Jhonas Enroth played big and the Sabres turned in their first 60-minute effort at First Niagara Center this season. Yet, they only escaped with a 2-1 victory over a clearly fatigued Calgary Flames team.
We made it tough on ourselves. It was one of those nights where you hit an arm or a foot, but skating-wise I thought it was one of our best games of the year.
Ruff had more than a couple of thoughts from his press conference that noted his pleasure with his team’s effort while leaving room for improvement. He noted a short handed 2-on-1 late in the first period, which amounted to little more than a routine save for Enroth, as one of the few gaffes on the evening.
The Sabres imposed their will on the Flames for much of the game. Buffalo put 18 shots on goal in the first period, followed by 19 more in the second. Had it not been for Henrik Karlsson in the first period, Buffalo would have found the back of the net four or five times. Ruff mentioned the power play created five or six chances on their own in the first. Unfortunately the extra man unit wasn’t rewarded for their effort.
Buffalo’s penalty kill was three-for-three and raised their season total to 93%, they have killed off 40 of 43 opportunities thus far.
Enroth was a big part of the victory and was somehow robbed of one of the three stars on the night. He had an easy go early on, facing only 17 shots through two periods, but turned aside 12 of 13 in the third period and finished with 29 saves. He certainly made Ruff’s decision tough going into tomorrow’s game in Ottawa after stringing together a shutout streak of 107:39 over his past three appearances.
The Sabres head to Ottawa tomorrow to face one of the four teams they are tied with for fifth in the Eastern Conference. Ottawa dropped a 2-1 game, at home, to Montreal this evening.
- Corey Tropp made his NHL debut tonight, logging 6:19 on eight shifts. He had one great opportunity in the first period when he chased down a loose puck, unfortunately he couldn’t settle the puck to get a chance on net. “I thought his energy was good,” Ruff said. “For his first NHL game, with his ice time – the fact that we had the six minutes in power plays in the first period limited the first line’s minutes – but they had some great shifts at the right times for us.”
- Brad Boyes was another player who benefited from a new role in the wake of Pat Kaleta’s suspension. Boyes skated on the wing with Paul Gaustad and Nathan Gerbe, a line that had seen some minutes late last season as well. They were very effective together and Gerbe put them on the board with an emphatic one-timer in the third.
- With Tropp skating with the “fourth line” and Boyes up with the “third” the Sabres appeared to have great balance through all four lines. Boyes, who has been fantastic since his promotion to the power play, looked right at home with Gaustad and Gerbe, giving those two some additional scoring seems like the right decision to make for the foreseeable future. While this is only one game, perhaps Ruff will put Kaleta down with Ellis and McCormick once he returns from his suspension. When asked in his presser, Ruff didn’t tip his hat as to any changes upon Kaleta’s return next week.
- For the first time all season, all six defensemen looked as if they belong in an NHL game. Not one pairing appeared to be the weak link. Tyler Myers and Andrej Sekera are very comfortable together and the remaining pairs looked to work well too.
- Ville Leino, Derek Roy and Drew Stafford comprised Buffalo’s best line this evening. The trio created Buffalo’s first goal – with a big assist to Sekera – and were dangerous for the whole night. Leino seems to have found a comfort zone with these two and there doesn’t seem to be any reason to split them up.
- For my money, you start Ryan Miller tomorrow in Ottawa. Something tells me Ruff will stick with the hot hand and ride Enroth once more. However, Miller is the franchise for a reason and is more than capable of bouncing back with a strong effort. He is due for a good game at the very least.
- Enroth had a stellar third period and made more than a few big saves throughout the night. Credit the team for limiting Calgary’s chances for most of the contest and keeping things simple for the young Swede. More games like that is exactly what Buffalo needs from their backup. It is a crime he didn’t get one of the three stars tonight.
1. Drew Stafford
2. Henrik Karlsson
3. Brad Boyes