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The bad Sabres & the good Sabres October 17, 2011

Posted by calvin in Uncategorized.
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With 21 back-to-back games on the Sabres schedule this season, we hope to see better performances consistently from the boys.  The euphoria of Friday’s home opener at the FN Center ended in an anti-climax, with a 4-3 loss to the Canes. Playing an open game but plagued by mistakes, the Sabres went 0-for-6 on the PP, gave up two shorthanded goals, had a third chance go off the post with goaltender Ryan Miller beaten, and then Miller stopped Eric Staal on a fourth breakaway. They peppered goalie Cam Ward with 42 shots, with goals from Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy & Drew Stafford. Ward kept the Sabres out time and again, and with just over a minute left in the game, Calder Trophy holder Jeff Skinner scored the winner off a nifty pass on the PP from Jussi Jokinen. The Sabres haven’t won a home opener since 2008.

Despite his goal, Vanek had a miserable game – both shorties came from miscues off his stick and he was in the box for tripping on the Canes PP winner. Coach Lindy Ruff was defiant despite the loss, insisting that he would stick with the high-risk/high-reward approach to the powerplay the team has adopted. The quick side-to-side passing has its benefits as it draws the penalty killers out of position, but any mistakes at the point leaves the middle open to a 2-on-1 or even 3-on-1 depending on how aggressive the defense chooses to be.

On Saturday, the Sabres traveled to Pittsburgh to face a Penguins team missing stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The Steel City has not been good to the Sabres, their last win there being back in 2008. This time around, twice the Sabres led by two before they finally pulled out the 3-2 win. In a surprise move, Ruff started backup goalie Jhonas Enroth giving Miller the night off. The team played better in front of Enroth, and the young goalie responded making multiple fine saves to keep the Sabres lead intact before clinching the win by stopping Paul Martin point blank in the dying minutes.

Nathan Gerbe showed some creativity and hustle in starting the scoring, skating with the puck out of the defensive zone, shooting on Marc-Andre Fleury, before one-timing the rebound into the goal. The Vanek-Adam-Pominville line had another good game, completing a tic-tac-toe play for Adam to score the Sabres second of the game.

Ruff finally made a change in the third period on the uninspiring line of Tyler Ennis – Ville Leino – Brad Boyes, swapping Boyes out for Patrick Kaleta. Despite some better puck possession in the offensive zone, there were still precious few chances created by this line, mystifying considering Ennis and Leino are two of the better puck-handlers on this team. Ennis has no points this season, with just seven shots on goal and one PP shift per game. I wonder if moving Gerbe to this line with Leino and Boyes will make a difference, or if Ruff will wait for Hecht to get back before benching Boyes.

Finally, I’m loving Christian Ehrhoff’s self-guided surface-to-air missiles from right point. He seems to be getting them on goal with unerring regularity, the goals and rebounds can’t be too far behind.

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