I breathed a sigh of relief as the horn sounded at First Niagara Center tonight and Buffalo finished the game on top, for a change. However, this was far from perfect. Buffalo played a bipolar style of game. There were moments during the game when Edmonton was in control, despite having played in Chicago last night. Most importantly, Buffalo crawled away with 2 points.
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The highlights I feel were the performances of Stafford and Gerbe, Stafford had a goal and 2 assists, Gerbe had 1 goal and 1 assist. McNabb also to 2 helpers tonight. Buffalo didn’t have to rely on Vanek and Pominville to light the lamp tonight. Vanek didn’t even get on the score sheet tonight. One thing that I haven’t hit on recently has been the fact that Buffalo’s other stars aren’t delivering. Tonight, they did. Plus, going into tonights game, this was a game that Buffalo should have won. For the first time for awhile, the Sabres won. Not in a decisive fashion as they should have, but a win none the less.
The downside was that this was a somewhat, uninspired effort. The Sabres just had 2 days off, as the Oilers were on the road last night. Buffalo should have come out gunning tonight at the Oilers. This was just the kind of game they needed. Buffalo should have skated circles around the Oilers all night. Again, that aggressive edge that Buffalo needs was non existent. Edmonton was just standing around at times, and Buffalo seemed lost as to what to do. As some of you have pointed out, certain players (like Roy) aren’t going to play with aggression. However, players like Gaustad, Regher, Kaleta, Kassian, McNabb and even Stafford at times are players who should.
Part of what I feel Buffalo needs to do in the future is bring in some bigger power forwards. If Regier, in his infinite wisdom, is looking to make a trade, he needs to bring in someone who isn’t afraid to go into the corners on the forecheck, and who is able to eliminate the man he’s covering should he need to in addition to finding the back of the net. Also, I’d like to see some more well balanced lines. Buffalo’s scorings lines can be pushed around. However, balance it out. Put Gaustad between Vanek and Stafford. Have Adam and Leino with Kassian. Add some meat to those lines to add a little extra punch, and a little protection.
Moving forward, this has been the problem for the Sabres. Buffalo hasn’t been able to string together wins recently. Looking at the schedule, NOW IS THE TIME. Buffalo is playing the Hurricanes, who just lost to the Islanders tonight and now own last place in the Eastern Conference. Then, they come home against the Jets, who are only 3 points ahead of Buffalo in the standings. Following that comes the home and home series with the Maple Leafs, who as of tonight, are only 3 points ahead of Buffalo in the standings. Then the Sabres play the Islanders, who are right next to the Hurricanes at the bottom of the conference.
This is the best time for Buffalo to get their heads on straight, get an edge, and put together a nice little win streak before going on the road. Because after that stretch, Buffalo is facing Chicago, Detroit, and St. Louis; Who are 1, 2 and 3 in the Central division out west. Add a trip to Winnipeg in there too. 4 games, 6 nights. That’s going to be brutal. Plus, a little win streak gives Buffalo some confidence going into the road trip against very good teams.
The time is right for Buffalo to improve, drastically. The schedule right now is fairly easy. Buffalo has some time to rest, and build on tonight’s game. Unfortunately, Buffalo hasn’t had back to back wins since early November when they won 4 in a row.
In the end, no matter how the game was played tonight, Buffalo left the building with 2 points as they head towards the warm weather of Carolina.
Let’s build on this win, and move forward.
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