5 Observations: Maple Leafs top Sabres 3-1

Posted at 10:11 PM, Sep 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-23 22:11:59-04

Different city, same result. On Saturday the Toronto Maple Leafs topped the Buffalo Sabres for the second time in as many nights with a 3-1 win.

Hudson Fasching scored the Sabres only goal late in the second period, redirecting a Rasmus Ristolainen wrist shot. James van Riemsdyk ,Kasperi Kapanen and Nikita Soshnikov scored for Toronto. 

Five observations from Saturday's game: 

First-period blues 

As the first period came to an end I sarcastically blurted out "well that was a good period of hockey." In the first frame, Toronto outshot Buffalo 12-5, but it wasn't the lopsided shot totals that were concerning. It was that Buffalo was having an incredibly difficult time breaking out of their own zone.

When the Sabres were in Toronto's zone they did a nice job cycling the puck. The issue was the Sabres had very little time of possession at the Maple Leafs end of the ice. It was just a very sloppy period of hockey for the blue and gold. 

Lehner bounces back 

After a juicy rebound that lead to a goal in the first period Robin Lehner had a strong second period, making some clutch saves to keep the Sabres within striking distance. His biggest save came late in the second period just minutes after the Sabres tied the game at one. 

After failing to convert on their own odd-man rush, Carl Grundstrom and van Riemsdyk burst into the Sabres zone, forcing Lehner to make two saves to keep the game tied. Lehner finished the night with 30 saves on 32 shots. Despite a slow start, I thought Lehner was good enough and gave the Sabres a chance to win. 

Phil Housley was very complimentary of Lehner after the game and said he's had a great camp. 

Steadily getting better

Sabres defenseman Victor Antipin has been a player talked about in Western New York for months. On Saturday he played in his first game at KeyBank Center, and despite a rough start got better as the game went on. 

Getting acclimated to the NHL game will take time. The 24-year-old defenseman is less than a week into his NHL preseason career. He's getting better every game and for the Sabres and Phil Housley that has to be exactly what the team is hoping to see. 

"Well his natural side is his right side and I see that he's a lot more comfortable over there, " Housley said about Antipin. "I thought today he had a rough start but I think he got more comfortable within our group and within our system so hopefully his game can continue to grow." 

Not his best night 

There are a lot of reasons to be excited about Sabres defenseman Brendan Guhle. That said, Saturday wasn't his greatest game. 

He didn't make any terrible, costly mistakes that standout. However, he didn't capitalize on some of the plays he normally would. Guhle has had an up and down camp and Saturday was no different. 

They like Eich

With every shift, it becomes more and more obvious how important Jack Eichel is to the Sabres' success. When the puck is on Eichel's stick good things happen and scoring chances are created. When it's not, the Sabres offense looks deflated. 

Not to sound like a broken record, but if Eichel stays healthy he's going to have an impressive season.