It was pretty obvious as early as November that Buffalo Sabres probably weren’t going to end their playoff drought this season and that it was going to be another lost year in their ongoing rebuild.
It’s been tough. At times ugly.
The exception to that has come over the past week or two as they have put together a pretty solid stretch of games that continued on Monday night with a pretty solid 5-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Buffalo has now won four of its past six games with three of those wins coming against three of the top teams in the NHL — the Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins, and on Monday, the Maple Leafs.
For Toronto the loss wraps up what turned out to be a pretty ugly road trip that saw them lose all four games. After earning at least a point by losing in overtime to Tampa Bay and Florida to begin the trip, the Maple Leafs were blown out in the Stadium Series game at the Naval Academy against the Washington Capitals then ended the trip with Monday’s clunker.
At the other end of the ice Chad Johnson stopped 37 of the 40 shots he faced for the Sabres in the win.
The loss does not really hurt the Maple Leafs all that much because they are pretty firmly positioned in that third spot in the Atlantic Division. They are only three points back of the Boston Bruins for second place, but have played six more games than the Bruins. They remain 15 points ahead of the fourth-place Florida Panthers.