The Buffalo Sabres traveled to Chicago to take on the defending Stanley Cup-champion Blackhawks tonight, and everyone in the 716 decided today was a good day to become college football fans, if they were not already.
Okay – that last part may or may not be true. Still, I bet many fans probably found 99 different excuses NOT to watch tonight’s game, because the way the Sabres have been playing, many fans certainly felt that this was less of a “hockey game” and more of a “senseless slaughter.”
As it turned out, tonight’s game was only part game, part slaughter – 40/60, but still a game the Sabres were technically still able to win right up until the final buzzer sounded.
Here are my thoughts:
1. Toss out the first period, and this was an even game, folks. As a matter of fact, the Sabres owned the third period, generating tons of puck pressure, quality scoring opportunities, and a goal that brought them within one of sending this thing into overtime. While Chicago used their speed to create a few nice chances against Ryan Miller, it is no stretch to say that the Blackhawks had to hold on for dear life to win this game. I could lament the fact that the Sabres appeared totally over-matched in the first period, when they were outshot 20-6, but by the end of the game we saw a different Sabres team, and that is what we want: improvement. From the second period on, the Sabres outshot Chicago 23-20, with many of those shots being solid chances that just didn’t go in, including one laser from Cody Hodgson that beat Corey Crawford but hit the post. One more inch, and that thing finds twine. If I’m Ron Rolston, I’m not dwelling on the first period; I’m complimenting the team for what they did in the next two periods, and watching the film to see how the team can continue to play this way from here on out.
2. Ryan Miller is the Sabres’ MVP right now. Duh. A few fans got on his case after the Columbus debacle, claiming he was back to normal. Seriously? Out of the four goals that the Blue Jackets scored, one was off a Sabres player’s skate, and another occurred when Miller was getting knocked over by his own guy! Technically, he only gave up two against Columbus, and tonight every Sabres fan in the world should be thanking him for only giving up two again. Miller stopped 38 shots tonight, many at point-blank range. He tracked the puck exceptionally well all night long, and was never out of position. At one point early in the third period, I tweeted this:
What would the score of this game be without Miller – 8-0? Worse? #suffering
— Richard Spalding (@theamazingMrS) October 13, 2013
As much as the Sabres’ had shown improvement during the second, they were still down 0-2 and it just felt like it was another one of those nights that the puck would never find the back of the net for them. I promise you this: the Sabres would not have been able to mount the charge that they had in the third period if the score had been 4-0 when the period opened. Miller kept them in the game long enough for the team to gain confidence and build momentum; let’s see if this continues into Monday’s game against the Minnesota Wild.
3. There were signs of life from many players wearing blue and gold tonight: Hodgson, Thomas Vanek, Mark Pysyk, Zemgus Girgensons, Mikhail Grigorenko, Johan Larsson . . . overall, a much more team-effort kind of game tonight. The two players I must tip my hat to the most, however, are Tyler Myers and Drew Stafford. I may get on their cases again, soon, but tonight, I think they came to play. Myers was actually PUTTING A BODY ON
OPPOSING PLAYERS, and he literally saved a goal with quick thinking and great hand-eye coordination. Stafford, meanwhile, ripped a blast five-hole on Crawford, courtesy of a nice feed from CoHo, to give the Sabres life. These guys are on the receiving end of a lot of crap, but tonight, they deserve a little love.
Let me know what you think about tonight’s game, and stay tuned for our more in-depth game recap and our three stars!