Toronto - March 11, 2015 -
Who: Toronto Maple Leafs
Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON
Know thine enemy: I’m not entirely sure what else can be said about the Leafs at this point. They were a hideous, awful train wreck before they started selling off assets like they were going out of style.
After moving Cody Franson, Mike Santorelli, David Clarkson and Daniel Winnik near or at the trade deadline, it’s clear that the Leafs are in a state of transition heading down the stretch. That’s on top of the usual drama involving Phil Kessel and now the extra drama surrounding Dion Phaneuf and Joffrey Lupul.
On the ice, they’re top-heavy. Kessel, James Van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak lead the way in scoring and there’s a steep drop off after them, especially considering their fifth, sixth and seventh-best scorers were traded away.
In net, they continue to ride the two-headed mess that is Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer. Neither has performed well this season, with both having sub-.500 records and Bernier’s 2.81 goals against average and .914 save percentage leading the way by a pretty large margin. There aren’t many messes bigger than the one in Toronto…
About the Sabres: ...but this is one of them.
Of anyone left on the roster with actual NHL talent, there seems to be no consistency. Every game, someone new is skating on the top line and Johan Larsson will be no different after scoring Saturday in Washington. Tyler Ennis continues to be the only viable scoring threat on this team, leading in both goals (16) and points (34).
Defensively, things might somehow have gotten worse. Zach Bogosian and Andrej Meszaros were both injured Saturday after blocking shots in the loss to Washington. They’re both questionable for tonight and would leave a Buffalo defense already woefully short on NHL-ready defensemen in an unenviable position. Also worth noting: this game is about 10% less fun without Leaf-hater Josh Gorges in the lineup.
With all due respect to Anders Lindback, who will likely get the start in net, there’s nothing he could do even if he were more than a decent NHL backup. His 3.63 goals against average and .886 save percentage only stand to get much worse playing behind what amounts to an average AHL team right now.
The last time these two met: It has been a while since these two have met, with the last meeting coming all the way back on November 15th. This happened to fall in that weird month-long stretch where the Sabres offense could score five goals on 15 shots and Jhonas Enroth was literally a brick wall. The Sabres got even-strength, power play and shorthanded goals on their way to a 6-2 route. It was also the first time the Sabres had topped three goals in a non-shootout on the season.
The part where I predict things: Both teams are basically identical over their last 10, but it’s really difficult to pick the Sabres at any point going forward. Yes, even with as bad as the Leafs have been this year. They win the matchup game in just about every aspect and could win this one with even a pair of goals.
Score: 2-1 Leafs
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