On Friday night the Buffalo Sabres managed to claw their way to overtime after trailing the Dallas Stars by a pair. The same script didn’t play out on Saturday as Buffalo fell to Tampa Bay, 2-1.
We didn’t play well enough. I thought the second period, we were terrible. We didn’t play the game quick enough and didn’t make enough plays. ~ Lindy Ruff
The loss, coupled with Montreal’s thrashing of the Leafs will temporarily drop Buffalo to 14th in the East. That alone illustrates the need to get points on a nightly basis for the Sabres. Two points obviously being ideal (and somewhat necessary) but at least getting to overtime is almost a necessity.
Buffalo was hurt by a criminally slow start for the second-straight evening. The Sabres played 40 minutes of flat hockey and paid with a 2-0 deficit entering the third period. Another carry-over from Friday was Buffalo’s spark in the third period. The Sabres fired 14 of their 27 shots in the final frame and threatened to beat Mathieu Garon numerous times. Christian Ehrhoff, Zack Kassian and Jason Pominville had the best looks at a beating the career backup.
Pominville found the net for the 20th time this season, receiving a nice setup from Thomas Vanek. What else is new? Vanek was put back on the left wing with Pominville and Derek Roy after reprising his role with Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford to begin the game.
The success that Pominville and Vanek have enjoyed this season has been compounded on all year, there is no denying the pair’s stellar play. In fact, Pominville nearly provided all the scoring Buffalo needed for a tie but he was robbed by Mathieu Garon. Without help from other forwards, this team will still struggle to win games. That is another statement which has gotten plenty of circulation this year.
Ryan Miller continued his stellar play tonight, stopping 26 of the 28 shots he faced. I’ll eat some crow for thinking Jhonas Enroth should have gotten the start, but I’m not mad that Miller has continued to play at an all-world level.
The Sabres are back in action on Valentines Day as they host the Devils. Tuesday’s game becomes a must win after a point was squandered tonight.
- As Lindy Ruff said, the second period killed Buffalo. Sloppy play was evident through the first period, but the second period was particularly ugly. Steve Downie cashed in after his line with Teddy Purcell and Steven Stamkos sustained possession for some time. Downie had all day to stop Victor Hedman’s feed from the point and beat Miller. Tyler Myers was caught on the wrong side of his goalie after his partner floated well above the faceoff dot on the play.
- Giving Steven Stamkos multiple looks from the top of the circles is a bad thing. It is particularly bad when he is given a one-timer on a two-on-one. Not too many goalies are coming up with that save.
- Christian Ehrhoff was two different players tonight. He had a rough go for the first two periods but was easily Buffalo’s best defenseman in the third. He was still vicitmized more than his partner on the two goals. He was too high on the first and was way up ice on the game-winner.
- Reuniting Pominville, Roy and Vanek was the right choice. I’m interested to see the choice Ruff makes with Leino. He has been good playing in a definitive role. Placing him on the wing with Ennis and Stafford seems to make the most sense here.
- I liked Zack Kassian tonight. He just missed a beautiful feed from Andrej Sekera in the third. In his defense it was a hard sauce that was going to be real tough to handle. He was credited with three hits (I had him for four or five) and three takeaways. He was dominant below the goal line – yet again – and showed a solid jump. It was the type of game you want to see from him.
- I’ve loved Ryan Miller’s game of late. He is playing stellar hockey. He was the main reason this game was 2-1. Had Buffalo earned a win, he would have been a star. However, he is going to be due a rest soon and this is a tricky week for scheduling goalies. Mid-week back-to-back games (Thursday and Friday) along with a Sunday matinee makes things tricky. I hate playing Miller against the Penguins and I think Lindy Ruff would be wise to avoid making that decision. Start Miller all three games this week if you must, but I would keep him on the bench on Sunday.