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Leafs 4, Sabres 1: The First of Many Firsts

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Marincin with his first of the year, Michalek with his first as a Leaf, and Nylander with his first multi-point night lead the Buds to victory.

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
First Period
  • Welcome to Hockey Night in Canada, otherwise known as our weekly reminder of Rogers production incompetence.
  • Frederik Gauthier makes his Leafs debut tonight. Jack Eichel is out for the Sabres, presumably after passing out with delight after looking at the Leafs gameday lineup.
  • A kid who looks roughly 5 is singing the anthems tonight. His voice is deeper than mine. Much nicer, too.
  • Seeing Gauthier next to Connor Brown is hilarious.
  • Alright, game is starting now. The Leafs should be able to carry play against a team as bad as the Sabres, missing one of their better players. Granted, the Leafs are basically all fringe NHLers at this point, but Babcock is such a wizard that my expectations are probably higher than our talent level dictates.
  • Michael Grabner is on the first line, in place of the injured Leo Komarov.
  • I just noticed Glenn Healy isn't on the mic today. My mood improved dramatically. [Species: Holy fuck yes]
  • Looks like Gauthier is with Leivo and Brown. And on their first or second shift, they get scored on. Corrado blows a tire behind the net, Valiev is unable to clear, and Gionta finds some room inside the circles to snipe a shot by Sparks. 1-0 Sabres.
  • After the goal, the Leafs get some nice pressure courtesy of the Greening - Smith - Michalek line, who have looked pretty good in general, to my eye.
  • The Leafs first line also gets some nice pressure in, but no scoring chances more dangerous than a Marincin point shot (which is to say, not at all dangerous). Reinhart goes the other way on a nice individual play and forces a pretty good save from Sparks.
  • Scotiabank keeps promising to save me $1,500 a year by 'moving things around'. That doesn't sound like a concrete plan.
  • Nylander has a nice bit of Crosby-esque puck protection behind the Sabres net, but is unable to convert it to any sort of chance.
  • The commentators have a discussion about Nylander's struggles to get on the point sheet. They mention some valid points, but it must also be said that he's not exactly getting puck luck. His possession numbers are quite impressive, especially for a 19 year old.
  • Mike Johnson reminds me why he's one of the few colour commentators I like, accurately explaining why Marincin is good.
  • Lots of people falling down for no reason. Maybe the ice is weird?
  • That veteran line with another shift of sustained pressure. I haven't checked the numbers, but seriously, they seem pretty good.
  • Not a scout, but Soshnikov seems like he's got a real shot on him.
  • A lot of attention is on the Leafs forwards right now, due to all the prospects there, but man, the D is ridiculously young too. At times, we're playing 5 man units where the oldest person is like, 22 or 23.
  • Gauthier getting PK time, as expected (Rielly took the penalty for holding).
  • Another good talk from Johnson about the difficulty in changing skating technique once you're in the pros. Seriously, Rogers... make this guy your lead analyst.
  • Parenteau creates a turnover and Hyman gets a nice backhand shot off in the slot. That line continues to be excellent, with few goals to show for it.
  • Johnson praises Gauthier's off-the-puck game - and notes that he won't be a scorer at the NHL level. Nothing we didn't know already, but more affirmation of what his ceiling is.
  • Period ends 1-0 Sabres. Shots were 11-3, Leafs. EV Corsi was 24-5 Leafs. Should be noted that the Sabres shots were much closer in than the Leafs shots, but still, that was a bit of a whitewashing by the Leafs, everywhere except the scoreboard.
Second Period

  • Second period starts, and the Sabres are having a bit more of the puck now.
  • Looks like the Sabres adjusted their forecheck to be more aggressive and take the Leafs' defenders strong side options by pushing two forwards up high into the Leafs zone when Toronto is breaking out. They've nearly created some big chances from doing so, but if those first two players are bypassed, Toronto will have speed and numbers going the other way.
  • Nylander with an awful D-zone turnover - thankfully doesn't turn into anything, but jeez, that was ugly.
  • Not that much happening this period - seems like its much lower event than the first.
  • Gardiner's made like, four plays where he uses his skating to totally bamboozle the forecheck and start an attack. He's really, really good. I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but still.
  • The (other) kid line of Brown, Leivo, and Gauthier get an offensive zone faceoff, and Gauthier draws a penalty as he chases a loose puck in between the Sabres D.
  • Mike Johnson is great - he noted that the Leafs PP, despite their goal issues, are very highly ranked in how many shots and chances they get. He also noted the Leafs gain the zone more by carrying it in (as a proportion of total zone entries) than any other team.
  • Nylander scores! Right as the power play expires, he poaches in the slot, and as the puck comes to him, he flashes that great wrister of his to beat Chad Johnson. Tie game. Parenteau and Michalek with the helpers. Video
  • The veteran line again creates some good chances, with some fancy footwork from Ben Smith creating a nice opportunity for a trailing Rielly. He puts it wide.
  • Second period ends tied at 1s. Possession battle was fairly even in the period, and the Leafs maintain a large lead over the course of the game (41-21 at even strength).

Third Period

  • Leafs get a strong shift out of their first line to start the third. Man, Morgan Rielly looks much better when paired with not Matt Hunwick.
  • Corrado takes an interference penalty - sort of unforced. Not a good play by him.
  • The Sabres immediately get an incredible chance off the faceoff, and Sparks makes a great save on Cal O'Reilly, before Zemgus Girgensons fires it high.
  • Gauthier gets a great chance shorthanded, as Hyman springs him and Gardiner for a 2 on 1. Gauthier is looking to pass all the way, but the pass he makes isn't executed well. Right decision, but he just messed it up technically.
  • A big scrum ensues after a whistle in the Buffalo zone. 4 on 4 is the result.
  • Connor Carrick scores! And what a play by Jake Gardiner to make it happen. After a controlled entry from Nylander, Gardiner made a great play to keep the puck in on an errant pass from the rookie. He then went Harlem Globetrotters on the Sabres, driving to the net for a shot, and the rebound fell to Carrick, who made no mistake. Great play by the Leafs, and by Gardiner especially. Nylander gets the secondary assist. First multi-point game for Nylander.
  • On the next shift, Garret Sparks takes a tumble as a wrestling match between Marincin and O'Reilly spills into him. No harm done, and no penalties, it seems.
  • Michael Grabner's hands are a waste of his skating.
  • Soshnikov LOVES going hard to the net. The Sabres lack of skating ability on the back end is on full display here - they can't deal with the quickness of Leafs forwards tonight. Being on a back to back probably doesn't help either.
  • I don't think I've noticed Rinat Valiev once tonight. His time with the Leafs has been pretty quiet in general - I haven't heard much talk of him, which is probably a good thing as a rookie defenceman. He certainly hasn't stood out negatively.
  • This is the type of game where Connor Carrick looks great. He doesn't have to play any defense, because Gardiner handles all the breakouts and has been great at it. And Buffalo is too bad a team to force the Leafs into their zone for an extended period of time.
  • Hyman takes a run at McCabe, which causes a bit of a scrum. Somewhat objectionable hit by Hyman. Right in the back of McCabe and very close to the boards. Foligno shoves Parenteau, who falls into Nylander. No one hurt, and offsetting penalties occur (Foligno, Bogosian, Hyman, Parenteau all in the box).
  • Will be interesting to see if score effects take control and the Sabres sustain some pressure. Aside from the first half of the second period, they haven't done anything on offense.
  • I'll also be interested to see if Babcock trusts the Nylander line with a lead. Thus far, he's avoided giving them minutes where they need to close the game out. Of course, with Hyman and Parenteau in the box, that might not happen tonight either.
  • Martin Marincin scores! The Slovakian Bobby Orr continues his offensive hot streak, after great forechecking by Parenteau and Soshnikov. PAP with a great pass to Marincin, who crept in the back door and finished beautifully. 3-1 Leafs. Video
  • Parenteau has been great this year, and very good tonight. I'm sort of glad we didn't trade him - I hope we can retain him. Having him on board has helped the rookies a lot, in my opinion, in terms of having someone we can give tougher roles to.
  • And immediately after, Michalek scores, and this game is done. Great play from Colin Greening (displaying the defensive system JP detailed in a post here recently) to release Michalek and Smith on a 2 on 1. Michalek toe drags and snipes. 4-1 Leafs, game over. Michalek's first as a Leaf. Video
  • McCabe delivers a huge (legal) hit on Soshnikov. He's a little winded as he heads to the bench.
  • Looks like Hyman got a 10 minute misconduct for his hit on McCabe. The commentators are speculating that this is because they don't want the physical play to escalate as the game winds down.
  • Game ends. Overall, great night for the Leafs. Dominated a weak opponent, but it was domination nonetheless. Overall, shots are 30 - 21, with all situations Corsi being 63 - 46 (both in favour of the Leafs). At 5v5, Corsi was 56 - 36 for the Leafs.
Hard to complain about anything on-ice for the Leafs. Whether you're on team tank or not, it's good to see the young guys performing, and to see Nylander on the scoresheet.