Friday, October 28, 2011

Film Room, Game 9: Sabres vs. Blue Jackets 10/27/11

Box Score (NHL.com)

Apparently, "Enroth" is Swedish for "brick wall".  Jhonas Enroth was a difference-maker on a night when the Sabres were mostly sloppy and disorganized, remaining cool, calm, and collected in stopping 41 shots to bail out a team that hung him out to dry for the most part.

The first period was a snoozefest, featuring more whistles than a team of construction workers leering at attractive women.  Passes on both sides consistently missed their targets, leading to a heaping pile of icings and offsides as well as audible snoring from the 300 level.  (Guilty.)   Despite the stop-and-go nature of the first period, it was during those first twenty minutes that Columbus presented its strongest challenge.  The Jackets pumped 17 shots on goal, a good portion of which were quality scoring chances - but Enroth turned them all aside as the Sabres built a 2-0 lead with goals from Brad Boyes and Jason Pominville.

In the final thirty minutes, the cracks that had been evident in the Sabres' defense blew wide open.  Columbus got on the board after a blocked shot in its own end turned into a one-on-one battle that Marc-Andre Gragnani lost (more on that below), with Vinny Prospal ripping a wrister past Enroth.  Halfway through the third period, Pominville was the victim of an unfortunate break when he dove to break up a pass but failed to actually corral the puck, which found its way to Fedor Tyutin's stick and then the back of the net.

It represented the third time that the Sabres blew a 2-0 lead on home ice this season, but unlike the blown leads against Carolina and Tampa Bay, this time the Sabres had an answer in the form of Patrick Kaleta.  Not content with impacting games solely by pugilistic means, Kaleta gave the Sabres the lead for good when he stuffed a backhander past Jackets goalie Steve Mason less than three minutes later.  Pominville later tallied on the powerplay to put the game out of reach.

When Enroth failed to get a start during the recent road trip, some panic began to develop amongst the Sabres fanbase that Lindy Ruff was about to lean too heavily on Ryan Miller once again this season.  Although I opined the other day that it's far too early in the season to start worrying about such things, I'm happy to see that Ruff is sticking to the plan we hoped he would - namely, to get Enroth involved every four or five games. 

Those of you who were starting to freak out about not having won a game in Buffalo and having flashbacks to last October - you can breathe now.

Pluses:
  • Jason Pominville: two goals, one assist.  Thomas Vanek: three assists (all primary). Chemistry: still sky-high.  Business as usual. Move along, nothing to see here.
  • I don't wish to alarm you, but the Sabres scored two goals on the powerplay tonight.  Yes, two.  Yes, on the powerplay.  In the same game.  I know, it blows my mind too.  Sabre fans (myself included) have lamented that the powerplay could have been, but ultimately failed to be, the difference in home defeats to Carolina and Tampa Bay.  Tonight, that unit stepped up.
  • Brad Boyes was the most obvious benefactor of the powerplay's success, both of his points coming with the man advantage.  Boyes has now scored goals in consecutive games, and four of his five points this season have come in the last two contests.  It's also worth pointing out that he's done this in about 12 minutes of ice time in each game.  This won't pull him out of the fans' doghouse - we need someone to ridicule now that Connolly is gone, right? - but if Lindy can find a consistent line for him, I think he's going to start doing some damage.
  • Absolutely filthy pass by Nathan Gerbe on Kaleta's game-winning goal, collecting a rebound off the boards behind the net and backhanding a cross-ice pass between his legs to Kaleta. Nice play by Christian Ehrhoff as well to bank that puck off the boards to Gerbe instead of shooting.  Part of me doesn't like the fact that an offensive talent like Gerbe is "wasted" by playing on a line with two guys who don't score much in Gaustad and Kaleta, but the chemistry this line has is undeniable.  It's pretty easy to say they've been the Sabres' second-best line since being reunited.
  • Another solid game for Andrej Sekera, including a nice play to swat away a rebound after Enroth made the initial save on a 2-on-1.
Minuses:
  • Marc-Andre Gragnani was a hot mess in his own zone.  Again.  His attempt to thwart Vinny Prospal as he cut to the net for the first Columbus goal was an embarrassing effort which resembled that of a matador.  Grags is young and will make mistakes, so perhaps it's time for him to take a seat in favor of Mike Weber for a bit so he can get it together.
  • As good as Sekera has been, I'd really appreciate it if he wouldn't take three minor penalties in the same game.
  • Starting to sound like a broken record, I admit, but it would be awfully nice to see signs of life out of Ville Leino.
Next Game: Saturday, 10/29 vs. Florida.  Since we last met, the Panthers have won two of three and now sit 6th in the Eastern Conference.  It appears that the hodge-podge of free agents they signed this summer in a desperate attempt to get to the salary floor is working well for them so far.

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