Make no mistake, the Buffalo Sabres are riding on the slimmest of playoff hopes. But those hopes remain alive after tonight’s 2-1 shootout win over Boston.
Compared to the last two visits to First Niagara Center by the Bruins, this contest was quite placid. In fact, parts of the game were downright stale. The clubs combined for only 15 shots in the first period before going off for 41 over the final two frames.
Ryan Miller was superb in net once again, turning aside 35 of the 36 shots he faced. His lone goal came on a snipe by Slovakian-born Zdeno Chara in the third period. Derek Roy made a glorious pass to feed Chara on the goal. In all seriousness, it was a well placed shot that found its way past Milan Lucic and Tyler Myers at the hashmarks.
Boston’s goal shared plenty in common with that of Buffalo’s lone tally. Slovak Andrej Sekera place a wrist shot in the top corner with some traffic around the crease in the second. Tuukka Rask made 26 saves on the night.
The Sabres pretty much held on for dear life for the final 20 minutes of the game – they were outshot 15-5 in the third – and leaned on Miller to get them to overtime. Another strong overtime penalty kill gave the Sabres a chance in the shootout where the skill players came through.
This team still needs to realize that they need to score goals if the hope to even make the playoffs. Hoping for 2-1 victories is not wise. The scoring situation on this roster needs to be addressed before this playoff push can be taken seriously.
Buffalo travels to Madison Square Garden today for a matchup with the East’s best club. I understand the Sabres are in desperate need of every point, but it would be wise for Lindy Ruff to give Jhonas Enroth a game tonight while resting Miller in preparation for a lengthy road trip next week.
- Ryan Miller’s numbers have been strong since January 1 and simply dazzling since his win against New Jersey on January 24. Miller’s strong play has buoyed the Sabres as of late, regardless of the goal support he has been getting.
- I have really liked what I have been seeing from Tyler Myers as of late. He isn’t immune to errors, but his play seems to have turned a corner. Myers has been making wise choices with the puck and has shown effective play in his own zone. Just as Miller has benefited from a healthy defensive corps, perhaps the defensive corps are benefiting from Miller playing on top of his game.
- Andrej Sekera shouldn’t be left out of that praise either. Last night may have been his best game of the season. He was active carrying the puck, strong defensively and was rewarded with a goal. He has combined with Robyn Regehr to form a solid pairing for Lindy Ruff. They’re the defacto shut down pair for this club and have been phenomenal in their role.
- I realize that different fan bases interpret things differently. But if Boston fans are under the impression that the Sabres went after Marchand because he is a small target, I’d say they’re sadly mistaken. I’m not sure if Paul Gaustad’s actions were preempted by anything Marchand did, but I have little doubt he didn’t look at Marchand and decide to mix it up with him due to his size. Don’t be silly people.
- Thomas Vanek’s slapshot is pretty awesome. It is a good thing that pucks are finding the net when they come off his stick. If he was left handed that overtime chance would have been a goal. He is playing good hockey, you can’t hate what the top line has been doing lately.
- It would be great if Drew Stafford could remember how to score goals. He has the team’s two best stick handlers playing with him every night. He needs to be the goal scorer the Sabres are paying for. If he could start to finish, the Sabres would have two true scoring lines.
- I really like Matt Ellis, he is a terrific guy and a hardworker. However, I wonder if the Sabres would be better served with Paul Szczechura playing center on the fourth line. I’d venture to guess that Regier can’t risk putting Ellis through waivers. If Zack Kassian is playing I think it would be wise to provide him with a little more offensive support.