Apparently the defensive success of Game One warranted throwing everything out the window, the baby with the bath water. Maybe the Sabres were trying to surprise Philly by playing a wide-open game instead of what was seen on Thursday, maybe the blue & gold were taken off guard by the Flyers’ quick first period goal, or maybe Peter Laviolette is just a magician with precognitive abilities that tell him exactly when to pull a goaltender. Either way, here are my immediate reactions after watching Game Two at Wild Wing Cafe here in Charlottesville, VA…
First off, the wings are a hundred times better than Buffalo Wild Wings.
- I was ticked off that I missed Paul Gaustad’s beat down on Scott Hartnell. I caught the highlights and got plenty of text messages, and sure enough Goose laid into him pretty good. A nice way to wake up the team after falling behind so early. I’m also surprised Hartnell didn’t fight someone that he normally would, like Connolly or Ennis.
- James van Riemsdyk was first star again…does his dad work for the Flyers organization or something? Claude Giroux scored a goal and an assist, Vanek had two goals, Briere had the GWG, and Andrej Meszaros was a +2 with 2 assists and logged the most ice time on the Flyers. So…is giving van Riemsdyk kind of like voting for Rory Fitzpatrick for the All-Star game? Unless he gets a hat trick in Game Three, he better damn well not be first star again.
- Ryan Miller showed up in style in Game One, and then immediately checked into a hotel for Game Two. Yes, a couple of the goals he let in were tough. You know what? He’s supposed to be some great goaltender, yet he got outplayed by Brian Boucher. Miller let in 4 even strength goals…yes, it’s great to see the penalty kill working as great as it was, but Buffalo’s $6 million goaltender needs to play more than one good game in a row for this team to advance.
- The Sabres looked much, much better in the Flyers’ zone this game, and it resulted in chasing Sergei Bobrovsky after scoring 3 goals on 7 shots. They sustained the same pressure on Boucher, and looked good in the final minute while trying to tie the game. The last ten seconds looked panicked, but their offensive abilities were clearly doing better than last game.
- Defense? That went out the window. In a game where Buffalo scored 4 goals, no Sabres defender had a plus…three were even and three had minuses. As much as Miller needs to play better than that, I don’t understand how the tight defensive game went entirely out the window.
- In Game One, Buffalo played a 1-3-1 forecheck, which is what the Lightning used to sweep the season series against the Flyers. In Game Two, Buffalo played more the style they used in October, which consists of “everybody try to stickhandle through two defenders.” About that…
- Remember when Peter Laviolette won the Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006? He changed out goalies based on who was looking hot, with Cam Ward and Martin Gerber sharing the crease. Sure enough, he pulled Bobrovsky last night and as soon as Boucher looks shakey he’ll change him again. What are the Vegas odds that Miller will get replaced with Enroth if he has another less-than-stellar game? I’d put all my money on 28 black first.
- You want to talk penalties, right? Because that game was so unfair? Buffalo had 29 PIM’s, Philly had 23. Stop bitching. The difference is that Buffalo’s penalty minutes were boneheaded mistakes that came at crucial times, such as Pat Kaleta’s awful roughing near the end of the second period, or Gaustad very clearly holding the stick. The Sabres earned every single penalty they took.
- Can I say Tim Connolly is playing the best hockey I’ve ever seen him play? Too bad most of it is on the Penalty Kill, where he supposed offensive prowess is being utilized to block shots and clear the puck out of the zone. See above.
- To give this piece a positive note. For everything the Sabres did do wrong, they lost by one goal and the series is tied. If I were a Flyers fan I’d probably be ripping my hair out, because on paper this matchup should be a wash. My brother pointed out something to me that I think rings true: “Claude Giroux is a better offensive player than anyone on the Sabres, and he’s not the best offensive player on the Flyers.” Think about that for a moment.
- The refs need to let the boys play. Okay, so there’ll be a line brawl at one point. So? The stopping and starting hurt both teams’ momentum and drove Flyers and Sabres fans alike absolutely crazy. They’re calling like it’s the regular season, and that’s fine, except this isn’t the regular season. It’s a best of seven series with no shootout and pure 5-on-5 overtime. Tempers are going to flare, tensions will rise, and if the refs officiate this game to the point of frustration someone’s going to do something stupid and hurt somebody.
- Okay, one last positive note. Think back a week, Sabres fans. If someone were to say, “Take it or leave it: the Sabres will go to Philly and split the first two games in a very hostile environment. Also the game they lose will be decided by one goal and they won’t look dominated,” you know you’d take it. I sure as hell would.
That’s it from me. From the perspective of a hockey fan, that game was awesome. Except for all the penalties, of course. After the first game being a 1-0 shutout, I think most fans were expecting the goals to come in bunches. Now the series moves to Buffalo and the number one thing the Sabres need to do is control play early. The Flyers are going to try to hit, intimidate, and score as soon as they can to take the crowd out of the game. This team needs to play smarter and a touch more responsibly in their own zone (no more passes that float in front of the net, Myers) and they can easily regain control of this series.
Tags: Buffalo Buffalo Sabres Carolina Hurricanes Drew Stafford Eastern Conference Fansided Hockey James Van Riemsdky Jhonas Enroth Lindy Ruff NHL Northeast Division Patrick Kaleta Philadelphia Flyers Ryan Miller Sabres Scott Hartnell Stanley Cup Stanley Cup Playoffs Steve Montador Thomas Vanek Tim Connolly Tyler Ennis Tyler Myers