It's nice to know your franchise goaltender can steal you a game. It's even better to know that you don't need him to do that every night.
Two nights before, the Sabres were outskated almost from start to finish and still managed to win on the strength of Ryan Miller's goaltending. Obviously believing they owed him one - a sentiment that Lindy Ruff himself voiced - last night the Sabres gave Miller a virtual night off between the pipes with a strong 60-minute effort.
Despite some loosey-goosey play in their own end at times in the first period, the Sabres quickly took over the game and didn't look back. After the first period shots were 11-9 in favor of Buffalo, and the Sabres only allowed 13 more through the final two periods. Goals from Vanek and Pominville in the second period broke the game open and a third-period power play howitzer from Vanek (one that somehow didn't tear the net to shreds) iced it.
- Don't you wish Lindy Ruff had paired Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville years ago? The chemistry I'm seeing from them is blowing me away. Forget about the point totals for a moment and consider some of the plays that haven't resulted in goals. Two jump out at me from last night's game: Vanek collecting a turnover behind the net and hitting a wide-open Pominville in the slot, and later on, Vanek flipping a huge Miller rebound to a streaking Pominville for a breakaway attempt. These two know at any given time where the other is, and where the other will be in three seconds. I'm running out of superlatives to describe it.
- Vanek's first goal was of his usual "I'm gonna stand in front of the net and let this puck deflect off some part of me, whether it's my stick, inner thigh, or left butt-cheek" variety. You know, the type we've seen four million and one times now. The second was more impressive: a laser beam of a slapper that no Florida defenseman dared to get anywhere near. I wonder if goalies actually soil themselves when Vanek has that kind of time to wind up - I know I would. Really nice work by Marc-Andre Gragnani to carry the puck into the attacking zone and draw three defenders to his side, giving Vanek a plethora of time and space.
- Sensational play by Ville Leino to set up Pominville's second period goal. After knocking down a clearing attempt and gaining possession, he held on to the puck just long enough to draw defenders to him and allow Pominville to get in position for an easy tap-in. Just the other day I asked, "What's wrong with Ville Leino?" and later read some quotes from Leino himself indicating he wasn't happy with his own play. Hopefully this is the start of him turning it around.
- How do you deal with a team that's been hot on the powerplay? Simple: don't give them opportunities with the man advantage. Easier said than done, of course, but the Sabres heeded this simple advice, taking just one minor penalty in the game.
- Not much to complain about last night's game, so I'll just keep copying and pasting the "Tyler Ennis still has no points" bullet until he gets on the scoresheet, after which point I will likely praise him profusely. It's only six games, but I'm starting to get concerned about him - he's already matched his longest scoreless game streak from all of last year.
- Andrej Sekera makes me nervous every single time he cuts in front of his own net on a breakout, and he almost fumbled the puck away when doing so last night. (Again, I'm stretching for minuses in this game.)