Rivalry in the making


Since the lockout, the Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators have had their share of big moments. From the infamous brawl after Chris Drury took a cheap shot to Jason Pominivlle’s short-handed overtime goal in the playoffs, the Sabres and Senators had their moments, and let’s be honest, it was fun. The line of Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza terrorized Buffalo, but fans looked forward to facing, and beating, the Sens.

The Sabres also had a rivalry with the Boston Bruins for a few years, catalyzed by Milan Lucic’s hit on Ryan Miller. The two teams met in the playoffs in 2010, but the Bruins won that and now with Lucic on the Edmonton Oilers combined with the Bruins declining, the rivalry has died down. Even with Jack Eichel being from Massachusetts, there’s not much there anymore.

They’ll still be division rivals, but Boston and Ottawa are no longer Buffalo’s biggest rivals. Instead, there’s another division team that’s about to be.

Now, it’s time for a rivalry with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The two teams have been basement dwellers for most of the last decade. While the Sabres have made the playoffs just twice in the last nine seasons, the Maple Leafs have only gone once over the last 11.

Teams make for better rivals when they’re both successful. For a majority of the last 10 years, neither have been. Now, they’re both on the rise. As they look to end their rebuilds and see postseason action, these two teams will be getting in each other’s way.

The two teams have acquired top draft picks and new coaches last season, which will only add to all of this. The Maple Leafs were able to get head coach Mike Babcock, one who many Sabres fans had hoped to get. Instead, Buffalo got Dan Bylsma, which is not a consolation prize in the least.

As Jack Eichel begins his sophomore season, he’ll face rookie Auston Matthews, who has all eyes on him. The two players have the potential to be franchise centerpieces for their respective clubs. The two players won’t necessarily become rivals personally, but their skills and abilities will help create more scoring opportunities.

Two more players that can add to it are from the same family. Siblings Alexander and William Nylander are highly-touted prospects that will play against each other four to five times per season. The two can create a sibling rivalry as they are both young forwards and only a couple of years apart.

The arenas have always been in close proximity to each other. The Sabres’ KeyBank Center is under 100 miles away from the Maple Leafs’ Air Canada Centre. It’s a big reason that Buffalo home games are often loaded with Toronto fans as it’s a short drive on the QEW (Queen Elizabeth Way) and over the border.

The Sabres and Maple Leafs have only met in the playoffs once, and that was during the Sabres’ run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1999, when they defeated the Maple Leafs four games to one.

Series wins:Buffalo: 115Toronto: 81Ties: 18
*An overtime loss prior to the 1999-00 season counts as a "L." A loss in overtime or a shootout after that date counts as a "T/O."

The Sabres lead the all-time series vs. Toronto, winning 111 games while the Maple Leafs have won 72. There have also been 18 ties.

Unfortunately, most of the matchups vs. Toronto this season are in the latter half, but they could still shape up to be important games, and they’ll definitely create excitement.

Here is the schedule between the teams this season:

November 3rdHomeKeyBank Center
January 17thAwayAir Canada Centre
February 11thAwayAir Canada Centre
March 25thHomeKeyBank Center
April 3rdHomeKeyBank Center

Circle these games on your calendar or mark them in your phone because they’re going to be fun to watch. Expect Toronto and Buffalo to butt heads in the near future.

Kevin Freiheit
I founded Buffalo Hockey Central in 2008 and have poured hours and hours into this site. Luckily, we have a great team of writers and designers who have helped keep this up and running despite a ton of out-of-pocket costs. We do this because we enjoy it, and we're desperate to see the Sabres win the Cup someday, but they have to make the playoffs first.
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