Buffalo - December 1, 2014 - Following every Sabres game, we’ll be taking a little look at the previous night’s action with a little segment called “good, bad and ugly”. Expect a loooooooot of ugly.
This is a weekend edition and the Sabres continue their winning ways with a pair of victories over one of the top teams in the league in the Montreal Canadiens.
I know I keep harping on how good the goaltending is, but the goaltending, guys. Jhonas Enroth was strong in both Friday’s 2-1 victory (stopping 30 of 31) and Saturdays 4-3 win (stopping 41 of 44). Not only that, but in Saturday’s game, things went to a shootout and he couldn’t have looked more in control and unbeatable than he did. He was stopping attempts with ease, almost looking bored on a few.
While the team as a whole has been playing much better over the last half dozen games, the Sabres would not be on the winning side in five of those without the efforts of Enroth. He has been as good as it gets, putting the team on his back in this stretch. I don’t know if he’s like Miller where he gets better with consistent work, but he’s showing he can be a real #1 goalie.
Also good: holy highlight-reel goals, Batman. On Friday, Tyler Ennis had a crazy drive to the net capped off by a behind-the-back, no-look goal. Here, just look. I can’t even accurately describe it without adding a bunch of exclamation marks. Then Chris Stewart apparently bought his skates from Tony Stark, turning on the jets for a breakaway goal on Saturday where he split two defensemen and beat Dustin Tokarski just over the right pad.
It’s almost as if this isn’t the same Sabres team, but it somehow is. And they’re doing this without Drew Stafford who, while an extreme loafer, is still one of the better offensive players on this team. I have no words for what they’re doing offensively, especially when you consider they’re not really generating many more shots.
Lastly, I cannot tell you enough just how much I liked their response to Alexei Emelin’s hit on Brian Gionta near the end of Friday’s game. He caught the Buffalo captain with a shoulder to the head and since there were less than two minutes to go when he took the call, there wasn’t much of an appropriate response to be had (other than Moulson scoring the game-winner).
On Saturday, the Sabres came out physical and made sure to let Emelin know they hadn’t forgotten. They gave him a little extra, made him a point of emphasis and generally rattled him for the first period. The physical play continued throughout, but that was a great response without the obvious “drop the gloves” comeback. I’m not asking much of this team and as long as they can go down swinging, I’ll never be disappointed in this group.
Again, the play is better, but the dependency on Enroth (and the goaltending in general) is still concerning if you really want this team to win. Enroth was outstanding both nights and that’s fine and well, but if the team is going to continue to give up in the neighborhood of 40 shots a night, they’re not always going to get the benefit of A+ goaltending.
Having said that, we all know this is a woefully undertalented team and they’re playing about their heads in the last half dozen games, so really, how picky can I be?
I guess while I’m at it, I’ll throw a little shade at the Canadiens for seemingly targeting Gionta not only on the Emelin hit but in general. It seemed like they were a little extra rough with him, giving him the business after the whistle before Emelin took his head off. Not sure if there’s animosity there or what, but some of it was unnecessary.
OH NO WE WON’T GET MCDAVID YOU GUYS OH NO
Listen up. I want Connor McDavid just as much as any Sabres fan, but I’m not going to be upset or angry at a team clearly overachieving and having some success. This is a long season and the Sabres are one of the least talented teams in the league. Enjoy a few wins before reality comes roaring back into the picture.
To put it in perspective: they’re still the only team averaging less than 2.00 goals per game (1.67) despite this recent offensive outburst. They’re also allowing 3.12 goals per game, more than anyone but Edmonton, Dallas and Columbus and that’s only because Jhonas Enroth decided to be the brick wall from Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey. This is still a bad team. They’re still going to grab a top spot in the draft. Nothing to see here.
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