Already member? Login first!

Comments / New

Game #63: Sabres vs. Leafs Preview & Open Thread

Nov 4, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Buffalo Sabres forward Tage Thompson (72) scores a goal past Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Joseph Woll (60) in the second period at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Game 63

Buffalo Sabres (29-29-4) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (35-18-8)

Puck Drop: 7:00 PM EST, Scotiabank Centre, Toronto, Ontario


Radio: WGR-550

Know Your Opponent 

Toronto Maple Leafs 

Record: 35-18-8

Last Game: 4-1 Loss to the Boston Bruins 

Division Ranking: 3rd, Atlantic 

PP: 27.8%, 2nd

PK: 77.7%, 21st

What To Watch

1. Special Teams Elitists

The Buffalo Sabres are playing an opponent that takes the highs really well and takes the lows really poorly. This goes not only for the entire Toronto Maple Leafs’ fanbase, but their special teams as well. When they are on the power play, the Maple Leafs should be feared. They rank 2nd in the NHL, and with Auston Matthews shooting at over 20%, everything that leaves his stick should be considered a threat. They have a dynamic forward core that often leaves teams befuddled as to how the puck got moved around them in so many different ways before finding the back of the net.

As a result, it is once again a stay-out-of-the-box-at-all-costs type of situation for the Sabres. If they give this team too many chances, the Sabres will likely be heading down the QEW with another loss. On the other hand, when the Leafs are on the penalty kill, they do not have the same prowess as they do on the power play. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Ranking in the bottom half of the league, Toronto has given up 6 power-play goals in their last 10 games, according to statmuse.com. This creates an opening for the Sabres to create situations where the Leafs are forced to take penalties and then capitalize on the power play. 

2. Capitalizing on Opportunities Given in the Slot

The Toronto Maple Leafs are a team that is known to struggle in the defensive zone. Year after year they are looking for ways to bolster their backend. As a consequence of poor defensive depth, one thing that they consistently struggle with is the number of high-danger opportunities that they give up. According to moneypuck.com, they rank in the top 10 of the NHL in high-danger chances against at 5v5, which means that there is a chance that the Sabres will find themselves with the opportunity to take shots from the slot at a greater than usual rate.

However, digging deeper, I found more evidence that suggests that the Sabres need to capitalize on their opportunities from the slot. Not only do the Leafs give up very few scoring chances from medium-danger and low-danger areas in the zone, but they also rank very low on the percentage of their goals that come from rebounds. What this tells is that, surprisingly, either the goaltenders do a good job at redirecting the puck to the corner or freezing the puck, or the defenders do a very good job tying up the opposing forwards attacking the blue paint.

As a result, the Sabres should utilize a tactic that goes against what most coaches suggest. Instead of crowding the front of the net, the Sabres might be more successful if they try to find space in the slot to make the quick passing plays and get the goaltender and defender out of position to finish a tic-tac-toe play. 

3. Take Advantage of a Depleted Defense

The Leafs’ D-core is frail. They have dealt with a plethora of injuries, and as a result, there will be plenty of gaps in their play. It will cause them to rely on their top guys even more, playing strenuous minutes in all situations. While their newest addition Ilya Lyubushkin has played for them in the past, there will still be an adjustment period in regard to the systems and chemistry required in order to feel fully comfortable in the Blue and White Jerseys once again.

What this means for the Sabres is that they have the opportunity to take advantage of a team that is even more susceptible to defensive lapses than what is considered typical. Finding ways to get the puck in deep and make them as uncomfortable as possible will be Buffalo’s best opportunity for generating offensive chances and sustained time in the offensive zone. While the Sabres are not known as a very aggressive team, typically quite the opposite, perhaps employing the tactic of ‘fake it ‘till you make it’ will enable them to have a breakthrough as the end of the season nears. 

Projected Lineups

Buffalo Sabres


Jordan Greenway – Tage Thompson – Alex Tuch 

Jeff Skinner – ? – Kyle Okposo 

Zach Benson – Dylan Cozens – JJ Peterka 

Zemgus Girgensons – Peyton Krebs – Eric Robinson


Rasmus Dahlin – Henri Jokiharju 

Owen Power – Connor Clifton 

Ryan Johnson – Jacob Bryson 

Goaltenders: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (confirmed starter), Eric Comrie

Toronto Maple Leafs


Matthew Knies – Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner 

Tyler Betuzzi – Max Domi – William Nylander 

Bobby McMann – John Tavares – Calle Jarnkrok

Pontus Holmberg – *David Kampf – Ryan Reaves 

*Kampf will be a game-time decision


T.J. Brodie – Timothy Liljegren 

Morgan Reilly – Ilya Lyubushkin

Simon Benoit – Jake McCabe 

Goaltenders: Ilya Samsonov (confirmed starter), Joseph Woll

Think Buffalo can win this one? Buy some merch!