Dec 27, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Joffrey Lupul (19) beats Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller (30) in the shootout at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Sabres 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Rich's Take: Breaking Down the Break Downs in Buffalo's 4-3 Shootout Loss to Toronto


Dec 27, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Franson (4) hits Buffalo Sabres right wing Matt D

That pretty much sums up my feelings on the Buffalo Sabres’ 4-3 shootout loss to the much-despised Toronto Maple Leafs.  Am I upset because I felt the Sabres should have won the game?  Hell no; the Sabres probably should have lost by three tonight.  Am I upset because I thought the Leafs played the gutless brand of hockey I have seen from them a few times this year?   Aside from Matt Moulson being cross-checked face first into the net, no – the game was hard-fought, but the teams hardly fought.

So why I am upset?  Simply because my kid was practically jumping out of his skin after seeing Buffalo score not once, but twice in the first period . . . only to get to bed with the Leafs up 3-2 after two periods.  Poor little man – he deserves better.  He’s paying for the sins of his father at this point.

Anyway: as most of you probably know by now, the Sabres fell 4-3 in a shootout.  Buffalo started the game sloppy, then cranked things up a notch by scoring two goals within 52 seconds of one another.  Matt Moulson scored the first one for Buffalo by shoving a rebound between Jonathan Bernier‘s pads after Zemgus Girgensons drove to the net.  This goal was not surprising – it’s Moulson’s eighth agaist the Leafs in his last ten games.

The goal that provided the “Holy expletive!” moment of the night – nay, the season so far – came when John Scott, playing in his 200th game, snapped a shot past Bernier after scooping up a juicy rebound following Matt Ellis‘ shot.  Who says Scott is useless now, Leafs fans?

Well, me, for starters.  But it was a nice moment, nevertheless.  Buffalo outshot their hosts 15-10 in the first period, which led many of us to believe that the Sabres were going to put a full 60 minutes together tonight, given the fact that the first period is usually the 20 minutes of the game that Buffalo tends to gift its opponents.

Then the second period started, and reality reasserted itself.  See, as badly as the Leafs have been struggling as of late, they still have these things called “speed” and “talent” at various positions.  Fans of hockey will tell you that these two things are often enough to win games – it’s true!   The Buffalo Sabres found this out the hard way, as they were absolutely overwhelmed by the Leafs in the second, getting outshot 17-5 and giving up three goals.  The Leafs used their speed to get down ice and turn the corners on Buffalo’s defenders, as well as to get to loose pucks and keep up the offensive pressure in front of Ryan Miller.  There were too many extended periods of time in which the Sabres were hemmed in at their own end, and bad things, such as Jake Gardiner‘s slap shot, which opened the scoring for Toronto, usually happen as a result.  At some point, the Sabres are going to have to ask the NHL if they can charge their opponents rent, since other teams are living in Buffalo’s end of the ice.

The third period saw a slightly better effort from the Sabres, but I still never felt like they were going to score again.  The fact that they proved me wrong is nice – thank you, Matt Moulson and Steve Ott, for working hard in front of Bernier to tie this game up! – but the Sabres really missed a chance to kick the Leafs when they were down, and simply let Toronto yank this game right out of their hands.  Had it not been for Ryan Miller, who made 39 saves on the night including a series in overtime in which he first blocked a wrap-around attempt by James van Riemsdyk and then got a blocker on a point-blank shot by someone wearing blue (can’t remember who), Buffalo doesn’t make it into overtime, and probably doesn’t even score that third goal, as the fight would have been completely knocked out of them.

But you know what?  it’s okay – seriously.  Earlier this year, I was angry when I watched the Sabres, because they didn’t seem to be skating hard, or really giving two craps how badly they looked out on the ice.  I was so mad that I did something I had never done before: I wrote a piece in which I argued that Buffalo had to fire Ron Rolston.  Some people thought it was too early to call for that, but I just didn’t like the effort, the attitude, and frankly the hockey intelligence that I feel a team absolutely needs to have in the NHL, regardless of what their talent level is.  Since Ted Nolan has taken over, the Sbares at least show me effort, heart, and a much better understanding of what the situation is and where they need to be.  They don’t always execute properly, and they are still rough around the edges (Zemgus Girgensons flub in the final fame of the shootout being exhibit A), but I can honestly say that I enjoy watching them now and have hope that next year they will be fighting for a playoff spot.  (Notice I didn’t say the Stanley Cup; that would just be idiotic!)

And at the very least, tonight I can say, “Congratulations, Toronto!  You’re only the second team in the NHL to allow a goal by John Scott!”

Sleep on that, Leafs fans!

Tags: Buffalo Sabres

  • Jes

    I don’t know Rich. Ott should’ve got a penalty just before that last power play for us. If I’m remembering correctly he did cross check him or whacked him a couple times that’s why Phaneuf went after him so we lucked out with that. Some blown calls in both teams favour.

    All I gotta say is my boy John Scott has scored more goals (I should say goal lol) then Leino this year. Leino’s making $6 million VS Scott’s $750,000.

    Playoffs next year is a stretch. Especially with Miller on his way out, possibly along with Ott and Moulson. If we do end up with a big time trade and we add Reinhart or Ekblad we could be right in the thick of things. But right now playoffs are a long shot. Imagine our team without Miller, Ott and Moulson. Doesn’t look anywhere close to what we have now lol. But stranger things have happened Rich. Like the Buttgoal followed by Scott scoring a goal haha.

    But I believe we will be in the hunt for McDavid next year.

    • Richard Spalding

      For a Sabres-Leafs game, everyone was fairly well-behaved. That;s all I’m getting at with the “hardly fought” bit.

      As for my vision of next year, I’m just projecting what we have now and looking ahead. A lot could change – the guys you mention could be traded, or walk away as free agents, yes. I really wish the Sabres could keep Moulson, although they have a better chance of resigning Ott. And by “fighting for the playoffs” I mean hanging around that 10th-9th spot. I don’t know if they will MAKE the playoffs next year, so I hope that clarifies my thoughts a bit!


      • Jes

        Definitely clears up what you meant Rich. But unless Ristolainen and Zadorov turn into solid veterans next season and Girgensons turns into a 30 goal guy next year I don’t see the Sabres in the 9th-10th spots respectively. We will be in the hunt for McDavid. But like I said in my first post, stranger things have happened.

  • Dano

    Gus ( Zemgus ) is getting better every game. Hes playing 2way hockey and the whole ice looks like his ‘ comfort zone ‘. Hes starting to play a more physical game.

    I think Buffalo should toss a pile of cash at Moulson and forget trying to trade him. Hes blending well with the ‘ top line ‘ thats present.

    • Richard Spalding

      Agree, agree, agree! Girgs looks better every night, and I do like Moulson.

    • Joe

      Buy out leino and give moulson wat he makes now plus half of wat leino was making. That would convince him to stay. If we get reinhart we need a natural scorer like moulson to compliment reinharts playmaking ability. If we get reinhart and have no scorers for him to play with hell be useless

      • Dano

        ‘ wat ‘?

        Buffalo has plenty of cash to toss at Moulson. I do agree with buying out Leino.

  • Vic Soga

    I was at the game last night and can you tell me guys and girls a couple of things. Did Bernier fake an injury on Ott like a soccer player since he was way out of the net? It looked like it from where I sat and on the hi-lites. Did Nolan play the Ellis line too much especially in the last minute of the second period? It looked good that Phaneuf cost the Leafs a point for Buffalo. He also took a 10 minute misconduct so that he would not have to be on the bench if Buffalo won. The refs should have given him an unsportsmanlike minor and that would have been icing on the cake. Great leader. Leaf fans seating around me hate him.

    • Richard Spalding

      Phaneuf really is a tool. Let’s hope Toronto keeps him until he retires.

  • davidmuscalo

    Moulson has made me forget all about Vanek. Regier got this trade right!

    • Richard Spalding

      Yep – let’s hope he can be persuaded to stay in town.

  • JHizzle75

    What stood out for me last night was the reaction of the bench, especially Nolan, when Scott scored. You can see by their reactions how well-liked Scott is in the dressing room. I also had a chuckle when he was interviewed in the intermission, he had a huge” how’s that for useless?” grin the whole time. Good to see

  • qwicwted

    It was an entertaining game last night – really love the work of Moulson and Girgensens. As I’ve said before – Girgensens is our future and everytime I see his play, I see our future Captain. I forgive his shootout attempt because he is young and I don’t see him making the same error next time. What kind of bothered me last night was the fact that Nolan was rolling 4 lines regularly. I know he loves Ellis, D’Agostini and Scott, and is rewarding them for their hard work, but Scott is slow and it is a 4th line and I don’t expect them to play a regular shift unless they are going to be playing back to back games. I would like to see D’Agostini play with Olmark and Leino and move Foligno to play with Ellis. It seems D’Agostini was all over the place and might gel with Olmark and Leino as it seemed to me Foligno was late to the play. I also thought Stafford played a great game, his feet were moving and I like the role he is playing.

    • Richard Spalding

      Yeah, I kind of thought Nolan would use the fourth line less as the game went on, which I guess technically he did but not as much as I would have liked. I really like D’Agostini – he was a great pick-up. Even so, the Sabres right now are a bunch of grinders and next to no natural scorers. They are playing entertaining hockey, for sure, and Girgensons is going to be something to enjoy for years to come, but many do they need someone with a knack for finding the back of the net.