Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sabres vs. Sens 2/25/11 - The One Where Mike Grier Scored On A Breakaway. No, Really.

Recap (NHL.com)

Remember when it seemed like we'd never beat Ottawa again? 

With four wins in five games against the Senators this season, that feels like ancient history, doesn't it?  All of a sudden, Ottawa is our new Toronto- show up at the arena, receive two points, move on to the next game.  All that's missing is the deluge of obnoxious blue and white-clad fans from the north.

Of course, it hasn't really been that easy.  All three previous wins were by a single goal, with one coming in OT and another in a shootout.  An Ottawa team that fielded a large number of call-ups from Binghamton was determined to make the Sabres earn these two points as well.  And earn them they did - Buffalo hit Ottawa early and often and skated circles around those AHLers for the most part, spending enough time in the Ottawa zone to earn party-guest-who-wouldn't-leave status while getting 38 shots on newly acquired Craig Anderson.  A few less goalposts and a bit more finish, and the endgame wouldn't have been so tense.

Positives
  • Mike Grier scored.  On a breakaway. Yes, that Mike Grier.  The same one who has been left for dead by the fanbase, the one who looks like he needs a defibrillator 20 seconds into a shift.  The one who plays with noted offensive luminaries such as Paul Gaustad and Rob Niedermayer. In response, Twitter servers nearly melted from the assault of "Mike Grier???!?!?!?!?!" tweets, and half a day later I'm still happily dumbfounded. 
  • Jochen Hecht scored.  On a one-timer.  Yes, that Jochen Hecht.  The same one who whiffs on that one-timer every. single. time.
  • Cody McCormick scored.  Yes, that Cody McCormick.  The same one who seems to have been finding ways to get himself in great scoring position all season long.  (Wait, I think I killed my theme here.)  Like most folks, I hadn't cared for Cody McCormick's game lately - but his goal in the second that made it 2-1 was a prime example of what's made him so successful this year.
  • Despite being held off the scoresheet and posting a -2, I thought Nathan Gerbe was great in this game.  He made a couple nice plays, most notably when he kept the puck in at the blue line, danced around a Senator,and fed Patrick Kaleta down low for a one-touch pass to Chris Butler, resulting in a great scoring chance.  Gerbe has, at the very least, started to prove some of his doubters wrong.  Although he's not all the way there yet, I like where his game is headed.  I think he fits in very nicely on a line with Kaleta and Cody McCormick because he isn't afraid to get dirty at all.  If only everyone on the roster played with his tenacity...
Negatives
  • The first goal Ottawa scored was just plain ugly.  I did not like that it happened after a Sabres 4-on-1, I didn't like that Tyler Myers got himself caught, and I didn't like that all three Sabres forwards coasted to the bench afterwards as Spezza took off the other way.  But to note that this was the only cringe-inducing event in the game is, I suppose, a good thing.
Next game: Tonight, the Red Wings come to town.  The Wings sit 2nd in the West with 80 points, but are just 6-4 in their last ten games and have lost two in a row after a five-game winning streak.

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