If someone had walked up to me and my fiancé as we walked into First Niagara Center Sunday and said that Buffalo was going to win, I wouldn’t have believed them. I was pleasantly surprised, and pumped as time expired, and Buffalo had disposed of the Penguins.
I was very pleased with the effort today from the Sabres. This was the balanced scoring attack that Buffalo needed. Roy (2), Pominville, Gaustad, Stafford, and Ennis, all chipped in. This is the type of team that Buffalo can put together. The majority of this season, has been all Pominville and Vanek lighting the lamp. Today was the exact opposite. Everyone contributed, and Buffalo finally got a strong scoring effort.
The highlight of this game though wasn’t the balanced scoring. The highlight of this game was the fact that Buffalo shut down the top line of Kunitz, Malkin, and Neal. Malkin and Neal each had an assist. That’s it. When Malkin and Neal can’t deliver, Pittsburgh loses. I honestly feel that this is the reason that the Penguins will not be a threat in the playoffs, even once Crosby returns. At first, I was a little concerned seeing the line of Gaustad, Kaleta, and Gerbe going up against the top line of Pittsburgh. However, they delivered very well. This line played a very aggressive style of play against the top line of the Penguins. And it worked, clearly rattling them (especially Neal).
Plus, Buffalo didn’t shy away from the physicality of the game either. Buffalo played a very aggressive game, and stood up for each other as well. Buffalo made sure that the Penguins didn’t have a ton of odd man rushes, Malkin’s clean breakaway on Miller was an exception. Buffalo attacked aggressively in their own end. For the most part, Buffalo cleared their end quickly and efficiently.
Ryan Miller also had a simply phenomenal game. He didn’t have to make a ton of saves. 24 out of 26 saves isn’t a taxing job. However, he made some pretty big saves, and very impressive saves. I think that Miller stoning Malkin on his breakaway was a swing point in this game. If Malkin scores, this is a completely different hockey game. Pittsburgh would have gotten 2 goals within 3 minutes. Instead, Miller shuts him down, and maintains Buffalo’s 3-1 lead.
I also loved the bounce back that Buffalo had in the 3rd period. Pittsburgh makes it a 3-2 game. Instead of laying over and dying, and continueing to do their patented sit on a slim lead and pray the other team doesn’t score method, Buffalo came out with guns blazing, and got their 2 goal lead back in a minute 5 seconds after Stall’s goal. Stall’s goal should have been a huge shift of moment towards the Penguins. Instead, Buffalo pounced on an opportunity, and remained in charge of the game.
What happens now? Nothing. This is just one game. As I listened to the post game comments in the car on the way home, there was a lot of talk about how Buffalo (at the time) was only 7 points behind Toronto. That, and how Buffalo is only 1 win away from leaping over the Habs, Isles, and Bolts in the standings. Yes, the playoffs are doable. But this is just 1 win. Keep that in mind.
It was great to have FNC rocking at the end of 60 minutes this afternoon. This was a great win for Buffalo, and a well earned 2 points. That’s it, for now. If Buffalo can play this way consistently, Buffalo could quickly climb up the standings...
But that’s the million dollar question... Can Buffalo play consistently from this point forward?
Side note, thanks to the gentleman who stopped by and said hello to me after the game! It’s always great to meet people who love hockey, and the Sabres
Thanks for reading!!