In what has become an annual traidition, the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs played a high-energy, back-and-forth, fight-filled preseason game that ultimately ended in a 6-4 victory for Toronto thanks to some iffy defense and terrible goaltending from both teams, but especially Michal Neuvirth.
Buffalo didn't have much of a chance after the Leafs scored three goals on their first six shots, but they put forth an entertaining effort the rest of the way, and managed to score both four goals and four fights on the night, as the veteran players stepped up and showed the youngsters that there's still some exciting hockey left to play in Buffalo.
Chris Stewart was the story of the game for the Sabres, scoring twice and winning a fight against Sam Carrick. Stewart's fisticuffs were actually one of four fights on the night in what turned out to be another typically spirited preseason game between the Leafs and Sabres. Stafford, McCormick, and Myers (kinda, though the refs broke it up quickly) were the other Buffalo brawlers on the night.
Stewart's excellent effort - he was all over the ice tonight - put him among a list of players who impressed, including Jake McCabe (a goal and five shots on net, led the team in TOI) Tyler Myers who looked smooth and confident (and he tried to fight), Brian Gionta (five shots), and Marcus Foligno, who seemed to have some jump in his game tonight.
On the opposite end of the spectrum for the Sabres was goaltender Michal Neuvirth. For a man fighting for a starting position in the NHL, Neuvirth was terrible on the night, letting in six goals, including three on the first six shots he faced. They weren't all his fault, with a few deflections and hang-you-out-to-dry tallies, but there were a number of saves he'd like to have back. With Jhonas Enroth already posting a shutout, the hill Neuvirth has to climb in order to nail down the starting job just got significantly more steep.
Also, Honorary Tank Driver Mike Weber was a -3, so we're picking up right where we left off last season.
The team's youngsters performed decently, with McCabe leading the way. Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov didn't do much aside from a few shots and hits, and while Sam Reinhart skated hard and had some great backchecks to go along with some nice passes, he also looked lost for stretches of the game. It's looking more and more like Reinhart will end up back in juniors, and it's also looking more and more like he needs another year before he's ready to make a big impression.
The two teams will face each other again on Sunday in Toronto, and we'll see if any of the bad blood between them spills over.