Sabres Week Four: WE GOT A WIN! Can We Put Together a Streak?

Demoralizing for the Red Wings I'm sure! - Photo via Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

Demoralizing for the Red Wings I’m sure! – Photo via Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

“We’re going to run out of words to describe how bad this team is by the end of the year,” said the puckdaddiest of them all, Greg Wyshynski, on the October 30th edition of the Marek vs Wyshynski podcast. And, ladies and gentlemen, he was speaking about YOUR Buffalo Sabres and their 10-shot effort against the Toronto Maple Leafs the night before. Wysh may be right, but we’re only four weeks into the season, so I’m not quite out yet. Here we go; your week four in review.

The aforementioned disaster of the Leafs game took place on Wednesday. The Sabres, back from a win and a few days off, were poised to break their power play drought against the Toronto team, which was experiencing their own woes on their home ice. Unfortunately, it seems that Newton was right – a body at rest will remain at rest, and the Sabres should’ve just stayed on the bench. Leafs netminder Jonathan Bernier could’ve stayed on the bench, and the Leafs still would’ve kept the game close! Bernier barely broke a sweat en route to his first shutout of the season. “I thought it could have been worse…I thought Neuvirth played outstanding.” His compliment was aimed at his adversary, who saved 33 of 37 shots and was 8-9 against Toronto while they carried the man advantage. While the penalty kill remained the Sabres’ strongest unit, allowing only one goal on six Leafs power plays, the team looked like the disorganized, inept crew of pick-up game warriors we’ve come to loathe and love.

CODY!  We said Phaneuf is a pylon, not pile on Phaneuf! - Photo from YouTube.com

CODY! We said Phaneuf is a pylon, not pile on Phaneuf! – Photo from YouTube.com

Thursday, the Sabres returned home to face the Boston Bruins. Given their effort the previous night, and the fact that the Bruins have generally physically and emotionally abused the Sabres in the past few seasons, things were not looking good for our boys in Blue. The building was largely quiet as the puck dropped, but less than one minute in, Chris Stewart celebrated his birthday by doing something EVERYONE in Buffalo wants to do: he punched Milan Lucic in the face. Several times. The excitement in the arena was palpable as fans finally awoke from their stupor, maybe a little punch drunk themselves from the tedious season so far. The fight definitely sparked the Sabres’ bench, and the team matched the physical play of the notoriously dirty Bruins, and then some. Finally, 5:12 into the second period, Drew Stafford got his birthday wish, scoring his first goal of the season and the Sabres’ first power play goal of the year. The Bruins would come back to tie the game, but Ennis netted his fourth of the year, and the Sabres took a 2-1 lead into the second intermission. They would play a strong third period, but one in which the fatigue of back-to-back games was beginning to show. With only five and a half minutes left, the Bruins tied the game. The goal seemed to have taken the wind out of the Sabres’ sails, and they would eventually succumb in overtime, when Brad Marchand scored his second consecutive goal on the night.

Happy Birthday, Stew! - Photo from foxsports.com

Happy Birthday, Stew! – Photo from foxsports.com

The Sabres took their momentum southward, facing the rolling Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday. It took less than five minutes for the Penguins to score their first goal of the night, and the hits just kept coming. A little more than halfway through the second, Pittsburgh made it 2-0, and then the Penguins’ power play took over, scoring on three of their next four man-advantages. The Sabres, on the other hand, were not able to continue their power play prowess, and were unable to put one past Marc Andre Fleury, who became the fifth goalie to shutout the Sabres this year. Veteran Defenseman Mike Weber, who is considered among many to be a leader on the team, expressed his feelings on the Sabres’ failings so far this year, “Whether it’s been on the road or at home, we somehow have to find an identity to get nasty, get angry. There’s not enough anger, there’s not enough intensity throughout the game.” While the Sabres carry a hefty load of the blame, this was Fleury’s third shutout in four games. The notoriously streaky goaltender has been on a roll as of late, and the Penguins power play proficiency has them sitting atop their division, and poised to be a real contender if their stars can stay healthy.

The Zee Train Rolled in the Shooutout! - Photo from Sabres.com

The Zee Train Rolled in the Shooutout! – Photo from Sabres.com

Sunday, Buffalo would host the Detroit Red Wings for their fourth game in five days. The Wings were returning east from a solid thumping of the Los Angeles Kings and had beaten the Washington Capitals earlier in the week – basically, they were coming into Buffalo expecting to keep their streak going. The Buffalo crowd came ready for whatever the Sabres had left in the tank, and fortunately, the Sabres came ready to play. Both teams played a close first period, and the Sabres even kept the shots close, only down 10-7 by the sound of the first horn. The Sabres opened the scoring at 6:55 in the second, when Brian Flynn got his first of the season. When the Sabres aren’t shutout this season, their success seems to be tied to scoring first – they’ve done so in all three of their wins this year. This game was no exception, and the Sabres showed some grit, allowing Detroit to score the next two goals and then tying the game up with just under seven minutes left in the third. Detroit controlled the overtime period, but the Sabres were able to hold off the OT power play and take the Wings to the shootout. Ennis and Girgensons beat the stalwart Jimmy Howard, and Neuvirth hung tough for his second win of the year.

Neuvirth Seals the Win! Photo from YouTube.com

Neuvirth Seals the Win! Photo from YouTube.com

Aside from the Penguins game, the penalty kill remains a force. They’ve dropped out of the top ten, but are still in the upper half of the stats, despite their 50 kills, which is the third highest rate of instance in the league. The goalies are both getting shelled night-to-night and are both playing well, considering – if nothing else, the battle between Enroth and Neuvirth could prove interesting to watch. Trade rumors continue to swirl with Tyler Myers and Chris Stewart as the eyes of that storm, and while they sent 2nd overall pick Sam Reinhart down to the minors, the talks surrounding Nikita Zadorov have been interesting as his minor league affiliate and KHL teams vie for his rights.

This week, the Sabres host a veritable roller coaster of teams. They start the week off Wednesday against the Montreal Canadians, who sit second in the Atlantic Division but lost badly to the Calgary Flames on Sunday and will face a dominating Blackhawks team the night before. A Habs loss could be bad news for the Sabres as Montreal will come to the FNC looking to break a three-game losing streak. If the Sabres can get that coveted first goal, and outplay the Habs in the third, they may be able to pull one out here, for a season-high two wins in a row. The Sabres get another break on Friday, when they will face the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers will be playing their third game in four nights, with the previous two against the Flyers and Bruins. The Oilers could be bruised and exhausted from these two historically physical teams, and Buffalo may be able to take advantage of the scheduling. That’s right, by Saturday morning, we could end up with three consecutive wins, and seven points out of ten in our last five games. Unfortunately, Saturday evening brings the Penguins to the FNC, and while it may be tough for the Pens to get up for this game, I don’t think we can handle a streaking Fleury and their nearly unstoppable power play. All-in-all, it could be a better week for the Sabres though. I hope Wysh’s prediction doesn’t come true, and I’ll still have some words to write next week.

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7 Comments on “Sabres Week Four: WE GOT A WIN! Can We Put Together a Streak?”

  1. erikwollschlager November 5, 2014 at 12:46 pm #

    Reblogged this on ewollschlager and commented:

    Week 4 review

  2. Freddy December 11, 2014 at 4:10 pm #

    Awesome article.

  3. erikwollschlager December 11, 2014 at 8:04 pm #

    Thanks for reading!

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