The Buffalo Sabres wanted to turn the page on the last two seasons and return to their winning ways of just after the lockout. Saturday night was there first chance to prove that.
Tim Connolly showed fans early that maybe, just maybe his new two year deal would be worth having, as he put the Sabres up 1-0, converting on an early power play. The Sabres seemed destined to control the game as they only allowed 5 shots in the first period.
Through 20 minutes we saw a tougher Sabres team who used an aggressive forecheck to batter the Canadiens. Whether it was over confidence in themselves or not, the next two periods were controlled by Montreal, despite being out played by the Sabres.
The night should not be lost on the negatives however, as there were many bright spots to the first game of the 2009-2010 season. Tyler Myers and Tim Kennedy showed fans that their success is going to help this team. Kennedy put him self into several great positions to score, albeit foiled by Carey Price. Later in the game Kennedy feathered a great pass to a streaking Thomas Vanek, who did what he could to get away from Mara, but could not gain the extra step. For Myers, he used his size to force several plays, and even tried jumping into offensive plays. The night that both prospects had told me two things, they are NHL ready, and they want to stay in Buffalo. If they continue to play like they did Saturday, they will make it very hard for Lindy and company to send them to their respective junior clubs.
It should be noted that the Sabres did not merely roll over in this game, they merely took their foot off the gas, something they have been prone to doing for several years. It doesn’t help that a lively bounce off the end board ended the night. Gomez, a much booed player on the ice tonight, credited the play of Ryan Miller:
“I don’t know if I could shoot that 100 times and have it bounce right there, To beat Millsie like that, those are the kind you have to get.”
Miller could not be faulted really for either goal. On the Canadiens first goal, Sabres defensemen Steve Montador stood idle (ok maybe he tried a poke check) but was no where near the force he was brought here to be as the Canadiens charged the net.
Sabres standouts for the night:
1 – Tim Connolly – If Vanek can have another 40 or better goal season, and can be paced by Connolly, offense won’t be a problem for this team.
2 – Tim Kennedy/Tyler Myers – prospects add much needed size on defense and skill on offense. The play of these two stood out, while names like Pominville were barely heard all night.
3 – Andrej Sekera/Chris Butler – Two young defensemen who continue to prove their worth to this team. With the Sabres relying on a lot of youth to get the job done, these two guys put it on the line every night.
To sum up tonights game by comparing it to a movie, I’d have to say tonights effort would rank right up there with Dana Carvey’s Master of Disguise. And this is more than just a reference to the style of hockey played by Patrick Kaleta.
The Sabres have almost a full week to recooperate and prepare for their next contest, as they don’t play again until taking on the Pheonix Coyotes next Thursday.