Anyone catch that game last night? It was phenomenal, exciting, epic and thrilling! We came back from two 3 goal deficits to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-5 in OT and keep our playoff hopes alive! In the third period there was such desperation and the Sabres showed so much heart by never giving up! It was a fantastic game that pretty much saved our season, against our rivals from North of the border!
So let’s take a journey to the past, and look at some of the most memorable moments, and stats from the Leafs vs. Sabres rivalry.
It’s been dubbed the battle of the QEW a short 2 hour drive is all that separates the Toronto Maple Leafs at the ACC from the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Centre. It’s an easy trek for the fans, which often nullifies the advantage of home ice, when the opposition gets a cheer going in your home arena your generally outnumbered. But one things for sure when the Leafs and Sabres meet, you’re going to see a stellar hockey game!
No matter where these two teams are in the standings, or if the games even mean something when they play each other the best of both teams show up. The Leafs can be on a 11 game losing streak and out of the playoffs, but they step their game up and play like they’re fighting for the playoffs. In the last few years the battle of the QEW has been meaningless as the Leafs haven’t made the playoffs in 7 years, while the Sabres have been in the playoffs. Around 3 years ago the Sabres loved welcoming the lowly Leafs into Buffalo or going to Toronto, as they absolutely dominated the blue and white and it was an easy 2 points for the blue and gold. But over the last 2 seasons the Leafs have woken up so to speak, and are actually battling in the battle and winning games! I miss the days when Buffalo was almost assured 2 points!
It would appear that these two teams are becoming evenly matched, they split the 6 games this season 3-3; The Sabres wont he first game of the year in a tight 5-4 game, followed by back to back wins by the Leafs. But the games have been extremely close neither team has really run away with the games, all but 1 game has been decided by 1 goal! Since the Sabres won against the Leafs on Jan 13th the Sabres have gone 21-12-5 and climbed out of the bottom of the East, while the Leafs have been in a tailspin and find themselves mere points ahead of Montreal in 14th in the East. Two remarkable turnarounds that have these two teams going in opposite directions.
Who scores more goals?
The Buffalo Sabres have scored more goals than the Leafs in their head to head games, a major reason why has been the play of Sabres goalie Ryan Miller. In fact in the past the Toronto media has nicknamed him “Leaf Killer: Ryan Miller” as he’s been stellar against the Leafs in his career. Against the Leafs, Miller has more wins (26) and shutouts (4) than against any other team! Against the Leafs he’s gone 27-14-0 a pretty solid record with a 2.38 GAA and .924 SV% pretty solid number for the “Leaf Killer”!
The Sabres have scored 672 goals against the Leafs, while the buds have scored just 511, but these love to run the score up against each other. Take last nights 6-5 OT win for the Sabres, a total of 11 goals were scored. But let’s look back in time specifically March 19th 1981 a game that Buffalo totally dominated, a total of 18 goals were scored between the Leafs and Sabres. Buffalo ended up winning the game 14-4 talk about a butt-kicking! That would have been once exciting game to watch and cheer I wish I had been born to see it, but maybe Buffalo will do it again? I’m sure If you kept the Ennis-Foligno- Stafford line out for 20 minutes they’d pot a few goals!
All time record
The Buffalo Sabres have been in the NHL for 38 seasons and have had no problem dismantling the Leafs, they’ve played 184 games against their rivals and are 102-64-18 all time and 60-25-7 at First Niagara Centre (HSBC) talk about dominance! In 38 seasons the Sabres have won 27 season series split 3 and swept 2 and have a winning percentage of .560 against the Leafs! You can see why we haven’t really had to worry about our Canadian rivals! If that wasn’t bad enough the Sabres beat the Leafs in 11 games through April 4th 1976-October 15th 1977 a year and a half worth of games in which the Sabres had 9 wins and 2 ties and outscored them 47-22!
The largest period of dominance the Leafs have had over the Sabres was 5 games, which happened twice during the first two seasons the Sabres were in the NHL. The Leafs won the first 5 games of the battle of the QEW outscoring the new Sabres 16-5, and won 5 straight in our 2nd year in the league, great way to welcome the Sabres into the league!
Sabres vs. Leafs would be an amazing Stanley Cup final! Sadly it can’t happen until the new realignment gets voted in and two East teams can battle for the Stanley Cup. The Leafs have not been back to the Cup finals since they won it all in 1967, they did come close in 1999, but the Sabres put an end to that goal. Sadly the Sabres have not won a cup yet but they have made it to the finals twice, including the “Foot in the crease” incident in triple overtime against the Dallas Stars 1999 when they lost the series 4-2. In the last 6 seasons post lockout the Sabres have made the playoffs 4 times while their rivals have failed to make it in the last 6 seasons (not including this season!) Oddly enough these two have only met once in the playoffs, and that was 1999 when the Sabres eliminated their rivals 4-1 in the Conference finals!
Three Stars: Buffalo Sabres
Three Sabres who step up their games when they play the Leafs
Thomas Vanek has 43 career points in 43 career games against the Leafs. (22 goals + 21 assists)
Captain Jason Pominville likes to lead by example, and has sure done that against the Leafs! In 45 career games against the Leafs he’s tallied up 42 (15 goals + 27 assists) including 6 points in 5 games this season!
Then of course there’s “The Leaf Killer” who’s been lights out against the buds; 27-14-0, 2.38 GAA, .924 Sv% with 27 wins and 4 shutouts (his best numbers against any team!)
Three Stars: Toronto Maple Leafs
The Three Leafs who have stepped their game up against the Sabres.
Leafs leading scorer, they acquired from the Bruins Phil Kessel has played in 37 games against Buffalo. During those 37 games Kessel has racked up 13 goals and 20 points.
Mikhail Grabovski, leads all Leafs with 10 assists in 24 games against the Sabres.
Tyler Bozak, I’m not sure the total career points Bozak has against the Sabres, but in the 6-5 loss last night he recorded 3 points (2 goals + 1 goal)
All in all the battle of the QEW has been an epic battle that the Sabres have controlled and dominated over the last 38 years. Although the Leafs are catching up and starting to really challenge the Sabres for the 2 points, but they have a long way to go to catch up. But watching these two teams is always exciting, and who knows maybe we’ll even see some playoff action between these two in the near future and hopefully a Stanley Cup in Buffalo’s feature!
Caitlin is a former goaltender who turned journalist after a few too many concussions. She’s a Buffalo Sabres fan living in the hockey crazed market of Toronto. She’s spent time writing with Chat Sports, Fansided and The Fourth Period. Her work has been featured on Puck Daddy, Bleacher Report, Sports Illustrated and Grantland among others.