Friday’s overtime victory certainly wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done. Two points on home ice is what everyone had been asking for. That is exactly what they got.
The Sabres and Panthers were content to let the other team roll through their system for the evening, yielding a low number of shots and fewer scoring chances. The Panthers, who beat Boston 2-0 the night before, didn’t force the issue during regulation. Their only two great chances came from Sabres turnovers. Their only goal came on a five-on-three resulting from a couple of borderline calls.
Buffalo couldn’t have generated more than five chances all night, two were goals. Both came on breakaways. Despite the lack of action, both goals were rink-long beauties.
Brayden McNabb pulled a Pominville on a harmless breakout but the rookie recovered well, took the puck off a Panther and kicked it to Tyler Ennis – all of this without a stick. Ennis connected with Drew Stafford who sent Derek Roy in alone. Jason Pominville’s winner came on a nifty feed from Paul Szczechura and Jordan Leopold.
The action between Roy’s first period tally and Pominville’s winner was certainly lacking. The Sabres did a good job bottling up a fatigued bunch and the Panthers were content with collapsing in zone and protecting the house.
Special teams were practically moot. The Sabres power play was disjointed – no surprise considering the number of skill players missing – they were 0-for-5 and could barely set up in the attacking zone, let alone generate chances. The penalty kill was sound, yielding the five-on-three goal was practically an inevitability given the time on both penalties. Although the special teams arrow pointed to the Panthers at the end of the day, it barely mattered given the way the contest played out.
- Ryan Miller made 22 saves. Few were difficult tests, but it was a sound home effort. He had two beauties on the Panthers’ best opportunities; a partial breakaway in the first and a rebound chance on a three-on-two in the third. Good effort from your starter.
- Marc-Andre Gragnani kept digging his grave with the F’N Center faithful. He had a few early gaffes, particularly on the power play, and looked tentative at many points. He had one bad turnover that was rang off the crossbar by Stephen Weiss. Gragnani is looking more like an AHLer than many of Buffalo’s call ups.
- Paul Szczechura is one of those Matt Ellis-type players. He has some NHL tools, but there are attributes that hold him back. Regardless, he has three points in three games this year. I like what he brings to the table, definitely a serviceable extra forward.
- Brayden McNabb was described as the best player on the ice for the Sabres by his coach. McNabb’s meteoric rise since his second-last year of junior is exciting. He is developing into a nasty force on the back-end and possesses the skating and puck skills to be a solid two-way threat. He looks like a player cast in the mold of Mike Weber/Robyn Regehr, just with more puck prowess.
- It is easy to overlook Jordan Leopold, but he is a calming force on the ice. He plays such a simple game defensively and is beyond capable of contributing on the front-end. What a great signing he is turning into.
- The walking woudned list may get a little longer. Corey Tropp missed most of the game after being labeled in the first period and Jochen Hecht missed the latter portion of the game after blocking a shot.
- Something needs to be done about the Sabres’ top line. Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville have gone silent with Jochen Hecht as their center. If Lindy Ruff has to put Derek Roy between them, so be it. The top scorers from early in the season need to be shaken from their recent slumber.
- Sadly the First Niagara Center resembled a library yet again last night. The music levels seemed low – which could have been a result of my seat location – and the choices were quite varied. The new intro video is fantastic, but the continued use of KISS 98.5 music choices is crowd killing. The use of #Sabretunes is smart, but it needs to stop if it is the source of some of these questionable songs.
1. Jason Pominville
2. Derek Roy
3. Jason Garrison