We’re still waiting on word of Miller’s injury, but we probably should discuss the rest of Saturday night’s game while we’re waiting. This is what will be left of this team either way, and there was a lot to like out of the effort. Any time you beat a team above you in the standings it’s a big deal, and there was a lot of good signs to take away from this game.
Still, I’m having a hard time separating the good the Sabres were doing from the downright awful the Rangers were tossing about. Their defense was terrible, they had no counter-attack whatsoever, and if not for a quick goal on a cold goaltender and Goose being lazy in garbage time they would have been shut out by a tandem of goalies. For a team that’s in a well-documented free fall, they sure didn’t show any signs of recovery on Saturday.
Last night the Rags salvaged a point against Toronto, but it was far from an impressive showing. The way they’re playing right now it’s not hard to imagine they fall right out of the top eight, but you could say that for about Montreal and Buffalo as well. If I have to pick I’d say the Rangers fall out and Carolina takes their spot, but who knows now with Miller’s status up in the air.
In any event, the Sabres did their job and took advantage of the Rangers’ miscues, and for that you have to give them credit. Tim Connolly was great again, setting up the Roy goal by faking the hell out of the man attacking on the point and putting a great pass across to Rivet. It’s not something that will show up on the score sheet, but it’s yet another great play Tim Connolly makes for your power play unit. He also sets up Hecht’s goal in the third that puts the game away, something this team needed in the wake of Miller’s injury.
Paille also had another great game, not only scoring the first goal but playing aggressive as well. If not for stepping on the puck he would have had another breakaway chance, and he was all over the ice every shift. Give him credit for coming back strong after seeing the press box for a few games. Some players can’t handle that treatment, but the time off has obviously benefited his game and his focus. Paille was one of the strongest Sabres down the stretch last year, and we need him to replicate that play this season.
Scoring four goals against a top level goaltender like Lundqvist is a good sign, but I liked the defensive effort I saw on Saturday, too. Aside from Gaustad not tying up Dawes stick for the second Rangers goal, the Sabres played a much better defensive game on Saturday night. They were aware and active on the forecheck (for most of the game), and many of the little mistakes that beat them against Carolina and Philly were corrected.
Remember that power play goal the Leafs scored when the defenseman pinched into the slot and no one saw him? The Rangers tried the same play on Saturday and there were two sticks in the passing lane. That’s the improvement you want to see, and how the Sabres react in their own zone will be even more important with Miller out.
If you want to look at it purely from a game perspective, it was indeed a good win. I think we all know at what price it came, and the real perspective on this game will come once we get an update. When we know something, so will you.