on any acrobatics to stop shots. The defence also looked fairly good in that first period. They were strong on the puck (especially Jay Harrison) and, except for the usual pre-season errant passes, generally moved the puck well considering that the unit lacked the passing of Tomas Kaberle, Ian White, or Brendan Bell.
Unfortunately, once I changed channels and stopped concentrating on the game the wheels fell off. The penalty kill that looked so effective allowed 3 PPGs in the second and a fourth in the third period. The stong play on the puck became soft and the shots on goal never really materialized. The good news is that this is just a pre-season game and I remember the Jays had losing records in the Grapefruit League during the glory years.
The Final Word
This will be a round-up of what the papers from both cities thought of the game.
Leafs coach Paul Maurice has said that he intends to stress discipline this season. He has got a lot of work ahead of him. At one point, the Leafs took six consecutive penalties. Perhaps it's unfair to expect them to erase seven years of bad habits under Pat Quinn in one night, but they'll have to do better. It would be easy to write it off to the fact that it was the first pre-season game, but it was the Sabres' first game, too.
In front of an Air Canada Centre crowd that clearly wanted him to do well â•‰ they cheered warmly when the netminder gloved a wrist shot from the point â•‰ Raycroft looked good.
Then, unlike their new logo, the Sabres found their legs at the intermission. No longer jittery, a few of the team's youngbloods turned the game into a stampede and trampled the Maple Leafs, 4-0. All of the goals came on power plays, drawing boos from the 18,851 fans in attendance.