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Preview: Maple Leafs @ Sabres

Ryan O’Reilly goes to a place he’s not all that popular. And now he’s got the right shirt for the occasion.

Cavalry Officers Saber With Scabbard,
19th century US Cavalry Sabre.
Photo by Heritage Art/Heritage Images via Getty Images

Toronto Maple Leafs @ Buffalo Sabres
07:30 PM at KeyBank Center
Watch on: ESPN+, HULU, TSN4

The Leafs last game was an away game on February 19 against the Chicago Blackhawks, which Toronto lost by a score of 5-3. The Leafs have a record of 34-15-8 so far.

The Buffalo Sabres last played an away game on February 18 against the San Jose Sharks. The Sabres won by a score of 4-2, and their current league record is 28-22-4.


The difference between the Leafs’ record and the Sabres’ is the outcome of seven games the Leafs won and the Sabres lost. More or less, since the Sabres are three games behind on the total played. To that end, they look well out of it by points, but in points % terms, they are the number four team in the Atlantic, with a nice lead on Detroit and they hold the second wild card spot right now.

Lines are from last game, but at least one change will be made due to injury.


Last Game (02/18) via Daily Faceoff

Jeff Skinner - Tage Thompson - Alex Tuch
John Jason Peterka - Dylan Cozens - Victor Olofsson
Casey Mittelstadt - Peyton Krebs - Jack Quinn
Zemgus Girgensons - Tyson Jost - Kyle Okposo

Rasmus Dahlin - Henri Jokiharju
Owen Power - Mattias Samuelsson
Kale Clague - Ilya Lyubushkin

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen - starter
Craig Anderson


We’re deep into the part of the season where every game is a referendum on “can the Leafs beat Tampa”. But what’s actually going on is a comfortable acclimation period for two new forwards, and some decision making about the defence usage.

No word yet on lines, but it’ll be these guys...


Michael Bunting - Auston Matthews - William Nylander
John Tavares - Ryan O’Reilly - Mitch Marner
Pierre Engvall - David Kämpf - Calle Järnkrok
Zach Aston-Reese - Noel Acciari - Alex Kerfoot

Morgan Rielly - TJ Brodie
Mark Giordano - Timothy Liljegren
Rasmus Sandin - Justin Holl

Ilya Samsonov
Joe Woll

The Game

Toronto vs Buffalo

Toronto Stat Buffalo
Toronto Stat Buffalo
66.7 - 4th Points % - Ranking 55.6 - 16th
3.404 - 8th Goals/Game - Ranking 3.704 - 3rd
2.667 - 6th Goals Against/Game - Ranking 3.444 - 24th
25.4 - 4th Power Play% - Ranking 25.0 - 6th
81.0 - 11th Penalty Kill% - Ranking 73.0 - 30th
10.5 - 9th Team Sh% - Ranking 11.4 - 2nd
0.908 - 8th Team Sv% - Ranking 0.894 - 22nd
William Nylander - 31 Most Goals (NST) Tage Thompson - 36
William Nylander, Mitchell Marner - 66 Most Points (NST) Tage Thompson - 71
Michael Bunting - 66 Most PIM (NST) Rasmus Dahlin - 70
Morgan Rielly - 22.57 TOI Leader (NST) Rasmus Dahlin - 26.01

Buffalo is a little better than their record shows, but they’re also a raw unfinished team that is better at offence than defence. Their four most used defenders range in age from 20 - 22. They have a weirdly bad-on-paper power play that has been lucky/good at actually scoring. Their PK is just dreadful, though. I actually believe the PK results are so swamped by goaltending variance that they’re hard to find meaning in, and goaltending is the big Buffalo weakness. They’ve scored more goals than the Leafs, and resemble the Leafs of the good old days in 2017 or so when people worked really, really hard to claim they were actually good (they weren’t).

So is Buffalo actually good? Sure, some of the time. So the Leafs job tonight is to be good all the time.