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5 Observations: Maple Leafs top Sabres 4-3

Posted at 10:50 PM, Jan 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-17 23:30:23-05

It’s funny how fast things can change, isn’t it? On Monday the Buffalo Sabres played one of their most complete games of the year. Just a day later the Sabres squandered a two goal lead to the Toronto Maple Leafs, falling in the battle of Matthews vs. Eichel 4-3.

Five observations from Tuesday’s loss:

Epic Collapse

Before Tuesday the Toronto Maple Leafs were 0-8-1 when trailing after the first period. Buffalo had a 2-0 lead after the first 20 minutes but apparently that wasn’t a big enough cushion for the blue and gold.

Toronto stormed from behind and scored three goals on four shots in the first ten minutes of the second period, chasing Robin Lehner out of the game. These ten-minute stretches of crap can’t keep happening.

We saw this against the Lightning last week, again against the Hurricanes and on Tuesday versus the Maple Leafs. I don’t have an explanation for why this keeps happening, but it needs to stop.

This wasn’t a must win game, but it was close. The Sabres are chasing the Leafs in the standings and need all the wins they can get. This will be a tough one for the Sabres to bounce back from.

No help from the goaltender

What an ugly span by Robin Lehner, eh? What in the world is this by the way? C’mon man.

I won’t blame Lehner for the absolute snipe by Auston Matthews, but he’d absolutely like the first two Toronto goals back, especially Matt Martin’s. Every once in a while, a team will need their goaltender to bail them out and Lehner couldn’t do that on Tuesday.

To be fair, Lehner has played well this season but Tuesday may just be the worst he’s played as a member of the Sabres.

The Sabres are in a world of hurt if their goaltenders start to come back to reality.

Going up (early) on a Tuesday

The Buffalo Sabres needed to come out of the gate fast and they did.  After 20 minutes the Sabres had a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Kyle Okposo and Evander Kane.

Heading into the game no team had more first period goals than the Maple Leafs — so the Sabres couldn’t afford to sleepwalk through the first period. The Leafs and Sabres both had nine shots in the first period — but Buffalo controlled play for the first 15 minutes. Aside from a late push by the Leafs, Buffalo was the better team in the first frame.

Apparently, none of this mattered. After the first period the Sabres had to like their chances — but then they fell apart like a cheap stool.

That happened to me once, that’s the only reason I thought of that comparison.

Shoot Jack, shoot

Just minutes into the game Jack Eichel glided down the ice like a gazelle and found himself on a two-on-one with Marcus Foligno. I’m all for a player looking to make the perfect pass, but I’d love to see Eichel just fire one at the net.

Eichel did the same thing with Sam Reinhart less than two minutes into the second period. While this one wasn’t as bad — I still would’ve preferred a shot.

These aren’t the first times Eichel has opted to pass instead of shoot, and it certainly won’t be the last. Just shoot the puck, Mr. Eichel, you have an absolute laser.

Hot, hot, hot.

Evander Kane now has 12 goals in 21 games. Not bad when you consider he didn’t have a goal in his first 12 games.

Here’s the thing about Kane — every once in a while he does something really questionable in Buffalo’s end of the ice, but there’s no denying that he brings speed and physicality to the lineup. Even after missing the first month of the season Kane is on pace to finish the year with 25 goals.

I know there’s plenty of games left but there’s no reason to think that Kane can’t keep contributing offensively. Ugh, what a bust.

Bonus —

Auston Matthews is the real deal.

I’m not even just talking about that gorgeous shot — but he plays so smartly at both ends of the ice. He’s responsible defensively and is almost always in the right spot. He and Eichel will be compared for years to come, fair or not. After an average performance in the first Sabres and Leafs meeting of the year, Auston Matthews showed Buffalo fans what he’s all about.