For this season I’m going to try and mix things up a bit for game recaps. Since the blogging community continues to be well represented at each Sabres game, I know that there will be at least one or two quality recap for each game. In addition to the stories coming from the mainstream media sources in town I’d like to try to offer something of a slightly different ilk for my game recap.
So what I’m going to work out over these first few weeks is a little different take on the typical Sabres game recap. While I’ll still provide some basic elements of what occurred, my primary focus will be on the players between the pipes for both the Sabres and their opponents with some additional thoughts added at the end. So that’s the plan for now. If it happens to be garbage I’ll regroup with something that makes sense.
As for last night, it wasn’t the most painful hockey game that I’ve ever had to sit through. Buffalo’s inability to pass and cycle the puck was rather pathetic and their overwhelming lack of puck possession resulted in yet another imbalanced shot on goal tally that saw the Lightning nearly double Buffalo’s efforts at even strength (29 shots to 16 shots).
Despite that imbalance, the Sabres managed to stake themselves to a pair of one-goal leads thanks to their previously dormant power play and were a backwards whistle away from taking a two-goal lead early in the third.
That confusing play – which wound up being nothing more than a massive screw up by the officials – really wound up serving as the true turning point in the game. Somehow the officials missed Ott playing the puck on the sideboards – how I’m not quite sure – and waited until McBain shot to call the play. All of this combined to be massively confusing not only because of the goal, but because the Bolts had managed to get a whistle on a delayed penalty of their own after the puck struck one of their skates earlier in the period. So there was already a precedent of questionably ending plays on delayed penalties prior to this play. Add in that the high stick was a pretty weak call – as Vanek and Carle had gotten tied up behind the net – and it was a very ugly turn of events.
Oh yeah, and Tampa scored on the ensuing power play to tie the game.
The loss fell on Jhonas Enroth’s shoulders and his record is now 0-1-1 on the young season as the 31 saves matched his output against the Penguins on Saturday. Enroth’s play was strong despite fighting the puck early in the contest. His stiffest tests came from Tampa’s five power play shots and he responded well.
His counterpart, Ben Bishop, wasn’t very busy and coasted through most of the game without needing to make many impressive stops. Bishop’s finest save came when he flashed his glove on Mark Pysyk in the first and he was quite busy in the third as the Sabres fired 13 of their 23 shots during that stanza.
What he did well
Just about everything, actually. He was steady throughout the evening and managed to make a handful of impressive saves as the game went along. He was particularly good over the first two periods as the Sabres were outshot 20-10 and needed their goaltender to bail them out. It’s quite obvious that Enroth and Ryan Miller will need to be Buffalo’s best players on a near nightly basis if they have any hope of notching wins this year.
Where he struggled
Enroth fought the puck a bit in the early going, particularly with high shots. His rebound control left something to be desired but it didn’t wind up hurting him and he was able to settle into a groove. Tampa’s tying goal wasn’t the highlight reel tally that they had to open the scoring and I’d certainly think he’d want that one back. By no means was tonight a bad performance, but I expect there to be games in which his rebound control results in goals against.
Save of the night
This is a tough call as his diving stop on Steven Stamkos’ wraparound was definitely the most eye-opening stop that he made. However, he made a terrific adjustment on a redirect from the slot in the first period that was perhaps a better save than the desperation paddle save in the second. I’ll say the stop on the deflection takes it as his was technically sound on the play and made a terrific reaction to the tip.
What he did well
As was stated earlier, Bishop wasn’t very busy on the evening and when he did see shots against they weren’t particularly difficult. Bishop’s size is his greatest asset and he has learned to use it well as his NHL career continues to grow. In past contests against the Sabres he’s been prone to a bad goal or two, but when he’s on, the only way to beat him is to really make him move. He was positionally sound all night and got the decision as a result.
Where he struggled
I didn’t see too many holes in his game over the course of the evening. It didn’t help that he only saw 10 shots over the first 20 minutes of the contest. I guess I’d say that he’d probably rethink selling out on Hodgson’s goal as adjusting himself in the butterfly likely would have put him in a better position that where he ended up.
Save of the night
His stop on Pysyk was impressive. He got out of his paint and stabbed the puck before being beat upstairs. The game was still young and a snipe goal could have really given the Sabres some jump.
- Being that this was my first game of the year, I have to say that I was very impressed with all the new toys the Sabres put in place for game presentation. The new projection equipment is very cool and the full effect is awesome. I like going with Song #2 as the goal song and I think everything came together very nicely last night. The one thing I noticed was that the full video open was quite long; if they could bring both portions (as they’re both very impressive) together I think they’d have something really cool going there.
- There were a trio of fights last night, which upped the overall entertainment value given that they were spontaneous bouts that spawned due to something that occurred during the play.
- Marcus Foligno’s overall physicality will be a welcome addition if he can bring it on a regular basis. That’s where he’s most effective and it can’t go dormant.
- I planned on watching Rasmus Ristolainen closer than I did, but the times that I did have my eye on him I was very impressed. He made a handful of adept plays defending in the corners and he didn’t appear to have too many nervous gaffes. He certainly appears to have the tools to be a very effective player, but we did say that about another big, right-handed defenseman once.
- Speaking of Tyler Myers, he was completely lost on the winning goal. Of course, Mike Weber and Hodgson were equally lost on the play as well. My issue with Myers is that he doesn’t appear to use his length to his advantage. He’s constantly leaning and reaching for opponents rather than allowing his size to simply engulf them. I think he looks like he’s pressing too much. If he can settle down a bit his game will likely follow.