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Maple Leafs lose easy to the Sabres in Hamilton

The Leafs had the better jerseys, that’s about all they had better.

2022 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic - Toronto Maple Leafs v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Let’s go outside and play! What’s that you say? It’s really yucky out and you’d rather stay in. Well, yeah, me too, that’s what TV is for. If you want a recap of the musical acts, you really need to find someone younger than Craig Anderson for that, so you won’t find that here.

Anderson is indeed starting in net for the Sabres, and now that he’s got his 300th win, he’s still looking for more. We saw last time how exciting the young Buffalo Sabres can be, and also how well coached they are — something I never expected to say ever again about that team. This won’t be easy.

In a nod to classic Leafs Heritage, they’re playing Alex Kerfoot on the fourth line because, now that it’s obvious Jason Spezza can’t do it, the Leafs once again also need a 4C.

First Period

Okay, Petr. Let’s go, have a great game.

The T jerseys look black on the screen, which is good, easier to see, unlike the puck for the players.

Mrázek with his first real stop, and he’s already done a wander to clear the puck too. You be you, Petr, you can’t be someone else, so you have to be the best you.

It’s snowing, and should likely snow for the first half of the game, it is already impeding skating speed. The Washington Capitals annihilated the Leafs outdoors in bad weather because they aren’t fast anyway, and they knew how to make short passes in the muck.

Justin Holl going off with a towel over his mouth. The broadcast just talked over it like it wasn’t happening, so I have no idea.

Mrázek with a ginormous rebound that results in a shot he saves easily, but no one was on the rebound. [ominous music]

Holl back on the ice after missing about half of the first period. Possibly broken nose.

Sabres whites are very off-white which works very well for visibility. Sabres also dominating play pretty much the entire time, too.

Mrázek with a ginormous rebound that results in a shot he saves easily, but no one was on the rebound.

Leafs and Sabres get in a scrum in front of Anderson and somehow that ends up in a Leafs power play, which is modestly surprising.

Leafs get one meaningful shot, and the Sabres kill that and the period with ease.

Thoughts

  • Puck is bouncing like a superball
  • The snow seems to be lightening up, and hasn’t been replaced with rain, so maybe the rest of the game will look more like an NHL game
  • Sabres with the quality advantage by a wide margin on shots that were about even overall — translation: the Leafs never got near the net

Second Period

Whoa! Craig Anderson with a hell of a glove save on a Matthews Rocket. Just stunning control there from the old man.

But that’s all forgotten in a moment when Ondřej Kaše opens the scoring off a gift of a rebound. Nice play off the faceoff.

1-0 Leafs

But that’s all forgotten in a moment when Vinnie Hinostroza takes the puck (candy) away from Liljegren (baby) and you can just see that this is going in before it does. No one gets the pass, so Mrázek has to move laterally — you know, the reason that kind of play is high danger. Anyway. Seemed inevitable.

Tie Game

But that’s all forgotten in a moment when Auston Matthews just walks in a scores. Like he does.

2-1 Leafs

Big pass from Kerfoot that likely wouldn’t have worked in the first period, but the ice is better now.

It took just over two minutes to do all of that.

First Tavares and then Nylander can’t handle a puck along the boards in the same spot. Snow, one imagines.

Oh, geez. Geeeeeeez.

Hinostroza bounces one in off of Brodie, accidentally, while trying to just get a pass off, and no one has a prayer on that one, not Brodie, not Mrázek. Maybe Holl, when he was defending Hinostroza, but alas, it was not to be.

Tie Game

You can see from that view how close Mrázek came to getting that one.

When a goal against is bad news, Sheldon Keefe plays Liljegren almost never, Sandin very lightly, and Dermott fairly lightly. This isn’t new. He just doesn’t trust his pair of rookies in important situations defensively.

Ginormous rebound alert, and again it’s the second save rebound that the Leafs corral.

A lot more speed and up-and-down the ice action in this game as I think the snow has stopped entirely.

Lyubushkin takes a hooking call, and the Sabres will close out this period with a power play, but they have no answer at all for the aggressive Leafs kill.

Thoughts

  • Rebounds aside, I have no complaints about Mrázek’s game in far from ideal conditions
  • Leafs effectively took back control off the game (must be the wind)
  • Unable to Control the Pass is the second intermission musical act
  • I have always wanted Hinostroza on the Leafs

Third Period

The Leafs killer PK opens the third period with a real scoring chance even though Marner over-telegraphed the pass. The ice is good though, so the temptation to pass when it will work as intended has to be strong.

Liljegren takes a tripping penalty which gives the PK another run at it.

Marner almost immediately gets a shot off. Then there’s a two-on-one by the Leafs, and frankly, the Sabres have nothing to say on the power play. Something for them to work on the rest of this season.

Oops, spoke too soon, as the Sabres actually get one good chance, and Mrázek makes a very good save of the screened shot.

Hinostroza again with a sharp-angle shot off a terrible turnover from Sandin where Mrázek has terrible skate contact with the post.

3-2 Sabres

According to some comments on 32 Thoughts, Mrázek and his right skate is an ongoing issue. I think I see what they meant.

Toronto takes another defensive-panic penalty and Buffalo gets some more power play practice. This time it’s Brodie in the box.

The horn goes to change ends in the middle of the power play right after a Leafs two-on-one.

The Sabres might have scored, and Mrázek definitely pushed the net off on purpose.

Good goal.

4-2 Sabres

That pass before that goal just sliced through the entire Leafs team like the proverbial knife through butter.

I think Mrázek let in a stinker earlier, and wasn’t really in a great position on this one, but man, how many cross-crease passes should one team allow while nominally “deserving to win”?

There’s another scrum that leads to four-on-four.

The Leafs get a power play, drawn by Bunting, they pull Mrázek and go for the five-on-three for a few seconds before it’s six-on-five.

And what happens? ENG after William Nylander fails to keep the puck onside on a desperation try.

5-2 Sabres

And a fight down on the ice ensues with Bunting and Cozens after a hit on Matthews. It ends up a Sabres power play, which means nothing in the final minutes of this one.

This annihilation wasn’t anything like what the Capitals did to the Leafs in a blizzard. This was much more self-inflicted.

Thoughts

  • The goaltending wasn’t good enough
  • Or, the offence was too tepid given the general state of the goaltending lately
  • Or, the defence was too porous and ill-disciplined
  • Or, it’s the whole mix that means you play too close to even against the Sabres, and the bounces decide it for you right when the goalie can’t hold the game for you

The Leafs are springing leaks all over the place is what Ray Ferraro said recently. I can’t disagree.