Week 6: Six Goals…In One Game!

Photo from diebytheblade.com

Photo from diebytheblade.com

 

Welcome back, RJ! Photo from yahoo.com

Welcome back, RJ! Photo from yahoo.com

“No matter what happens from here on in, I feel like a winner.” These are the words spoken by the Sabres’ legendary commentator, Rick Jeanneret, as he returned to the announcer’s booth for the first time since he was diagnosed with throat cancer this past summer.  RJ called first period action between the Sabres and their foes to the north, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and with his usual tone and flourishes on full display, the Sabres gave himself and the fans plenty to be excited about.

From many perspectives, it was a tough week for the Sabres. They played a bad game against a very good team in the St. Louis Blues, and a mediocre game against a mediocre team in the Minnesota Wild. I’m not going to spend too much time on these games; they played out much in the way that I said they would in my article last week, and I don’t like to be redundant, though, I will say that the young D pairing of Ristolainen and Zadorov continue to impress. Ristolainen got his first goal of the season, and Zadorov came to call when the Blues’ Ian Cole sent Ennis hard into the boards after the whistle. Tyson Strachan has contributed four assists in just nine games, and his decent play will hopefully keep him in the line-up. Ennis seems to have found the scoring touch we’d always hoped he had, and Stafford has started to play like he’s in a contract year. In case you were wondering, there is no stopping the Z-train. None. Don’t even try.

Zadorov has Ennis' back.  Photo from youtube.com

Zadorov has Ennis’ back. Photo from youtube.com

The losses in the Midwest were disappointing but expected. Toronto had been on a tear, winning six of their last nine games, but despite all of this, anticipation was high for Saturday’s tilt with the Leafs. The Sabres announced Jeanneret’s return on Friday afternoon, the city was all-in for the game, and when Ennis scored on our first power play attempt, the city celebrated with him. Jeanneret’s call of the goal on the “POWERRRRR PLAAAAYY! “ reverberated across the city, and — if just for one night — the Sabres were back. They were the old Blue and Gold, the team that the city turned to when the Bills let us down over the previous 14 years. The outpouring of emotion over RJ’s return was expressed on the ice as the Sabres would go on to score five more goals before the final horn. The penalty kill would continue to be the Sabres’ best aspect, killing off all four Leaf power plays and putting the Sabres up 2-0 before the end of the first period with Girgenson’s shorthanded effort. Stafford would score his fourth of the season to open the scoring in the second, and though the Leafs got on the board late, the Sabres came back to score less than 20 seconds later with Moulson adding a goal to his earlier assist. He’d add another assist to bring his point total for the night to three, nearly doubling his seasonal production so far. Toronto would score with only 19 seconds left in the period, and the Sabres seemed to be chasing again and losing some of the momentum they’d carried through the night. Tyler Myers would score just over a minute into the period, looking good sporting the A while his linemate Josh Gorges is sidelined with a knee injury. Zee would close out the scoring, nearly netting two shorthanded goals, as the Sabres’ penalty had just expired while Girgensons was breaking down the ice.

Zee doesn't skate - he levitates! Photo from foxsports.com

Zee doesn’t skate – he levitates! Photo from foxsports.com

Myers continues to be on the tip of every GM’s tongue it seems. Trade rumors swirled last week when the Dallas Stars dealt an aged Gonchar to the Canadiens for journeyman Travis Moen. The move cleared some cap space for the Stars, who are said to be very interested in Myers. There is also the never-ending rumor that Detroit would love to have Myers anchor their blue line; though, they apparently aren’t willing to give what GM Tim Murray is asking. Giving Myers the A is an interesting move. He is the team leader in ice time, even while leading the team in penalty minutes. He is an integral part of the penalty kill (when he’s not in the box), but he is a -9 even strength. He may be a leader in the locker room, but there are others on the team who are generally mentioned when leadership is discussed, and they were passed over. One has to wonder if the Sabres are inflating Myers’ value a bit to see if they can get a bigger offer on the trade market.

Zadorov has been good – better than several of his veteran counterparts. He’s got one more game before the decision needs to made to keep him on the team or send him back to Juniors (more likely, he’ll end up in the KHL); but Head Coach Ted Nolan has indicated he thinks Zadorov is here to stay, and he is one of only two people on the team who are on the positive side of +/-. I think he’s here for the duration, and I think his chemistry with Ristolainen could be something we’re talking about throughout the season. The two kids play well together; they may end up being one of the highlights of the season. Of course, last time I said that, I was speaking about the Foligno-Girgensons-Stewart line, which was promptly broken up.

And then there’s Zee. Girgensons has been the Sabres’ best overall player by leaps and bounds. He’s tied with Tyler Ennis for most goals (6). He’s the only forward with a positive +/- (+3). He is always physical, but rarely dirty, serving only two minor penalties so far this season. He is a force on the ice, as kinetic as a pinball; he’s always a part of the play, always in motion, and rarely making mistakes. With all of the things that are wrong with the Sabres right now, Zemgus Girgensons is very right.

Last week, we lost against the teams we should have, and pulled out a strong win against a team that had it coming. Truth be told, this was our best offensive week all season. The Sabres scored ten goals last week, their previous ten goals had been spread out over the previous eight games, and in the eight games prior to that, the Sabres scored only eight goals, so it was really great to see the pucks hit the back of the net. Hopefully, the team built up some confidence — especially with the six goals scored Saturday — the most since January 31st, 2013, nearly two years ago.

Neuvirth will start against the Sharks. Photo from prohockeytalk.com

Neuvirth will start against the Sharks. Photo from prohockeytalk.com

On Tuesday night, the Sabres host the San Jose Sharks. The Sabres were able to take home the W in their visit to the Shark Tank last month. The Sharks are at the end of an extended road trip, and the combination of weariness and a confident Sabres team could prove to be dangerous for San Jose. On Friday, the Rangers come to town for the first matchup of the season between these two teams. Goalie Henrik Lundkvist generally has the Sabres’ number, and it won’t be easy for the Sabres generally anemic offense to solve Hank – I think the Sabres lose this game. They close out the week traveling to Washington for a Saturday night game with the Capitals. The Caps have their own problems, and it’s going to be an interesting night – if the Sabres penalty kill can keep Ovie and the Caps off the board, they may have a chance. I think Nolan plays Neuvirth against his former team, and he’ll be looking to make a statement. It’s a long shot, and if the Sabres are going to win two this week, the offense is going to have to continue their streak.

Thanks for everything, Dom! Photo from powerofthepuck.com

Thanks for everything, Dom! Photo from powerofthepuck.com

I know this is getting long, so thanks for sticking around. Finally, I’d like to take a moment to congratulate Dominik Hasek for his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. He had a lot of success with the Czech National Team and with the Detroit Red Wings, but in my heart, he’ll always be sprawled across the crease with the crossed swords emblazoned across his emaciated chest for the world to see. Dom played into his forties and played well. He deserves all of the accolades he’s gotten, and this one especially.

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One Comment on “Week 6: Six Goals…In One Game!”

  1. erikwollschlager November 24, 2014 at 11:39 am #

    Reblogged this on ewollschlager and commented:

    Week 6!

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