February 9, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres Ryan Miller (30) saves a puck shot by New York Islanders defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky (11) during the second period of an NHL game at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Sabres Ride Ryan Miller To Victory


By the time you read this, Long Island Police will have spent the better part of Saturday night and Sunday morning searching for the masked man who stole a victory from the New York Islanders last night.

Unless they head to Buffalo, they’ll never find him.

Looking to string a few victories together, the Buffalo Sabres and Ryan Miller rode into Long Island and committed highway robbery, escaping town with a 3-2 victory that they didn’t earn but will no doubt be glad to take.

Just one game after I tried to hand the game puck to the entire Sabres offense, the boys from Buffalo managed fifteen shots on goal.  Total.  THE ENTIRE GAME.   Putting that into some perspective for you, the Islanders’ shots on goal, by period, look a little something like this: 15-14-14.  Yeah, Buffalo!  You managed to take 60 minutes to do what most teams do in 20.  And somehow, you still won.  From what I saw tonight, there’s three reasons why the Sabres were lucky enough to steal the W:

1. They got timely goal scoring from a likely, and some unlikely, candidates.  Thomas Vanek continued his hot streak by getting the first goal of the game simply because he camped out in front of the net and took advantage of some very Sabres-like defense from the Islanders.  Not surprising.  What is surprising is that the final two goals were scored by defensemen: Christian Ehrhoff and Alexander Sulzer.  The fact that defensemen can score isn’t what makes this surprising; it’s the fact that Buffalo defensemen CANNOT score this year.  Buffalo’s blue-liners had contributed four goals going into tonight’s game, so seeing the D generate some O was nice, especially since the Sabres would have lost without it.   A good team capitalizes on solid scoring chances, and tonight the Sabres took maximum advantage of the minimal opportunities they had.

2. Ryan Miller was their goalie tonight.

A great goalie should be able to single-handedly win some games for his team; Ryan Miller has already done that three times this season.  Anyone out there still want to argue that Miller is somehow “overrated?”  Thought as much.  There is no doubt whatsoever that the Sabres were outplayed in every single facet of the game tonight except goaltending, so I can honestly say that I feel bad for the Islanders.  Actually, that’s not true: I feel terrible for that team, and their fans.  Tonight’s game should have looked more like an 8-3 victory for New York.  The Sabres truly were that godawful.  They simply had their butts saved by moments like this:

And this:

And my personal favorite:

Yeah, he was just okay tonight, haters.

3. Jhonas Enroth was not their goalie tonight.  

Come on – admit it: at some point, as you watched Miller get peppered with shot after shot, you thought to yourself, “This game would be ugly if Enroth had started tonight.”  I feel terrible for the kid, and hope he gets his confidence back so he can keep his NHL career on track.  The fact remains, however, that he gave up some goals he should not have against the Ottawa Senators, a team that had been struggling to find its offense until it ran into Enroth.  The Islanders probably would have scored two to three times as many goals as the Sabres did tonight if Jhonas had started and played anywhere near like he did Tuesday.  Simply put, he’s lost right now, and the Sabres would have easily lost with him between the pipes.

Of course, pretty soon it’s not going to matter who is playing goalie for the Sabres if their defense continues to be as non-existent as it has been, oh, all season.  Pick any game the Sabres have played and take a shot every time Rick Jeanneret tells the viewer that the Sabres can’t clear it out of their zone; you’ll be hammered by the first intermission.  And as much as I am glad to see Ehrhoff help us out on offense, check out his goal:

For every one time a Sabres defenseman gets a goal by jumping into the rush like Ehrhoff did, we’ve seen what, ten or more times that the Sabres give up odd man rushes or breakaways because the defense was too deep in the offensive zone to fall back and play, you know, defense.  The same problems I have outlined pretty much every time I write were on display yet again tonight.  Fix them, please and thanks!

A win is a win, and you take them no matter how you can get them.  So thank you, Ryan Miller!  Maybe for Valentine’s Day your team will give you some solid defense.  Until then, check out the game highlights (as if I have not already given you enough to watch!) and check back in with us we gear up for Sunday’s showdown with the visiting Boston Bruins!

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