Between the pipes: Pominville strikes in return to Buffalo

Yet another loss befell the Buffalo Sabres last night as they continue to trudge through the opening weeks of the 2013-14 season.

With an 0-6-1 record, the Sabres are firmly entrenched as the league’s worst club at the moment and it doesn’t appear they’ll be climbing out of the cellar anytime soon. The Sabres did, however, make some strides last night in stymying their opponents chances and generally playing quality defensive hockey. Not only did the Sabres manage to keep their opponent under 30 shots, but the Sabres actually led in the shots on goal department when the clock hit zero.

It didn’t matter much as former Sabres captain Jason Pominville registered the game winning goal on a pretty passing play late in the second period, giving the Wild their second lead of the game after Brian Flynn had knotted the score.

The game itself was something of a dud. Buffalo managed to keep the Wild quiet, despite losing the possession battle for long stretches. Meanwhile, Buffalo’s 23 shots weren’t littered with chances, leaving 60 minutes of relatively quiet hockey between the two teams.

Postgame criticism fell more on the organization as opposed to the players themselves as Pominville wasn’t honored or acknowledged during the game and many fans and media members alike felt that he should’ve been given some sort of recognition. As someone who isn’t prone to swoon over lost or departed players, I’m very much on the fence as to if this is a big deal or not. After all, the guy no longer plays for your team and was sent away in an effort to rebuild the roster. However, I think that they probably should have done something for Pominville.

Something small is really all that was needed. He got a nice ovation on his goal and simply showing his face with a small “welcome back” graphic would’ve been the bare minimum but went a long way, too.  I feel Pominville falls into a small category of former players who deserve some sort of hat tip for their services rendered as a way to show the organization still cares about them. For a club promoting themselves as Hockey Heaven, I certainly think that gesture would’ve gone a long way with other players. Just look at what Jeff O’Neil and Matt Barnaby said on the matter.

Brian from WGR probably had the best idea I saw: Play the 2006 OT game winner and then show him on the board. No need to go overboard but acknowledge him and then move on. Instead they chose to not do anything and wound up pissing people off. We’ll see if Lindy gets the same treatment when he comes to town.

Jhonas Enroth

What he did well

Last night was kind of a dud for both goalies. They weren’t tested much at all and really kind of coasted through most of the night. Enroth was steady for the Sabres, though. He made 18 saves including a couple very impressive stops when the Wild began to press in the second period. While he didn’t need to be spectacular, Enroth played a quiet game, was effective with his movement and gave his team a quality start.

Where he struggled

The Kyle Brodziak goal was awful. I realize he was partially screened, but it was a weak goal that really should’ve been stopped. The second goal was perhaps more a product of a great passing play and shot than anything else. Getting beat short side is never ideal but I don’t think he deserves too much fault for that. Again, he didn’t go anything particularly poorly but wasn’t stellar either.

Save of the game

Enroth made a pair of side-to-side saves in the second period that were both quite impressive. His first was the most impressive of the two as he made a big move to kick out a left-pad save on a Minnesota power play.

Josh Harding

What he did well

Although he saw more shots than Enroth, he wasn’t necessarily tested more than the young Swede. If nothing else, Harding remains one of the best dressed keepers in the league as his entire set up is absolutely spot on. As for his play, Harding minimized mistakes and was as steady as his team needed him to be.

Where he struggled

I thought the rebound he kicked out on the Flynn goal was rather poor. I’ve noticed that Harding will occasionally make some awkward decisions in trying to stop the puck that gets him in trouble. In such a quiet game it’s really splitting hairs trying to find much fault for either netminder.

Save of the game

His windmill glove save on Cody Hodgson was a thing of beauty. While he didn’t actually catch the puck, it was a fine save and the best of the night between either goalie.

Notes:

  • The inability of the Sabres to string passes together is disconcerting. When you’re talking about professional hockey players, there is no reason for there to be as many passes behind players, in their skates or simply overshot. It amplifies the fact that they’re playing relatively uninspired hockey as a group.
  • Sabres fans are going to need to wake up to a few realities this season. One, abandon all expectations you have for the goaltenders. They’re going to play well and not get results due to lack of goal support. Two, this is not a team that is supposed to make the playoffs, so stop pretending that they’re one move away from being a contender.
  • A woman sitting behind me yesterday said , “I don’t even care if Stafford scores, I just want to see a goal.” So we’re now rooting against players on our teams. How embarrassing of a fan base is this that we openly want failure from certain players? There’s a different between wishing a player to be traded off the team because you don’t like them and hoping that they fail because you dislike them.
  • How great are Minnesota’s uniforms? Heads and shoulders the best in the league. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a full set of unis as nice as theirs?
  • From the actual hockey played department: Zemgus Girgensons was far more noticeable last night. He was running around and making plays. His apple obviously helped, but it was a nice step forward for him.
  • Any chance we might be able to see Mikhail Grigorenko with, I don’t know, offensive players? I love Johan Larsson centering Flynn and Girgensons, how about leaving those three together and toss Grigorenko with Ennis and either Foligno or Stafford?
  • For those clamoring for Rolston and Regier to go, I wouldn’t hold my breath. They’re not out to win the Cup this year, so struggling to a few wins isn’t going to seal Rolston’s fate. The same goes for Regier, as silly as his continued employment may be. I’m giving Rolston an expiration date of Thanksgiving. If they haven’t started to improve by then, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him out.

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