Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres at the quarter pole of NHL season

Dylan Cozens’ remarks spotlight Buffalo’s lack of grit as the Sabres lack consistency in play. Photo Credit: Facebook/Hockey Feed


The 82-game, per team, National Hockey League schedule has reached the quarter pole.

We’ll feature the two teams closest to us here in Niagara.

First, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and it’s the same three storylines, with the William Nylander contract situation adding a fourth.

1) Goaltending. Can Ilya Samsonov and Joseph Woll lead the Maple Leafs to the promised land? Most so-called experts and pundits say no.

2) Defense. With veteran Mark Giordano’s injury last week, the Leafs need another blueliner to bolster their blueline.

3) The Core Four, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, captain John Tavares and the aforementioned Nylander – whose contract negotiation is looming large for General Manager Brad Treliving.

Treliving offered this in his latest scrum with reporters:

“I’m not going to delve into those discussions,” said Treliving when asked about the latest with Nylander, who is on pace for a 108 point season, currently leading the blue and white with 29 points on the campaign.

“Nothing’s changed at our end. Our desire and our hope at the end of it is we’re going to get Nylander signed. And there’s a process that you go through.

“Willie’s had a tremendous start to the year. But I don’t think this is just a hot start. I think he’s a really good player. And I stated from day one here our objective was to get Auston (Matthews) signed; we got him signed. Our objective is to get Willie signed, and we’re working at it.“

Meantime, speaking of Toronto’s defense, this reporter had the opportunity to catch up with Thorold’s Conor Timmins at Leafs practice last week.

After missing Toronto’s first 17 games of the season with a lower body injury, Timmins has one assist and has a plus-3 rating in five games.

“I feel good. It’s good to be back in the rhythm of things, and it’s been good so far,” Timmins said.

Timmins has had to battle through injuries with all three NHL franchises he’s played for – the Colorado Avalanche, Arizona Coyotes and now the Maple Leafs.

“It’s definitely a lot tougher mentally than it is physically,” explained the now 25-year-old. “Physically, I try and put the work in each day, and we have great strength coaches and PT’s (physiotherapists) that are helping me get through these injuries, and I have great support from family and friends that have helped me get back fast.”

Timmins credited all three of Toronto’s veteran defensive core, Giordano, Morgan Reilly and TJ Brodie, with helping off the ice prepare for his return.

Here’s hoping the only Niagara native on the Leafs can stay healthy.

Toronto currently sports a (12-6-4) record, good for sixth place in the NHL Eastern Conference standings.

From the blue and white to the blue and gold, down the Queen Elizabeth Way and over the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie, the Buffalo Sabres who can’t seem to find the consistency to even string two straight wins together.

Many expected the Sabres to be one of the most improved teams in the league this season and end a playoff drought that dates back to 2011. Definitely not so far.

Devon Levi started the season as Buffalo’s No. 1 goaltender, but the rookie has already been demoted to the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Rochester Americans.

The injury to Tage Thompson, who scored 47 goals last season, certainly hasn’t helped, but forward Dylan Cozen’s comments from this past weekend are of concern.

“I think we definitely play way too soft. We’re too easy to play against, and we need to get a little ‘FU’ in our game,” said Cozens to Sabres beat reporter Mike Harrington after the team’s 6-2 loss in Carolina.

“I think we had more of that last year. We’re way too soft this year. I feel like we don’t kill plays. We kind of get bullied and stuff and we know we need to be way harder to play against. We’re too easy to play against right now.”

Buffalo is currently in 14th place in the NHL Eastern Conference Standings with a (10-13-2) record.  

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