Going into the game Saturday night in Boston, expectations were low, to say the least.
The Sabres embarrassed themselves at home on Friday, losing 4-2 to Thomas Vanek and the Vancouver Canucks. They started off well with Justin Bailey getting a sweet goal on a great feed from Ryan O’Reilly. He skated hard to the front of the net, as he is wont to do, and O’Reilly found him in front. Bailey deked and went backhand and tucked her in. Beautiful play. After Vancouver tied it, Eichel worked his magic on the right side and slipped a low shot under Jacob Markstrom’s pad for the 2-1 lead. Things were looking decent until we went on the power play late in the second period.
The dreaded second-period lull lurks in the sewers like Pennywise the Clown with this team. Bringing a new coach in seems not to have had an effect on this team’s compete level so far and we continue to take our foot off the gas and lose focus when it really matters. This led to the Sabres giving up their 6th short-handed goal of the season. 6 short-handed goals against in 7 games played is just outrageous. How can you expect to win games when you’re not scoring on the power play and instead, getting scored upon? This has nothing to do with the goaltending or the coaching. This one is squarely on the players on the ice. They need to step up and take some responsibility and have some accountability for their play. Kyle Okposo was benched for the third period and maybe this message resonated with the players ahead of Saturday night’s tilt in Boston.
I had such low expectations going into Saturday night, that although I had the game on TV, I was not really watching it as I had friends over to create our Halloween costumes. I glanced at the 1st period and noticed we were down 1-0 and I was thinking, “Here we go again.” Early in the 2nd it was 3-0 Boston and it looked like the rout was on. It was 4-1 in the second when Robin Lehner made the play of the game stopping the Rat Brad Marchand on a breakaway. This play was huge for a couple of reasons – Firstly, Lehner has not been good in his career on breakaways, and secondly, if Boston scores there, the Sabres are down 5-1 and the game is pretty much over. Instead, Lehner came up huge and gave the boys a lift and belief that they still had a chance. Late in the second, we began to chip away.
Marco Scandella who has gotten off to a slow start on a new team got the puck at the point and worked to the middle of the ice to get a shot on net. His wrist shot was well located high enough up on Boston goalie Kudhobin’s chest and he couldn’t handle it with his glove. The shot hit his shoulder and bounced to the ice where Jack was waiting at the side of the net to bang it in. It was 4-2 Bruins going into the third where the Sabres roared back and won the period to tie it up and get her to Overtime.
In OT the Sabres absolutely dominated, keeping the puck in Boston’s zone pretty much the whole time. They poured on the pressure and Ryan O’Reilly put the team on his back and made a beautiful play to get to the front of the net. He skated from behind the net with the puck then deked the defenseman and spun inside to the front on his backhand, lifting it over Kudhobin’s right shoulder as Risto got pushed into the goalie. The goal was reviewed by the War-Room in Toronto for a few minutes afterwards but it was determined the Risto was in fact shoved by the Boston defenseman into the goalie, and therefore there was no goaltender interference and we had a good goal on the ice. The Sabres rushed off the bench to celebrate and it was clear how much this win meant to the boys. It was a huge comeback against a team that has frankly had our number the last 4-5 seasons. We saw them show the heart and desire that is required every night in the NHL. Hopefully this win will be the one we build off of to go on a run. But as Jack said afterwards, if they don’t go out and win tonight, then that win doesn’t matter. I think that they will build off of that win Saturday and will come out strong on national television tonight against the Red Wings.
The game tonight is on NBC Sports Network and I am so looking forward to hearing what Mike Milbury has to say about it. Hopefully he won’t be on and JR will be on instead. I love Jeremy Roenick’s takes and his personality, and I look forward to hearing him talk with the Instigators every week. Petey and Old Man River have a very entertaining show on WGR and I encourage anyone with the time to check them out. Marty Biron makes regular appearances and they have some really good hockey insights. They also have a lot of fun and make good natured jokes, and give good hot takes on what’s going on around the NHL.
Let’s build off that fantastic team win on Saturday night. I believe we have the talent and that as a new group we still need time to gel. That last game might be one of those moments that brings a group together and builds that trust. Let’s take it to Detroit from the beginning until the end of the game and play for the full 60 minutes. Let’s Go Sabres, Let’s Go Buffalo!
Sabres v Red Wings, 7:30 NBCSN