Toronto Maple Leafs 3 – Buffalo Sabres 1
Kasperi Kapanen: On a day where Mike Babcock basically closed the door on Kapanen being a regular in the Leafs lineup barring a trade, Kapanen showed why he absolutely should be, with a goal, and assist, and many other scoring chances. Kapanen’s speed makes him stand out on the ice as he streaks away from the defence creating dangerous chance after dangerous chance. The problem for Kapanen is that there’s simply just not an open spot for a top nine winger this year with the addition of Patrick Marleau, thus keeping him and Josh Leivo on the outside looking in, even though they’ve probably earned their opportunity at this point.
Eric Fehr: Fehr is a dark horse for the fourth line Center role, and he certainly didn’t do anything to hurt his cause tonight, making smart, sensible plays and creating chances for his linemates, the aforementioned Kapanen and Carl Grundstrom. Fehr likely won’t win the job, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he were kept around as an extra forward. He’s what Mike Babcock likes to call “a good pro” who can slide in and out of the lineup while working hard and keeping a positive attitude.
Carl Grundstrom: The third member of this line was buzzing around the puck all night long, unfortunately he’ll also likely be a case of too many players, not enough spots. What complicates things a bit for Grundstrom is that he isn’t eligible to play for the Marlies as long as his Swedish club is still playing because the SHL/NHL transfer agreement seems to prohibit non first round picks from leaving for the AHL, although this is a cloudy situation, because it seems that Oliver Kylington did just that. There’s no clarification as to why Kylington was allowed to do, but such a move doesn’t appear to be an option for Grundstrom.
Connor Carrick: Carrick has been a bit maligned, with folks thinking players like Roman Polak will play over him, but he certainly helped his case tonight by being on the right side of the puck all night. I don’t believe Polak will make the Leafs roster as they only have so many spots and plenty of defensemen have stood out for the Leafs so far. Mike Babcock likes to have as many lefty/righty combinations as possible, so it seems likely that Carrick will make the team and play on the third pairing with whichever of Travis Dermott, Andreas Borgman, or Calle Rosen makes the team.
Calle Rosen: I love Rosen’s game. He seems to be in the right place, at the right time, all the time. He’s very comfortable with the puck and seems capable of handling the pace and grind of the NHL game. Rosen seems to be a player you can play on the power play or the penalty kill and he’ll do a good job, and as we saw tonight, he’s capable of skating his way past the entire opposition when given the opportunity. Rosen has a slight edge in the race for the third pairing left side defense position halfway through this preseason.
The Buffalo Sabres: This team just simply does not look very good. Last night it should’ve been expected that the Leafs would skate circles around the Sabres, as they did not travel their best lineup to Toronto. Similarly, tonight when the Leafs only brought five or six regulars to Buffalo, the Sabres should have taken it to the Leafs, but that was not what happened. The Leafs dominated play from the get go and the game was not nearly as close as the score indicated. It appears that the Sabres still have a long way to go to be a competitive force in the NHL
Martin Marincin: I’m typically one to defend Marincin because he definitely takes more flack than he deserves as a mediocre player. In fact, I’m pretty sure if the analytics community had never mentioned Marincin, he would probably just be another average player that we never talked about. But man, he was absolutely atrocious tonight, with two penalties, several turnovers, and just generally being out of position or out muscled for position all night long. It seems like Marincin has played himself off of this roster at this point and he has no one to blame but himself.