In honour of the many storylines, and David Booth's good game ( at least!), his favorite movie just seemed right. Sometimes we get to feel like Aladdin and get the girl, all our wishes come true, and everything is right in the world. Sometimes, life is more like this actual clip!
There are nights like this one on occasion. Whether you decide you want to hang it on the goalie ( Lui was not ready, but that could go for half the team ), or the Sedin Twins now that they have gone a whole 5 games or so without a goal,( or so they tell me at the "Great Sedin Twins Expectations Tracker Desk" of NM ), you would not be totally wrong.
Truth is, the Sabres have all of the sudden backed into a playoff race because all the teams above them keep losing and they won a few games in a row. They did that on the back of some solid goaltending by Ryan Miller ( though, really Buffalo fans, how in the hell is that happening? He sucked positionally more than a few times tonight, and had several saves made by defensemen ), and the most dedicated trap this side of the Jacque Lemaire Wild with a lead. It was effective. They got more goals and deserved to win as a result. But I can't praise teams that hang five along the blue line, make more dumpouts and icings than shots, and employ the "do everything that should be called, but they can't call it all, right?" style of play too highly. I know that it looked like, when the Sabres came out of their shell in the last five minutes, that they frustrated the hell out of the Canucks. I also know if they would have played that far up the ice for the early part of that period and the second, the score is probably reversed. You play what gives you the best chance to win.
Effective? You bet. This is certainly not to denigrate the other team for winning. But that style of play and coaching is what makes me wretch. They talk about what is killing the game...
One wish, that they ban that damn style! I am sure Ron MacLean would agree with us here at NM. Say "Hi" next time you stop by Ron, thanks for the HNIC "bump" , (at the 3 minute mark). I hear its not quite the Colbert Bump, but we'll take what we can get at the blogging salt mines.
- Now, don't just read the above and think sour grapes. Of course I would have preferred a win, but that looked like it was going to be tough when you give up 3 goals in the first 5:10 of the first. Where to start? The 4th line was on for two of them, and the Twins line on for another, with Rome and Gragnani being the culprits with Manny's line, while Hamhuis and Bieksa were on with the Twins. The thing was, it was a bunch of little things, in addition to some good work by the Sabres, when they were actually interested in engaging in the game. But the main thing was a severe lack of cohesion in the team playing as a five man unit. The forwards were flying the zone so quick that the defenders never had a chance. Credit the Buffalo team for doing the right things and taking the most from their chances. But it was blatantly obvious early that they were not playing "Canuck hockey" as a five man unit early on.
- Now, that does not absolve Roberto Luongo from the 3 goals on 7 shots performance that got him pulled. I don't want to critique what he did or did not do too much because of the way the chances came from breakdowns. That first shot from Leino, he usually gets that with the pad. The second though, its tough for a goalie sometimes. The puck was a little too far to put the hand out there with the blocker to cover, and the mad stab at the puck was probably well intentioned to a teammate he saw when he reacted. The third one was just a great chance taken from yet another breakdown. Roberto might not have been ready to start the game, but man, he was not the only one. Lui said afterwards that "its one of those games you just want to forget and move on" as he stood in there and took responsibility for the ones he missed. He is right there, too. Lets at least try to do that Canuck Nation. Yes, you too #CanuckNationTeaParty . Lets hope that one game does not get the Tea Partiers tuning into
Fox TEAM and muddy the hell out of the airwaves like they all think they are Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity.
- Now, I don't want to sound like an arrogant Canuck fan. The Sabres deserved their win. I was most impressed at how they cleared the front of the net ( perhaps another deficiency in the Canuck game early. The real estate in front of the net is the high rent district, and you have to earn it ) throughout the game, but especially in the third. They blocked 15 shots ( to 10 for the home team ), while they also pressured the shooter well ( 12 misses for the Canucks to 8 for the Buffalo team ). Their goalie made some big stops in a game where, for the most part, once they got out of the first, was mainly in his own end. The Sabres were outshot 35 to 25, including a second period where it was a 13-6. But he also had some luck. That was a quick whistle on a puck that was loose that denied a Ryan Kesler goal. More than one that was saved by a block by a defender or a forward that had collapsed back. They certainly made the most of the opportunities. That fourth goal where Ehrhoff got one off of Rome's skate might have been the most important goal tonight. Tropp battled hard at the side of the net, but sometimes the bounces just go your way. It might have been a different outcome with a couple bounces. But thats a tough one to get too bent out of shape about. You want to win every one, but sometimes you just don't get the bounces or deserve to win. Both those statements had some truth tonight.
- Forget about all that deep cogent analysis, how did the new guys on our team do? How about Cody? Well, lets start with this. 20 shifts. Thats about the same as in Vancouver. 16:52 TOI. Maybe a few minutes more there. He had a few moments, and looked OK overall. But he was a +1 on a night his team had 5 goals. He had 3 shots, but missed two. The draws turned out 5 of 10 for the young ex- Canuck, but as long as you do what Lindy wants CoHo, especially in your own end, you'll do OK. Good luck kid. How about Alex Sulzer? He was matched up with the guy I cannot call one of the "new guys", Christian Ehrhoff, and looked like he can play after all. He was a +1, and had a block and 2 hits in his 12:57. The Hoff played 21:10. Perhaps Lindy liked his effort, but just not that much? More likely he was like any other coach and gives the minutes sparingly. Oh, and give me a break Canuck fans. I know we all mean well, and the kid was getting popular, but some of those signs were annoying... "WE LOVE YOU CODDDYYYYY". I hear some dude wore a Canuck jersey with a makeshift Sabres logo...(sigh) Yes, he was a solid rookie. I think highly of him still, and will be a fan when Sabres games float across the screen. BUT. He also had 3 points in 13 games, before now going pointless in the next three. He's a rookie, no matter how good. How he grew in retrospect to a combination of Jean Ratelle and Trevor Linden is beyond me. Hell, am I in the minority by actually liking this deal?
- One guy who did not end up being used too sparingly was Zack Kassian. Even with his less than great early start, being on the ice for two of the early goals, ( and not getting much ice for a bit afterwards ) he ended up getting bumped up to the Kesler line to provide a spark. He did just that, with a strong play to get an assist on David Booth's 2nd goal ( Kes deserved one there too ), before showing a great shot when he pounced on a puck in the slot and buried it. That line was better when he joined it. Don't be surprised if AV keeps that one together, and keeps Raymond on the 4th line. 3 shots and 7 hits in 10:40 of all 5 on 5 time. Marc Andre Gragnani recovered from the shaky start that saw him down -2 early to end the game the same, but with a team high 4 blocks, 3 hits, and some decent enough power play time in his 18:38 TOI ( 4:35 PP). He will have to learn that, while going into that spot in the middle of the diamond is what the coach wants, just turning back and forth looking for the pass is not. The Canuck power play is all about movement Grags. We can see it coming though.
- You could see how David Booth is getting his power game back. You could also see that it is better served, as is Ryan Kesler's power game, by having a rampaging bull instead of a shrinking violet as the third wheel. Mason Raymond is a responsible player, and he may actually have been a better choice for the 4th line early ( though that is retroactive BS too, who knows right?) because he is so responsible defensively. But damn Mase, stay on your damn skates! Booth - 2 goals, +2, 1 hit, 16:23 TOI , Kesler - 1 assist, +1, 2 shots, one weak as skim milk minor against, 2 hits, a takeaway, and a 7 of 12 night in the circle in his 19:56. Raymond - +1 , 13:07 TOI. Yes, that is all. Now you know why AV finally moved him. Not just to see how Kass' would do, huh?
- Yes, the Sedin Twins are not on the scoresheet right now, nor are they on a few of the last ones either. Their defensive game was only OK in this one, though it was just the -1 that they picked up early that was on the scoresheet at the end of the game. They were dangerous enough on the power play, though it does look like there is sometimes when overthinking ( one PP that looked like it was destined to score petered out with a Henrik pass foul up he does not usually make, and another was foiled by an Edler shot off the post that would have cashed both Twins in for a point ) on the man advantage is just not helping. Daniel had 5 shots, but only 2 hit the net. Henrik was stopped on a breakaway( though, he had an additional shot, since that one did not retroactively count. As would the goal not have counted. Neat huh? Thats how the replay rule works) , and on a night where his team the faceoff battle 27-22, he was a dominant 12 of 15. Many of those led to pressure and chances to get something going. Sometimes its tougher for the Twins when the trap teams collapse and play defense first. This is now the 4th straight team that employs that pernicious style, and the Stars are in town next Tuesday, before we get a break and face the high flying Winnipeg Jets. Then its the Habs, another team that only comes forward when they happen to have the puck, dump it at every opportunity, and only forecheck in name only. The Sabres had a few shifts in the third where they came forward, but honestly, I lost count of the number of dump outs. It was boringly effective, and some will tell you its the Sedin twins kryptonite. I know I have seen them battle through a trap enough that I am not panicking yet. YET. I get where the "Whats wrong with the Twins" camp is coming from, I just might disagree with the degree! They'll be fine. Right?
- Finally, Alex Edler. Yes, I saw those giveaways too. he had a team high 3 of them. He also led the blue line with 25:02 TOI, and when the shuffle occurred, I thought he was solid with Gragnani, more or less. He had 4 shots on ( and an equal number missed ), 3 blocks and 2 hits. So, not his best night, but far from his worst. I was maddened at how he would just powder the puck without looking up a couple times on the power play. One, Kaleta was right there, and he did it anyhow. Mind you, that was after the goale was run. Maybe that was Alex being "Evil Eddie". Hurting people Eddie?
So, on a night where the Canucks were not ready to start, did not all battle through the checking for 60 minutes, outhit their opposition 29-12, outshot them 35-25, and won the majority of draws, they were done in by a combination of a good goaltender being hot, a defensively responsible team being reincarnated into a trap team as soon as they got a lead, and their own less than best effort. Something tells me that facing a team like the Stars, to whom they just blew an O/T loss to on the road , we will face a more concerted and determined effort.