3MI Roadtrip Recap: Toronto

(In place of a traditional “Overreactions” post, which would be extremely tardy, this is 3MI Roadtrip Recap. A mix of what the postgame blogs usually look like and a look into the trip. Hope you like it. If you don’t, well, go lay down on train tracks.)

Preamble

It’s about as close to being at the center of the hockey universe as you can get. Saturday night in Toronto. Hockey Night in Canada. Nationwide up north and on NHL Network in the United States.

The aura of the Air Canada Centre is something that has to be experienced. And it’s something that I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to experience. Multiple times. Many, many times.

So when you look at the calendar and see Sabres at Leafs on a Saturday night at the end of March, two thoughts come to mind:

  1. Going to games in Toronto is awesome.
  2. The Leafs will be eliminated from playoff contention by then.

Which brought us to Saturday, which was as big as big games could get after losing Friday night to Pittsburgh.

So me and my buddy headed up north for the day. A nice afternoon of watching hockey at Real Sports Bar & Grill across the street from the ACC and some Saturday night hockey. Got standing room only tickets off StubHub at box office price. Can’t beat it.

Sabres @ Maple Leafs
Viewed at: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

If you want to write the book called “How to fuck up your playoff chances in a game you should win,” I’ve got a suggestion for what you can include.

Making the short trip north for a showdown with a free-falling Toronto Maple Leafs, who came into Saturday riding an 11-game winless streak at home, who happened to be starting their fourth-string goalie because their third-string goalie got shelled the game before, Buffalo proceeded to back away from any decent shot at a playoff spot.

Unable to beat Ben Scrivens or shut down a struggling offense, the Buffalo Sabres dropped a 4-3 defeat at the hands of the golf-course-bound Leafs in Toronto.

Ryan Miller was unable to rebound from a rough outing the night before, giving up four goals for the second straight night. He made 25 saves in the loss.

“We scored some goals tonight, so I didn’t need to be perfect,” Miller said. “But I needed to make another save or two.”

Tyler Ennis, Ville Leino, and Drew Stafford scored for Buffalo, who never led at any point.

The Sabres were without Christian Ehrhoff, Tyler Myers and Mike Weber, requiring recalls of both Brayden McNabb and T.J. Brennan to jump into the lineup in a crucial game.

With the loss, Buffalo’s playoff hopes went from questionable to doubtful, as in a matter of 36 hours they dropped four crucial points and ceded the eighth and final playoff spot in the standings.

  • Andrej Sekera justly got ripped for the play that led to the opening goal, but in his defense, the puck was bouncing all night. It wasn’t a giveaway, it was just a careless effort. He was assuming control of the puck instead of insuring it, and was defenseless as the puck bobbled over his stick. It was one of Sekera’s worst games of the season, and there haven’t been many bad efforts out of him lately.
  • Did they resign Tyler Ennis yet? That contract is going to be pretty tricky to negotiate.
  • Brayden McNabb wasn’t quite as impressive as he was in his previous recalls. Maybe it was the rough night that the whole defense had, but he seemed shaky.
  • Ben Scrivens?
  • As soon as Cody Hodgson missed the net on that redirect in the second period, I got very nervous. That kind of chance must be buried. Hodgson had a pretty good game, too. That’s just gotta be finished.
  • The Sabres needed to come out and take the Leafs’ will to live in the first ten minutes. They were down 1-0 after ten.
  • Standing room only seems like a waste to many, but I’ll take that seven days a week in Toronto. If you’ve never done it, do it, it’s a great way to watch a game. Don’t get scared by the “no alcohol” thing either. God forbid you don’t get to spend the whole game buying $13 beers.
  • Seriously, Ben fucking Scrivens. Better or worse than Brent Johnson?
  • Alexander Sulzer played 22:40. A month ago he was the team’s seventh defenseman. Just throwing that out there.
  • Ville Leino’s toe drag is lethal. A very nice play by a guy who has not made enough nice plays this season.
  • Drew Stafford scored his 20th of the season. He scored his 10th on February 19th. 11 goals in his last 21 games. He’d be a 43 goal scorer if he kept this pace for a full season.

It was a horseshit performance all around against a team that should’ve been buried early and often.

The fans in Toronto are as friendly and passive as you’ll find towards visiting fans. They’re harder on their own team. Didn’t get one chirp the whole game until we headed for the exits, then the heroes came out. Fortunately, it was easy to talk back with Peters-esque golf swing gestures and verbal counterpoints (“Make the playoffs this fucking decade,” as my companion eloquently responded) but the brief respite from the kind nature of the Air Canada Centre was at least brief.

The one hour drive back to Buffalo was far less joyous than hoped for. While the experience, as always, was great, it would’ve been nice to come back home with a little hope.

Posted on April 1, 2012, in Sabres/NHL and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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