Road to McDavid, Eichel paved with embarrassment

Tyler Bozak, Phil Kessel, and James van Riemsdyk all returned to top form, scoring for Toronto to get a 4-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres. The Leafs allowed only 10 shots on goal, tying a team record.

TORONTO — This wasn’t just bad. It redefined awful.

Not only did the Buffalo Sabres lose handily to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday, their putrid performance earned an entry in the record book of both organizations.

This was the kind of night where loyal Sabres fans were reminded of exactly how painful the road to Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel promises to be.

After watching his team muster just 10 shots in the 4-0 loss — the lowest total in the franchise’s 44-year history — Tyler Myers intimated that they wouldn’t have beat an AHL squad with that effort.

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A few feet away, teammate Josh Gorges fumed.

“I don’t know who we think we are or what kind of team we think we are or what we’ve accomplished to be playing like that,” he said. “We haven’t done nothing to be out there playing a cute game. We don’t deserve to play a cute game.

“Until we figure out that we have to work and scratch and claw and grind and dig in order to give our chance to win, then we’re going to have nights like this.”

Playing against a Leafs team that rarely outshoots anybody, Buffalo struggled to clear the puck out of its own end long enough to make a line change. In fact, if it weren’t for goaltender Michal Neuvirth, this would have been even more humiliating.

He didn’t surrender a goal until Toronto’s 29th shot — a breakaway by Tyler Bozak late in the second period.

Even after three more pucks got past him during the final 20 minutes, Neuvirth could still hold his head high while walking to the bus.

As for everyone else? Well, let’s just say there weren’t any positives to take from the effort.

“We’re not going to win one game like that … something’s got to change here,” said Myers. “We can talk about it all we want after games, we can have as many meetings as we want, until we as a group make up our minds that we’re going to play a certain way — the way we have to play to be competitive in every game — it’s just not going to work.”

The toughest part of this is that it’s the unspoken plan from management and ownership. McDavid and Eichel are generational talents and a team has to finish dead last to guarantee that it will land one of those prospects.

With a tenth of the season now in the books, the 2-8-0 Sabres seem well-positioned to take advantage of that opportunity.

This, of course, will be of little comfort to the men that need to play the games, many of whom won’t likely be around when the winning eventually comes.

That was abundantly clear after a trip into the visitor’s dressing room at Air Canada Centre following Tuesday’s loss.

The Sabres had actually entered the game on somewhat of a high after a 2-1 victory in San Jose. It was the Leafs that were under intense heat after a bad home loss to Boston — some of which was alleviated with a shutout that Jonathan Bernier labelled the easiest of his NHL career.

“I’m just trying to stretch and stay warm, skate a little bit around and get the legs going,” he said of the long periods of inactivity.

It must have been an awfully quiet bus ride back down the QEW for the Sabres, especially with the realization that there are still 72 games to go. More nights like this one lie ahead.

What’s most amazing about Buffalo’s rough start is that it has managed just 10 goals over 10 games so far. No NHL team has managed that few in the last 77 years.

Asked what it’s like to be dominated as badly as the Sabres were on Tuesday, Gorges struggled to settle on an answer: “I don’t even have an explanation for you. I wish I could give you something. It’s just, it’s embarrassing.”

“We had nothing,” added coach Ted Nolan. “We deserved exactly what we got.”

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