If you came to the Buffalo Sabres game tonight expecting to see #30 in net steal a game for his team, then you certainly got your money's worth, because Henrik Lundqvist was on fire tonight. (Swerve!)
King Henrik held the Sabres to just one goal, which isn't that hard to do these days, but made some acrobatic saves along the way just to increase his degree of difficulty.
The man with the new contract extension was helped by two other men with large contracts, Rick Nash and Brad Richards, who potted the games first two goals. Nash's was a beauty of a rush that burned Tyler Myers to a crisp en route to a 1-0 lead. Richards scored a power play goal in the third period from the side of the net that left Ryan Miller blaming himself in his post game interview.
A late spurt of offense from the Sabres (and a "whopping" 14 shots) only saw Tyler Ennis put one past Lundqvist, despite the Sabres have at least three glorious rush opportunities botched earlier in the period.
It was an incredibly disappointing performance for a team coming off of a four-day break. Not in terms of effort, which was mostly solid, but in terms of the flow of play and ability to generate pressure on offense. That, combined with untimely penalties and defensive lapses left the Sabres searching for answers in the locker room. "Nobody's going to ride in here and fix it for us," said interim coach Ted Nolan, "We have to find the answers for ourselves."
The Sabres infuriated the fans at the First Niagara Center by passing up (pun intended) their best scoring chances for fancy drop passes, or by simply holding the puck too long and allowing a Ranger to come in and break up the excitement. Now, I hate to be the guy who yells "SHOOOOOT" on the power play here, but this happened on every single up-close scoring chance or odd man rush for the first two periods.
As long as we're going to harp on everything you hear drunken fans shout about at the arena, the Sabres lost almost twice as many faceoffs as they won tonight, getting outdrawn 41-23. Ott, Hodgson, and McCormick all finished the night at 33-35%, and against a team as good at blocking shots and controlling play as the Rangers, you're gonna need to win a few more of those, fellas.
One of the season's only bright spots - Zemgus Girgensons - didn't see much ice time in the third, but don't fret too much, Ted Nolan just chalked it up to not being his night. "Marcus was going a little better," said the coach, "and we just wanted to shorten things up."
1. How good will King Henrik's new contract look after this game?
2. With four days in between games and extended practice time, will any specific area of the team look significantly different/stronger?
The defensive zone coverage was solid for the most part. Neither team really had great chances, and one of New York's goals came on a Rick Nash breakaway and the other on the power play. So, at least we've got that going for us. Every other area of the game was pretty putrid tonight for Buffalo.
3. Will the Sabres come ready to play in the first period?
The Sabres were outshot 9-7 in the first, out faceoff-ed 14-5, outscored 1-0, and Tyler Myers called Rick Nash's goal "a complete system breakdown". The fact that these numbers legitimately qualify as "not bad" tells you everything you need to know about this season.
2. - man, if only the Sabres could bring in some high priced free agents, and...oh.
3. Tyler Ennis - should be Lundqvist, but here's your homer pick of the night
Comment of the Game
If they played the first 58 minutes like they play the last 2, they'd win a lot more games.
- O-Town Sabre