The Sabres shutout the Islanders last night 3-0, avenging their 5-0 loss at the Island Saturday night.
My partner Kevin already gave a recap of the last night's game, but here are some quick thoughts on the game, and some insight on a few key players:
Thomas Vanek: "On Switch" Has Been Flipped
-This was Vanek's best game of the season. The telecasters pointed that out during the intermission reports and after the game. TV dominated when he was out there and needs to keep rolling. Head coach Lindy Ruff however needs to give him more than a paltry 11 minutes of ice time.
Vanek was the least played skater on the ice. For a forward who had a goal, an assist and generated two scoring rushes, that sure doesn't add up.
Vanek proved he was capable of playing like he did early last season, before breaking his jaw. He show cased great speed when he burst through two defenders and went on a break, generating a golden scoring opportunity. He's deceptively fast; he doesn't move his legs as quickly as other players on the ice, but his powerful strides propel him, giving him a deceptive speed. Vanek also displayed he's more of a playmaker than people give him credit for. Anyone catch the pass he put right on Stafford's stick on the 2 on 1? Too bad Stafford shot it wide and missed a wide open net; Drew needs to BURY those chances.
Vanek flipped the "on" switch last night, and here's hoping he continues to play like the All-Star he can be. This team is so much more dangerous when Vanek is in top form.
Tyler "Titan" Myers
-Myers rebounded after having a couple so-so efforts. He was sharp, moved the puck well and played solid d. The Buffalo forwards were quick to come to his aid last night whenever he was aggressively forechecked by NY. The Islanders' aggressive forecheck makes it hell on defenders, so it was nice to see the forwards come back and aid the dmen. Myers still isn't moving his feet the way he was in the beginning of the year though. I'm thinking the schedule of NHL play may be getting to his body. It's all part of the learning curve.
Captain Craig Rivet
-Rivet has seemed a bit "off" for a few games now. Anyone else picking up on this? He just doesn't seem to be making good decisions with the puck, and seems a little erratic. Perhaps he's battling the flu?
-Montador is starting to shape up. I like him. He's energetic and has played solid d the past few games. He'll also surprise you a few times a game and skate the puck up. Not too shabby. The first few games of the season I wasn't sold on him, but the more I see of him the more I've grown to appreciate his game.
-Im much more impressed with Sekera this year than last year. He was held in high regards in some hockey circles last year as "promising"; I wasn't sold on that. This year however, I really notice remarkable improvements in his speed and skating ability. The kid can HAUL. He's also playing more aggressively this year, pinching whenever he can and even attempting a few big hits He got caught last night on a risky pinch, but that's a chance sometimes worth taking. Let him play his game, and we'll see what he can develop into.
My, My Miller
-Miller was fantastic, and if he continues at this rate, it's plain to see he'll be a top candidate for the Vezina. He's 9 and 1 with a 94.1 SV% and 1.69GAA. If he continues at this pace, he should be an easy lock as starter of the US Olympic team.
Goose + The Grind Lines
-This team really missed Gaustad, and it was great to see him back on the ice. The 4th line is so much more effective with Goose DOMINATING faceoffs. The 3rd and 4th lines are the reason this team is having such success.
They continually bring it to the other team. Matt Ellis is one of the unsung heroes on this team.
Timmy Kennedy also had another excellent game. This kid is fearless on the ice, and is willing to take a beating to get a scoring opportunity. He has a bright, bright future as a Sabre.
Jochen Hecht and Mike Grier also continue to impress. Hecht played an excellent two way game, and continues to dominate along the boards down low when in the opposing team's zone. When he gets that puck, he just refuses to give it up. Grier played outstanding on the PK, chasing the Islanders back into their own zone several times. He had a very solid night.
Good Ole Jeanneret
-RJ was having ALOT of fun last night at the game. Im thinking he brought his own special brew. It was the most energetic I've heard him in quite some time. Anyone catch his comments on Marty Biron? HILLARIOUS. "Marty has turned into a goon!"
The Take Home Message
Overall, it was a great game. The Sabres dominated most of the night, especially at the faceoff circle. Roy, after scoring his 1st goal of the season, won all 14 of his faceoffs. The last Sabre to win every face off in a game was Curtis Brown back in 2001. Gausted won the vast majority of his faceoffs as well, and leads the league in faceoff win percentage.
The take home message of the game: The Sabres had great success last night because they played like a disciplined team with a game plan, and stuck to their system
. Unlike the Saturday shutout loss to the Islanders (in which the Buffalo forwards skated too far up the ice and allowed Islander forecheckers to really pressure our d), the forwards stuck close to the defense for the most part, making it easier to make quick short passes up the ice. This Sabre squad played like a TEAM last night, and when they play their system, they're very difficult to beat.
All in all, a great effort by the Sabres. Here's looking to hosting Philly on Friday.
James "Defacto Capo" Ehrmann