Get ready for the start of something beautiful.
On Tuesday, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres will face-off for the second time this season — but there’s something different this time around. Jack Eichel, who missed the Sabres first 21 games of the season is back, making this the first time he’ll play an N.H.L. game against 2016 first overall pick Auston Matthews.
Spoiler alert — I will be using a picture of Matthews & Eichel for my Observations column after the game. This isn’t an apology, just a heads up.
Sure, the national hype for this game isn’t as big as Eichel vs. McDavid, but this matchup has the potential to be something great.
Just think about how awesome this rivalry could become? Let’s start with the obvious….
-Toronto and Buffalo play in the same division.
-Both teams are loaded with young talent and should contend in the near future.
Eichel - Matthews
Reinhart - Marner
Alex Nylander - Willie Nylander (eventually)
Ristolainen - Rielly
The list goes on and on.
The next decade is going to be fun
— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) January 5, 2017
-Geographically the two teams are separated by only 100 miles, making it ‘easy’ for fans to travel into enemy territory to support their squad.
-Oh yeah, and then there is the whole U.S.A. vs. Canada thing, which certainly adds to any rivalry.
I’m not going to say that Buffalo will become Toronto’s biggest rival — that is and will always be Montreal — but these two teams just have so many stinking similarities.
The Leafs and Sabres haven’t met in the playoffs since 1999 — but can you imagine what a playoff series between these two teams would be like? I know a lot of Sabres fans who complain about how many Leafs fans invade Buffalo whenever the two teams meet and I’d bet that’d be even crazier in the postseason — but the atmosphere would be out of this world.
Hey Sabres fans, you know how you stop that invasion from happening? Don’t sell your tickets. Trust me, I don’t blame you, but Toronto fans will always be willing to spend top dollar to come see the Leafs play. At the end of the day, an expensive ticket in Buffalo might not even get you in the door at the Air Canada Centre.
Sure, this may not be that great of a rivalry right now -- but it absolutely has the potential to become something special. Just think about the Sabres 'rivals' since the last playoff series with Toronto.
For a while, Sabres fans hated the Carolina Hurricanes and Ottawa Senators but there's always been something irritating to Buffalonians about the Maple Leafs. Just ask any hockey fan in Western New York and they'll tell you that their blood boils when the Leafs are good.
But right now that's exactly what this 'rivalry' needs -- two teams that are chasing each other in the standings and playing competitive hockey for years to come. Is that going to happen? I'm not sure -- but on Tuesday will get a preview of something that will be fun to watch for the next decade and that's pretty cool.
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