Quick Hits: Sabres vs. Maple Leafs

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The Buffalo Sabres just about threw everything at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night at the KeyBank Center. Buffalo would put up a season-high 43 shots on goal, but goalie Frederik Andersen would turn away 42 of those chances as the Leafs get a 2-1 win on the road.

The Leafs would strike first at the 4:08 mark of the first period with a goal from rookie forward Mitch Marner. Marner would play some give and go with Tyler Bozak and get a perfect pass to put Toronto on the board. The Sabres would get into some trouble watching the puck, which allowed Marner to walk in for the easy goal.

The Sabres would control the pace of play for most of the period, but trailed 1-0 heading into the first intermission. Buffalo led the Leafs in shots on goal, 15 to seven.

Marner would strike for the Leafs again early in the second period. Marner would swoop in towards the slot looking for a feed from James van Riemsdyk behind the net. The pass would be knocked down my Marcus Foligno, but Marner would take the puck off his stick and slide it past the left leg of Robin Lehner.

A little over four minutes later, Foligno would cut the deficit to one with his second goal of the season. Sam Reinhart would take a shot towards the net but the puck would go off the stick of Johan Larsson and sit to the right of Andersen. Foligno would come in a clean up the loose change to put the Sabres on the board.

The Sabres and Leafs would exchange plenty of chances in the period, but the score would remain 2-1 after two periods of play.

The Sabres would continue to apply the pressure on Andersen and the Leafs into the third period. Buffalo would out-shoot Toronto 12-7 in the period, but would nearly double the Leafs in shot attempts. However, Andersen continued to stand on his head and would slam the door shut on the Sabres.

The Sabres now fall to 4-4-2, and will next travel to Ottawa to play the Senators on Saturday night. Faceoff is at 7 p.m.

And now, the quick hits:

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    • No beating Andersen

Might as well call him a brick wall this evening.

Andersen was tested throughout the game on Thursday, but was doing everything he could to keep the puck out of the net. Especially in the third period, the Sabres controlled the puck for a good portion of the 20 minutes. Andersen never blinked against the Sabres, stopping almost everything in any way he could

Including this incredible save in the first period on Zemgus Girgensons:

    • CALL A PENALTY!

There was a grand total of two penalties called in this game, both against the Leafs. The problem was that there were not enough penalties called against the Leafs on the evening.

Both of Toronto’s penalties were called in the second period, but it sure felt like there could have been 10 penalties called on the Leafs in this game. There were many cases of clutching, grabbing, and interference that just flew over the heads of the officials.

The Leafs certainly did not play clean, physical hockey with the way they held up the Sabres on the evening. If the penalties that should have been called were actually called, the Sabres probably could have gotten plenty of more chances at getting the equalizer or game winner.

Sure, I get it, the officials do not want to dictate the game with calling penalties at certain points of the game. But come on, it is okay to call some penalties and allow these teams to generate some exciting offensive opportunities.

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    • Foligno-Larsson-Gionta line continues to roll

There is little doubt that this line is Buffalo’s best line right now.

The Foligno-Larsson-Gionta line may be playing the role as a shut down line, but they have certainly created some of Buffalo’s best chances over the past few games. On Thursday, the line combined for nine shots on goal, nine hits, and three blocked shots.

This line is showing that strong, physical play can eventually lead to some nice offensive opportunities. Why Dan Bylsma had this line split up in the first game of the season is baffling. This will teach you a lesson, Disco Dan.

    • Rough night for Casey Nelson 

Casey Nelson certainly has not had it easy in the early parts of this season.

Nelson has only played in one game so far, and was in the press box for the next eight games as the healthy scratch. With Zach Bogosian going down to a MCL sprain in his knee, Nelson will certainly get more ice time over the coming weeks.

This offseason, Nelson worked hard on bulking up and being more of a physical presence on the blue line. In his short time with the Sabres last season, Nelson showed that he has the ability to be a good puck-moving defenseman with the ability to skate well with the puck.

On Thursday, it certainly looked as though Nelson had not played a game since the season opener. Nelson was quite careless with the puck; throwing arrant passes around the ice and looking timid with the puck. On one instance, Nelson turned with the puck in his own zone without looking to see if a teammate was there to take his pass. His pass would nearly be knocked down by the Leafs for a breakaway opportunity.

Nelson will certainly have to overcome the growing pains at the NHL level if he wants to stick around in Buffalo. He will have plenty of playing time with the blue line depth being tested, but if the struggles continue it could be trouble for Nelson down the road.

    • Good injury news?

While Bogosian is now out of the lineup for weeks with his knee injury, there could be some good news on the injury front.

Hudson Fasching missed his second straight game on Thursday with a groin injury, but Bylsma says that he remains day-to-day.

As for guys like Evander Kane and Jack Eichel, Sabres general manager Tim Murray shed some light on their injuries on WGR Sports Radio 550 on Thursday.

Murray says that he has been working out on the ice and there is a chance he could return to practice with his teammates next week. If all goes well with physical contact, Kane could return to the lineup shortly after. Kane broke several ribs in the season opener against the Montréal Canadiens when he went crashing full speed into the boards.

The update on Eichel is nothing more than just that he is no longer in a walking boot, and that there have been no setbacks in his recovery from a high ankle sprain. Eichel injured his ankle the day before the season opener against the Canadiens at practice. Eichel’s recovery timetable, at the time, was expected to be around 6-8 weeks. It has already been over three weeks since his ankle sprain.

Let’s just hope that all the recovery timetable remain the same and no one else gets injured.

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Written by Brayton Wilson

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