If you wanted to say one thing about the Buffalo Sabres‘ win last night, I don’t think you could.
The Sabres’ 7-4 victory over the previously undefeated in regulation Boston Bruins showed the NHL world a lot. The game was not about the John Scott and Steve Ott additions as everyone felt it would be. Instead, the game was about Lindy Ruff showing that he could stretch out the vaunted Bruins defense with the stratospheric-level play of his first line.
Here are the highs and lows of the game for the Sabres:
There really is nothing that can be said that does justice to how well Vanek has been playing. Scoring five points is hard enough, but it’s not like he did it against a defensively weak team. This was the Bruins. Anytime you play Zdeno Chara on a regular basis and push him to a minus-3 on the game, you’re dominating. Jason Pominville and Cody Hodgson were great as well, scoring three points each, but last night was Vanek’s.
Andrew Peters may have put it best last night:
If I played a game like Vanek played tonight my interview would simply be: “you know it’s gut check time and I was ridiculous tonight.”
— Andrew Peters (@76_AndrewPeters) February 1, 2013
It’s been said, but that may be one of the best four goals allowed game by a goaltender you’ll ever see. Posting 38 saves on 42 shots, Miller was there as the Sabres’ steadying force despite letting up three unanswered goals in just over five minutes in the second period. He was huge in the third, and the chants of Miller in the TD Garden fell on deaf ears.
Easily the Sabres’ best defenseman last night, Weber has made a strong case for remaining in the Sabres’ lineup when Robyn Regehr returns from his injury. Playing north of 21 minutes, Weber was great in the defensive zone and ended the night a plus-2 with six hits.
While his role was far less than many had thought – some believed he would fight as many as three times last night – his one fight was enough for the entire Bruins bench. Shawn Thornton got shelled, and unfortunately was injured in the process, but Scott’s clear win silenced the TD Garden and set the tone for the rest of the game. His point toward the Bruins’ bench wasn’t a bad touch either.
He just looks lost out there. He had moments where he looked his old self, but two of the Bruins’ goals were directly on him. Brad Marchand Leopold’ed him for the Bruins’ second goal and his shallow offensive zone giveaway led to an odd-man transition back into the Buffalo zone for an easy goal for David Krejci. Once Regehr is healthy, don’t be surprised to see him sitting in the pressbox for a game or two to try and wake him up.
After giving up the game winner Tuesday night, Leopold looked slow and indecisive again last night. Maybe it was playing with a struggling Myers, but Miller came up huge on a few zone lapses by Leopold to keep the Sabres in the game or in the lead, especially after they went up 5-4.
The game ending.
Realistically, the game was not as lopsided as the score would suggest, with the game being back and forth and chances being traded at both ends all game long. It lived up to its billing as a physical game, with there being 37 hits thrown by both teams, and was so much more than the heavyweight bout many, including myself, believed it would degrade into. As Pierre LeBrun stated, this could have the opposite impact on the Sabres that the Lucic incident had last season. Time will tell, but if that Sabres team comes to play more often, the division crown dream becomes a reality.
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