I'm taking another shot at the live blog. Tonight, Buffalo takes on the Leafs.
If Buffalo wants to win, they need to play 60 minutes. This Maple Leaf team will eat them alive if they don't.
As one of my counterparts pointed out on here, Buffalo is ahead of their pace from last season point wise. However, what I don't think he's looked at is the fact that Buffalo continues to get leads, and then promptly blows it. If Buffalo wants to win tonight, get the lead, and keep it.
It's time for puck drop at First Niagara...
Immediately, Buffalo needs to get control, and take the Leaf fans out of this game. It's like a Leaf home game. Get control early. Remind the Leafs that this is a road game for them. Give the Sabres fans a reason to get excited.
Great save by Miller in the 1st minute of play, and horrid hockey by Buffalo again in their own end...
Buffalo is currently letting the Leaf's come in and set up in their end. This continues to fuel my past blogs where I continually mention that Buffalo needs to start to play a more aggressive style of defense. Buffalo needs to not just let the Leaf's set up. Disrupt their rush, and please DEFEND YOUR ZONE!!!! Do not just let them set up and take shot after shot.
12:19- Pominville just had an ok chance on Reimer. However, the Leaf defense kept him from getting a truly great opportunity. The shot was taken from a manageable position on the ice, and Reimer made a fairly easy save. I wish Buffalo would do this in their own end.
9:31- Weber actually just tried to back check and succeeded in taking the Leaf forward off the puck. The defense core for the Sabres need to do this all the time.
Good penalty kill by the Sabers, 2:20 to go in the 1st.
0-0 End of 1
Couple thoughts from the 1st period...
-Toronto has had an extremely aggressive forecheck for the first 20 minutes. If the puck goes behind the Buffalo net, 2 forwards are there, and they are coming in hard and fast. Buffalo is having trouble with this, and it's generating good scoring opportunities for the Leafs.
-Buffalo's defense looks weak. Absolutely weak. Buffalo needs to really toughen up and start showing the Leaf's some aggression. I don't want to think about what the Penguins will do to Buffalo tomorrow if they keep having this lackluster defense.
-Ruff wants Buffalo to stop trying to be too fancy with the puck, and dump it into the Leaf end and win the battles in the corners. Buffalo does need to start forechecking. However, this all starts with play in their own end. Buffalo needs to get a strong back check and be smarter in their own end.
-HIT SOMEONE!! Don't just give the Leafs your zone. Defend it, play the body. Do it clean... It is possible to check someone cleanly to take them off the puck, but Buffalo doesn't seem to want to do this.
-Best line of the period for Buffalo, Adam, Kassian, and Gaustad. MVP of the period- Ryan Miller.
2nd period 0-0
1-0 Leafs- Lupul Even strength goal
Bad decision for Vanek to not back up the minute he turned it over to Kessel. Miller didn't stand a chance. More sloppy play by Buffalo, and it costs them a goal.
16:13- Buffalo gets their first power play of the night. They need to capitalize on this. It's a good way to get the Buffalo fans back into the game, and quiet the out of towners.
1-1 DRRREEEWWWW Stafford!!! Power Play
Great set up for Buffalo. However, the Leafs just gave Stafford the front of the net and let him take the one timer from Vanek. That goal came right when Buffalo needed it, gives the fans some new energy.
And, Congrats to Stafford on goal #100 of his career!
13:16- I liked seeing Ehrhoff join the rush on that 3 on 2 for Buffalo. They need to get the defense involved more in the future. Plus, that's the reason Buffalo picked up Ehrhoff, he is an offensive defenseman.
2-1 Phaneuf- Power Play
Buffalo again fails to return to their aggressive penalty kill. At the start of the season, Buffalo was always challenging the power play of their opponents. However, they've stopped doing this. The penalty kill needs to get back to this, and in this case, it cost them a goal.
2-2 Vanek- Even Strength Goal
Kassian deserves the goal. Great play by Kassian to take the puck from the Leaf player. Also, great awareness from Vanek to stay back, get the pass, and display his fantastic patience to net his 15th of the season. Vanek took his time, and the minute he had it, he let it go. Again, Leaf fans get into the game, and Buffalo gives the Sabres fans reason to cheer and silence the Leaf faithful.
10:11- GREAT HIT by McNabb, as Grabovski tries to skate into the Buffalo end, McNabb puts him down. Again, this is the type of defense Buffalo needs to play.
7:03- Buffalo heads to the power play. Great job by Ellis to get the puck in after Toronto had a good scoring opportunity and keep skating, forcing MacArthur to trip him
Make that a 2-man advantage after Dupius heads to the box after a high-stick on Pommer.
3-2 Ennis!!! Power Play
Great break by Buffalo into the Toronto end. Toronto's focus was on Stafford and Pominville on the near boards, and the Leafs just let Ennis walk in and let a bullet go into the net.
As Dupuis comes back onto the ice, Toronto takes another penalty. Buffalo currently has moment in this game. They need to maintain it. This is the perfect opportunity to make this a 2 goal game, and put the Leafs in a deep hole.
2:30- Phaneuf just hit Kassian from behind face first into the boards. This is exactly what the league is looking at with eliminating this type of play. I wouldn't be surprised if Phaneuf is going to be sitting for a few games. Right call by the ref on the boarding call, and the game misconduct. Hopefully, Kassian is ok, and is not seriously hurt. Buffalo REALLY needs to capitalize on the 5 minute power play here. This is their opportunity to put this game out of reach.
4-2 Sekera Power Play Goal!
Sekera just showed the value of throwing the puck at the net and the importance of taking shots on goal, doesn't matter where you are on the ice. Remember what The Great One said, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take".
4-2 Sabres after 2
Wow, that was an exciting period of play. Couple thoughts before we start the 3rd.
-Please, stop this weak poke checking stuff. Play the body, PLEASE!!!
That's it for the negative
-Ehrhoff displayed great awareness on the power play. He gloved the puck to keep it in the Toronto end. No one touches the puck, and Ehrhoff charges in to take the puck to keep it in the Toronto end and to keep play going. Great awareness.
-Roy also played well to draw the holding the stick penalty late in the period. He realized that Bozak had lost his stick. Instead of rushing the shot, he dekes Bozak to get behind him, and draws the penalty.
-The Buffalo power play looked fantastic. 3 power play goals tonight after 2 periods. They are cycling the puck really well. The power play units are rotating very well, and keeping the puck moving. They are keeping the Leafs hemmed in their end, and look great up to this point.
The only thing that worries me is that Buffalo has a knack for giving up leads. Buffalo needs to not back off this period. They have the Leafs on the run. Buffalo needs to remain aggressive, and try to build on this lead until the final whistle blows tonight.
Finally- Lets hope that Kassian is ok following the hit from behind from Phaneuf.
17:55- Good to see Kassian back on the ice.
11:48- I like that Buffalo isn't backing off. They are keeping the pressure on the Leafs, and are continuing to try to score.
Not sure I agree with the penalty shot for Toronto. Kulemin did get his shot away, and Miller made a great safe. As I watch the replay, he got the shot away. Should be a power play to the Leafs instead of the penalty shot.
4-3 Kulemin- Penalty Shot
Still trying to figure this one out. Still think it should have been a power play for the Leafs.
As I listen to the "Go Leafs Go" chant, Buffalo needs to take back momentum and take the Leaf fans out of the game. They've done a good job up to this point, and need to do it again.
5-3 Vanek- Even Strength Breakaway Goal!!!
Brilliant pass by Roy to see Vanek coming off the bench. Great hesitation by Vanek, and Buffalo gets their 2 goal lead back with just over 4 minutes to go...
5-4 Grabovski Even Strength Goal
Sloppy play by Buffalo again in their own end. 4 minutes to go. Vanek's goal is looking to be pretty important at this point in time.
2 minutes to go, Buffalo really needs to clean up their play in their end... Watch for Reimer to head to the bench.
Smart move by Ennis to not take the shot at the empty net, but just ease it in to kill time instead of ice the puck...
FINAL FROM FIRST NIAGARA CENTER- BUFFALO 5- MAPLE LEAFS 4.
Buffalo gets the much needed 2 points, and Toronto gets, well nothing. Buffalo played a solid 3rd period, and provided a very entertaining 60 minute hockey game. Buffalo played a consistent game tonight, and pulled off a win at home. I love the fact that the Sabres kept trying to score as the game went on. In past games, Buffalo has tried to sit on the lead. Tonight, Buffalo didn't do that and kept the pressure on the Leafs, limiting their 3rd period chances.
Overall, good game for Buffalo tonight. MVP tonight of the game- Thomas Vanek.
Also, good effort from Toronto tonight. Buffalo has shown though that they can beat good teams.
Get some rest fellas, you've got a tough game tomorrow night in Pittsburgh.