The score said a lot, but it was the shot total that really stood out. The Sabres outshot the Panthers 20-2 in the second period and allowed only three shots against in the third. That’s more than playing well against an inferior opponent, that’s a complete domination of a team.
The Panthers scored on pretty much their only two real scoring chances, but we can forgive the Sabres for that (and, in hindsight, we can forgive them for the slow start as well). The rest of the game they played like we wish they would play every night. A powerplay goal, a shorthanded goal and a few even strength goals put this one away.
They sensed that Thomas Vokoun was struggling (he was fighting every puck that came his way, even the ones that were slow rolling –like the one that led to Tyler Ennis’s goal) and they capitalized on their opportunities.
Speaking of Ennis, he looked very good once again between Jochen Hecht and Jason Pominville. He was only one of the rookies who had an outstanding game.
The other emergency call-up, Nathan Gerbe, added a goal of his own to really put the game out of reach. The new rookies have been playing well and, for the first time in a few years, are putting some of the more-established forwards on the hot seat.
In fact, Drew Stafford, who has two points in his last 14 games and hasn’t scored a goal since Feb. 5, could end up in the press box if the Sabres choose to use one of their four roster moves to keep Ennis or Gerbe in Buffalo. And I doubt anyone would have a real problem with it.
Tim Kennedy, the team’s oldest rookie, has been great during this last stretch as well. He’s blossomed since moving to the wing and put on a line with capable goal scorers. If he can continue to progress, he may end up developing into a top six player.
And let’s not forget the No. 1 star of the night, Raffi Torres (whether or not he really was the first star is up for debate). In his first game back from an injury to his hand (or wrist, I don’t think we ever got a definitive answer on that), he chipped in three assists. Fans were getting on his case for not scoring and then getting hurt, but I think we’re finally starting to see him really get comfortable with The System.
Remember, Stu Barnes couldn’t buy himself a goal when the Sabres traded for him in 1998. It wasn’t until the playoffs that his game really took off. I’m not saying Torres will end up being as endearing a player as Stuuuu was, I’m saying that sometimes these trades take a little bit of time to work out and we should be patient with Torres. If he doesn’t contribute against the Leafs, then maybe we should start to worry about him.
Tonight, the Sabres can clinch the division with a win over Toronto (that shouldn’t be a problem) and an Ottawa loss to Carolina (that could be a little difficult).
The Leafs have been pretty awful this year and now the divide within the locker room is starting to really make itself known to the media.
It should be an interesting night. Go get that No. 2 seed.