Today’s game between the Buffalo Sabres and Philadelphia Flyers featured two teams who have suffered the similar fate of entering the season with high expectations, and will be ending the season in two weeks without going to the playoffs. Both squads entered the game with similar stats as well – both teams were just 4-4-2 in their last 10 games, the Sabres have 38 points and the Flyers have 37, the Sabres have scored 107 goals and the Flyers 108, the Sabres have surrendered 127 goals and the Flyers 125.
Unfortunately for those who watched the game, both teams played similarly poor.
The game had an exciting beginning, as Patrick Kaleta and Oliver Lauridsen dropped the gloves, with Kaleta pummeling Lauridsen with numerous punches. Then, the game settled into mediocrity, and looked very much like a preseason hockey game. The Sabres managed just 6 shots in the opening period, and a mere 2 shots through the first 10 minutes of the second period. At the end of 2 periods, the score was an exhilarating 0-0.
In their defense, Buffalo was coming off arguably their worst performance of the season against the Montreal Canadiens (hard to believe, I know, considering how many awful games they have played). Yet, today’s Sabres appeared to be more mobile, as they kept their skates moving and didn’t find themselves hemmed in their own end repeatedly. The team was more active, and was able to create some decent odd-man rushes, which they could not capitalize on.
The rotating door of Buffalo players saw the exit of Tyler Myers, who was lost for the season to a broken leg, and the debut of Chad Ruhwedel, freshly signed out of college. Unlike most defensemen who make their NHL debut, Ruhwedel looked confident, and played with composure and poise. Tyler Ennis was moved from center to join Thomas Vanek and Cody Hodgson on the top line, and Marcus Foligno was moved to center with Drew Stafford and John Scott. The new version of the top line was creative offensively, though unable to finish and get on the scoreboard. The trio looked lazy defensively.
The Sabres caught a lucky bounce early in the 3rd period, as a Christian Ehrhoff shot bounced off the back boards, the ricocheted off the pads of the Flyers netminder Steve Mason, and into the net. It was the only goal of the game.
The star of this matchup was easily Jhonas Enroth, who shut-out Philadelphia on the strength of 29 saves, including numerous highlight reel stops. Enroth has benefitted from more regular starts since Ron Rolston took over as Buffalo coach, and he has responded with consistently good performances. Tonight, he confidently squared up to the shooters, and eliminated rebounds well. The Sabres goat was Drew Stafford, who continues to play miserably.
By gaining 2 points, the Sabres moved further away from a potential top draft-pick, and closer to a frustrating middle-of-the-pack-but-playoff-less finish. The Sabres host the Tampa Bay Lightning tomorrow at 5pm. Make sure to check back in to Sabre Noise for our game recap from AJ Haller.