Sep 19, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers (57) skates behind the net as Carolina Hurricanes center Jeff Skinner (53) pursues during the third period at First Niagara Center. Sabres beat the Hurricanes 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Knee Jerk Reactions: Buffalo Sabres Versus Carolina Hurricanes

Hat trick!

The Buffalo Sabres continued their preseason winning ways tonight, defeating the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2 in the First Niagara Center and running their preseason record to 3-0.

Sep 19, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres center Cody Hodgson (19) celebrates his goal against the Carolina Hurricanes with left wing Thomas Vanek (26) and right wing Joel Armia (33) during the third period at First Niagara Center. Sabres beat the Hurricanes 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at the final score, you might think that the Sabres had their way with the Hurricanes all night.  Hmmm – you don’t follow the Sabres much, do you?   The Sabres really played a pretty crummy first period, getting out-shot 19-8 and looking sloppy in many phases of the game.  In all honesty, Buffalo was lucky to only be down 0-1, their butts getting bailed out by Ryan Miller, who was rock-solid from start to finish all night long.  As much as I wanted to see more from Matt Hackett, the Sabres decided to give Ryan Miller maximum ice time tonight, and he certainly proved that he is still Buffalo’s starting goaltender, turning aside 34 shots when all was said and done.

The second period is when the Sabres finally started getting their game on, erasing 0-1 and 2-1 deficits to go into the second intermission tied at 2-2.  Once again, it was the young guys who got it done for the Sabres.  Finnish sensation Joel Armia got the Sabres on the board with a slick wrap-around, and then Johan Larsson managed to get his stick on a big blast by blueliner Brayden McNabb to cap a successful shift that consisted of Larsson, Corey Tropp and Ville Leino.  The game spiralled out of control from that point, as the Sabres blizted the Hurricanes 3-0 in the third to turn a tight contest into a rout.  Gotta admit – I enjoyed hearing the boys in blue and gold blow this thing wide open as I was listening at home.  More of that during the regular season, please and thanks!

Here are some points to ponder:

Larsson is the real deal.  As much as I respect what Jason Pominville gave to the Buffalo Sabres franchise, there is no doubt that Darcy Regier pretty much robbed the Minnesota Wild blind when he shipped the captain out in exchange for Hackett, Larsson, and a first-round pick.  You all know that I feel pretty good about Hackett’s potential, and we are all excited that the Sabres used that first-round

Sep 19, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres left wing Johan Larsson (22) brings puck into the zone against the Carolina Hurricanes during the second period at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

pick to gobble up Nikita Zadorov . . . but as of right now, the biggest “win” to come out of that trade has to be Larsson.  He finished tonight with 2 goals and a success rate of 71% in the faceoff circle.  Ron Rolston went so far as to call him the best forward on the ice tonight, and the crew over at WGR 550, most notably Brian Duff, could not say enough good things about him.  Larsson is not an offensive force, per se, but as the guys on the air pointed out, offense just seems to happen whenever Larsson is on the ice.  The best part is, Larsson has played with three different line combinations (Girgensons and Stafford, Armia and Leino, Leino and Tropp) and has suffered no noticeable drop-off in play.  Pair him up with anybody, and he just keeps on keeping on.  Buffalo, get excited: you ARE going to see Johan Larsson this season, and chances are good you will not be disappointed.

Is Miller “back?” Whether you feel Ryan Miller is an over-rated goalie who only had one truly sensational season, or that Miller is one of the least-appreciated goalies in the NHL, you cannot deny that Miller was the best goaltender on the planet during the 2009-2010 season.  Since then, Miller has failed to do much to prove people who want to label him a one-hit wonder wrong, but with his contract expiring at the end of the 2013-2014 season, there are many who believe Miller will have a ton of incentive to bounce back from last year’s so-so campaign.  So far, his preseason efforts are hinting at good, if not great, things to come.  He has yet to let in the sort of soft goal that makes you want to slap the first person you see wearing a number 30 jersey, and tonight you just knew that Carolina had no chance to mount a comeback once the Sabres finally took the lead in the third.  Let’s hope Miller’s preseason tune-up is building into one hell of a season for him.

McNabb and Myers state their cases. Larsson may have received the lion’s share of compliments from the on-air folks tonight, but he wasn’t the only

member of the Sabres who successfully staked a claim to a spot on the Sabres’ opening day roster.  As great as Larsson was, Brayden McNabb actually led the Sabres in scoring tonight (one goal, two assists) – yes, Brayden MacNabb!  As a matter of fact, both of Larsson’s goals were redirections of blasts by McNabb – interesting, yes?  Sadly for McNabb, his chances of nabbing a spot on the roster are far worse than Larsson’s are, due to the over-abundance of blueliners at Buffalo’s disposal.  Still, it was nice to hear his name being called frequently tonight.  And then there is Tyler Myers himself, who played a confident game that reminded Brian Duff of the Tyler Myers of 2009-2010.   His willingness to join the rush was evident all game long, a welcome sight for fans who bemoaned the lack of offense on the part of Sabres’ blueliners last season.  Myers is in the same boat as Miller, in that he has a lot to prove this season, so it was nice to hear that he was flashing the sort of gameplay that landed him the Calder Trophy not too long ago.

Whew – that’s a lot of feel-good stories to come out of tonight’s game.  Yes – I understand we’re still in the preseason.  Who cares?  The Sabres have been a fun time to watch – sorry, listen to! – so far, and I aim to enjoy the ride until the wheels fall off.    Hopefully, the good times will continue to roll as the Sabres host the Toronto Maple Leafs this Saturday at 7 p.m.  Let’s go Buffalo!


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