Morning After Report: Leafs Grab Buffalo By The Horns

Playing the worst team in the league, you expect to do well, but the Leafs of old will certainly tell cautionary tales of taking it too easy against Buffalo.

1-0 TOR Goal (Johnsson)

Andreas Johnsson (2) from Tomas Plekanec (20) and Roman Polak (10):

Johnsson continues to impress with his NHL stint, getting his second goal since coming up on this terrible defensive coverage from the Sabres. Benoit Pouliot inexplicably heads behind the net to cover no one, the two defenders are playing high in the zone, and Johnsson parks himself right in front with no challenge.

1-1 BUF Goal (Reinhart)

Sam Reinhart (24) PPG from Rasmus Ristolainen (24) and Ryan O’Reilly (36):

A good shot-for-tip from Rasmus Ristolainen indeed finds that tip from Sam Reinhart. Not much that Curtis McElhinney could do there, as the puck just finds a hole through him.

2-1 TOR Goal (Matthews)

Auston Matthews (33) PPG from Morgan Rielly (45) and Andreas Johnsson (1):

A great play by Johnsson to track down the loose puck and get it to Rielly at the point, who finds Matthews on the half-wall with the Sabres all committed to the other side, and he beats Johnson in the top glove corner.

3-1 TOR Goal (Nylander)

William Nylander (18) from Auston Matthews (27):

This is a great find by Auston Matthews and a shifty attack by Nylander to get right in that soft spot between the two defenders. Bad change by the Buffalo defense was pointed out on the broadcast, but not enough was made of just how slickly Nylander attacked the perfect spot.

4-1 TOR Goal (Also Nylander)

William Nylander (19), 2nd of the night, from Zach Hyman (25):

This is again a great feed to Nylander, though much shorter, from Hyman through the legs of Rasmus Ristolainen. William makes no mistake and finds his second goal of the night to give the Leafs a 4-1 lead.

4-2 BUF Goal (Pominville)

Jason Pominville (14) PPG from Nicholas Baptiste (2) and Marco Scandella (16):

Polak has a bit of a whiff here on a clearing attempt in front of the net, which allows Pominville to bury this puck. McElhinney is unfortunately unable to reset and so can’t get into position here.

5-2 TOR Goal (Matthews)

Auston Matthews (33) PPG from William Nylander (40) and Jake Gardiner (45):

This passing play is absolutely gorgeously executed. Nylander’s ability to find Matthews across the “Royal Road” is impressive to say the least, and Matthews is able to find a 5-hole space to bury the puck.

Final Review

This is obviously a solid win for the Maple Leafs, but the opponent certainly did not square up with the teams that the Leafs will face in the playoffs. As the worst team in the league, this is a game that the Leafs have to play well in. Anything less would be demoralizing and indicative of a lack of preparation or mental fortitude.

This isn’t to take anything away from the individual plays made tonight, but they were executed against one of the worst defensive teams in the league. Those passing lanes will not necessarily be available against a Tampa Bay or a Boston. Hopefully the Leafs can use their creativity to continue to execute this excellent offense against stronger opponents come playoff time.

The next game for Toronto, their second last of the year, will be Thursday in New Jersey at 7 p.m.

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