Three Stars: Sabres (6) vs Leafs (4)

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The Leafs kicked off a five game homestand Saturday night as they hosted the Buffalo Sabres on Hockey Night in Canada. They were coming off a 3-2 shootout loss in Boston against the Bruins. The blue and white were hoping some home cooking would help get them back into the win column. Unfortunately, it did not. Despite a great performance from Matthews and Marner, they ultimately came up short. 

First Star – Auston Matthews 

Another hat trick. Three hat tricks in 11 games. 11 goals in 11 games. That’s the kind of start the Leafs franchise player has had to the season. He was a dominant force the majority of the time that he was on the ice. He played a total of 18:53, scored three goals, fired six shots on goal, had three hits, and also went 78.6% in the faceoff circle. It’s incredibly unfortunate how little of a reaction came from the fans in attendance as they barely threw any hats onto the ice to celebrate another hat trick from their superstar. It has to be very frustrating for the 26-year-old Arizona native, he put three goals on the board for his team yet it was wasted. It still wasn’t enough as they came up short once again. 

Second Star – Mitch Marner 

Despite facing harsh criticism to start the year from some parts of the fan base and media, Mitch put forth an outstanding performance Saturday night. He played a total of 18:11, scored a goal, and added three assists giving him a four point night. He also had five hits as well as a takeaway. It is simply an incredible performance from the blue-and-white winger. His goal was outstanding from start to finish. Jarnkrok collected the puck just inside of the Leafs blue line where he found a streaking Marner through the neutral zone with a dart of a pass. Marner collected the pass just outside of the Sabres blue line which sent him in all alone and he made absolutely no mistake ripping it past Sabres rookie goaltender Devon Levi. Like the Matthews performance, this was a fantastic performance from Marner that went to waste. 

Third Star – Alex Tuch 

The 6’4 220lb Syracuse native seems to always play a factor in games against the Leafs. This time around he chipped in with two goals in the Sabres 6-4 victory. He played 21:38, scored two goals, fired five shots on goal, blocked two shots, and also had three takeaways. The impressive thing about Tuch, besides his physical presence whenever he is on the ice, is the fact that he can be used both on the power play as well as the penalty kill. He is an incredibly versatile player, and some would argue that he would make a great captain for the Sabres. If the Sabres find a way to make the playoffs this year, I fully expect Tuch to be an absolute force for them as I think he is perfectly built for playoff hockey. 

The Leafs will host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night as their next opponent on this homestand. Reports say head coach Sheldon Keefe is hoping blue liner Jake McCabe will make his return to the lineup at some point this week. The stress level around Leafs Nation is percolating and I feel like if they lose Monday night, several portions of the fan base might completely blow up. If the blue and white continue to struggle will Keefe find himself on the hot seat? Will Treliving be forced to make a move to try and shake things up for his group? Only time will tell.

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