A hungry Sabres team played on their toes and took it to the Maple Leafs from puck drop to the end of the game.
Score: Sabres 5 | Maple Leafs 1
Shots: BUF 31 | TOR 30
Buffalo Sabres Goals: Jacob Bryson (1), Victor Olofsson (8), Tage Thompson (23), Jeff Skinner (21), Kyle Okposo (14)
Toronto Maple Leafs Goals: Rasmus Sandin (4)
Plus 1: Olofsson Heating Up
Marty Biron predicted during the first intermission that Victor Olofsson would be a player to watch in the next period. Marty was right on the money as Olofsson was rewarded with a rebound that he was able to bank into an open net to give the Sabres their second lead of the night. Since Olofsson broke his long streak without scoring a goal he has looked noticeably better. There has been a stronger shoot first and straight line mentality to his game, which is very encouraging to see given his RFA status at the end of the year. Olofsson was robbed by lady luck later in the period as he took a shot that beat Mrazek, but rattled off both posts and unfortunately bounced away from the Maple Leafs net.
Plus 2: Top Defensive Pairing Looks Good
Jacob Bryson was given the opportunity to join Dahlin on the top defensive pair and did not disappoint. Bryson’s speed plus Dahlin’s agility and puck handling were on display throughout of this game. Bryson, who has the all of the traits to be an effective offensive defenseman, scored what was surprisingly his very first goal of the year. He took shot from the point that ricocheted against a passing Maple Leaf and into the back of the opposition’s net during the Sabres first power-play. Dahlin and Bryson had some solid moments where they looked to be in sync with one another and often covering for the other when pushing the play. If only Bryson was right-handed, however I would be hard-pressed to say that he looked out of place playing on his off-side.
Plus 3: Work Ethic Beats Pure Talent – Adding To The Win Column
No slight against the Sabres, but on paper the Maple Leafs have more talent on their roster by a fair margin. Can a single Sabres player match the talent level of players like Matthews, Marner, Tavares, Nylander, and Reilly? Dahlin is a maybe, and other young talented players like Thompson, Cozens and Krebs are still turning the corner to hit their full potential. In this game the Sabres out-worked the Maple Leafs, and their compete level is what propelled them to snap their losing streak and beat Toronto. What’s more impressive is that this was a road game for the Sabres, and that did not deter them from dictating much of the play throughout the game.
Tage Thompson continues to be consistent and maintained his hot streak of putting up points. He battled to score the Sabres third goal of the game. If he continues to play at this level it will only make the O’Reilly trade look that much better. I am very curious how Tage will perform next season as that will be his contract year, and given how well he has performed this season after being moved to the center position he looks like he’ll be deserving of a very significant pay raise.
Who can’t help but love to see Jeff Skinner fired up?! This is the type of player that the Sabres wanted to see game in and game out when they signed him to his big money deal. Still very difficult to argue the cap hit, but given the Sabres have 20 million in cap space, currently not a huge concern for the team. The Sabres are getting quality play from the veteran goal scorer, and I’m rooting for this trend to continue for the duration of his contract.
Craig Anderson looked solid in goal tonight. He made a number of quality saves in addition to keeping calm and collected when the Leafs were applying pressure in the offensive zone.
Cozens was noticeable throughout the evening, he displayed a high level of effort and drive that showed during multiple shifts. This was especially evident on his primary assist on Okposo’s goal. Also, do need to recognize the effort that Okposo put into the game, and it was no surprise that he was able to capitalize on the opportunity created by Cozens to continue his encouraging year.
As a side note, I do want to give a shout out to the Ottawa Senators for committing to play the Ukrainian National Anthem prior to their home games. Kudos to them in showing support for the people of Ukraine.