Wild weekend of hockey for me the past 2 days. I spent Friday night in Rochester with my family taking in the Amerks vs Binghamton game. Saturday, my fiance and I ventured off to Buffalo for the Sabres vs Wild game, as Buffalo makes a push for the playoffs.
The Amerks are still looking like a solid squad. They may not have won on Friday night, but they still have a very solid unit and played a great game. Ron Rolston has the Amerks playing at their best and is finding ways to keep them in games. Rochester was down 2-0 early in the first period. As my family and I were debating how we were going to get through the game (beer was involved), Rochester bounced back. By the end of the first period, the game was 2-2, much in part to the Amerks not giving up just because they got slapped around early.
Colin Stuart displayed his leadership with netting 2 goals in the contest with Binghamton. Rochester also wasn’t shying away from the physicality that Binghamton displayed either. Plus, the other aspect that was heartwarming, was the minute that Travis Turnbull scored his 1st NHL goal, it was announced over the loudspeaker. The fans erupted like they did for Foligno a few weeks ago when he scored his first goal. The fans were just as invested in the Sabres game as they were with the Amerks. Everyone cheered as it was announced the Buffalo had taken out the Rangers in Madison Square Garden.
So if the Amerks looked good, why did they lose? Simple, you lose a face off in your own end, your opponent gets a good point shot away... that leads to goals, and that’s exactly what happened to the Amerks Friday night. In overtime, the Senators had a face off deep in the Amerks end. They won the draw back to defenseman Eric Gryba, and he didn’t hesitate, as the shot beat David Leggio to end the game.
Rochester is still in the hunt for a playoff spot. How great would that be, if Buffalo and Rochester managed to squeeze into the playoffs? With both teams playoff quests,there’s one similarity that is linking these teams.
The goalies for both teams are leading the way. David Leggio is getting the response that Ryan Miller is when they’re both announced as starting goalies. Leggio is making spectacular saves and standing on his head. Miller is doing the same in Buffalo. Both teams are rallying around their goaltenders.
Rochester is definitely playing solid hockey, despite the loss. If you can’t get to Buffalo, go check out the Amerks. Great hockey, and a great atmosphere.
There was something different about Buffalo’s game last night. Now, perhaps I’m jaded from the awesome environment against the Penguins back in February when Buffalo wailed on the Pens, but the game against the Wild was different. There wasn’t ever anything that really energized the crowd. Plus, Minnesota played taught defense. There wasn’t any really fantastic scoring opportunities. What one’s there were, belonged to the Sabres with the exception of Minnesota’s goal early on. Minnesota’s goaltending limited those chances by freezing the puck often.
Plus, I personally didn’t have any glaring concerns about the Wild. They were going up against one of the hottest goalies in the league, and have scored the fewest amount of goals in the NHL. Also, the Wild weren’t really generating a lot of scoring opportunities with the exception of the first period.
The Sabres started the game looking very lazy. They played as though they didn’t want to be in 8th place, and I was starting to get worried that they were going to do what they had done in the past situations where they could get into 8th place (or close). However, Buffalo woke up fairly quickly and started getting a lot of shots on goal. The Wild’s goalie, Josh Harding, was phenomenal in keeping the Wild in this game. Plus, the Wild had really solid defense as well. Buffalo was getting shots, but not exemplary ones.
Buffalo tried to use their speed, but the Wild restricted them a lot. However, Buffalo cycled the puck well and were at least able to get pucks on Harding. The first goal by Vanek was a garbage goal. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. A goals a goal. Buffalo crashed the net from the 2nd period on. Foligno has a spectacular redirect off of Myers point shot for the game winner. Buffalo continued to keep the pressure on the Wild, and seemed to know that the Wild weren’t going to get chances to generate offensive attacks. Even when the game was on the line, Minnesota couldn’t manage to get into the Buffalo end, and eventually took a penalty which doomed their hopes of winning.
How good is the Wild offense? They had 16 shots in the first period. Then 9 shots for the last 2 periods, total. That’s not the mark of a team that is a huge threat (no offense to Wild fans). I hope they get an offensive spark today though against the Caps.
The Wild game wasn’t some wild back and forth offensive struggle. It was Minnesota playing tight defense, and Buffalo trying to break it. There were no stand out plays, or exciting 2 on 1’s, or bone crushing hits. In all honesty, it was a slow game. If that’s what it takes to win, I don’t care. Buffalo got 2 points that they desperately needed. Who cares if it wasn’t edge of your seat action? Buffalo did what they had to in order to win the game, and that’s all that matters.
The test of the year comes Tuesday night in our nation’s capital. Guarantee, that game will be a lot more offensively minded that last nights battle in Buffalo. I stand by this, a win by Buffalo Tuesday, start thinking about the playoffs, because Buffalo will be in control of their fate.