Last night’s game essentially boiled down to 43 seconds. The demons that have plagued the Maple Leafs in Buffalo were slayed and they were slayed fast and early. The game started and it felt like the playoffs. The intensity was evident and both teams were flying. In a boneheaded giveaway, Nazem Kadri found an empty Leo Komarov who tapped the puck home. 1-0. Next Nylander after getting the puck from Gardiner threaded a beauty of a pass to an open Matthews, who got it over Lehner. 2-0. Then off a face-off Van Riemsdyk was able to sneak the puck past Lehner in an embarrassing accident of a goal. 3-0.
The game ended there. The Leafs had to hold on. Sure, the Nazem Kadri would score a five hole and then give folks at home a lesson in chirping. Yes, Ryan O’Reilly would score a shorthanded goal and the Leafs would let a late goal by Eichel get past them; but let’s not kid ourselves, the game ended in those 43 seconds. The rest of the game was a chippy affair which felt like the Buffalo was hell bent on taking a loss and a player with them. It was disgusting.
It was almost embarrassing the amount of cheap shots and clear attempts to injure our players. The refs put their whistles away, which is usually a great thing but unfortunately they also tucked away their common sense. Evander Kane cemented his status as an absolute garbage human being by knocking Andersen on the head after a play was dead. Eichel gave one nasty looking check to Marner and that’s just to name a few. The Leafs had a dominating game with one of their strongest possessions efforts all seasons.
The game offered a glimpse at how good the Leafs could be but it also had the classic late goal theatrics. If we’re being honest, we cannot have that happen in the playoffs. The Leafs need to play all 60 and need to dominate for all 60. Far too often they take their foot off the gas and just sit back. This will not be acceptable if the Leafs play to make a deep run in the playoffs.
Tonight, the Leafs face the Washington Capitals, if there was ever a statement game to be played. This is it. The Leafs can put the entire league on notice and here’s hoping they do.
Again, it’s crazy to think but the playoffs are in reach and to quote the greatest hashtag ‘Buds All Day’.
SCORING BY PERIOD
Toronto Goal 4:26 L. Komarov (14) assisted by N. Kadri
Toronto Goal 5:01 A. Matthews (39) assisted by W. Nylander and J. Gardiner
Toronto Goal 5:09 J. van Riemsdyk (26) assisted by T. Bozak
Buffalo Goal 1:51 R. O’Reilly (20) (short-handed) assisted by B. Gionta
Toronto Goal 5:50 N. Kadri (31) (power play) assisted by M. Marner and N. Zaitsev
Buffalo Goal 19:04 J. Eichel (24) assisted by S. Reinhart
SHOTS ON GOAL BY PERIOD
MIKE BABCOCK POST GAME VIDEO