Last night, we all saw something that we’ve become accustomed to: the Leafs laying a stinker in the HSBC arena before a crowd which, time and time again, contains almost as many Leafs fans as there are Sabres fans. I can not fathom why the Leafs have so many problems facing the Sabres in Buffalo, and why they can not solve Ryan Miller. At this point, I don’t see any reason why the Leafs should even bother playing the Sabres every year. Lets just give Buffalo the 12 points and forget about playing the games. This way, we avoid anyone getting injured, as well as avoid the unnecessary soreness we all feel in our heads, and our asses, after watching a game like last night.
As painful as last night’s game was, I have to provide some sort of synopsis of this nightmare. In typical Leafs fashion, the Leafs failed to show up in the first period. What got the Leafs in most trouble last night was the fact that they took stupid penalty after stupid penalty. With Colton Orr already in the penalty box for triple roughing penalties (an incredibly rare call), the Sabres’ Jordan Leopold took a shot from the point which found its way through a crowd in front of the net, and through Gustavsson to put the Sabres up 1-0. Seconds later, Kris Versteeg took an absolutely stupid elbowing penalty, putting the Leafs down two men. What did you expect would happen at this point? Of course, the Leafs surrendered another goal, this time to Thomas Vanek, and putting the Sabres ahead 2-0. And there you have it. Before any of us were able to finish our first beer of the night, the Sabres were already up 2-0 and looking strong.
I mentioned in my Gameday Preview yesterday that the game would be a tight game, but that the most likely opportunity for goal scoring was when the Leafs were on the penalty kill. Before last night, the Leafs were 69% on the penalty kill on the road, and it showed. The Leafs were lucky to escape the first period only down two goals, as Jonas Gustavsson was outstanding.
The second period continued the typical Leafs tradition. The Leafs controlled most of the second period, but failed to put any pucks past Ryan Miller. Jonas Gustavsson made huge saves throughout the period as well. You have to feel sorry for the guy, as he played outstanding, but every time he plays his team in front of him lets him down. The Leafs were awarded three power plays in the second period, and failed to do anything on either of them. In fact, the specialty teams were absolutely terrible last night.
The third period featured more of the same: sad and pathetic play by the Leafs, particularly on the power play, where again the Leafs surrendered another short handed goal. Phil Kessel was able to respond later, when he scored his own short handed goal thanks to a nifty pass/giveaway from Jordan Leopold.
All in all, last night was a complete disaster for the Leafs. They continue to be inconsistent game to game. They continue to lay eggs in the first period of games they start and they continue to be slaves to Ryan Miller and the Sabres. The only good thing to come out of last night’s game was that Jonas Gustavsson continues to show why he should be the #1 goalie in Toronto. Gustavsson ended the night stopping 25 of 28 shots, with a 0.892 save percentage, however these numbers don’t tell the whole story. Gustavsson was absolutely fantastic, and had to stop a number of incredibly difficult shots. Hopefully the Leafs can build off this, and completely forget the remainder of last night’s game when they travel to Ottawa to face the Ottawa Senators tonight. The Leafs tend to play well against Ottawa, so we can only hope that the memory of tonight’s game will be quickly erased by tomorrow.