Nov 15, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres head coach Ted Nolan watches play from the bench during the first period against the Toronto Maple Leafs at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Sabres v Toronto Maple Leafs: Reactions

The “hardest working team in hockey” is back.

For all of you youngsters out there who did not get to witness the Sabres of the mid-90′s, tonight you saw the brand of Ted Nolan hockey that was the persona of his Sabres 17 years ago. Buffalo worked hard all night, and it resulted in a 3-1 home win against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

For the first time this season, the Sabres were not terribly outshot – 33-27 in favor of the Leafs. For the first time this season, Buffalo played sound hockey in all 3 zones. The centers dropped back to help the defensemen, while the wingers helped with moving the puck into and out of the blue lines. This was a team effort tonight, with all 5 Sabres on the ice helping each other out.

Steve Ott looked revitalized. Ott scored a powerplay goal, pounding home a rebound. He also assisted on Marcus Foligno’s first goal of the year, as Foligno drove to the net like a bull, knocking the net off the moorings after the goal, then shoving a Leaf as he was bursting with energy to celebrate. Even Drew Stafford was an actual hockey player tonight – breaking up passes, creating scoring chances, and throwing his body around.

Christian Ehrhoff also had one of his better games of the season, making the save of the game with less than one minute remaining, as he blocked a shot on a wide open net that could have tied the game. Moments later, he sealed the victory with his first goal of the season, an empty netter.

Of course, Ryan Miller did his best Ryan Miller impression – stopping 32 of the 33 shots. He definitely has visions of Olympic rings dancing in his head.

As a Sabres fan, this was an awesome game to watch. All that we Buffalo fans really want is a team that competes. Most of us are knowledgeable enough to understand that the team is rebuilding and will not be world beaters this season. Yet, we still want to see a team that tries. The direction of Ted Nolan gave us that, and more, in tonight’s win. You could sense that the players were more motivated, you could see the smiles on their faces, it was obvious that they were reveling in the new atmosphere of Nolan.

One of the positives of the Sabres tonight, is that they relied on their veterans to take charge, instead of trying to force the youngsters into carrying the team. Players like Ott, Ehrhoff, Stafford, and Tyler Myers responded well to this – and it lead to players like Zemgus Girgensons, Corey Tropp, and Foligno playing a more comfortable game. There were no glaring mistakes by Mark Pysyk or Rasmus Ristolainen.

Unfortunately, and mysteriously, the Sabres top 2 offensive players in Matt Moulson and Cody Hodgson were very silent tonight – nearly invisible. If Nolan can get those two going, and incorporate a freshly remodeled Mikhail Grigorenko, this brand of Sabres hockey will remain fun to watch for the rest of this year. Who knows, maybe I will even shell out some money and catch a few games! A few more games like this, and I might choke on the Kool-Aid.

I would love to know your thoughts on the game below!


Tags: Buffalo Sabres NHL Reaction Recap Sabres Toronto Maple Leafs

  • Wayne

    Who says you can never go home again. Ted Nolan is home again. Pat lafontaine is home again. THANKS FOR COMING HOME.

    • Andrew

      I second this Wayne!

    • Jes


  • Vic Soga

    I was at the game tonight. Congrats to the hardest working team in Buffalo. There were more real Leaf fans at the First Niagara Arena than the ACC. I thought I saw Rob Ford on the ice.

    • Andrew

      Vic, what percentage of the crowd was Leafs fans?

      • Vic Soga

        Going by Leaf sweaters, about 1/3 were Leaf fans. Season ticket holders who sold their tickets on Stub Hub made a fortune tonight. The couple to the left and right of us bought on Stubhub.

        • Andrew

          I was curious – on TV, it looked and sounded like 75% of the crowd was Leaf backers.

          • Patrick Helper

            I was at the game and heard it was estimated to be 70% leafs fans.

        • Jes

          On TV it seemed way higher than that. The way they were being cheered compared to us was more like a 2/3 were Leaf fans IMO…
          I fell asleep during this game. Pretty boring. I guess it was more exciting to watch live then on TV. Nolan even mentioned something like that in his post game interview.

          • Vic Soga

            Leaf fans who come here are louder than at home since they cannot go to a game there. Leaf fans are louder when they lose. It was noisy because Mayor Rob Ford was shouting at City Council here. Disappointed in the Sabre fans for being so quiet. What ever happened to Sabretooth? So quiet. Must be a new person inside. No drums, no rappelling, no up and down the aisles. Do we need super fan back? What city is he in now?

          • Joe Mazurkiewicz

            Sabretooth should be “retired” or traded to Nashville where he would be more appropriate.

          • Andrew

            Nashville already has a bootleg Sabretooth, haha

          • Jes

            They were louder and out numbered the Sabres fans, by like a 3 to 1 margin. Its sad when we play the Leafs at home, not even a home game. Def not a rivalry IMO. Imagine what would happen in the playoffs if these two teams met.

  • qwicwted

    Stafford really looked good and tonight we saw what he is capable of doing and should be doing. It is a “new day” and I enjoyed what I saw. There were more leaf fans, but the Sabres and their fans would not be denied tonight’s glory. What was very noticeable was the interaction of the coaches with the players. I kind of liken the team as coming out of a deep depression – there were smiles, high fives and most importantly there was teamwork. Andrew’s right – we as fans realize we are rebuilding – we don’t expect a win every night – but we do expect an honest effort and improvement.

    • Andrew

      Thank you for the great response Qwic.

      Here’s to hoping for a Stafford that stays consistent, instead of this being his one good game out of every 10.

  • Richard Spalding

    Foligno already scored earlier this year – remember his shot that tied it against the Islanders? Anyways, great to see Buffalo PLAYING hockey again – hope they keep it up tonight!

    • Andrew

      Looking at the stats, it was his third goal…I should have looked it up. I hadn’t remembered him scoring at all, and his reaction made it feel like his first!

  • Dano

    Where has the team that played last night been for the first 20games? They finally started to earn their pay as a collective. Good effort from all fronts.

    Lots of disappointed Leafs fans last night at FNC.

  • Kevin

    I liked the fact that Nolan told the guys that the slate is wiped clean. So we as fans should do the same. Beginning with Stafford, His effort last night wasn’t that much different than he has been playing as of late. He leads the team in shots. His best game i admit was last night, but, I really like how he has been using his size to free the puck. I like his new attitude lately. Maybe the rumors of being let go got to him and lit a fire, who knows, who cares.

    • Andrew

      Lets see if Stafford keeps it up, or disappears like usual…

    • qwicwted

      Kev – I noticed that Stafford starting altering his play after sitting in the box for awhile last year. He has size and skill, but he needs to get in those dirty areas and play physical – that is what has been missing from his game. I do like the way he has played this year – there needs to be more consistency, but I have acknowedged his play a few times this season. I think Nolan is a type of coach Stafford can thrive under. Last night, he played balls out and I want to see it continue as he can have a place on this team – as a vet.

  • Craig C.

    No mention of Tyler Ennis? Thought he had a great game, right from the get-go.

    • Andrew

      Ennis definitely looked like he wanted to impress the new brass. Thanks for pointing that out.

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