When April comes we may be thanking our lucky stars the Sabres earned two points on a Friday night at home against the Leafs in October. We may be, but for tonight we have to talk about how ugly it was. We will get the excuses out of the way early and talk about the bad ice and the flu bug that has plagued the team. These are definitely real issues but it doesn't excuse the way they played tonight.
Ryan Miller was once again the story for the Buffalo Sabres. He stopped just about everything that was thrown in his direction, including 15 stops in the third period. There is no question that Ryan Miler has been the best goalie in the entire NHL so far, with an honorable mention to Ilya Bryzgalov, and tonight was more of the same. He may have made his best stop in the second period when the Leas managed to get a shorthanded breakaway that Miller made look easy.
The game started like a heavyweight fight, with both teams trading jabs and neither team willing to go for a haymaker. That changed when the penalties started to add up. The Leafs had the first power play chance and the outcome of this game might have been different if they Sabres didn't kill it off. They did kill it off and the Leafs started a parade to the penalty box. Toronto took three penalties in less than three minutes and the Sabres capitalized on the first two-man advantage. Drew Stafford put a rebound by Jonas Gustafsson to give the Sabres the 1-0 lead. Toronto answered back just minutes later with a goal by Ian White.
The action really picked up in the second period and both goalies had opportunities to shine and they did. We already talked about Miller but Gustafsson was equally as good if not better. "The Monster" stopped Mike Grier and Clarke MacArthur on breakaways before Tim Connolly finally beat him with a bullet shot on a breakaway. Connolly scored the only goal of the second period and the Sabres held a one goal lead after 40 minutes.
The third period was all Leafs but Ryan Miller was the best player on the ice. He played a game of anything you can do, I can do better with the Leafs players and they were left shaking their head. The Sabres seemed well on their way to victory when Matt Stajan took a dumb interference penalty with 54 seconds left to play. Just 16 seconds later Mikhail Grabovski tipped a Tomas Kaberle shot by Miller and the Leafs had tied the game. That penalty eventually haunted the Leafs when Tim Connolly netted his second of the game with a blast from the point just two seconds before the Stajan penalty expired.
Miller Leads the Way
I'm not sure what is more impressive about Ryan Miller, the way he is playing on the ice or the way he is handling the media. He knew the team didn't play well tonight but he deflected blame from his teammates in pots game presser and instead was blaming the ice and the lack of a few calls. I love the confidence he has in is game right now. In the past I have been critical of his leadership abilities and he is making me out to be a fool.
It was just another day at the office for Miller, he made 33 saves and allowed only two goals. Amazingly enough, he will probably see his goals against average increase because he allowed two goals tonight. Lindy Ruff said it best wen he said "Ryan knew he had to carry the team tonight because they didn't have it, and he did". I think that basically says it all.
Connolly Plays Role of Hero
Lindy Ruff talked about Connolly being a playmaker but stated, he wanted him to shoot more. He shot more tonight and he was rewarded. Connolly put the Sabres ahead in the second period with a breakaway goal and he won the game with a perfect shot in the overtime. The overtime winner was the Sabres second power play goal of the night and the second that Connolly banked in off the post.
Dealing With Flu
The flu bug has struck the Buffalo Sabres recently. Clarke MacArthur had it last week but didn't miss any time and Paul Gaustad is suffering now. Adam Mair was inserted into the lineup with Gaustad out but he didn't play very much. Ruff hinted after the game that some other players are suffering from flu symptoms as well and Mair might be one of those guys.
Expect the Sabres to have more lineup changes tomorrow night against the Islanders as some players won't be making the trip. Andrej Sekera is expected back in the lineup tomorrow and Nathan Paetsch will play the role of a fourth line winger.
Harry Neale Quote of the Game
The quote tonight was actually a combination of Harry Neale and Rob Ray after a scrum in front of the Leafs goalie that involved Tim Kennedy.
Harry - "Rayzor would you say that was a light weight or a feather weight bout?
Ray - "At this point, because I like to see it, I don't care"
The Sabres head back on the road ass they head to Long Island to take on the New York Islanders. The Islanders are coming off of a 4-3 overtime win against the Washington Capitals on Friday night. The Sabres beat the Islanders 6-3 in the first meeting at HSBC Arena.