I went into this weekend of Sabres hockey rather skeptical after the past few performances of the team. Despite only losing by one goal in a lot of their games, it was not a accurate depiction of the game as a whole. Buffalo was not playing good hockey, and there was no reason to think this weekend would be any different.
However, 2 games and 4 points later, I was pleasantly surprised.
Buffalo 2, Calgary 1 Final;
Mike Robitaille summed it up best after this game. Buffalo played a full 60 minutes. Not half a game, not 2 periods, not even 55 minutes, but the whole game.. They controlled the whole game and the only reason Buffalo didn’t win 8-1 was because of Henrik Karlesson. Buffalo let fly 43 high caliber shots on him, and dictated the entire game. They controlled the game even after Calgary managed to come with in 1 of tying.
However, Buffalo then had to hop on a plane and head to Ottawa, and didn’t have a morning skate today...
Buffalo 3, Ottawa 2 - Final, OT Shoot Out.
Buffalo not having the morning skate today helped out. At the end of this game, Buffalo pretty much controlled what happened, with momentary lapses in their own end. The majority of the last 10 minutes of regulation and overtime, Buffalo was getting great opportunities, and keeping the Senators hemmed in their own end. In the end, Roy made a fantastic move (in addition to Vanek and Boyes) to give Buffalo the win in the shootout.
Numerous things stand out from these 2 games...
First; Buffalo got great pressure from every single line that stepped on the ice. From Vanek to McCormick, every line was playing very well. Everyone is delivering and getting very good scoring opportunities. I will touch on this in a future blog, but I would rather have a team where all 4 lines are a threat the light the lamp, compared to teams with 1-2 all-stars and a mediocre team behind them. Teams with 4 solid lines are the teams that win championships. I was particularly impressed with the Roy, Stafford, Leino line. Leino seems to be just on the verge of getting his scoring touch. He made numerous good plays, despite only getting an assist on Roy’s goal. Again, everyone is contributing.
Second- Solid goaltending from Enroth. I’m not sure I agree fully with benching Miller the last two games. However, Enroth did deliver both nights, more so against Ottawa than against Calgary. The goals that he gave up against Ottawa were instances where the Sabres team around him didn’t help. Keep in mind that goalies are only good as the team in front of them. However, Enroth has made some pretty spectacular saves, and has 2 more wins under his belt.
However, I still believe Miller is the goalie for this team. These 2 games hopefully gave Miller time to focus. I would expect him to start against Winnipeg on Tuesday night. I wouldn’t want Miller to get rusty sitting on the bench. Miller is the starting goalie for the Sabres.
Third- Buffalo’s power play, albeit no goals scored the past 2 nights, has looked simply phenomenal. Both power play units moved the puck well and continue to keep the pressure on the opposition. I know that it’s discouraging that Buffalo hasn’t put the puck in the back of the net, but if they continue to play this way, the power play will deliver. They look consistent, and cycle the puck rapidly, creating opportunities. In time, this power play will deliver.
Four- To continue in the vein of special teams, Buffalo’s penalty kill is the best. I’m not saying this as a biased fan. I’m saying this because Buffalo has the #1 penalty kill in the NHL. I’m used to watching Buffalo’s power play chase the puck down the ice 83 times on a 2 minute power play and get no shots. However, it’s really nice to watch their opponents do it for a change. I think this is the best part of this team right now. Power plays are the best opportunities (for some) to capitalize. Buffalo’s penalty kill is able to keep games close, and eliminate opportunities for their opponents. The penalty kill looks solid, and are doing an excellent job of eliminating chances. I can’t remember the last time that I saw consistent pressure on a power play for a Sabres opponent.
Overall, with the exception of some weak moments tonight against Ottawa, Buffalo has played 2 solid efforts each night, and look like the team we all know they can be. Buffalo has played well balanced hockey over the last two games. I look forward to seeing if Buffalo can extend their win streak to 3 against Winnipeg on Tuesday night.