If the rivalry between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Buffalo Sabres was not in full effect before the start of Saturday's preseason tilt between the two teams, it certainly was by the time the game had wrapped up.
The game, an exhibition contest that came with no prize other than bragging rights, was an extremely competitive contest that was back and forth from the very start all the way until the final buzzer. No team ever boasted more than a single goal lead and this in spite of the fact that the Sabres had scored 4 goals and the Maple Leafs had added 3 of their own by the time it was all said and done. Although the game was competitive on the scoresheet it was in the physical game that the bad blood between these two teams really shone through.
There were a number of hits throughout the game but it was later in the game that the level of intensity ramped up by several orders of magnitude with both teams punishing their opponents with the body. For the Leafs it was defenseman Jake Muzzin who delivered the biggest hit of the game, a hit that upended Buffalo Sabres forward Victor Olofsson and sent him flying into the Maple Leafs bench in the process. That hit from Muzzin however, although clearly a highlight reel style hit, did not draw anywhere near the ire that the Sabres biggest hit of the night did.
During the final moments of the game Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen took a run at Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Tyson Barrie, leveling him with a thunderous body check in the neutral zone. The hit looked questionable, Ristolainen could be seen sticking his leg out prior to making contact, and there were some who argued that the hit itself had caught Barrie up high. I must admit that without the benefit of seeing more angles this one is tough to call as some angles look more egregious than others.
For what it is worth, Ristolainen clearly does not feel he did anything wrong.
"He was coming down the middle, didn't keep his head up and I hit him," said Ristolainen. "He was all right. He played the shift after. All good."
Here are a few angles and you can judge for yourselves: