Saturday, November 12, 2011

Film Room, Game 15: Sabres vs. Senators 11/11/11

Box Score (NHL.com)

Perhaps the Sabres were a little tired of seeing teams jump out to quick leads against them.

This time, it was Buffalo's turn.  Largely aided by Ottawa starter Craig Anderson's abysmal rebound control, Buffalo scored two quick goals just 2:25 into the game and rode that early lead to a rather easy 5-1 win.  Anderson was mercifully yanked after the second goal, a hook that happened so quickly it would have made Mike Keenan blush - and it might just be my imagination, but I think as he left the ice he mouthed an apology to me up in Section 308 for submarining my fantasy hockey team's goalie stats this week.  (What?  It's a deep league.  Don't judge.)

This was probably the Sabres' best and most complete game played on North American soil this season, especially from a defensive standpoint.  Ottawa outshot the Sabres 37-21, but nothing meaningful could be derived from that as the troublesome habit exhibited last game of allowing opposing skaters to cruise into the slot at will was thankfully absent.  As a result, the majority of those shots Enroth faced came from somewhere in Niagara County and he had little trouble with any of them.  Meanwhile, the Sabres made the most of the few shots on goal they generated, almost seeming to toy with the Senators in the offensive zone at times.  If not for several first-period tips that went precariously wide of the Senators' net, the final margin might have been larger.

The Sabres have now won four straight overall and seven of their last eight against Ottawa, and I can't recall any of them being as relaxing and drama-free as this one. If only the Sabres could make it look this easy every night.

Pluses:
  •  Drew Stafford may not have scored but he did pile up three assists, two of which were noteworthy: it was his drive to the net that created a rebound for Derek Roy to jump on to open the scoring, and he displayed great patience with the puck behind the net on Jordan Leopold's goal.
  • Although the defense as a whole was great, Christian Ehrhoff stood out to me the most.  He was strong defensively throughout the game, broke up several plays, and never seemed to get caught out of position.  Especially of note was his defense of a 2-on-1 after an offensive zone turnover.  He didn't prevent the pass completely, but he forced the play to happen so late that the shooter was too close to Enroth to elevate the puck.
  • I thought Tyler Myers had a strong game last night.  He had a turnover or two, but nothing that was especially damaging.  More importantly, he looked a lot more confident jumping into the play and didn't have any "OMG OMG what do I do with this puck" moments.  Bottle that game up and tap into it every night, Tyler.
  • #CoreyTroppEffect update: 4-0 with the kid in the lineup. Tropp heads back to Rochester with a goal and an assist in his four games, but it's been his physical play and his hustle that have stood out the most. I'm definitely hoping to see more of him this season, although I'm hoping it's not because Patrick Kaleta does another impression of a ram.
  • If you haven't been to a game at the FNC this year, you might not be aware of a new promotion: the Moe's Hot Players of the Game, wherein Moe's will give 50% off an entree the next day if one of the three chosen players score. I joked with my wife that last night's choices - Leopold, Robyn Regehr, and Matt Ellis - were an obvious attempt by Moe's to even the score after Tuesday's choice of players, Vanek and Pominville amongst them, made it incredibly obvious that we'd be feasting on half-price burritos.  So naturally, Ellis and Leopold both put the puck in the net last night.  Of course they would.
  • Of Enroth's 36 saves, I was most impressed with the 14 that came in the third period, as Ottawa was able to generate some decent pressure in the final period but Enroth would have none of it.  That he retains his focus even with a four-goal lead tells me that I don't need to sweat the one-goal leads, either.
  • Really nice job by the Sabres of recognizing Veterans Day/Remembrance Day, with military-themed camouflage jerseys in warmups, the passing of Canadian and American flags and display of military footage during the anthems, and the awarding of a Purple Heart to WNY Heroes founder and veteran Chris Krieger.  Well done, Sabres.
Minuses:
  • Anything I write in this section will be viewed as nitpicking after such a dominant win.  With that in mind, I wasn't too happy about the Sabres being whistled for four minors in the first period.  A parade to the penalty box is a great way to undo a two-goal lead, but fortunately Buffalo killed off three of the four penalties and then stopped taking them.
  • More nitpicking: 0 for 5 on the power play.  It seemed to me like the Sabres were a bit too stationary with the man advantage, and as a result had a hard time generating much.  (I know, I know, stop me if you've heard that one before.)
Next Game: Tonight, 11/12/11 vs. Boston. The Bruins are a mediocre 7-7 so far this season, but like the Sabres are riding a four-game winning streak entering this game.  Shutting down Tyler Seguin, who leads the Bruins offensively with nine goals and 17 points in 14 games, will be key to extending the Sabres' winning streak to five.

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