Toronto Maple Leafs Bolster Their Playoff Chances with 4-2 Win Over Buffalo Sabres

Apr 3, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (34) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the first period against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 3, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (34) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the first period against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports /

The Toronto Maple Leafs (39-24-15) not only made an emphatic statement on Monday night when they dismantled the Buffalo Sabres (32-35-12), 4-2, they also significantly bolstered their playoff chances.

Thoughts and Observations

  • The Toronto Maple Leafs are catching fire at the perfect time and rookie sensation Auston Matthews is the one leading the charge. The 19-year-old American centre has bounced back in a major way from his seven-game pointless drought in early to mid-March and has recorded 11 points during his career-high nine-game point streak. Behind Matthews’ strong play, the Leafs have posted an 11-2-1 record over their past 14 games and are on the cusp of clinching a playoff berth.
  • Matthews’ historic goal in the first period highlighted a goal scoring outburst from the Leafs where they overwhelmed the Sabres with three goals in 43 seconds. Aside from a Ryan O’Reilly shorthanded goal early in the second period, Toronto would control the remainder of the game and led the Sabres by a minimum of two goals throughout the final 40 minutes of play.

    I try not to rave too much about Matthews on a game-to-game basis because I feel like I could go on and on about how phenomenal he is, but did you see the way he consistently outworked Jack Eichel on Monday night? Don’t get me wrong, I think Eichel is a fantastic player, but Matthews really took it to him during this game. Eichel was very  candid after the game and was quick to mention how poorly he played, saying he “needs to look in the mirror.”

    Toronto got off to a quick start and outshot the Sabres 18-2 in the first period and out-chanced them 33-11. To put in perspective how poorly the Sabres played, Buffalo only had eight shots after two periods of play, while Matthews had six himself.

    More from Tip of the Tower

    Not surprisingly, the Leafs outshot the Sabres on Monday. What might be surprising, however, is how Toronto has been outshot in their last eight games and the last time the Leafs outshot a team was on March 16 when they they dominated the Tampa Bay Lightning, 5-0.

    After being mugged — and hacked by goalie Robin Lehner — in front of the Sabres’ net, Nazem Kadri poured salt on Buffalo’s wounds when he scored his team-leading 12th power play goal of the season, giving Toronto a three goal lead with 14:10 left in the third period. Kadri wasn’t finished there, though. He had a few choice words for Sabres defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen and the two carried their

    spirited discussion

    into the penalty box. Here’s a look at what Kadri said to Ristolainen.

    Entering Monday’s game there was a lot attention centered around William Nylander vs Alex Nylander. William finished the night with one assist and five shots, while Alex failed to register a shot and saw 16 shifts during 14:28 of action. Stat lines aside, I can only imagine how amazing it was for Alex to make his NHL debut against his brother William. Needless to say, it was a memorable night for the Nylander family.

    With Nylander and Mitch Marner both registering an assist against the Sabres, Toronto is now the second club in NHL history to feature three rookies with 60 or more points. The only other team to accomplish this feat was the 1980-81 Quebec Nordiques.

    If you’re keeping track of the Maple Leafs’ bonuses, Marner will max out his “Schedule A” bonuses at $850,000, according to


    Chris Johnston.

    Here’s a recap of the records Matthews broke on Monday, courtesy of


    Mark Masters.

    Stat of the Night

    43 seconds

    The Leafs took out all their Buffalo-related frustrations when they ripped off three goals in 43 seconds. Matthews goal was the highlight of this outburst, but JVR’s wasn’t too shabby either.

    What’s Next

    The Maple Leafs will head home to play the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night at the Air Canada Centre. Both Washington and Toronto are red hot and boast an 8-1-1 record over their last 10 games.

    In terms of playoff seeding, the Capitals are five points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins for first place in the Eastern Conference and are in the driver’s seat for the President’s Trophy. As for the Leafs, they have a 98.6 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to

    Now, barring an unfathomable collapse, it comes down to where the Leafs will finish. gives the Leafs a 58.7 percent chance of finishing second in the Atlantic Division, a 28.3 percent chance of finishing third and an 11.6 percent chance of finishing in the second Wild Card spot.

    If you’re in the “let’s talk about where they’ll finish once they officially clinch” crowd, Toronto can clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Capitals on Tuesday.

    Next: Steady Freddie Leading Leafs to the Playoffs

    What did you think of the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below