It was the home game Sabres fans were waiting to see. The Sabres put forth the closest thing to a 60-minute effort than they had all year long at home and it resulted in a 5-4 victory over the Leafs.
In terms of entertainment value, last night was easily tops for the home schedule this season. Buffalo rode a four-goal second period to the victory. The Sabres’ three power play goals were the difference, one of the few times this season the extra man unit has been the reason for a win.
Credit to the Leafs – who are massively improved – for creating chances and carrying a good portion of the play with their speed and creativity. That is a difficult to team to corral simply because of the speed they possess on each line.
Perhaps the most impressive part of this game was that Buffalo pressed down when their foot was upon the collective throat of the Leafs. Lindy Ruff was running his usual defensive shell in the third period, an easy decision with a two-goal lead, but the team didn’t sit around and wait. While a majority of the third consisted of chip-and-chase, the Sabres stayed aggressive on the rush and had a few good chances.
Vanek’s game-winner came as a result of the Sabres not falling into a prevent defense, although they did yield the Kulemin breakaway and the Grabovski tally as well. While it wasn’t a clean third period, it was far better than the effort put forth against Ottawa on Wednesday.
Buffalo capped their five-game home stand with a 2-1-2 record, that is six of a possible ten points. Considering the way in which they lost their overtime games, the record could have been 4-1-0. While home games have been a chore this season, a .600 point percentage and that record could possibly be considered an improvement.
- Thomas Vanek, aside from that dreadful turnover, was a complete monster. He had two great goals and made up for his brief cold spell with a four-point night. A fantastic outing from Buffalo’s best player was just what the doctor ordered.
- Zack Kassian had a couple good hits and used his body well. He is a beast on the wall and in the corners. He also had that tremendous takeaway that led to Vanek’s first goal. In terms of momentum swings, Kassian’s effort on the back check and eventual apple may have been the biggest for the Sabres.
- Most Leaf fans were bemoaning the officiating last night. Not sure where they were coming from, however. The Phaneuf hit was clearly a boarding infraction, there is no debating that. Was it worthy of a major? Probably not, but the official had to make a choice then and there and he went with his gut. Considering that is the type of hit the NHL is attempting to eradicate, might help to explain why it ended up being a major. As for missed calls, that goes both ways. The other infractions in the Leafs’ parade to the box were quite obvious. Just a tough night for the boys in white.
- Ryan Miller allowed four goals and his save percentage for last night was .878. However, he was not only the best goalie on the ice, he was great between the pipes. He made some big power play stops, he had a great pad save on Kulemin prior to his PS and he robbed Joffery Lupul on the doorstep. Miller has looked like the goalie who started the season for the Sabres. By no means is that a bad thing.
- Brayden McNabb didn’t see too much ice last night. He was great in the time he was out there, but the limited time likely means a trip back to Rochester is nearing. That is unfortunate considering he has shown far more in-zone savvy than Marc-Andre Gragnani, who seems to have the uncanny ability to be horrible while still getting ice time.
- Gragnani was much better last night than he has been in recent games. His power play contributions were noticeable and he didn’t make any glaring defensive zone errors. That being said, his arrogance about his recent play is troubling and his lack of physical play is maddening.
1. Thomas Vanek
2. Drew Stafford
3. Tyler Ennis