Things got ugly quick for the Sabres last night. Columbus scored just 1:51 into the contest and managed another early goal in the second period as well on their way to a 4-1 win.
While the Sabres received a highlight reel tally from Thomas Vanek, there wasn’t much else to take away from the loss that set Buffalo back to 0-4-1 on the season. The Sabres added three more fights in a contest where they were badly outpossessed and outshot (33-27) yet again.
The first three Columbus goals – all scored in the first period – found their way behind Ryan Miller with little resistance offered by the Sabres skaters as Cam Atkinson and Marian Gaborik each tallied little more than tap-ins during the opening stanza.
Atkinson’s tally, a rebound off the crossbar, came with Tyler Myers spectating the play from beside the goal scorer. Nick Foligno scored the team’s second goal with an assist from Myers’ stick and ultimately Mike Weber’s skate before Gaborik deposited a two-on-one in which Weber entered the net before the puck did, effectively eliminating his goaltender from the play.
For the Sabres efforts, they nearly hit the 30-shot plateau but again didn’t offer many tests to their opponent’s netminder. Buffalo’s second line has been all but invisible this season with the vast majority of their chances coming off the sticks of their top line. Vanek and Cody Hodgson – who appears to deserve credit for playing injured – have been Buffalo’s lone offensive threats as the rest of the forwards continue to acclimate to what’s becoming unfamiliar territory (the attacking zone).
Saturday night shouldn’t offer much of a reprieve for the team as the Blackhawks will certainly be expected to steamroll the inferior opponents the Sabres will likely provide.
What he did well
The first period didn’t do any favors to his overall performance, his goals against average or to the opinions of the legions of #hockeyIQ rich fans who launch their criticisms of Miller at every turn. However, I thought Miller settled his game down well at about the midpoint of the second period and was a far more effective netminder over the final 30 minutes. When he’s at his best, Miller is diagnosing the play early and making difficult side-to-side saves look routine. He did that later in the game and I certainly give him credit for settling in after a start that would have left most goalies pressing for the rest of the contest.
Where he struggled
He certainly will want the fourth goal back. He didn’t corral the initial rebound well and the shot that beat him wasn’t necessarily unstoppable. While I couldn’t tell if it changed direction, I’d say he could have done better there. I also felt that he really started to press after the fourth goal. He eventually settled down, but when he starts pressing he isn’t effective. Luckily he worked out of that and into a groove later in the game.
Otherwise I can’t find much fault in the other three that beat him. He could have probably done something different on the first goal but it wouldn’t have kept Myers from watching Atkinson score. Meanwhile, he got help from both his defensemen in deflecting a centering pass behind him on the second tally and while Weber completely wiped him out on the two-on-one.
Save of the game
Side-to-side glove stop on Ryan Johansen. It was a beautifully technical play in which Miller not only beat the puck to the back pipe, but he made a big move from the passer to the man who took the shot.
Who starts next?
Chicago is kind of a no-win situation that could potentially be a serious shooting gallery for whoever starts. Given that they’re playing three games in four nights (Sabres betting lines) you’ll see both goalies soon. I’d go back to Miller on Saturday as his game will benefit from more use.
What he did well
Based on his play this could be a very long section. Bobrovsky is an incredibly nimble and active goaltender. He can sometimes overplay pucks moving across his body, but when he’s on he is a tough goalie to solve. He made a number of in-tight saves when tested and kept himself steady the rest of the way.
While I don’t know how often you might say he was tested, he was certainly the best goalie on the ice last night.
Where he struggled
Based on his play I felt that Bobrovsky was tremendous. Again, he didn’t face too many difficult situations, but he was steady when he did. Sure, Vanek’s goal beat him low but I can’t lay too much blame on him there. A great outing for the Blue Jackets tender.
Save of the game
There was a sequence in the second period when Vanek and Hodgson generated two or three very dangerous chances on the doorstep and Bobrovsky handled each of them. It was a great battle.
- I have to think Tyler Myers is in line for a healthy scratch. Not only has he been below average, but I think the Sabres want to at least give Nikita Zadorov a few games before sending him back to London. A reprieve for Myers would open the door for the rookie.
- I’d like to see a greater commitment from Ron Rolston to giving Johan Larsson and Zemgus Girgensons a checking role. Brian Flynn probably isn’t the best linemate for them simply because of his own youth, but I know those two have the foundation to be awesome two-way players, I’d like to see that cultivated this season.
- What’s the ceiling for Mark Pysyk at this point? Could he look solid due to the struggles of those around him? I am buying in on him full-go at this point. He has slid into a top pairing with Christian Ehrhoff and I like his chances to develop.
- This nose dive is probably incredibly disturbing to fans who only really invested in the Sabres starting in 2006, but for those who were paying attention in 2003, this is about par for the course. It’s going to take a while (there’s a post coming later on that very subject).
- The “Fire Darcy” chant was interesting to hear and I have to think Ted Black and the rest of management will have to really start considering a change if the team continues to show how poorly constructed they really are.