The Buffalo Sabres put forth a hard-working effort at home tonight, defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs in overtime, 3-2. Here are the Sabres 3 Stars of the game, in my opinion:
#3 – Luke Adam
It is hard to believe, but Luke Adam is only 23 years old. What a rollercoaster ride he has been on already, in his young career. After being selected 44th overall in the 2008 NHL Draft, Sabres fans had high hopes for Adam, as we usually do with all high draft picks. Only 2 years ago, he began the NHL season on the top line for Buffalo, centering Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville. Shortly thereafter, Lindy Ruff buried him in the minors, never to be seen again until the past week.
Friday night, Luke Adam made the most of his promotion. He only skated 11 minutes in the game, but it seemed like he was out there for much more than that. On many of his shifts, he was very visible, and was noticeably around the puck, creating chances, and generating scoring opportunities. His efforts resulted in a game-tying goal, knotting the score at 2-2. Adam nearly scored another goal, but was robbed by Leafs netminder James Reimer.
#2 – Drew Stafford
Under Ted Nolan, the Drew Stafford that Sabres fans have been hoping for, for YEARS now, appears to have possibly finally arrived. For much of his Sabres career, Stafford has shied away from throwing around his big body and being physical, much to the chagrin of myself and other Buffalo fans. He has shown glimpses here and there, leaving much to be desired from his game.
Tonight against the Leafs, Stafford made his presence felt with multiple big hits, and even took an ugly looking check face-first into the boards. His physical play forced Leafs defenders off of their game, and it helped tilt the balance of puck possession into the Sabres hands whenever he was on the ice. I am starting to love this version of Stafford – and I hope he is here to stay.
#1 – Ville Leino
See a pattern here? Just like Adam and Stafford, Leino has left Sabres fans confused and disappointed since he signed a sizable contract a couple years ago. Difference being, Leino has been injured for most of his Sabres tenure – while Stafford has struggled on the ice, and Adam has languished in the AHL.
Leino was the game-changer tonight. His long stretches of puck possession agonized the Leafs; having to chase him around wore down Toronto at times, and this directly led to a few of the Sabres goals. His energy and effort on the Sabres first goal was commendable – he whiffed at a bouncing puck, but maintained composure to pass the puck, as he was falling, to an open Matt Moulson. In overtime, Leino coordinated the Sabres game-winner prior to the puck drop. He then promptly won the faceoff, and made sure he got the puck where it needed to go, just before Christian Ehrhoff sent thousands of Leafs fans on long, silent drives back towards Toronto.
Goats of the Game – some visiting Toronto Maple Leafs fans.
Seriously, throwing trash all over the ice after your team lost? Pretty classless. I know you had a problem with garbage piling up all over your city not too long ago, but exactly how disgusting do you need to be? Go home and throw trash at your own arena.