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Gameday #23: Toronto Maple Leafs @ Buffalo Sabres

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The Leafs, having recovered from a 2-game skid in their win over the New York Islanders on Monday night, now travel to Buffalo to face the league leading Buffalo Sabres tonight (7:00PM ET). Toronto had lost their previous 2 games to New Jersey(2-1) and Boston(2-1 F/OT), scoring only 2 goals in total over that span.

Maple Leaf goaltender Andrew Raycroft made his return in the Toronto's' 4-2 victory over the Isles 4-2, in what was a game where Leaf Coach Paul Maurice ended up criticising the team's 2nd and 3rd period performance. Toronto, up 3-1, let the Islanders back into the game when New York made the score 3-2. The goal was due to missed assignments in front of the net, and weak defencive zone coverage, something the new Leaf coach had been tryig to get rid of in his young tenure with the Leafs. The effort was also lacking from the team as a whole until Alexei Ponikarovsky scored the ensurance marker late in the 3rd. This did no sit too well with Maurice:

Paul Maurice said:
''I liked our first period but I was very disappointed after that - that we didn't finish the deal hard. ''I did not enjoy the win as much as some other ones.

''We weren't handing out roses after that game.''
Darcy Tucker continued to have the hot hand for Toronto, scoring his 13th goal of the season, and league leading 10th on the Powerplay.

Kyle Wellwood scored his 3rd of the season and added an assist, and John Pohl scored his 2nd.

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Pohl, scoring his first goal in a month, agreed with he Coach's opinion of a poor finish by the Leafs:

John Pohl said:
''They probably outplayed us the last two periods and that didn't sit well with the coach. He gave it to us after the game.''
Toronto is 12-6-4 through 22 games for 28 Points, and trail the Sabres by 7 for the League and Northeast division lead.

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Kyle Wellwood leads the team with 16 assists, as he, Darcy Tucker, Bryan McCabe, and Tomas Kaberle, are all tied with the injured Mats Sundin for the team lead in points with 19. A testament to the balanced attack the Leafs seemingly possess.

Andrew Raycroft currently has a 2.71 Goals against average and a .912 Save percentage in 16 Games Played.

Meanwhile, Buffalo defeated the Tampa by Lightning 7-2 on Monday night, ending ther 'funk' of losing 2 of their last 3 games.

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The Sabres are 17-3-1 and have 1 game in hand of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who had previously ended their 10-game winning streak to start the season in their 1st visit to Buffalo, and the first of 8 meetings between the two teams. The loss to Toronto ended their chance of breaking the record set by the 1993 Maple Leafs, who also had 10 wins to start the Season.

Sophomore Thomas Vanek leads the team with 15 goals after 21 games for 3rd in the league, and Daniel Briere has 19 Assists and leads the team in Points with 27.

Ryan Miller, who is expected to start for the Sabres tonight, has a 2.69 Goals Against Average and a .912 Save percentage.

Toronto is 4th in the Eastern Conference, 1 point ahead of the 2006 Stanley Cup Champion Carolina Hurricanes.

Leaf Goaltender Mikael Tellqvist is expected to back-up Raycroft once again tonight, as J.S. Aubin is still listed as day-to-day with the flu.
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2-0 Toronto. Tucker and Wellwood with the goals, both on the Powerplay.

The Leafs must contiue to take advantage of the Sabres' undisciplined play.
Sabres win 7-4. Tough game for the buds and they could have won it, if not for a string of bad penalties in the second period.

Tomorrow the boys are in Washington so let's hope that's a win.

The Leafs still hold on to fourth in the East, one point ahead of Montreal and Carolina.

It's too bad because a straight win in regulation would have gotten the Leafs to within five points of the Sabres and the divison lead.
The reffing in that game was brutal(on both sides). Too bad we couldn't pull out the win.
When I saw the conference with Maurice, I thought "poor man, he's finally lost it". Does anyone else think he sounded a bit... 'off key'. :dunno:


Anyway, about the game: it was a tough loss.

In all honesty, I think the Leafs let one get away. McCabe was brutal, absolutely brutal. That empty goal by Briere where he couldn't do zilch was just icing on his cake of mediocre play. :( The 1st goal was his penalty, and the 2nd was just vintage McCabe. The "swiss cheese one-knee'er" came into play again, and Novotny was let all alone in the slot. I saw it coming long before it happened. Someone has to tell him that it doesn't work. He's been doing it for years. Where on earth did he develop such habits from?

$$$! :mad:

Of course, I can't not blame Raycroft on the game-winner. He actually played a pretty good game. As usual in blowouts like this, he couldn't be blamed for most of the goals.

The 1st and 3rd are more examples. The 1st, not one was down low. A common complaint during Pat Quinn's tenure.

The 3rd was the Leafs playing as if they were down to 3 men rather than 4 on the penalty kill.

The 4th, Stajan should of had Campbell there. Sorry, but that was a terrible goal.

Inconsistency is beginning to creep back into the team's play, and they lost huge ground on Buffalo just from that 1 loss.

I will admit, they start off well, and there were some bright spots like O'Neill and of course Tucker, but on a whole, they just didn't get it together.

The media and like will be saying "Thriller" and all those cliche line to hide the facts and rally Leaf nation, but what happened out there happened out there. It is what it is: Buffalo didn't have to do nearly as much for their goals as Toronto did - no crashing the net and running over Rayzor like Toronto, nothing. Just wait in the slot, and the story hasn't changed from the last few years. It was beginning to this year, but only inconsistently has the team been solid defencively.

In the end it costed them. The only thing the Leafs got was that own-goal from Ryan. No offence, b
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