Toronto Maple Leafs Game Preview: Looking to Rebound Against the Buffalo Sabres
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We have all waited patiently and now it is time to drop the puck on a new season for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Here at the Tip of the Tower we strive to give you as much content on your Toronto sports teams as humanly possible. This series will preview every single Toronto Maple Leafs game and what you should know for the game that night.
Toronto Maple Leafs 3-4-1 vs Buffalo Sabres 2-7-0, 7:30 p.m., TSN 4 (Toronto)
Leafs Injury Report
David Booth out with broken foot
Sabres Injury Report
Sep 28, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Face off between Toronto Maple Leafs forward Tyler Bozak (42) and Bufalo Sabres forward Matt Ellis (37) in the third period at Air Canada Centre. Maple Leafs won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports
The battle for Connor McDavid has come to Toronto with the Buffalo Sabres, one of the front runners for McDavid, squaring off against their QEW rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are off to a mediocre start this season, but they hope to rebound after another embarrassing performance at home against the Boston Bruins, losing 4-1. The Buffalo Sabres are coming off a surprising win over the San Jose Sharks, 2-1.
Unlike the Buffalo Sabres, the Toronto Maple Leafs were supposed to improve this year but it has been the opposite so far. Over the last five games, the team has gone 0 for 19 on the power play, which has usually been one of the team’s strengths for years. Luckily, the Sabres’ power play is one of the worst in the league going 0-for-30.
Sep 28, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Buffalo Sabres forward Zac Dalpe (20) skates up between Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Stuart Percy (50) and forward Tyler Bozak in the third period at Air Canada Centre. Maple Leafs won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports
Coach Ted Nolan sees the team’s work ethic improving over the last three games and hopes that the team can get some luck to go their way. The Leafs have been criticized for their lack of effort, especially in their last game where the Bruins clearly outworked the team on every shift.
On practice Monday, Randy Carlyle made drastic changes to the lineup, especially with the top six forwards. The seven defencemen experiment is over with Stuart Percy being sent down to the Toronto Marlies. You can read more about that here.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Sep 21, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Phil Kessel (81) looks to make a pass while being defended by Buffalo Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff (10) during the first period at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Phil Kessel career vs Buffalo: 47 GP – 16 goals, 16 assists – 32 PTS
James van Riemsdyk career vs Buffalo: 18 GP – seven goals, three assists – 10 PTS
Nazem Kadri career vs Buffalo: 12 GP – four goals, five assists – nine PTS
**Jonathan Bernier career vs Buffalo: 4 GP – one win, three losses – 3.22 GAA, .885 SV%
**James Reimer career vs Buffalo: 10 GP – seven wins, two losses – two OTL, 3.22 GAA, .903 SV%
**Depending on which goalie gets the start.
Nov 16, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Buffalo Sabres left wing Matt Moulson (26) congratulates center Tyler Ennis (63) on his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Drew Stafford career vs Toronto: 41 GP – 12 goals, 16 assists – 28 PTS
Tyler Ennis career vs Toronto: 19 GP – six goals, seven assists – 13 PTS
Matt Moulson career vs Toronto: 20 GP – 13 goals, four assists – 17 PTS
**Jhonas Enroth career vs Toronto: two GP – one win, one loss – 2.91 GAA, .872 SV%
**Michal Neuvirth career vs Toronto: nine GP – five wins, three losses – one OTL, 2.96 GAA, .893 SV%
**Depending on which goalie gets the start.
Keys to Victory for Toronto
Nov 29, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri (43) heads into the zone with Buffalo Sabres right wing Drew Stafford (21) in pursuit during the third period at First Niagara Center. Sabres beat the Leafs 3-2 in OT. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
– It is time for this team to try and forget about all the negativity and find a way to play with some intensity. The one way they can do that is to win the puck battles. If they do not have the puck, they should do everything they can to get it back.
– People continue to look at Nazem Kadri and say that he is a good player because of his possession numbers, but he is not producing offensively, which is very frustrating. If he wants to turn into a dynamic player for this team, the offence has to improve: two goals and zero assists in eight games is not cutting it.
Oct 25, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Phil Kessel (81) circles with the puck as Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron (37) keeps his eye on him at Air Canada Centre. The Bruins beat the Maple Leafs 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
– At home, Phil Kessel has not lit the lamp as much as he should. In his career at the Air Canada Centre, he has 91 goals and 90 assists for 181 points in 196 games. In his five games at home this season, he has one goal and one assist in the Leafs’ only home win against the Colorado Avalanche. The Leafs are winless when Kessel does not register a point and one reason for this is because he has less than three shots on goal per game. The only time where the Leafs lost with Kessel getting more than three shots on goal was when the team lost 1-0 in overtime to the Detroit Red Wings. If Kessel finds a way to get more involved offensively, then he will have a better chance at getting some points, especially at home.
Sep 28, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner (51) hits Buffalo Sabres forward Chris Stewart (80) in the third period at Air Canada Centre. Maple Leafs won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports
– The power play has to be better, going 0-for-19 in their last five games is not a good sign for the Leafs. It will be up to the defencemen to get more opportunities from the point or spread the puck out, forcing the penalty killers to cover more ice.
– The Leafs have taken some unnecessary penalties, which takes away a lot of momentum and ice time from the top six forwards. Even though Buffalo has the worst power play in the league, it may make it easier for them to get some decent chances if the Leafs hand it to them on a silver platter. Ted Nolan is known for coaching an agitating style, so it is important to make sure that the Leafs are not being pushed around but avoid being suckered into taking penalties like they did against the New York Islanders.
– The Toronto Maple Leafs need to make this a statement game, which means playing a full 60 minutes and calming some of the nervous energy. It will not go away if they beat the Sabres, but it will start to diminish if they get some wins under their belts. If they lose to Buffalo, it will probably cause more panic, which is the last thing the Leafs organization needs. However, I do not think the Leafs will lose given how bad Buffalo has played this season.
What are your thoughts? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.