You thought it was happening all over again, didn’t you? The Sabres weren’t showing up and Miller was bailing them out, but it would only be a matter of time before Blake sets something up, right? Cue the same music from Sunday night, and kiss goodbye two more points.
Well, for one the Sabres realized who they were playing. Toronto looked like the same team Buffalo faced last time, and the final score would show it. Thank Ryan Miller for keeping this team alive in the first, and Toronto for hanging Justin Pogge out to dry again.
I mean, how is it helping him develop if you’re going to let the kid get shelled all night? Remember when Ryan Miller was called up and got killed by Detroit? And then in the postgame was nearly crying when he said, “I just have to come back to practice tomorrow, if I’m still here.”
You could argue that in the long run that helped Miller’s career and determination, but I doubt Brian Burke wants to see his prospect get lit up twice by the same team in one season. And if he means that much to you, are you throwing Toskala under the bus or CuJo? Actually, I’m pretty confused by this whole “start Pogge against the Sabres” thing. Someone help me out.
In any event, after the first ten minutes of the game the effort from the Leafs was laughable. The Sabres scored on a power play, and it was over. That entire sequence was started by Roy, who makes a nice play on the penalty kill to clear the zone and draws the trip. After 4 on 4 action a turnover puts the puck right on Stafford’s stick. That’s the game right there. 1-0, and the Sabres never looked back.
Less than two minutes later Connolly makes a hell of a pass, and the defense couldn’t tie up Paille in front. Paille’s been dying to score a goal since being put back into the lineup, and it was good to see him rewarded for going to the net. Still, it shouldn’t be that easy. Toronto just shut it down from then on, and Miller was still coming up big. Ellis gets a weak goal to end the first, and if not for Jason Pominville’s amazing chesticular aim it would be 4-0 after one.
Seriously, how do they rule Pominville did that on purpose? I’ve scored goals off my chest before, but there’s no way I can imagine him doing that with intent and malice and all that good stuff that makes it not a goal. It’s a tough call at full speed, but if not for the game already in blowout mode you would see a lot more complaints about a goal like that.
The Leafs’ only spark was Jason Blake, who made it pretty clear that the Sabres weren’t playing all that great after all. The penalty kill was completely drawn to him at the side of the net, and none of them saw Kubina pinching from the point. It’s a pretty simple play, and if one guy picks it up there’s no issue. It’s a goal that keeps the Leafs in it, and the kind of breakdown you don’t like to see from a team in a position to put Toronto away.
Still, the Sabres came away with the important two points they needed. Carolina lost to Boston, and now there’s a bit more breathing room between the haves and the have nots in the East. It wasn’t perfect, but it was good to see that Buffalo can look past a team like Toronto no matter where they are in the standings. It’s pretty obvious that there’s something lingering with Ottawa, but the Sabres need to beat weaker teams while they can to gain some ground. There are no ghosts in Toronto, and that must be a confidence boost for a group that needs a spark.
You could say that this team needs to “learn to win” while missing Vanek, but the truth is that they just need to survive while he’s out. Gaustad could be back Thursday, maybe Tallinder too, and a week has gone by since Vanek broke his jaw. The mark of a good team is keeping afloat through tough injuries, and in the end it doesn’t matter how they do it.
Tonight the Sabres were bailed out by their goaltender and took advantage of a rookie in the other net that wasn’t getting much help. Well… that’s one way to do it.