Between the Pipes: Sabres throw away another quick start

Yet another clunker befell the Sabres on their first trip to Philadelphia during the Suck For Sam campaign. For the second-straight game the Sabres drew first blood only to see their opponent run away with a regulation victory.

It should be noted that if you’re a fan who, at any point, clamored for the team to tear it down and get the first pick, regulation losses are a primary part of the blueprint.

Thursday’s loss was highlighted more by undisciplined play than plain and simple bad play. Buffalo’s steady stream to the penalty box allowed the Flyers to rack up 31 shots through 40 minutes and 46 shots for the entire game.

Both goaltenders played quite well and the possession and shot totals ultimately favored the victors in a 4-1 victory.

Ryan Miller

It’s been a while since I’ve done a game breakdown (for various reasons) and I’m glad that this was the game I’m coming back with. Buffalo got a full effort from Miller and typically 42 saves are more than enough to get a team two points. However, a poor read on his part and then a bad bounce was all that it took to turn the game around for Philly.

His thought process on the first Philadelphia goal was odd and led to a tap-in for Matt Read while the following two goals rested on the shoulders of others on the ice and less on the Buffalo goaltender.

What he did well

Miller is at his best when he is controlled. That’s a sentence that I’ve written a lot this season and he displayed that yet again on Thursday. He made a number of clean, impressive side-to-side saves that were far more impressive than what the highlight shows. When a goalie is able to get across on a board-to-board one-timer and make the save with his crest, it’s an impressive feat. Miller made a handful of those on various power play attempts and looked to be frustrating the Flyers shooters.

Ultimately he gave his team a chance to win. His play didn’t prevent the Sabres from competing and his play was once again the steadying factor in Buffalo’s game. He didn’t get the goal support nor were the possession numbers in Buffalo’s favor at any point. If we haven’t reached it already, there will come a point in time which his goals against average will be ignored when evaluating how well he’s played this year.

Where he struggled

It all focuses on that first goal for me. Steve Downie had just come above the goal line and was barely a threat to shoot from where he was. Miller’s choice to play in a very narrow butterfly didn’t make much sense especially with at least one threat in the slot as a passing option. Given the strong reads he made the entire game, there must have been something I’m missing that caused him to ignore the pass and play Downie early.

Ray Emery

Emery is an odd guy to watch. He plays sort of an awkward style and he doesn’t make very many saves look easy. In fact, it looks like he’s fighting the puck most of the time.

That certainly was evident yesterday despite his strong play throughout the game. Despite making it look ugly, he did a very good job of controlling the game and making the saves he needed to make. There certainly wasn’t much to dislike about what he did in allowing just one goal and you could say that he did exactly what was needed to get his team a win.

What he did well

He controlled his space. Despite fighting the puck a bit and looking lost at times, he managed to stay in control and do a fine job of turning aside some high-quality chances from the Sabres. Even on the scramble that led to Buffalo’s goal, Emery made some great stops prior to the puck finally getting behind him.

One thing that stands out to me about his game is that he battles for 60 minutes. Sometimes that can really hurt him as he can be badly out of position, even on straight shots. But when he gets dialed in, that battling style can be very frustrating. Yesterday was one of those games.

Where he struggled

Something I’ve often thought about Emery is that his movements are very rigid and somewhat awkward. Maybe it’s the size of his gear or just the way he’s playing, but it just looks off for some reason. If I’m nitpicking, I’d say he could’ve made a different decision on how he played Tyler Ennis on Buffalo’s goal. But coming out of such a mad scramble, it’s understandable why he was caught somewhat out of position.

The only other thing I noticed is that he lost the puck a few times in a few crease scrambles. Buffalo didn’t manage to score on those opportunities, but it seemed as if he struggled to track the puck as it got in close.

  • The second Philly goal was a massive cluster. As Tyler Myers attempted to clear the puck,  Henrik Tallinder and Cody Hodgson were both floating around the top of the circle, as the play went the other way, all three (including Myers) got sucked up and left Read all alone in front. No one deserves full blame, but all three were indeed out to lunch in their own respect.
  • I’ve made the observation on Twitter, but I’ve been very impressed with the way Tyler Myers has been playing – primarily in the offensive zone – since Ted Nolan took over. He looks like the gangly rookie who took home the Calder when he has the puck on his stick.
  • I have to think Myers’ success has come from Nolan and the staff allowing him to play a bit more open. Rather than trying to make him ignore the offensive side of his game and focus on defense, you run the risk of having him overthink everything. If he’s allowed to freelance and engage offensively, it allows the rest of his game to simply fall in place.
  • I’ll give Nolan credit for giving Mikhail Grigorenko some offensively motivated linemates. At some point he’ll need an extended look with quality players. If he fails to meet expectations, then they can deal with him as necessary.
  • Matt Moulson’s scoring drought probably won’t be snapped playing with Steve Ott. He thrived with a skilled centerman in New York and I doubt that will change here. Might as well just tie him and Cody Hodgson together and go from there.

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