This is what we wanted to see.
It’s hard to say much more than that, really. After what felt like a soft month of October, Buffalo faced their first big test in the month of November and fell flat on their faces. A loss at home to Philadelphia and an embarrassing showing on the road in Boston did nothing to prove that this team was the real deal, nor did it separate themselves as the team to beat from what is proving to be a weak Northeast Division.
This time around just might change your mind a bit. After winning the best hockey game I’ve seen this season, Buffalo goes into Philadelphia and exacts revenge for last week’s embarrassment. They jumped on the Flyers early, got a strong effort from their forwards and yet another great game from Ryan Miller. Just when it looked like a equalizer from the Flyers was inevitable, Tyler Myers gets a shot through from the point, and Paul Gaustad tips it in to drop the hammer on the comeback. Philadelphia couldn’t overcome the two-goal lead, and Buffalo sweeps the weekend.
I have to admit, it’s hard to contain your excitement after a win like this. The Sabres went right up to the dreaded Flyers and didn’t blink. Say what you will about fading rivalry and all that, but the ghosts are there. This is a team with Ray Emery, with Pronger, Briere and with the Dead Fat Lady’s voice still hanging somewhere in the Spectrum rafters. The building may be different, but the feeling is the same.
But you know what, after a win like this it feels like it doesn’t matter. Screw Kate Smith. Screw Chris Pronger. Paul Gaustad didn’t take anything from Dion Phaneuf on Friday, and he wasn’t going to let Pronger get him on Saturday. The same goes for Briere, Emery, Carter, or anyone else wearing orange and white. If the Sabres are going to get anywhere this year, they have to show that they are more than Ryan Miller stealing games. They need to be physical, they need to be tough, and they can’t get pushed around like they used to.
This weekend, even with back to back games, Buffalo didn’t give an inch. Miller was the difference in both games, but this was far from a weekend of shooting galleries. The Sabres controlled large portions of the action and stayed relatively disciplined while outworking the Flyers on the boards. MacArthur was great, Kennedy continued to impress, and Ryan Miller was, once again, the best player on the ice.
And then there’s the kid. Tyler Ennis got his first goal tonight, but the game was about much more than beating Ray Emery. He didn’t blow anyone away tonight, but he showed a lot of the swagger and playmaking ability he’s had in Portland this year. On Thursday I talked to Kris Baker of SabresProspects at the Pirates game, and we both came away saying the same thing: Ennis is the real deal. I’ll have more on Ennis tomorrow, but you have to like what you saw from him on Saturday.
Of course, there are still problems. Tim Connolly’s inability to dump the puck into the zone gave away the Flyers’ second goal, which represents a much larger problem with Buffalo’s power play. We still have no idea what happens when Miller gets tired, and Patrick Lalime needs to play sometime. There is much to discuss there, but it’s hard to get too upset about this team right now. We wanted them to show up against Calgary, and we wanted revenge in Philly. We got it.
Can you ask for much more than that?