With a record of 27-55-8 all-time against the Sabres in Buffalo, one would think the Leafs might alter their game plan heading back into the Queen City. It's possible the Leafs were planning a different approach to this game but it only took the Sabres 2 minutes to suck them into playing their game in their barn.
The record tells the story. The Sabres have the Leafs number at home. They begin by pushing them around and targeting key players. Last night Kessel and Kulemin were on the radar. When both were victims of big hits Toronto players began to take the bait. First it was Luke Schenn. Credit him for standing up for his teammate, and winning the fight, but unfortunately it was the beginning of the end as far as any game plan may have gone. With Schenn in the penalty box already, Colton Orr wanted his time in the spotlight. He got it by trying to seek vengeance on Paul Gaustad for an earlier dirty hit. Credit might be given to Orr for this as well, if it weren't for the fact that this was exactly what the Sabres were trying to accomplish. Orr was accessed 4 minutes for roughing and 2 for unsportsmanlike conduct. Three minutes later and two goals down, Toronto was right where Buffalo wanted them. The only thing left was to watch Ryan Miller intimidate the Leafs by getting in the way of almost everything they threw at him.
Perhaps the most alarming part of this loss was the fact that Buffalo played exactly how the Leafs should have. It was like they were playing on the road. They came out hitting hard. They for-checked relentlessly, and they put lots of bodies in-front of Jonas Gustavsson. Given the fact Toronto went into the game without Mike Brown, a very good "in your face" type player, and an excellent penalty killer, it was distressing to see how easily they were lured into Buffalo's trap.
It wasn't all bad however. The Monster stopped pretty much everything he saw. Luke Schenn had another strong game. Phil Kessel looked engaged with seven shots and a short-handed goal, and the Leafs didn't quit. Fortunately they won't have long to dwell on this loss with a game tonight. Lets hope they have a better plan for the Senators and can stick to it!