Maybe the Toronto Maple Leafs should just save some time by proceeding directly to the shootout. For the fourth straight game the Leafs went to the shootout, beating the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 on Friday.
Maybe the Toronto Maple Leafs should just save everybody a lot of time by simply proceeding directly to the shootout moving forward.
The shootout, after all, seems to be a permanent part of the script these days.
For the fourth straight game the Maple Leafs went to the shootout and after back-to-back losses to the Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers, this time they won. The Maple Leafs evened their season series 2-2 with their QEW rivals the Buffalo Sabres with a 4-3 SO win.
Through the season, Toronto has been in 10 shootouts and possesses a 6-4 record.
"It's not easy winning in the NHL and that is proven night in and night out," Carlyle said. "There are a lot of shootouts taking place and we're four in a row now. We won two and lost two. Do we like shootouts? No."
The victory does not necessarily mean he will sleep better.
"I have lots of sleepless nights no matter if we are winning or losing," Carlyle said. "I think the stress level goes up in games like this."
The Sabres had not scored more than one goal in the first period of any game this season until this game against the Maple Leafs. So after Matt Moulson gave Buffalo a 1-0 lead at 7:01 of the opening frame, perhaps Toronto felt safe. That was a mistake. Not only did the Sabres strike again in the first -- exactly 52 seconds later -- the goal came from John Scott. The Sabres gigantic enforcer who now has two goals in his 200-game NHL career, had not tallied since Nov. 15, 2009.
Scott played a solid game for Buffalo with 12:39 ice time on 19 shifts. He had three shots on goal and had two hits while taking one minor penalty.
Buffalo's Matt Moulson has been among the most productive goal-scorers against Toronto since the 2009-10 season. He, along with superstars Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, have 12 goals against the Maple Leafs in that span.
Holland vs. Bozak
Injured centre Tyler Bozak is getting set to return which means the immediate future of fill-in Peter Holland may be in jeopardy. And then there is David Bolland, another centre, to consider as well. Holland, 22, continues to impress and had his fifth goal in 18 games with Toronto. He has given Toronto management something to think about in terms of possible deals moving forward. As solid a two-way player as Bozak is, Holland has a better offensive upside.
Bozak could be available for Sunday's home game against Carolina.
Living with a young buck
The Maple Leafs got a taste of the good and the bad of leaning on a young defenceman against the Sabres. Jake Gardiner, whose play has been up and down this season, struggled in the first period. On one shift he gave the puck away four times. Strangely enough the stats sheet on had him down for one. Nevertheless, he bounced back in the second period with his second goal of the season; a slapper from the left point. A seven-goal scorer in his rookie season two years ago, Gardiner needs to find the net more often if he is to become a full-fledged top-four defender.
Leave the crease, pay the price
Toronto goalie Jonathan Bernier wandered from his crease to chase down a puck early in the third period and was nailed by Buffalo captain Steve Ott who was in pursuit of the disc. As much as Maple Leafs fans were upset about the fact their goalie was shaken up on the play, the Buffalo player did nothing wrong.
By the way, the 31-year-old Ott is an unrestricted free agent after this season. If the Sabres are unable to re-sign him, he will cash in big-time on the open market. He earns $2.95 million US this season and with the cap going up, he can expect to get a healthy raise.
Toronto's Phil Kessel scored his 18th goal of the season (first in six games) against fellow American Ryan Miller at 19:43 of the second period. Early in the third he had a great chance for another goal, but was robbed by Miller. The two shared a laugh after the play. They are likely to be teammates for the United States at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia in February.
Kessel played his best game in a while. He looked less than energetic in the first period, but picked up the pace as the game progressed.
Miller got the last laugh in the one-on-one battle by stopping Kessel on the first shot of the shootout.
At six-foot-five and 215 pounds Toronto defenceman Cody Franson isn't as physical as a lot of players his size, though he hits often and cranked Sabres forward Matt D'Agostini with a big hit in the third period. With two assists in the game Franson has now hit the 20-point plateau for the fifth straight time in his career.
Mike BrophyMike Brophy brings a wealth of hockey writing and broadcasting experience to CBC Sports, having covered junior hockey for 14 years before joining The Hockey News as its senior writer for 17 years starting in 1992. Most recently, the Burlington, Ont., native worked as a writer/commentator at Rogers Sportsnet and as co-host of The Power Play on SiriusXM. Mike has written four books, including My First Goal, featuring 50 players describing their first NHL goals.
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