By Stan Smith

The Toronto Maple Leafs raised their record to 10-5-4 with a convincing 5-2 win over the struggling Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.  Today we will examine the good, bad, and ugly takeaways from the game. 

The Good

If you are a Maple Leafs’ fan, there were too many good things happening in this game to list them all. We will focus on a few of them. 

For the first time this season, the Maple Leafs scored three goals in the first period while not giving up a goal. It was also only the third time this season they scored five goals in a game, and one of the few games where they led the whole way. They took control of the game early and never relinquished it despite taking six penalties in the game.  

For the third game in a row, we start our “Good” talking about goaltender Matt Murray. For the third game in a row, Murray was stellar. He stopped 32 of the 34 shots he faced, giving up two shorthanded goals.  Murray raised his record to 2-1-1 overall and 2-0-1 in his last three starts. In those three games, Murray has posted a .934% save percentage and a 2.34 goals-against-average. 

Mitch Marner extended his scoring streak to a league-best twelve games with two primary assists in the game. His first assist was on a shot that John Tavares tipped into the net on the power play to give the Maple Leafs a 1-0 lead. The second was on a drop-pass to Mark Giordano on a breakaway while they were killing a penalty. Marner, along with Tavares (one goal and three assists) and William Nylander (two goals), all recorded multi-point games. 

John Tavares, Maple Leafs Captain

The complete Maple Leafs’ defensive core played a strong game. Defensively Jordie Benn played another solid game and led the way with four blocked shots and three hits. In four games since his return, Benn has recorded 14 hits and 11 blocked shots. He’s doing an excellent job of providing the Maple Leafs with a similar type of defensive game they were lacking with the absence of Jake Muzzin. 

Timothy Liljegren also had a great performance. He led the defence in hits, with four while blocking two shots. 

At five-on-five the Maple Leafs limited the Sabres to only five High Danger Scoring Chances. The defence played a big role in that.  


The Bad

Here I go again sounding like a broken record in referencing the refereeing. If the penalty calls or missed penalty calls were a poker game the game would have gone something like this.  

The Maple Leafs open with a goal by Calle Jarnkrok after the referees missed a blatant too-many-men-on-the-ice call.

The Sabres saw the Maple Leafs and raised with a goal of their own after a missed interference call as Tage Thompson laid out the puck-less Jarnkrok. That happened after an Auston Matthews illegal-hit-to-the-head penalty on a play where Matthews was playing the puck and Casey Mittelstadt skated into him.

Auston Matthews RC

[As an aside, I’m in favour of the NHL bringing in a rule where all contact to the head should be a penalty, accidental or not, similar to high sticking. But, the league has no such rule, and this was surely a case of accidental contact.]

The Maple Leafs win the hand on a goal that happened after the Buffalo net was knocked off its moorings. I come from an era where goals didn’t count if the net was knocked off its pegs no matter what the reason, or who knocked it off. The defending team could get a penalty or even a penalty shot if knocking the net off resulted in a negated scoring chance or a goal, but goals didn’t count even if they did cross the goal line. That rule has changed and the puck did obviously cross the goal line as it went behind the goal peg. 

Related: Three Takeaways from Maple Leafs’ 5-2 Win vs the Sabres

The Ugly

As a Maple Leafs’ fan, I got nothing for this area. 

For Sabres fans this season, it must seem like a scene from the movie Groundhog Day. For the third season in four, Buffalo has been teasing its fans by coming out of the starting gate like gangbusters only to come crashing back to earth with an extended losing streak. 

One thing relating to the Maple Leafs could be considered ugly. Nick Robertson played his last game a week ago and has spent the past three games on the sidelines. I fail to see how that is helping his development as a player. The Marlies play their third game over the same time period today. I can’t help but think Robertson would be better off playing hockey, be it with the Maple Leafs or the Marlies, as opposed to sitting watching from the press box. 

What’s Next?

The Maple Leafs take on the New York Islanders at home on Monday night. As well as Murray has played, the team has to manage his minutes. I would expect to see either Ilya Samsonov if he is healthy, or Erik Kallgren between the pipes, if he is not.

Ilya Samsonov, Maple Leafs

The Maple Leafs then head out on the road for a four-game trip starting with a visit to New Jersey on Wednesday. Here’s hoping they can do to the Devils what they did to the Pittsburgh Penguins in their return match. 

Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Postseason Plan, Matthews & Murray

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