MAPLE LEAFS (3-4-3) at SABRES (4-3-2)
7:00 pm (SNO)
There were times, not so long ago, that I would absolutely cringe knowing the Leafs were travelling down the QEW to play the Buffalo Sabres. Not because I was scared of losing to the opposition, but fearing our Team Bus might get stolen.
All jokes aside, and missing the witty banter and twitter pics from ‘Jeffrey’ Lupul, the losing in Buffalo made us all absolutely sick to our collective stomach.
Times they are a changing. The Toronto Maple Leafs are coming off of a very impressive win against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday evening. One that saw, leader Nazem Kadri take charge of not only a great effort in checking Connor McDavid all night, but adding two goals to his side of the ledger and generally irritating the opposition non-stop.
Wait, What? That Nazem Kadri? Absolutely. Kadri played one of his best complete games in recent memory (last year vs St. Louis maybe?) and will look to build off of that performance. Many sceptics, me included, will say that he won’t show up again for another few weeks. But in that game, he was impressive.
After a slow start in his career as a Maple Leafs goalie, Fredrik Andersen has been absolutely stellar in his last three games. With a average save percentage of .942, Andersen is doing almost everything correctly between the pipes. When he actually stays between them of course. The desire to roam cost him a goal in the last game, after getting tied up with defensive stalwart Jake Gardiner.
According to the Toronto Star, the Sabres are 17-1-1 in the last 19 home games versus the Maple Leafs. What is worse than abysmally-atrocious-travesty-disgusting? Because that is exactly what the record is.
There is zero reason for it as well (other than teams sucking for the last 5 years), with Leafs fans flocking to the Sabres-Torium to see a team at a discounted rate and picking up a 24-pack of their favorite beer also at a discounted rate. The support is heavily in favor of the team wearing blue and white and not the one with a giant slug as a logo. Man, I miss those jerseys.
Leafs will need to see Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner get back on track while attempting to keep pace with fellow rookie William Nylander, who is probably the best Leafs forward thus far in the season.
Also, wondering if newly recalled Nikita Soshnikov can continue to drive the energy of the 4th line, which saw UFA acquisition Matt Martin play his best game since becoming a Leafer versus the Oilers on Tuesday. Or, will Babcock try to move Soshnikov up in attempt to motivate other forwards?
The Sabres have started the season 4-3-2 without stars Evander Kane and Jack Eichel. It will be interesting to see who steps up for this team this evening and how the Leafs play after an encouraging win versus the Oilers.
Pulling off a win in the QEW series would be another huge step in the development of this team. There are no easy points in the NHL, so do not look passed even the weakest of opponents. Coach Mike Babcock should have his troops ready to go this evening.
Projected Line Combinations
Toronto Maple Leafs
Hyman — Matthews — Nylander
van Riemsdyk — Bozak — Marner
Brown — Kadri — Komarov
Martin — Smith — Soshnikov
Rielly — Zaitsev
Marincin — Carrick
Gardiner — Polak
Moulson — O’Reilly — Okposo
Foligno — Larsson — Gionta
Ennis — Girgensons — Reinhart
Bailey — Grant — Baptiste
Gorges — Ristolainen
Kulikov — Nelson
McCabe — Franson
Mike Babcock –Morning Skate 11/03/2016