Over their storied 50 year existence as a franchise, the Buffalo Sabres have worked their way into more than a few rivalries with opposing franchises.
No rivalry holds more clout with the organization than the rivalry with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Despite facing the Boston Bruins (294 games) and Montreal Canadiens (284 games) more times throughout their franchise history, the hatred among Toronto and Buffalo’s fanbases finds itself amplified - likely due to the quick 1 hour and 57 minute drive down the QEW to KeyBank Center.
A mixture of the aforementioned short trip, coupled with Buffalo’s recent struggles and a welcoming secondary ticket market, there never is a shortage of fans from Toronto at the KeyBank Center.
Toronto has had a bevy of success when facing Buffalo recently, grabbing the victory in seven of their last ten meetings, including five straight victories. Buffalo last found success against Toronto with a 3-2 victory on March 26, 2018.
With their recent struggles in mind, it should be noted that Buffalo has historically had the edge against Toronto. In 214 games, Buffalo has a win / loss record of 115-72-18-9 (Win - Loss - Tie - Overtime Loss).
As we look back before looking forward, we are reminded of some wild matchups between Buffalo and Toronto.
There was the unprecedented preseason line brawl on September 22, 2013.
Going back even further, we are reminded of one of the greatest enforcer rivalries of all-time - Rob Ray versus Tie Domi. This fight was from back November 21, 1996.
Even more recently, games find themselves to get quite chippy.
Each game between the Buffalo Sabres and the Toronto Maple Leafs feels like a playoff game, no matter the respective position of each team.
Nothing less will be expected this week, when Toronto rolls into Buffalo the day after Thanksgiving for the first half of a home-and-home.
One big thing that must be mentioned are the wonderful expats, who annually descend back upon Buffalo for the Thanksgiving holiday.
These people see their families and friends, they fill up on delicious food and then they turn their focus onto the Buffalo Sabres.
It is no coincidence either, the Buffalo Sabres have been able to lend themselves to their fans on the holidays, with a game happening the day before or day after Thanksgiving every season since 2013.
As a reminder, there was no hockey in November 2012 due to a lockout.
These expats find themselves riled up and ready to cheer for their hometown team. Mix that in with the traveling Maple Leafs fans. What a powder keg the KeyBank Center could potentially be on Friday afternoon, when the puck drops shortly after 4 PM.
When it comes to talking about Buffalo and Toronto, it is easy to get wrapped up in the pomp and circumstance - as one can tell by all the words above.
We have not even talked about either of the current teams on-ice.
For the Maple Leafs, it is a baptism by fire for head coach Sheldon Keefe.
Keefe, 39, was in his fifth season as head coach of the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies before being promoted to the same position with the Maple Leafs.
Down on the farm, Keefe had great success with the Marlies. Under his tutelage, the Marlies won 199 of 319 regular season games, the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy (AHL’s top team) twice and won the Calder Cup in 2018.
Safe to say, the guy can coach a professional hockey team.
Yet, just three games into his NHL coaching career, Keefe will be introduced into the very spirited Sabres / Maple Leafs rivalry.
Offensively, Auston Matthews (14 points in 11 career games), William Nylander (11 points in 15 career games) and John Tavares (36 points in 30 career games) all seem to thrive on playing the Buffalo Sabres.
One big offensive key will be missing for Toronto though, as forward Mitch Marner is set to miss the game after suffering an ankle injury earlier this month.
As for Buffalo - their big three of Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Jeff Skinner have enjoyed success against the Toronto Maple Leafs in their career.
In 13 career games against the Maple Leafs, Eichel has tallied 16 points (10 goals, six assists). The aforementioned 16 points are the second-most Eichel has scored against any team in his career. Eichel has 23 points in 14 games against the Ottawa Senators.
In 18 career games against the Maple Leafs, Reinhart has tallied 15 points (six goals, nine assists). That point total is the third-most Reinhart has scored against any team in his career. Reinhart has 19 points in 19 games against the Florida Panthers and 16 points in 17 games against the Ottawa Senators.
In 28 games against the Maple Leafs, Skinner has tallied 20 points (six goals, 14 assists). Toronto is one of eight franchises that Skinner has amassed at least 20 points against in his career.
Safe to say, Buffalo’s big guns enjoy the spotlight that Toronto brings with itself.
We find ourselves locked in for a great holiday weekend - Buffalo sports fans have themselves a Bills game Thursday on Thanksgiving and then the Sabres / Maple Leafs on Friday and Saturday.
What a treat.
At the end of this, we will be thankful for a very quiet, relaxing Sunday to recover from the three-day Thanksgiving stretch.
Looking to get to this matchup? StubHub has your tickets.
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