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Sabres vs. Flyers: Notes from Game One

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Getty Images

This afternoon I had the luxury of re-watching the Sabres-Flyers game from last night, and wanted to share a few thoughts since I couldn't watch 90% of the game last night. And because, let's be honest, you can't get too much Sabres playoff talk.

First, let's talk about Ryan Miller. While  the former Vezina-winner played a great game, it wasn't really a spectacular shutout, but a very technically sound shutout that he got with a lot of help from his teammates. I'll let Travis from Broad Street Hockey explain it with a quote from his game recap:

Miller was very good, and while he'll likely get a lot of the accolades tonight for pitching a 35 save shutout, he wasn't the sole reason the Sabres pulled out the victory. The Flyers directed a total of 74 shots at the net tonight -- 35 on goal, 16 missed and 23 blocked. That last number, in my opinion, has a whole lot more to do with tonight's loss than anything else. 

The Sabres did a fantastic job of collapsing around their goaltender, and to beat it, you have to take those shots a little bit earlier. The Flyers are in the mold where they wait for the perfect shot and the highest-percentage opportunity, but tonight, just about any waiting they did allowed the Sabres to get set in front of their goal.

The best thing about Miller's game last night was his stickiness -- he gave up very few rebounds, especially on point shots. Sergei Bobrovsky also played well for the Flyers, but he gave up one big rebound on a Gragnani point shot that went to the stick of Patrick Kaleta, and there you go. More thoughts on the big win last night in bullet point form:

  • The physical tone for the Sabres was set by their leaders right from the get-go, with Thomas Vanek and Kris Versteeg going after each other on the second faceoff of the game. Ryan Miller got into the action as well, putting Mike Richards into a headlock during an early scrum in the goal crease. With a team like Philly that likes to intimidate opponents with bigger bodies and a killer forecheck, it was important for the Sabres to show early on that they weren't going to back down.
  • Marc-Andre Gragnani and Mike Weber were the team's de-facto second pair last night, logging over 19 and 20 minutes, respectively, and were both out on the final PK at the end of the game. With Sekera ready to come back and Leopold shooting pucks again, Shaone Morrisonn is the most likely candidate to sit out for #44, and after that it's probably Montador who would sit for Leopold, as Monty's been struck lately with bad giveaway-itis.
  • Drew Stafford was Buffalo's most consistent top-six forward, leading the team with four shots and being one of the only Buffalo forwards who could get pucks through the Philly defense.
  • You gotta love Paul Gaustad killing a penalty while stickless for about a minute. He had great communication with Pominville (you could hear him shouting instructions on the broadcast) and blocked a shot that led to a clear.
  • James van Riemsdyk was by far Philly's most dangerous forward, not only leading the Flyers in shots with six, but also being more noticeable than guys named Briere, Richards, Carter, and Giroux. Still don't know how he deserved the first star in a 1-0 loss though.
  • Paul Gaustad and Nathan Gerbe have a nice big brother/little brother thing going on and seem to click with whoever their third linemate is. These guys were Buffalo's best offensive line last night for more than just the goal, and I'd love to see what they could do with Boyes or Stafford once Jochen Hecht comes back.
  • Chris Butler was a beast last night, once again leading the team in minutes with 26:04 of ice time, and just playing rock-solid defense. He was blocking shots, keeping Miller's crease clear, finishing checks with attitude, protecting the puck, and did everything Ruff asked of him. A top pairing of Myers and Butler for the next five years is staring to look very, very good.