After leaning on Ryan Miller for over a week, Buffalo’s offense woke up and provided the necessary scoring support that has been absent for a number of games this season. Of course, the Sabres did play on their heels for most of the final two periods.
Darcy Regier was likely smiling big after Ville Leino put in a pair of goals and Brad Boyes picked a corner to chase Robert Luongo after only six minutes. Christian Ehrhoff scored the winning goal and Cody Hodgson continued to display the skills that Buffalo has been lacking down the middle all year.
Granted, Zack Kassian played like and angry junkyard dog all night and picked up a late goal to keep the game interesting. The game Kassian showed last night was the type of hockey Buffalo drafted him for. That attitude was in and out during his time with the Sabres. Whether his game was inconsistent because of his attitude, coaching or lack of veteran leadership; is unknown. In my opinion it is a combination of all three. I have to think his immaturity played a role, especially considering the assumed core of the team. Add to a system that appears to be predicated on position and puck control over physical domination, you have a perfect storm for a bust.
The Sabres win gives them a chance to tie Winnipeg tomorrow night and snag a playoff spot for the first time in what seems like the entire season. The playoff push has gotten awfully interesting just over a month removed from the Fail for Nail campaign.
- Ryan Miller’s tremendous shutout streak was finally ended in the second period. He played good hockey last night, it just wasn’t as dazzling as the previous handful of games. He was a difference maker, particularly in the second period. He needs an equally effective game on Monday before he earns a break mid-week.
- The Sabres need to find a way to stomp their foot on the throat of their opponents. Too many times during the season Buffalo has staked a two or three-goal lead only to let their opponent back in to tie or steal a victory. Credit the entire roster for the third period clamp and grinding out the win. Still, this is not a way to win games. The Sabres were bitten in the playoff last year and I can assure you the same will happen this year, too.
- Alexander Sulzer was quietly effective in his Sabres debut. He and Mike Weber play a similar game. I think Sulzer has better puck skills than Weber, while Weber plays with a little more jam. It is a good position to be in compared to how poorly Marc-Andre Gragnani played this year.
- To that point, Gragnani looked like he wanted to prove a point was is still too soft to get the job done. Kassian has the physical gifts and edge to get that job done. Gragnani is a soft, expendable player and he proved that in spades last night.
- I’m glad to see Ville Leino playing well. He is not my ideal pick as a center, especially a checking center. However, he has embraced the role and was rewarded last night. His game finally turned a corner in January. He isn’t earning his pay yet, but he is getting there.
- I’m waiting to see Cody Hodgson actually get on the scoresheet. He has been terrific in all three games, but hasn’t gotten the tangible results that many fans are waiting for. Understand this, he makes the Sabres a better team today and in the future.