The Buffalo Sabres, 30th out of 30 in the NHL, skated into the West Coast tonight to take on the 4th best team in the NHL, the San Jose Sharks.
Just by looking at the rankings, I am sure you can make a logical guess as to who won, right? That’s right, Buffalo took this win, 5-4 in a shootout.
For one of the only times this season, the Sabres showed a good balance of bad moments, mixed with positive ones. Continuing a horrifying trend, Buffalo gave up way too many shots to their opponent, with the Sharks getting 51 shots on net. Yet, Ryan Miller was there again to bail out the team, putting on an Olympic-worthy performance, turning away numerous excellent scoring opportunities by the Sharks.
While Miller was continuing his audition for the USA Olympic team, Drew Stafford looked like he was putting in his own audition to be moved to a West Coast team. If you read my game recaps, you are well aware of how much I dislike Stafford and his frequent inadequate performances for the Sabres. A different Stafford was out there tonight, one who was actually skating hard and making an effort. He was rewarded, as he notched his 2nd goal of the season, and nearly had another goal or two.
The top line, featuring Tyler Ennis and Cody Hodgson, showed chemistry and fluidity. Toss in Matt Moulson, and you have a line that generated 2 goals tonight, including a beauty on the power play. Hodgson scored the game winner, a terrific goal in the shootout. Getting regulation goals from unlikely sources in Hank Tallinder and Cody McCormick is always a huge plus. Add in the energetic play of Corey Tropp, Marcus Foligno, Steve Ott, and Zemgus Girgensons on the other lines – and you have the makings of a competitive team – one that many Sabres fans have been waiting to see.
The bad? The Sabres defense is still a mess. The pairing of Christian Ehrhoff and Mark Pysyk looked utterly confused on the initial 2 goals by the Sharks. It is clear that Ehrhoff is being asked to play a role that he is not suited for – that of a shut-down defenseman. Buffalo signed the ‘Hoff to an expensive and lengthy contract to be a puck-moving, quarterbacking d-man – and it seems obvious to me that the offensive part of his game is suffering due to the role confusion. The team needs to let Ehrhoff do what he was hired to do.
On the 3rd Sharks goal, Tyler Myers was found chasing around a man in the zone, followed by Tallinder chasing around a puck carrier, and ending with Myers flat-out watching a goal get scored on him as he stood there, not challenging the shooter at all. Granted, mistakes happen, but Myers is far from a rookie at this point – and he is making way too much money to allow plays like that to go down – especially when the Sabres are trying to hold onto a 3rd period lead.
Beating a Sharks team that entered the game 10-1-3, on their home ice, is no small feat. Can Buffalo build some momentum off of this win? We will find out next on Thursday, as the Sabres skate into Los Angeles to take on a solid Kings team.
And no, Darcy Regier, you are not off of the hook.