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Maple Leafs report cards: Ryan O’Reilly’s hat trick lifts Leafs past Sabres – The Athletic



Ryan O’Reilly must have left a few of his favourite hats back in St. Louis.

Toronto’s new star forward torched one of his former teams by picking up two goals and an assist in the first eight minutes and completed the hat trick with an empty-net goal to seal the game. With an incredible number of Leafs fans making the trip across the border, it’s safe to say that he’ll have no shortage of hats as his team returns home to Toronto.

Mitch Marner was incredible, picking up a career-high five assists. While his box score stats look impressive, he could have easily added a couple more assists with another break or two. John Tavares had four points of his own, including a highlight reel pass on William Nylander’s third-period goal, and the newly formed all-Ontario line was electric. The Sabres attempted a late comeback after falling behind by five goals, but the trio of Tavares, O’Reilly, and Marner was not going to be defeated.


Let’s get to the grades!

First star

Mitch Marner

This was one of the best games of Marner’s career, and the first period was one of his best of the season. He set O’Reilly up for two goals in the first five minutes, handing his new linemate an empty net and a breakaway. He set Tavares’ goal up a few minutes later and started the play off by forcing a turnover in the neutral zone. Three points in a period is awfully impressive, and it felt like he could have had five.

Marner could have taken the rest of the night off after a first-period hat trick of assists, but he decided to add a fourth with a secondary helper on Nylander’s power-play goal in the second. He made a wicked cross-ice pass to set up Matthews in front on a third-period power play, then set him up again for a deflection off the post seconds later, but Toronto’s star goal scorer wasn’t able to convert on either. He made a strong defensive play while defending a two-goal lead late, then picked up his fifth assist on O’Reilly’s empty-net goal. The five assists are a career-high, but it felt like he could have had eight. It’s tough to overstate how well he played.

Second star

Ryan O’Reilly

O’Reilly returned to the KeyBank Center to play one of his former teams, and he started like he was shot out of a cannon. He scored his first goal as a Leaf just under four minutes in after Marner put the puck on a platter for him in the slot. He thought that was so much fun that he decided to score another just 37 seconds later, ripping a back-hand shot past Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen on a breakaway.

O’Reilly generously took two minutes off from torching his former team, then deflected the puck over to Tavares in front to pick up his third point just over seven minutes in. He just missed the hat trick off a two-on-one with three minutes left, as Craig Anderson slid over to rob him. However, the flurry of hats was meant to be, as O’Reilly won a key face-off in the final minutes, then fought off a couple of Buffalo defenders en route to an empty-net goal. I can’t believe I’m not giving him the first star after he scored a hat trick, but Marner played one of the best games of his career.

Third star

John Tavares

Tavares entered play with four goals in his last five games, and he got on the scoresheet immediately with a couple of secondary assists. He knocked the puck down and passed it to Marner ahead of O’Reilly’s first goal, and he scored from his office to pick up his third point just seven minutes in:

Toronto’s captain wasn’t done there, as he made two wicked passes ahead of Nylander’s power-play goal in the second. With Ilya Lyubushkin on his back, he made a no-look backhand pass to give Matthews time and space in the slot. Tavares ended up grabbing a deflection in front, and when everyone in the building thought he was going to fire a shot, he fooled Craig Anderson by dishing it over to Nylander for a tap-in:

Player reports


Noel Acciari

The Leafs owned 85 percent of the five-on-five expected goals in his first two games, and Acciari picked up where he left off with a strong period. He came back to break up a rush chance from Jack Quinn three minutes in, lifting his stick just before he got a shot off. He won an offensive zone puck battle a few minutes later that led to a chance for Zach Aston-Reese, then won another one eight minutes in that led to more sustained pressure.

Acciari was a menace in puck battles and racked up six hits by the second intermission. His line’s minutes were fairly uneventful in terms of chances at both ends, but he looked like a man amongst boys for most of his shifts. He led the Leafs by expected-goals percentage once again.

T.J. Brodie

Brodie was quietly excellent early on, and it was his defensive play in the neutral zone that kick-started the sequence ahead of O’Reilly’s first goal. He had a good chance from the slot six minutes in and made a strong defensive play at the end of the second to break up a rush. Jack Quinn scored off a two-on-one when Brodie was defending, but it’s tough to blame him all that much. The Leafs dominated his minutes by expected-goals percentage, and he wasn’t just a passenger.


Alex Kerfoot

Kerfoot made a sweet pass while behind the net to set up Aston-Reese five minutes in. He drew a penalty on a partial breakaway with six minutes left, and given Toronto’s lead, the power play was better than a penalty shot. The Sabres didn’t generate many chances when he was on the ice, and he continues to look like a great fit with Acciari.

The second pair (Mark Giordano and Timothy Liljegren)

The Leafs had won Liljegren’s minutes by expected goals in five straight games entering play, and Giordano’s minutes in four straight. This pair continued their strong play once again tonight, and neither player was on for a goal against. Liljegren made a nice defensive play on the always shifty Jeff Skinner, then set up Matthews for a deflection opportunity 13 minutes into the second. He continues to look stronger and stronger every month, as he bowled over Zemgus Girgensons to shut down a rush in the second, then briefly knocked Tage Thompson off the puck in the third. Giordano’s point shot five minutes in created a rebound chance for David Kämpf, but both players were ultimately held off the scoresheet.


William Nylander

Nylander was gifted a secondary assist on Bunting’s goal, but he was otherwise left out of Toronto’s first-period rally. He did deserve to have an assist though, as he set up Brodie in the slot six minutes in, then set up Matthews for another good chance seconds later. He just missed on a good chance to start a power play in the second, but Tavares set him up for a tap-in goal seconds later to give Nylander another point. Matthews sent him on a breakaway a few minutes later, but he couldn’t find a way to beat Anderson. He finished with a team-high seven shots on goal.

Auston Matthews

Matthews didn’t find the scoresheet on Sunday against Chicago, and he wasn’t included in any of Toronto’s six goals. He had a good chance off a deflection halfway through the game, and “picked up” a tertiary assist on Nylander’s second-period power-play goal. He set up Nylander for a breakaway chance a few minutes later, but his winger wasn’t able to capitalize. Matthews couldn’t capitalize on a wicked cross-ice pass from Marner while on the power play in the third, and hit the post with a deflection shortly after. He didn’t pick up a point, but he deserved at least one or two.


Michael Bunting

With the Leafs out to a 3-0 lead, Bunting took a stretch pass from Morgan Rielly and scored on a breakaway 12 minutes in:

He didn’t stand out much outside of scoring that goal, but I didn’t love his neutral zone defence ahead of Buffalo’s second goal.


Zach Aston-Reese

Aston-Reese was noticeable on the forecheck early on and had a heavy hit on Tyson Jost halfway through the first. Like most games, his minutes were uneventful, but it’s worth noting that his line has played much better since adding Acciari.

Ilya Samsonov

Samsonov was looking for a bounce-back performance after surrendering four goals, but he was left to watch the O’Reilly line score three goals before he even saw a shot. His first shot of the game came 10 minutes in and didn’t test him whatsoever. Buffalo’s two best chances missed the net, and his best save of the period was a glove save on Mattias Samuelsson with two seconds left.

The Sabres came out motivated to start the second and dominated on the shot clock early, but there weren’t exactly a ton of high-danger chances. He was a perfect 19 for 19 through two periods, but his team did a good job of keeping those chances to the outside. He made a decent save on Rasmus Dahlin to start the third, but Buffalo’s 23rd shot of the game beat him, as Jack Quinn made the most of a two-on-one:

Samsonov was beaten again three shots later, as Alex Tuch beat him with a perfectly placed shot to the blocker side off an impressive rush:

Buffalo’s third goal came on their 30th shot of the game, as Jeff Skinner beat Samsonov off the rush:

He finished with 29 saves on 32 shots, including a stick save on Thompson in the final minutes.


The third line (Pierre Engvall, David Kämpf, and Calle Järnkrok)

Engvall’s screen in front led to an A+ chance for Kämpf five minutes in, and he stole the puck on the forecheck to set up a high-danger chance for Järnkrok to begin the second. Unfortunately, he was involved in Buffalo’s first goal, as he made an iffy turnover and couldn’t get back to break up a rush chance. He set up Kerfoot for a partial breakaway with six minutes left, but Henri Jokiharju broke up the chance by taking a hooking penalty. He also set up O’Reilly on a two-on-one with three minutes left, but Anderson robbed Toronto’s new forward of a hat trick.

The entire line wasn’t overly impactful, and they were hemmed in at the end of the first. Rasmus Dahlin made Järnkrok look silly by dancing around him to start the third, but Samsonov had his back, and the Leafs were no worse for wear. However, he made up for it by beating out an icing call and wasting valuable seconds while defending a two-goal lead in the final minutes.

Conor Timmins

The Sabres generated next to nothing during his minutes in the first two periods, but he took a cross-checking penalty to start the third. He then got caught on an iffy pinch that led to a two-on-one and a Quinn goal. The Sabres didn’t generate many chances during his minutes, but I think that was mostly because of his partner.


The first pair (Morgan Rielly and Justin Holl)

Rielly had two beautiful primary assists against Chicago and picked up another with a first-period stretch pass that set up Bunting for a breakaway goal. Unfortunately his defensive game wasn’t quite as impressive, as Alex Tuch beat him to the outside ahead of Buffalo’s second goal. His poor rush defence was on display once again while defending a two goal lead in the final minutes, as Thompson had a great chance in part because Rielly was out of position. He was Toronto’s worst defencemen in terms of five-on-five expected-goals percentage. Holl had a heavy hit on Girgensons six minutes into the second to shut down an entry attempt, but Skinner snuck by him ahead of his third-period goal.

Game Score

Final grade: A

The Leafs took their foot off the gas pedal after taking a five-goal lead into the second intermission, but they were dominant early on that it didn’t matter. The O’Reilly line scored three goals before the Sabres even had a shot on goal. Toronto’s power play looked dominant, and players like T.J. Brodie, Noel Acciari, and Alex Kerfoot impressed even though they failed to get on the scoresheet. Auston Matthews played a fine game, yet it felt like he was the second-line centre.

Plenty of Leafs fans always make the trip to Buffalo, but tonight was on another level. There was plenty of energy in the building as fans wanted to see O’Reilly play in person for the first time, and Toronto’s big addition wasted no time putting on a show. Sheldon Keefe looks like a genius for sticking with the all-Ontario second line, and while it remains to be seen what the optimal lineup will be come playoff time, the trio proved that they are capable of dominating their opposition. The Leafs didn’t get an A effort from everyone, but Marner in particular was absolutely incredible.

What’s next for the Leafs?

Heading home to take on the Minnesota Wild on Friday at 7 p.m. on TSN.

(Top photo: Timothy T. Ludwig / USA Today)

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Maple Leafs clinch playoff berth with Panthers loss to Senators



The Toronto Maple Leafs clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Monday.

The Maple Leafs (44-20-9), who clinched when the Florida Panthers lost 5-2 to the Ottawa Senators, are second in the Atlantic Division, 22 points behind the Boston Bruins and seven ahead of the third-place Tampa Bay Lightning.

It’s the seventh straight season Toronto has clinched a playoff berth. It hasn’t won a postseason series since 2004.

The Maple Leafs are led by forwards Mitchell Marner (94 points), William Nylander (81), Auston Matthews (77), and John Tavares (75). Ilya Samsonov is 24-9-3 with a 2.46 goals-against average, .914 save percentage and three shutouts in 36 games (35 starts). Matt Murray is 14-8-2 with a 2.97 GAA, .905 save percentage and one shutout in 25 games.


Toronto made several moves prior to the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline on March 3, acquiring forwards Ryan O’Reilly and Noel Acciari from the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 17, defenseman Jake McCabe and forward Sam Lafferty from the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 27, defenseman Erik Gustafsson from the Washington Capitals on Feb. 28 and defenseman Luke Schenn from the Vancouver Canucks on Feb. 28.

O’Reilly is expected back before the playoffs begin April 17. He hasn’t played since getting hit in the hand by Matthews’ shot in the second period of a 4-1 loss at the Vancouver Canucks on March 4 and was projected to be out four weeks.

The Maple Leafs have won the Stanley Cup 11 times, once each as the Toronto Arenas (1917-18) and the Toronto St. Patricks (1921-22). They are without an NHL championship since 1967.


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Canadian Bianca Andreescu retires from Miami Open match after suffering injury



Canadian Bianca Andreescu suffered an apparent leg injury during the second set of her match against Ekaterina Alexandrova at the Miami Open on Monday.

Andreescu was injured in the third game of the second set of the Round of 16 match while trying to run down a ball in the back court.  She remained down on the court, before receiving medical attention and leaving the court in a wheelchair.

Alexandrova won the first set of the match 7-6, Andreescu was up 2-0 in the second set when she retired from the match due to the injury.

The match was delayed for an hour by rain in the middle of the opening set.


The 22-year-old Canadian was playing well at the Miami tournament, entering play on Monday with victories over Emma Raducanu, No. 7 Maria Sakkari and Sofia Kenin earlier in the competition.


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Quick Reaction: Wizards 104, Raptors 114



O. Anunoby37 MIN, 29 PTS, 8 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 11-21 FG, 4-10 3FG, 3-4 FT, 3 BLK, 1 TO, 18 +/-

From the opening tip OG was a force offensively and continued to flash the self creation signs that everyone wants to see, he had a career high 18 in the first quarter and hit a lot of tough jumpers off the bounce, as well as spaced the floor with catch and shoot triples.

P. Siakam34 MIN, 19 PTS, 11 REB, 2 AST, 1 STL, 7-17 FG, 1-3 3FG, 4-4 FT, 0 BLK, 3 TO, -3 +/-

Pretty poor game from Pascal by his standards, a lot of shots seemed forced and he couldn’t finish through contact, very well, his playmaking also was muted because he seemed to be hunting his own shot.

J. Poeltl26 MIN, 12 PTS, 12 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 6-9 FG, 0-0 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 3 TO, 7 +/-

Jakob’s floaters and push shots worked wonderfully tonight and he did a great job not rushing it like he does most games, offensive rebounding was also key as well, Jakob had 6 in this game which led to countless second chance points.

S. Barnes32 MIN, 13 PTS, 5 REB, 6 AST, 3 STL, 5-14 FG, 0-2 3FG, 3-3 FT, 1 BLK, 1 TO, 10 +/-


Solid game in his first game back from injury, hit some tough looks in the paint, passing looked good tonight as well, efficiency was a bit off but we can chalk that up to being rusty.

F. VanVleet36 MIN, 28 PTS, 4 REB, 7 AST, 3 STL, 10-21 FG, 5-9 3FG, 3-3 FT, 1 BLK, 1 TO, 11 +/-

Offensive masterclass from Fred VanVleet, he was zooming all over the floor and he was really burning Washington with his outside shooting, but his playmaking shined really bright tonight as well.

W. Barton04 MIN, 2 PTS, 1 REB, 1 AST, 1 STL, 1-1 FG, 0-0 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, 0 +/-

Left the game early with an injury.

C. Boucher22 MIN, 6 PTS, 7 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 3-5 FG, 0-1 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, 10 +/-

Boucher was battling on the class yet again and often gave Toronto an extra look tonight, he also was solid as a rim protector as well.

J. Dowtin Jr.19 MIN, 3 PTS, 2 REB, 4 AST, 0 STL, 1-2 FG, 1-1 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, 14 +/-

Didn’t add a whole lot offensively but he was harassing guys on ball as a defender, and moving the rock well as well, would like to see Dowtin look for his own a bit more often

C. Koloko15 MIN, 0 PTS, 1 REB, 0 AST, 3 STL, 0-2 FG, 0-0 3FG, 0-0 FT, 1 BLK, 0 TO, 7 +/-

Koloko entered the game by recording a steal and then a block on back to back possessions, and then he continued to play solid defense in drop coverage, really strong game for the rook.

M. Flynn07 MIN, 0 PTS, 0 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 0-3 FG, 0-3 3FG, 0-0 FT, 0 BLK, 0 TO, -10 +/-

Didn’t take advantage of his looks on the floor tonight.

P. Achiuwa06 MIN, 2 PTS, 2 REB, 0 AST, 0 STL, 1-2 FG, 0-1 3FG, 0-2 FT, 0 BLK, 1 TO, -10 +/-

Another rough night for Precious as he tries to regain his footing, just couldn’t find it defensively, ran the floor in transition just fine during limited time.

Nick Nurse

Although Toronto was healthier, Nurse didn’t force anyone into minutes that were going to damage the team.

Things We Saw

  1. OG Anunoby flashed creation skills once again, in the face up game he burned Washington many times and he even hit a pull up three.
  2. Christian Koloko played some pretty nice defense, his technique in drop was really good tonight.

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