Saturday, November 19, 2011

Film Room, Game 19: Sabres vs. Hurricanes 11/18/11

Box Score (NHL.com)

"It was a real bad game from my side.... I gave up five goals tonight, and that's not good enough."

So quoth Jhonas Enroth after a 5-3 loss to New Jersey Wednesday night. The five goals were the most Enroth had given up in an NHL game, thus representing the worst game (statistically, anyway) of his career - and after hearing him take the blame during his postgame comments, his next start promised to be an interesting study in how the rookie responds to adversity.

Naturally, Enroth the Iceman responded with possibly the best game of his nascent career, stopping all 34 Carolina shots last night for his second career shutout.  What else would you expect?

Jason Pominville's first-period powerplay goal after some hard work in the corner by Brad Boyes and a great goalmouth pass by Thomas Vanek gave Enroth the only lead he would need.  After that it was the Jhonas Enroth Show, and the Canes certainly didn't make it easy on him, forcing him to make a plethora of quality saves - particularly in the final two periods, when the Canes outshot the Sabres 26-10 and never seemed to leave the attacking zone - but Enroth stood tall each and every time.

Make no mistake about it - if I listed ten reasons why the Sabres won this game, Enroth would be at least eight of them. 

Pluses:
  • Pominville and Vanek continue to play well regardless of the identity of the center playing between them.  Right now it's Derek Roy's turn at even strength, and on the power play it's Brad Boyes who continues to reap the benefits, drawing a secondary assist on Pominville's goal.  Pominville and Vanek are both riding six-game point streaks, and both remain well above a point-per-game pace.  Vote these two into the All-Star Game, people.
  • Speaking of Roy, I thought he skated pretty well after a rather forgettable game Wednesday night against New Jersey.
  • Maybe being paired with Drew Stafford was the key for Ville Leino, whose past would indicate that having chemistry with his linemates is more crucial than for most players.  Leino still isn't making it to the scoresheet with regularity, but as long as he's been on the ice with Stafford he's looked pretty good.  After removing Roy and plugging in Boyes - who suddenly seems comfortable playing center - on that line, the results have been the same. Now if only their effort started manifesting itself in the form of points...
  • Tyler Myers' recommitment to physical play has been as noticeable as, well, a giant blond man in hockey skates.  He thinks getting nasty is the key to improving his overall play, and after the last two games, I'm inclined to think he's on to something.  One would think that being paired with Robyn Regehr is certainly helping to bring out that aspect of Myers' game.
  • After two straight games of allowing a power play goal the penalty kill settled down and put up yet another 0-fer, thwarting all three Canes' opportunities with the man advantage.  For the season, the Sabres rank third in the NHL in penalty killing at 90%.  
  • Christian Ehrhoff may still scare everyone defensively, but at least last night he wasn't afraid to launch some bombs from the point on the powerplay.
Minuses:
  • All of a sudden, Luke Adam has seemingly gone from first-line center to Lindy Ruff's doghouse.  Ever since being a minus-4 in Boston, Adam has been pulled off the Vanek-Pominville line and has watched his ice time dwindle.  Last night Adam was on the ice for a season-low 8:51, none of which came on special teams - even Corey Tropp was on the ice more. (Not that Tropp hasn't been deserving, but Adam would seem to be more established than Tropp at this point).  I know Ruff has said he hasn't been thrilled with Adam's defensive play, but it's still disheartening to see him nearly play himself out of the lineup.  Hopefully Adam can work his way through this.
  • Getting outshot 26-10 in the second and third periods is sort of inexcusable, Sabres.  Although they weren't particularly sloppy, Buffalo still had a hard time getting the Canes to leave their zone - not unlike that annoying relative you can't kick out of your house after Thanksgiving dinner.  They were fortunate that this mattered not to Jhonas Enroth.
  • Similarly - although the previous bullet point serves as an explanation - generating just 20 shots on goal was a disappointment.  The Canes can't keep the puck out of their net lately and Brian Boucher was between the pipes - think of all the goals that could have been scored!
Next Game: Tonight, 11/19/11 vs. Phoenix.  I know exactly two things about the Coyotes: jack and... well, we won't get into the second one, so I'll cheat and use the standings to tell you that they're seventh in the West and 6-2-2 in their last ten. I found it interesting that the Coyotes are currently 11th in the NHL in goals allowed per game with 2.41, suggesting that they don't really miss Ilya "Lost in the Woods" Bryzgalov all that much.

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