Between the Pipes: Moulson shines in Ruff’s return

Matt Moulson must be some kind of magician. Because with a flick of his wrist he made a legion of fans forget about Thomas Vanek hours after they were bitching about his departure.

At least that’s the narrative I’m going with.

Moulson’s Sabres debut was a strong one. He scored a pair of goals – one beauty and one in a “dirty area” – and helped energize Buffalo’s new top line alongside Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis in a 4-3 loss to the Stars.

Moulson’s debut was likely overshadowed by the return of Lindy Ruff and another tick in the loss column as the #SuckForSam sweepstakes continue. Perhaps Moulson’s start helped to draw some attention away from Ruff’s return considering last night’s loss was one of the few, shall we say, competitive contests the Sabres have played all year.

The issues were still there as Buffalo’s in-zone coverage continues to resemble some sort of union of mini-mite group puck chasing and a glitchy version of Lemmings for Windows 95. Never was it more evident than on Vernon Fiddler’s opening tally in which Mikhail Girgorenko and Drew Stafford were left spectating as the Dallas forward crashed the crease to stake the Stars to a 1-0 lead.

While the Alex Goligoski goal was simply a well-placed snipe. Both Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn potted goals off of atrocious Sabres turnovers that managed to create two odd-man opportunities below the faceoff dots. To give up not one, but two situations such as that is something that shouldn’t occur in the NHL.

Ryan Miller

Miller was the direct beneficiary of the beautiful in-zone coverage from the Sabres and was simply unable to bail is team out as a result. While I can find no fault with the goal keeper on Benn’s tally, the Sabres needed a save from him on either Fiddler or Seguin’s goals. So for the “Miller doesn’t make big saves” crowd, you can rest easy that one of those two goals can be placed in the Miller Trolling File for later use.

Overall Miller didn’t put in a bad effort. But as has been made perfectly clear this season, strong games from the Sabres goaltenders will result in a three-goal (or more) evening. Goligoski’s goal was a beauty that came through a late screen as Erik Cole breeze by Miller at the right time, helping disguise a near perfect shot. No complaints on that or his attempt to diagnose a three-on-one within a seven-foot area on Benn’s goal. Bottom line is you want him to be better on at least one of the two layups the Stars were given in the first, no matter how hung out to dry he happened to be.

What he did well

In his defense, Miller was tested mightily over the first 40 minutes. Again seeing close to a game’s worth of shots in the opening two frames as has been the norm. He made plenty of important saves that are likely to be overlooked due to the final score and managed to recover very well after an ugly first period.

Save of the game

His diving glove stop in the first differed from some sprawling saves in that he actually attacked the shot as the play developed. Many of those chances are more the fault of the shooter as opposed to the goalie doing something incredible, but he deserves full marks for his stop last night.

Kari Lehtonen

What he did well

There certainly wasn’t much to hate about Lehtonen’s game. He’s an agile, athletic goaltender who is active in making saves. He’s certainly not a blocking type of net minder and did a fine job controlling play last night. He wasn’t forced to do anything spectacular and he did what was necessary to get the victory.

Where he struggled

Lehtonen’s one flaw, in my opinion, is that he often relies on his agility, flexibility and pad level to make saves. He gets down early at times and can be prone to be beat high. I’d say Matt Moulson’s second tally was a good example save for the fact that the goal came off a rebound.

Save of the game

I liked his stand in the closing moments as the Sabres worked to stuff the tying goal. He held his post well on both occasions and sealed the victory for his club.

Notes:

  • I made it pretty clear above, but this is really the first game in which Buffalo lost because they needed a few more saves. As horrible as the coverage was on three of the goals, a save or two more wins this game.
  • Mikhail Grigorenko playing with competent hockey players is quite a sight. It was noticeable when he began on the wing against Florida and again on the power play last night. He plays with more kick and his creativity flashes. Give him more minutes and better linemates and I think the results will follow.
  • Why Tyler Myers didn’t chip off the glass prior to the Tyler Seguin goal is baffling to me.  Make the easy play.
  • Good on the Sabres for honoring Lindy Ruff. It was a nice video montage and I think it would be pretty easy to carry that forward with other familiar faces should they qualify for such treatment.
  • A cool note that Brian Duff mentioned on the broadcast was that the Stars last won a home game in Buffalo way back in 1997. It happened to be Ruff’s first home game as coach of the Sabres. Nice pull from the PR and broadcast departments.
  • I saw a few pockets of red and black shirts, jerseys etc. from the broadcast vantage point. Hopefully it was relatively well embraced and maybe it’s even something that could be revisited down the road.

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