It wasn’t a pretty win by any stretch of the means. In his post game press conference, Lindy Ruff even admitted the team played early in this game like they were riding the wave from the game Wednesday against the Boston Bruins. The Dallas Stars were willing to wait for the Sabres to make mistakes and capitalize on them.
The Stars didn’t have to wait long as Cody McCormick was whistled for roughing late in the first period. That penalty proved costly for the Sabres as a tipped shot got by Ryan Miller. Miller didn’t stand a chance on Michael Ryder’s tip that made it 1-0.
As the game continued, it seemed as though Kari Lehtonen was going to be too big for the Buffalo Sabres to overcome.
While just three weeks ago this Sabres team would have wilted under the pressure of being down 2-0, the Second Half Sabres stayed in this game, thanks in large part to Ryan Miller and overcome Lehtonen’s play.
The teams traded even strength and power play goals to battle for sixty minutes plus the shootout. Both teams need two points, the game worked out in the best possible way for the Sabres. The loser point the Stars pick up helps them in their quest to break into the top eight in the Western Conference and the Sabres pick up two points in their tilt. Tomorrow, the Sabres need to win in regulation, as giving up a loser point to Tampa Bay keeps the Lightning in the fight.
As I sat and watched the game unfold, I realized that my post game article should focus more on the game action, but what was going on in the stands was a bigger story in my eyes. Not that the NHL or the NHLPA would let it happen, tonight’s game between the Buffalo Sabres and the Dallas Stars was a game played in a league screaming for contraction. The NHL has grown to large in markets that it has no business being in. No offense to the Florida Panthers, but the only reason your arena is as full as it is lately is because your winning.
The Sabres are not immune to that fact either, it is much easier to get tickets to the games today than it was during the couple of years off the lockout – and prior to the lockout we were playing to AHL size crowds.
I love the fact that the NHL has so much parity. I love the fact that if you count the last ten times the Stanley Cup has been awarded it has gone to nine different teams (New Jersey is the only team in those ten years that has multiple Cups). Even the Detroit Red Wings, the perennial red hockey machine has only 1 Stanley Cup in the last ten years (they were the last team to win back to back championships).
So I don’t have a problem per say with the game on the ice. Even two great hockey teams will play a contest that has errors, mistakes, and boring spots. Its not the fact that there are teams in Phoenix, Carolina, Florida, or Texas. I am not saying that those markets don’t have a fan base – but there are more non-fans in those markets than there are fans, and when teams come in like they did tonight, it takes the air right out of the building.
Even in the city where we live hockey according to the pregame introduction, the fact that it was the Dallas Stars in the building and not the Boston Bruins had the events on the ice as secondary to hanging out with friends at the FNC. The arena was quiet. It could have been the uninspired play of the team sucking the energy out of the crowd, or it could have been the quiet crowd preventing the Sabres from opening the game up.
I can’t say the energy would for sure been different had it been a team with more of a rivalry with the blue and gold – but you could definitely tell this wasn’t the Toronto Maple Leafs or Boston Bruins in attendance.
The crowd did liven up, and it was the ref’s that caused that. A terrible holding call against Ville Leino brought out the boo birds at the FNC, and their anger was directed towards the orange stripes on the ice. The Sabres however responded to the bad call by having an amazing penalty kill that brought the noise and the energy necessary to pull off the comeback.
And comeback they did. Despite not having lost when leading after two goals in 16 games so far this season, the Dallas Stars fell tonight to the Buffalo Sabres. Michael Ryder after the game was obviously disappointed by knows his team can and will continue to work of their momentum. Who knows. Maybe Pominville had a chat with one of the assistant captains from the Stars – I mean come on, were in different conferences, we both could use the point, its Friday, what do you say, overtime?
Ruff was asked in his press conference after the game what the difference between the teams that fell apart in past weeks and the team tonight that came back strong to win. Lindy attributed it to playing the plays as they are drawn up – and having the lineup filled with veterans once again.
The Sabres have climbed into 11th place, they are eight points back of Toronto, with a game in hand. Ottawa has you by nine points, and you have three games more than the Senators. Win your games in hand and beat those teams when they appear on the schedule, and the playoffs are still a realistic possibility for the Buffalo Sabres.