Well, I’ll be completely honest; I am pleasantly surprised today. I really am. To be honest, I didn’t see the Sabres winning today. It wasn’t the best win in the world, but I, like every other Sabres fan, will take it.
After taking a frigid hike into the arena, we started scrounging for food, and realized that the arena couldn’t sell beer until noon. So, after getting to our seats, finding food (getting beer at noon) we were ready for the game.
it was a very slow start for both teams. Even my wife turned to me and said that she wasn’t having a hard time following the game, and that she thought both teams weren’t playing a 100% speed. Foligno opened by playing a fairly physical game, but needed to reel it in a little bit after his 2nd penalty within 6:03 into the game. However, it was nice to see someone stand their ground in Buffalo instead of caving to physical play.
Steve Ott got the season started for Buffalo by receiving a beautiful pass from Pominville and let his 1-timer go and Buffalo cashed in on the penalty to Nicklas Grossmann. Surprisingly, this wasn’t the only power play goal Buffalo would ring up. Buffalo’s power play was shaky, but they cashed in when they needed to on the power play today.
The period ended fairly uneventfully. Buffalo killed a couple penalties, but looked very uneasy doing it. The Flyers cashed in on the power play later in the 2nd period. Couturier beat Miller and tied up the game very early in the first period at even strength. After Robyn Regher took a tripping penalty, Claude Giroux let a one-timer fly that beat Miller on the power play to give Philly a 2-1 lead. I’ll hit on this later, but the 2 Flyer goals are extremely related.
Thomas Vanek got the game all tied up with a power play goal of his own as he received a great pass from Drew Stafford, walked in alone on Bryzgalov, pulled him down, and slid the puck past him. The second period ended 2-2, and remained tied until Tyler Myers jumped on the scoresheet receiving a great pass from Ennis, and snapping it past Bryzgalov with 5:03 remaining in the game.
As much as I don’t like Cody Hodgson, I was glad to actually see him rush in on Bryzgalov to push the puck past him. I didn’t see him as someone who would crash the net, but he did a nice job after Vanek came in on the breakaway, Bryzgalov made the initial save, and Hodgson shoveled in the rebound. Vanek ended the game with his second of the season, putting it into the empty net late in 3rd to give Buffalo a 5-2 win.
Personally, I think the scoreboard isn’t that accurate of how the game went. There were some positives and some negatives coming from this game.
First, I’ll touch on what I didn’t like. I absolutely hated Buffalo’s passive approach to playing defense in their end. They just sat there, several times, and let the Flyers cycle the puck with ease, and with absolutely no pressure. Remember how I said the 2 Philly goals were related? Both of them were a result from soft defense. Throughout the game, Philly challenged the Buffalo players when they were on the attack. Buffalo did adjust well as the game progressed, but not on defense. I’ve said it for years, Buffalo, when defending their own end, need to challenge their opponents. If they continue this passive defense, bad things will happen.
That’s just about all that I disliked. Certain players didn’t have great games (even if they got on the score sheet). It’s not worth me going into it.
I loved the fact that Buffalo finally started taking more shots as the game progressed. Initially, it was pass, pass, pass, turnover. Later, players started pulling the trigger and the puck started going in. Plus, Buffalo continued to generate the scoring opportunities into the late stages of the 3rd period. Normally, Buffalo would try to sit back and defend a lead late in the game. Not tonight. It was nice to see that aggressive play late in the game after Buffalo went up 3-2.
I also liked to see Buffalo adjust as the game progressed. Philly kept a lot of pressure on their offense. However, Buffalo changed their game to move around, and continued to cycle the puck fairly quickly once they established themselves in the offensive zone.
My favorite aspect of the afternoon, was when the Sabres wouldn’t give into to Philly’s bullying. Scott Hartnell was doing his best to try to get under Buffalo’s skin, and test the physicality of the team. Foligno didn’t take it early, and was more than willing to square off with Hartnell if the refs hadn’t stepped in. However, the best part was after Hartnell decked Ennis in the corner, and Drew Stafford, of all people, stepped in, and sent a message to the Flyers. That message? “Not anymore.” I expected Stafford to go down, but he held his own, and came out on top. Myers added an exclamation point to that after Hartnell ran Miller late in the 3rd.
In the end, Buffalo came out on top. However, this was just 1 game. There’s still 47 left. It’s just 1 game, but it’s a good start.
That being said, tomorrow I’m putting up a double header. My wife and I are venturing up to see the Amerks play tomorrow afternoon against the Bulldogs. I’ll put a recap up after that game, and follow it up with my thoughts following Buffalo’s first trip North of the border to battle Toronto.
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