Between the Pipes: Missing 40 minutes leads to loss in Chicago

Saturday marked what may have been one of Buffalo’s most complete efforts in this young season. In skating to a 2-1 loss to Chicago, the Sabres manage to keep their opponent within reach, due in large part to Ryan Miller, before mounting the counter attack to attempt to tie the contest.

Drew Stafford tallied midway through a third period dominated by the Sabres, but Buffalo couldn’t crack the code on Corey Crawford beyond Stafford’s tally. Miller shut the door on Chicago for the entire contest, recording 38 saves on the night but came away with his third loss of the year thanks to goals from Ben Smith and Patrick Kane.

The Sabres dug themselves an early hole due to a three separate infractions in the first period and five on the night. After Smith’s deflection gave the Blackhawks a lead in the first period, Kane and the potent ‘Hawks power play made the Sabres pay for their repeated penalties.

Buffalo was merely surviving through the first two periods, as they gave up 37 shots over the opening 40 minutes before pushing back and limiting Chicago to just three in the third period. However, the damage was done at that point. The Blackhawks had a secure two-goal lead and were content to play conservatively in the third as they were closing out a lengthy run of games in a short period of time.

While the Sabres weren’t without chances, they didn’t cash any of them in which is currently growing to a plague on the season to this point. Like Marcus Foligno’s empty net against Tampa, the Sabres manufactured zone time and scoring opportunities through the third period but didn’t have the ability to finish on many occasions.

Ryan Miller

What he did well

It’s hard to say if this or the Ottawa game is his most impressive outing of the season. Miller was calm, calculated and effective for the entire contest. Miller played with a lot of patience which may have been the most impressive facet of his game. Anytime you see a game’s worth of shots through 40 minutes there isn’t going to be very much criticism for the goaltender. The Sabres crease has pretty much been the eye of the storm each game and the Sabres goaltenders have been forced to weather that storm. There are plenty of critics who seem to dislike Miller (or perhaps Enroth) for no reason than they aren’t Hasek. There’s not much more Miller could have done on Saturday without getting additional goal support.

Where he struggled

No beef for Miller on this night. He was a dominant force and is literally the only reason the Sabres had a punchers chance in that game. It seemed like he expected a one-timer from Kane on the second goal, which caused him to attempt a slightly awkward save, had he been able to stay upright in his butterfly slide he could have possibly made a better move to stop the shot.

Save of the Game

Considering there are 38 to choose from I have to say there was a glove stop in the second period that he made through a screen of at least one player that was very impressive. That may not be the best save he made on the night, but it was a dandy.

Corey Crawford

What he did well

Crawford was downright dominant moving side-to-side against the Sabres. I counted five specific saves that were made on odd-man or back door opportunities which took goals off the sticks of the Sabres. He can look awkward in net at times and I think it’s because his gear looks so big on him, but he makes it work despite having the appearance of swimming in his gear most nights.

Where he struggled

Credit where it’s due: both goaltenders were nearly perfect on Saturday. Crawford played the Drew Stafford goal in a goofy way but was otherwise stellar in staring down Miller for the whole night. I’m not sure I want to say Crawford was the better goalie, despite getting the win, but it’s damn close.

Save of the Game

Again, plenty to choose from here, but his left-to-right sliding save on Thomas Vanek in the third was a huge stop. He also managed to stay in position enough as Cody Hodgson was disrupted on the rebound try to keep the score 2-1.

Notes:

  • It’s good to see Mikhail Grigorenko get a few more minutes. He cracked 14 minutes on Saturday and was able to find himself in offensive scenarios later in the game. The Sabres haven’t done a good job handling him to this point and I truly believe that providing him with a bit more offense on his wings will help his development process.
  • In case you’re wondering, Ryan Miller is fourth in shots faced with one less game than all those around him. Possession and zone time will really hurt this team for most of the year, better get used to it.
  • Eventually the Sabres are going to score four or five on night, it’s just a matter of time before some goals start go n
  • Cody Hodgson seems to have picked up right where he left off offensively last year. Four helpers already and I think he feeds off the force the Thomas Vanek is in the offensive zone. Now if they only get him to backcheck.
  • Side note: How incredibly awesome were those Ducks jerseys were last night? Awesome idea and beautifully executed.

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