Hey folks, by now all of the Sabres and Bruins fans know, our two teams faced off against each other, last night. It was quite a spirited and fun to game to watch. Now normally I don't blog about a single game, just big news. But since I kicked my parents out of the house so that I could watch this game, I thought I should make a blog about this game. So Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends, readers and family.
Alright, so the game between the Bruins and the Sabres last night was a chance at redemption for the Sabres. In the last meeting between these two teams, Milan Lucic, took a good run at Ryan Miller, and sent him flying, the result; Miller out with a concussion, and Lucic smiling about it while talking to the media. But even worse than Lucic not getting suspended, was the lack of response, from the Sabres after Lucic had run their number one goaltender. The Sabres did nothing no fights, no hits, no goals. It was a sad moment for the Sabres team and their fans, many fans said they had never been more disappointed or ashamed to be a Sabres fan. Yes I agree it was sad, and not the right response, but after Lindy Ruff chewed out his players the next day, and every single one of them apologized to Miller, the players and fans turned their attention to the next game between the Bruins and Sabres. It was the rematch, an opportunity for the Sabres to send a message, that they are not a "soft" team, and that you can't just run over our star players. The game could have gotten ugly, it could have gotten out of hand, and there could have been multiple suspensions and fines handed down from NHL disciplinarian Branden Shanahan, who warned both teams before the game. But in my humble opinion, it was a good hard fought game, although I didn't always agree with some of the calls, who does!
Now I know all Bruins fans were laughing at the Sabres for waiting a week to respond to the hit; but how long did it take the Bruins to respond to Matt Cooke's hit, that may have ultimately ended Marc Savard's career? There are times, in a game, where teams or players don't respond to dirty hits, both these two teams have screwed up in that regard, but most importantly to me, is how you rebound from the initial game. Yes I know the Sabres lost all the fights, that they were in Last night, but that's not the important thing, we stood up for ourselves and sent a message, that were not a pushover team. There was a lot of drama drummed up over this rematch game, most stirred up by the media, but the Sabres made sure not to disappoint a sell-out crowd at the First Niagara Center. Just 83 seconds into the game Paul Gaustad challenged Milan Lucic to a fight, "It was straight to the point," Lucic said. "You don't really know what to expect. You go into every game prepared for anything. It was actually probably good on both ends just to get it out of the way right off the start." The fight lasted for 21 punches and ended with Gaustad on the ice, but that didn't matter to the crowd, they were just happy their team was back from playing with barbie dolls. "It was a hard-fought game, and it's unfortunate about the outcome," Gaustad said. "Everybody stuck together. It was something we talked about in the locker room after the Boston game. I'm proud of the way the guys played." But the fights didn't stop with the Gaustad-Lucic melee, 11.5 minutes through the first period Brad Marchand threw a punishing check, that sent Nathan Gerbe flying into the boards, moments later Marchand and Gerbe were joined by the rest of their teammates in a full on Battle Royal. All 10 of the skaters on the ice were throwing wild punches, the only thing that could have made it better, would have been a goalie fight between Enroth and Thomas. A few minutes later, after two separate cross checks from both teams, another scrum broke lose; McQuaid and Marchand started up with Gaustad as the three players were all throwing punches, but then Zdeno Chara and Robyn Regehr veered off for the main event. Although Chara easily won that fight as well, the crowd still didn't care, they were on their feet loud and proud for their team and the fights that were taking place. Toughness and fearlessness replaced the embarrassment from last week's affair; but lost in all the fights and hits and punches, was the fact that a hockey game still had to be played and one team would come away victorious. "We're not going to turn this into a street fight," Gerbe said. "We want to win a game. That's our goal. Goose stepped up and did a good job, went toe-to-toe with their tough guy and did really well. Robyn, same thing." From that moment on, cooler heads prevailed and it turned into a hockey game; a physical hockey game, that featured lots of special teams, and some horrible officiating, but a hockey game non the less. By the end of the first period Sabres fans were feeling pretty good about their team, as they left the ice up 2-0 on goals by Vanek and Ehrhoff.
But in the second period every time a Sabres player touched a Bruin, a penalty was called, many of the calls were weak, but you can't fight the men in the stripes. The Sabres were penalized 7 times in the final 40 minutes, compared to the Bruins 2, both Bruins penalties resulted in 4 on 4 play though. With the horrible officiating the door was open for the Bruins to climb right back into the game, and that they did; Tyler Seguin scored the first Bruin goal that cut the lead to 2-1, then a special moment as T.J. Brennan scored his first NHL goal in his first NHL game, to give the Sabres a 3-1 lead, but with more penalty trouble on the horizon, it was all for naught; Goals by Marchand and Chara, tied the game up. Thus the game went to overtime and then a shootout. But in the Shootout it was a battle of the goalies, Thomas maked a save, only to see Enroth top it with a save of his own. It went back and forth till the 5th round, when Enroth got sniped top corner. And that was all she wrote. "I was happy with how we played," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "There were a lot of good things. You play like that, you're going to win a lot of games."
Despite the loss I was very happy with the game and the way we stood up for ourselves and fought back, we didn't do anything stupid, we played good hard hockey, we banged with the big tough Bruins, that's a hard task in itself. We got a point, and a point in this very tight Eastern conference is something to be happy with. Through the 20 game mark we have 25 points and are in the playoff picture in 7th, plus were only 1 point behind the Leafs and Bruins and 3 points behind the Flyers for top spot. I don't know about you but I'll take that compared to our start last season. To be honest Tim Thomas stole the game for the Bruins like he so often has in the past, we had 8 or 9 great chances, that would have been in the net if we were up against any other tender. Thomas bounced back from a shaky start and won the game, it happens. But I like the toughness we showed, standing up for ourselves after being absolutely embarrassed. It's a good way to draw the team together, players show that they care and want to fight hard for their teammates, it's great for team unity. I think the Sabres are going to be a stronger, tougher and a better team all around after this game, and it is a learning point for our team. Right now the Sabres are in a tough spot, we're missing 7 players who were available for the opening win in Europe. I hate to say it, but I believe Enroth is showing he can't handle the pressure of being the pure number one goaltender right now. Anyways, I'm glad we stood up for ourselves out there and showed people were not pushovers, it's good for out team and our reputation around the league. We got another game to play on Friday so hopefully we can build from our tough play and come out on top with 2 points and jump ahead of the big bad Bruins again.
So I learned two things from this game; 1, we are the worst team ever at keeping two goal leads. We were up 2-0, then 3-1, yet we still lose 4-3. So we need to learn how to finish a hockey game. 2, we need Miller back, I don't care what anyone says or thinks about him, we need him back. If this team wants to go deep in the playoffs and perhaps take it all, we need him in net stealing games for us, like he has done season after season. I'm not jumping ship on Miller after what 6 bad games? I say once he's healthy (and if Enroth keeps playing like this) we throw Miller back in and ride him till he starts to lose. I think with Miller around it helps Enroth, it gives him confidence, and keeps some attention away from him. Oh yeah, I also learned that I still hate shootouts; like I said on twitter "there is a reason, we don't use shootouts in the playoffs". I think they're stupid, they may be exciting, but it comes down to pure luck and fluke. So thank you Sabres for playing some good hard hockey for once, and thank you Bruins, for bringing the Sabres out of their shells, and allowing them to have their best first period all season.