Credit: Jennifer Stewart — USA Today Sports
As I settled in to watch this afternoon’s game between the Buffalo Sabres and the Colorado Avalanche, a few thoughts crossed my mind.
It wasn’t going to be an easy game. The Avalanche were 35 points ahead of the Sabres in the standings. Buffalo remained the worst team in the league, despite coming off a win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday. The Avalanche were on a two-game winning streak and were 18-7-3 at home. Buffalo held a not-so-great road record of 6-15-3.
After a pregame ceremony in which Colorado honored not only the Avalanche Olympians but also the Sabres representatives, the puck dropped and thus, it began. As the game went on, it seemed my initial impression that this was not weighted in the Sabres favor was correct.
Colorado’s Tyson Barrie opened the scoring, beating Ryan Miller at the 7:37 mark of the first period. Okay, fine. One goal is nothing, right? We’ll get the next one, it’s still early, it’s no big deal.
…. right? RIGHT?!?!
But it didn’t get better from there. The Avalanche went on to score two goals in less than a minute, including one on the power play, later in the first. Just like that, they were up 3-0 with just over seven minutes left in the first period.
After the first period, nine of 18 Buffalo Sabres skaters were a minus-1 or worse. The Avalanche scored three goals on 11 shots in the first period. Seven different Colorado players had at least a point in the first period alone. Uhhh…. can we not do this? Safe to say I – and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one – was glad when the horn blew to signal the intermission.
Early in the second, Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog took a slashing penalty that could have given the Sabres some momentum. A powerplay goal could have dropped the lead to two, given the team some energy and kicked things into motion. The Sabres, unfortunately, didn’t have many good chances and the Avs had primary possession of the puck for much of the power play.
A few minutes later, Marc-Andre Cliche scored his first NHL goal to make it 4-0 in favor of the Avalanche. Well, that isn’t exactly what we were hoping for. Of course he’d get his first NHL goal against the Sabres….. how…. (wait for it)…. cliché.
Just when things seemed to be going downhill even further, the Sabres managed to put one on the board while on the power play, thanks to Matt D’Agostini. Alright – now we’re talking! I mean… still down by three and plenty of time for things to turn either way, but hey, at least we’re not getting shutout today.
Before you know it, the score was 5-1 in favor of the Avalanche. This game was getting just downright painful to watch, even though things did seem a little better in the second period. If nothing else, I was left feeling grateful that Colorado only managed to score twice in the second, as opposed to the trio of goals they put up in the first.
As Jhonas Enroth came in to mercifully relieve Ryan Miller for the third period, I decided to just enjoy the final frame of the matinee matchup by focusing on the Avalanche on how good they were, rather than focusing on how not-so-good the Sabres are.
That made watching the last 20 minutes a bit easier. A lengthy, spirited bout between Zenon Konopka and Cody McLeod was, at the very least, entertaining. John Scott nearly got into a fight of his own moments later — and this is the point where with an unamused look on my face, I say “Really? We can’t score, so we’re just going to fight instead? That’s not the way to win games.”
If Konopka’s fight and Scott’s soon-after cross check were intended to provide a spark, they failed. Landeskog, then McGinn, both scored, and just like that…. it’s 7-1. At this point, I’m just praying for the time this game will end so our #suffering can be over for the day. Thankfully, that was all the Avs would manage, and the Sabres leave Denver on the heels of a 7-1 beating.
The speed of the Colorado team was something I particularly noticed, and it was certainly a factor that played into the win for the Avalanche this afternoon. Overall, the Sabres were outworked, outskated and outplayed. Taking sloppy penalties at the worst times didn’t help, either — hard to get any chances to score when you don’t have much chance to get good possession of the puck.
The Avs were too fast, too hard-working and just too good for the Sabres to handle this afternoon. Let’s put this one in the books and get ready to focus on the Oilers on Monday night.