The Toronto Maple Leafs played a complete game that’s desperately been lacking the last few weeks, with a convincing 4-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center Wednesday.
Lead by star forwards John Tavares and Auston Matthews with a goal and assist each along with Mitch Marner and Zach Hyman chipping in with singles, it was enough to put the pesky Sabres away.
It wasn’t without its challenges however because Carter Hutton had an outstanding game or this would’ve been over in the first period. Three of Toronto’s goals were the result of fortunate bounces before an empty netter from Hyman salted it away. After the week from hell including getting shut out 3-0 in Nashville the night before, they’ll gladly take anything Lady Luck offers. Make no mistake though; they earned it with a determined effort all around.
At the other end backup goaltender Garret Sparks made a few nice saves, stopping pucks he’s expected to, but like most games he starts, every shot is an adventure. With another strong showing by Leafs Nation in attendance, they sweated out every puck directed at the blue and white net in the third period.
The ice was clearly tilted one-way most of the evening with the Leafs holding a 46-24 shot advantage. A side-note; I’ve noticed time and again this season the shot-clock in away buildings (especially Boston) seems to freeze when its to one-sided in favour of the away team. Wednesday was no exception.
From the opening face-off the Leafs were tenacious on puck pursuit, particularly Matthews, playing his best hockey of the season along Nylander who appears back in top form; the dynamic duo had the Buffalo D mesmerized at times.
With 8-games remaining on the calendar, Toronto finds itself in a position they really can’t advance or decline in the standings so appear on a collision course with the Bruins in the first round.
With the days winding down, setting the bar higher by the game should be the focus. The next four against non-playoff contending teams should be a great opportunity to accelerate the compete level that will certainly be tested against the four remaining games against playoff contending teams. This balanced schedule gives them a chance to be playoff ready if they expect to have any chance of advancing past the opening round.