6-4 Islanders. Lots to talk about in this one…
The opening ceremonies were actually pretty cool. I’ve never been in the building when something like that happens, but it was an exciting feeling, seeing those banners cascade down. The crowd was into it, and the “Let’s Go Buffalo” chant that followed was one of the loudest I’ve ever heard.
I really liked that they changed the old Northeast and Eastern Conference champs banners to match the old Whales and Adams templates. If that means nothing to you, check out a picture of the rafters from the first practice and one from last night. A nice touch to change the template back and making everything uniform. Too bad they couldn’t put the old crest up on the new ones…
The game itself was, er… interesting. The Sabres dominated the first ten minutes, and seemingly scored at will. The problem was the few chances the Isles had all found the back of the net. DP didn’t have an amazing game, but he absolutely robbed Vanek five minutes in, and made a few other saves that should have been sure goals.
The same can’t be said for Miller, who looked pretty shaky in net. A few goals he just should have stopped, and his positioning looked a bit uneasy. Hopefully it’s just a bit of rust, but it was a rare off night for him.
It wasn’t all Miller’s fault, however. Our penalty killing was awful, no one was tied up in front on at least three goals, and Lydman completely misplayed Comrie’s breakaway. Again, Miller should have challenged more, but if Finland does more than chip at a bouncing puck, there’s no need to.
I loved Max’s vision on the Roy goal, as well as Stafford’s complete obliteration of Bergeron on the second. Drew and Max are two players we need to play well this year, and they looked good early.
Vanek’s breakaway goal to tie it at four was just awesome. I’ve never seen someone actually say “F#$% YOU!” with a goal before. A completely different goal than his shootout tally in Montreal, which was more about surprise. Vanek’s goal last night was him saying “try and stop it”. He wound up, took his time, and blew it right past DiPietro. The confidence that shows is just unbelievable to me.
Overall the game was a letdown but I think it is a necessary one. I’m not going to bang the doom and gloom drum here, but I think a 6-4 loss to a lesser team shows you quite clearly what needs to be fixed. Miller has to play better, and the D has to show up. Four goals should be enough to win a hockey game, even in the New NHL. Yes, the Sabres were shut out in the third period, but a two goal lead makes even the worst of teams better defensively when they play prevent hockey.
Special teams needs to step up, too. Our box on the kill was a sketch artist’s rendering at best, and there were plenty of free sticks in front. Either you get better discipline, or you learn to keep the puck out of the net. Miller didn’t look great, but at least two goals he had no chance on because of cross ice passes.
The good news is they won’t dwell on the loss long. Tonight the series switches to Nassau, and the boys get a shot at DP and the Isles once again. I would expect a higher intensity game, and probably a few less goals. A few times Mair was mixing it up late, and Peters tried to start a fight from on the bench with three minutes left. Petey had a whopping 2:24 in ice time, but in a closer game he may get out there more to cause some trouble. I still think he is a terrible, terrible hockey player, but last night we needed a spark late.
The Roost’s own Jon is heading to the Island for the game tonight, so pray for his safety and expect a story or two from him after the holiday.