Buffalo Sabres Game Day: Buffalo Looks To Extend Home Dominance Against Toronto
The Buffalo Sabres are on a roll; their neighbors to the north are nipping at their heels. Who flinches first tonight?
When the Buffalo Sabres host the Toronto Maple Leafs at the KeyBank Center tonight, there will plenty at stake, despite the fact that the season is still in its infancy.
For starters, the Sabres will be fighting to stretch their three-game winning streak – their longest since 1908, it’s true! – to four, which will be quite impressive, given the injuries the team has suffered.
Second, a win tonight gives the Sabres two more points, which would almost certainly move them up in the standings. Right now, Buffalo’s 10 points has them holding the 11th spot in the East, although the Sabres are tied with Boston and New Jersey and only one point behind Philadelphia, sitting 8th. That’s right, readers: we could wake up tomorrow to find the Buffalo Sabres owning a playoff spot! Chew on that for a minute.
Finally, this game is a fight among rebuilding franchises. Toronto Maple Leafs have a lot to feel good about – Auston Matthews is not the only rookie to follow if you watch the Leafs! – and the fact that each of these teams are rebuilding around the same time should create quite the entertaining Sabres-Leafs rivalry. Be nice to see the Sabres kick the Leafs while they are down to show their neighbors to the north who climbed out of the cellar first!
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Here are my keys to the game:
1. The power . . . of home ice.
Even though the Sabres had a losing record at home last season, they sure have taken care of business on home ice against the Leafs, winning 17 of their last 19 home games against Toronto, including 7 straight. (Shout out to the Sabres website for that bit of information!)
So: if you had tickets to tonight’s game and sold them on StubHub to Leafs fans, congratulations: you may have robbed the Sabres of home ice advantage tonight! As for the rest of you fans who actually buy tickets to go to the game, cheer loud and proud for the Blue and Gold!
2. The power . . . of Robin Lehner.
The starting goaltender for the Sabres is focused, having stopped all but two of the shots he has faced in the past two games.
I mean, just look at the man’s eyes!
Confirmed starter. pic.twitter.com/MFSfEzSmcb
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) November 3, 2016
Yeah – dude’s intense. Meanwhile, Leafs fans (refer to the comments section of said link) still have not figured out how to spell the name of their goaltender: it’s Frederik Andersen, not Anderson, you guys.
In a fist fight, my money is on Lehner, and that’s good enough to convince me Lehner plays lights-out tonight.
3. The power of . . . Buffalo’s Shutdown Line.
The Shutdown line of Johan Larsson, Brian Gionta and Marcus Foligno will almost certainly see a lot of time tonight against Toronto’s top line of Zach Hyman, Auston Matthews and William Nylander, who have combined to wrack up 22 points this season . . . and a combined +/- of -6. Buffalo’s Shutdown line may not score a ton – a combined 13 points in 9 games this season – but with a +/- of +5, these guys have managed to get the job done.
Clearly, slowing down Matthews and reigning Rookie of the Month, Nylander, will not be easy, but I like the thought of Foligno and Larsson getting physical with the young players and frustrating them into turnovers and poor play. If the Shutdown Line can break even tonight, the Sabres have a great shot at starting November out 2-0.
The Buffalo Sabres are still a work in progress, but dammit, so are the Toronto Maple Leafs, although you wouldn’t know it listening to their fans. Here’s to hoping the Sabres can pull out a win tonight so we can enjoy all of the excuses Leafs fans throw out on Twitter following the game!