Friday, August 18, 2017

A look back at the 2016-17 Buffalo Sabres season--April

Published by, 8-17-2017

The Toronto Maple Leafs had made the playoffs once since the 2004-05 NHL lockout, and that was in a shortened season due to, you guessed it, another lockout in 2012-13. When they came back to KeyBank Center on April 3, the Leafs were in a three-way battle for second in the division with the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators while the Tampa Bay Lightning were climbing fast up the standings, joining the NY Islanders in the race for the second wild card spot.

The Buffalo Sabres were eliminated from playoff contention on March 28 so there wasn't much to play for except pride and the opportunity to play spoiler. The matchup between Toronto and Buffalo also had some interesting plot twists as Leafs franchise center Auston Matthews and Sabres franchise center Jack Eichel would be meeting again and the brothers Nylander--William for Toronto and Alexander for Buffalo--would be squaring off on NHL ice for the first time. As I wrote prior to the game, "if you cant' get up for this one, you probably don't have a pulse."

Buffalo had lost to the NY Islanders the night before on fan appreciation night at KeyBank. The generally uninspired play lead to the 4-2 defeat as the Islanders, who were without John Tavares, needed only two assists on their four goals. The highlight of the evening for the Sabres was UMASS-Lowell product C.J .Smith getting his first NHL point in his first NHL game. Smith went in 2-on-1 with Evander Kane and calmly slid a backhand to Kane who promptly buried his team-leading 27th goal of the season.

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