I took in my first regular season game last night. The Sabres had just annihilated the Islanders on Wednesday, so with the Flyers in town, I was pretty excited to show up.
Unfortunately the team didn’t.
It was a pretty flat game from the Sabres all-around. Yes, Miller let in two very bad goals, but no one gave him any support. Lackadaisical passes, soft clears, bad checking all around (both the forecheck and the backcheck were pretty nonexistent) and no clean shots on goal.
They way to beat Ray Emery is to simply pepper him with shots. He’s a time-tested rebound machine and if you can get over 30 shots on (they had exactly 30), then he’s going to kick at least three of them right back up the middle of the ice.
The problem was the Sabres couldn’t get those shots through. The Philadelphia defense, led by that goon (and future Hall-of-Famer) Chris Pronger, shut down the potent Buffalo offense. And if someone did miraculously get a shot through, the Flyers D pushed the Sabres out of the way and out of position to cash in on that rebound or cross-crease pass.
Buffalo got outworked last night and it cost them two points. A good, deep team like Philly can roll four lines just as well as the Sabres can (Hartnell and Gagne were invisible) so you need to do better than just skate with them.
The Sabres were pretty soft and tried to be too cute with the puck when a simple dump-and-chase strategy probably would have been best. It’s not the type of game you want to see them play at home.
The timing of the Flyers first two goals (last minute of the first and then within the first two minutes of the second) shouldn’t have been the nail in the coffin for that game. But Buffalo did not respond well and were forced to play from behind.
Henrik Tallinder had just better not be the Sabres’ best player on the ice again tonight in Boston.