I started my day off in Rochester at Blue Cross Arena to take in a Martin Luther King day matinee. The Amerks took on the Hamilton Bulldogs and while it wasn’t perfect, they walked away with a 6-3 win.
While the game was entertaining, most of the highlights were in the first period. On the first shot of the game by Kevin Sundher, the Amerks had a 1-0 lead only 13 seconds into the game. The second shot came only 53 seconds into the game by Kevin Porter, and the Amerks had a 2-0 lead. Hamilton then tried to get a spark when Zack Stortini decided to try to fight Nick Tarnasky at the 1:35 mark of the first period. At the 3:11 mark, Kyle Hagel delivered a cross-check, and McNabb threw his gloves down and those 2 danced for a few.
So let’s recap. Only 3 minutes, 11 seconds into the game, 2 goals for the Amerks, 2 fights. I picked the right game to go to, right?
Rochester couldn’t cash in on the Hagel cross-checking penalty, but Frederick Roy still found the back of the net only 34 seconds after Hagel was released from the sin bin. 3-0 Amerks.
Hamilton crawled back into it after Louis Leblanc scored on a power play goal after a Biega tripping penalty. WIth 3:08 left in the first period, Stortini pulled the Bulldogs within 1 of tying the score. 17 seconds later, Gabriel Dumont and Kevin Sundher started a verbal battle before a face-off, which then turned into a physical battle as soon as the puck left the refs hands.
After 1 period- 3-2 Amerks. 3 fights.
Joey Tenute tied it up 24 seconds into the 2nd period, and Rochester’s dominate play had disappeared.
However, Rochester remained resilient. Rick Schofield scored just a minute 23 after the Bulldogs tied it up, and Even Rankin got the 2 goal lead back at the 8:42 mark of the 2nd period. Brian Flynn added an exclamation point on the power play with 5:45 to go in the 3rd, and Rochester skated away with a 6-3 victory.
Couple side notes on this game. It’s very obvious after today’s game why Luke Adam remains in Rochester. He does not want to get his hand’s dirty. Several times, he failed to deliver hits on Bulldog players, and seemed content to just tap them while they cycled with the puck. He contributed heavily to the several minutes late in the 2nd period when the Bulldogs were applying great pressure to Rochester. Several times, teammates would come over to deliver a hit on the Bulldog player with the puck, who Adam was supposed to be covering. If Buffalo is trying to put a tougher team on the ice, I’d say that Adam will be in Rochester for quite awhile, or he may become trade material.
Finally, while he did give up 6 goals, I was impressed with Robert Mayer (Bulldogs goalie) to a degree. If he can stop giving up soft goals, he’s going to be impressive. He made several sprawling saves that were almost Hasek material. He did give up a few soft goals though.
In the end, a good solid victory for the Amerks.
Now, we venture into the Buffalo Sabres vs Leafs game. I’m breaking this down by periods.
End of 1st- 1-0 Sabres
Well, that was a pretty interesting period. I’m not sure what I think right now, but I’m glad that the Sabres are sitting on top of a 1-0 lead.
I like the fact that once the Sabres are able to obtain the Leaf’s zone, they’re able to cycle, and the defense contributes with timely pinches. It resulted in the first goal for the Sabres that was scored by Cody Hodgson. This goal is proof of the fact that it’s good to be in front of the net. Ehrhoff lets his shot from the point go, and it is clearly going to go wide. Then, it hits Hodgson in the arm, and it’s in the back of the net. Right place, right time.
Buffalo’s penalty kill looked decent, but not as much as the Leaf’s power play left a lot to be desired. As I watched the Leaf’s 2-man advantage, that lasted just about 2 minutes, I was confused as to the plan of attack. They didn’t try to get the puck down low, and get Miller moving in the net. The shots came from the point, and came with a clear line of sight for Miller. If you can see the puck, it’s easy to stop it. I feel that Miller killed that penalty, not the Sabres.
I still watch Buffalo have a good aggressive forecheck. The back check leaves a lot to be desired. It was apparent on the penalty kill, that Buffalo wasn’t going to challenge the shooters. They seem to have a passive approach to defending their end. If you’re going to bulk up in size, don’t just utilize it on the attack, use it to defend your end. At this point in time, (and I realize we’re only 4 periods into the season), that’s the one thing I’d like to see change. Challenge your opponent in your own end.
End of 2nd- 2-0 Sabres
2 words at this point in time ladies and gentlemen as to why Buffalo’s ahead- Ryan Miller. He’s the reason that this game is 2-0 right now. Buffalo is being out shot 21-11, and they are having a very difficult time in their own end. This is where I saw this team as weak. The style of play in their own end needs to change and change quickly. This will not be able to continue, especially against the Hurricanes Thursday and Friday. Shots that shouldn’t normally be allowed are being taken with ease by the Leafs. I don’t want to see Miller do this all season. Buffalo needs to fix this quickly. The cure? Play a physical style of defense. Don’t play this passive style. Didn’t work last year, won’t work now. Don’t let the Leafs, or anyone for that matter, have all day to decide what they’re going to do with their opportunities.
Buffalo is cashing in the few opportunities that they’ve had. Pominville got the best scoring opportunity of the game, and he didn’t hesitate receiving the pass from Vanek. Plus, I’m seeing Buffalo doing a good job of drawing penalties in the 2nd period. They’re keeping their legs moving, and making sure that the Leaf’s have to haul them down to stop them.
Finally, great response after Kessel ran over Miller. Kaleta didn’t hesitate, and went straight after him. That’s what’s been missing from this team. This can’t be just a “flash in the pan” occurrence. This needs to continue all season long. Keep it up.
Final- 2-1 Sabres
I was having flashbacks as this game came to a close. How many times did Buffalo blow a close game last season that they should have won? I just heard Rob Ray state- “They’ve got to be pretty happy with the way they played this hockey game tonight.”
Rob, you and I weren’t watching the same game.
Yes, I know it was a win. It was an ugly win.
Buffalo was atrocious on face offs (44 for Toronto, 19 for Buffalo), on generating shots (34 for Toronto, 20 for Buffalo), and terrible defending their own end. The Sabres won this game for one reason, Ryan Miller. He’s the sole reason Buffalo won this game.
Again, I hear Brian Duff of MSG state that Buffalo had a “pretty good all around effort.”
What game were was he watching?
The message is simple leaving this game. Improve your face-offs. Also, and more importantly, improve your play in your own end. There’s no excuse for this type of play. Get aggressive in your own end, don’t just let your opponents walk around and do what they want. Fix this, and fix it quickly. I know I mentioned that Luke Adam is lacking in physical play in Rochester. After watching the Sabres effort tonight, I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts on defense Thursday against the Hurricanes.
In the end, it’s a win, and that’s all that matters. However, and I know the season is young, but if this continues, you aren’t going to see many more Buffalo wins.
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