Maple Leafs 1 vs. Buffalo Sabres 2
Ryan Miller simply stole this one for the Buffalo Sabres. I was shocked to hear from the Toronto announcers that Miller had lost his six straight previous trips to Toronto. Miller played as if it were truly a January 21st division match up. Despite his superb play between the pipes, he was clearly beaten twice, but was saved by iron both times.
It was a total backbreaker to see Buffalo take a 2-0 lead early in the 2nd period, after the Leafs controlled much of the play. Toronto had been cycling the puck effectively in the Buffalo end, getting some more quality chances on Miller, which he continued to reject confidently.
The deciding goal came on a loose puck that eventually got away from the Leafs control, ending up in an odd man rush the other way as the Leafs forwards were worn down and pinned deep in the Buffalo zone after working in the opposition zone. The puck then came to Pominville, who had an entire century to pick and choose his shot. The snap was a weak one, yet still eluded Scrivens between the legs who looked like me in a men's league game; forgetting to put the stick down to cover the five-hole. Simply put, an NHL goalie needs to have that save.
As a fan, I cannot complain with the effort tonight by the Maple Leafs. Even after the bad 2nd period goal allowed by Scrivens, the boys in blue kept going tooth and nail at the Buffalo net.
The Leafs finally got something to show for their hard work at the end, when Kadri played "johnny on the spot" once again pouncing on a free puck to the side of the net and slamming it top shelf past an out-of-position Miller in what should have been a game-tying goal late in the 3rd period.
There were a few negatives tonight, which included a play by Carl Gunnarsson, who took a bad penalty after failing to move the puck up ice from his own end. Gunnarsson had two guys trailing offering help with one man in white circling like a vulture. He had plenty of time to make use of his help or to settle down the play himself. Instead, he forced the play, turned the puck over and ended up taking a bad penalty which he didn't need to take.
I hate to pick on one man, because the entire team played more than well enough to win this game, but the one bad play by Gunnarsson highlighted the first half of the opening period. Early on, the Leafs once again looked like a Chinese fire drill in their own end struggling mightily to get control of the puck and moving it up the ice. I had hoped the Leafs took plenty of notes watching the Stanley Cup Champion Kings take care of the puck in their own zone during their Cup run. LA controls their own end and move the puck up ice with such considerable ease. The Leafs will need to get better playing with and without the puck in their own end under pressure. This will be the biggest aspect to keep and eye on during this shortened season.
• I am simply convinced that guys like Liles, Lupul, JVR and MacArthur need some seasoning. They seemed to get it going in the third period, though a little too late.
• I was impressed with the play of Mark Fraser. Looking forward to seeing more from him and Holzer until Gardiner returns. Also, kudos to Fraser for dropping the gloves trying to get the team going in the third period. The kid looked comfortable handling the puck on the blue line.
• Dion Phaneuf is looking more and more like the captain in these opening two games.
That fact the Leafs lost this one due to the spectacular play by Miller, and another ill-timed bad goal against, I expect the Toronto media to again question the goaltending situation. Both of these young goalies need a little more time in order for the Maple Leafs brass to make a decision whether or not to upgrade at that position. Goalies like Jon Quick, Ryan Miller and Tim Thomas did not become superstar goaltenders in their first year or two. In fact, Tim Thomas spent many years playing meaningless games in the IHL and AHL before the Bruins finally have him a chance. Goaltenders need plenty of playing time to form a body of work more so than any position in professional sports. It takes time to develop a great goaltender, and we have to live with the ups and downs. Even with a 48-game schedule, it may not be enough time to determine the future of these two goalies. Hopefully, some questions will be answered in the next three months, regardless if he team makes the playoffs or not. We need to know if these guys can get the Leafs through.
With that in mind, I'd expect James Reimer to get his first chance between the pipes Wednesday in Pittsburgh. Can't think of a better place to get his season started. Let's hope he is up to the challenge!
Thanks for reading!
This is my first blog on Hockeybuzz. I have been a normal follower of this site, and trying to put up with all of Eklund's nonsense during the lockout with a new CBA being close, not close, somewhat close...I felt like one of the sick kids on the ride during the movie The Sandlot. Although, I admire his work, and I enjoy reading his rumors and news. He really does have good "sources" and does a better job than so many actual reporters who always speculate and give part of the story instead of the whole story. Eklund indeed tries to get the whole story.
Some background information on me, during my last two years at Hope College, I served as the head sports editor for the student newspaper, The Anchor. I had spent my first two years, playing as the backup goaltender for the college ice hockey club, the Flying Dutchmen, a division three national powerhouse. When I returned home from college, I spent my first three years home covering high school sports for the local paper in the Chicago suburbs. Since then, I have been a special education instructor at a southwest Chicago suburban middle school and have served as assistant coach of the boys basketball teams and girls soccer teams over the years.
I cannot promise I will be able to blog on all Maple Leafs and Kings games with my busy schedule, but I love hockey and I love to write about it. I love to write about things period! However, I will try to keep my posts and short as possible. Much shorter than this my first one.
Cheers until the puck drops again!
Vandy's Hockey Blog