Overreactions, 31st Edition: Sabres power past Leafs

It was a recipe for disaster.

The Buffalo Sabres have struggled mightily to win games at First Niagara Center all season. Friday night was the first visit of the reenergized Toronto Maple Leafs this season. With them, came their legion of rowdy fans. For once, there was electricity in the air at First Niagara Center.

The Sabres responded.

On the strength of a four-point night from Thomas Vanek and three powerplay goals from the extra-man unit, Buffalo erased two second period deficits on their way to a 5-4 victory over their cross-border rivals.

Vanek scored twice for the Sabres, who also got goals from Drew Stafford, Tyler Ennis and Andrej Sekera during a four-goal second period. Three of the four came on the powerplay, as Toronto took 23 minutes in penalties during the second.

“We need to get our swagger back, especially when we have the lead,” said Vanek, who leads the Sabres with 16 goals. “Sometimes that’s all it takes. There’s no miracle to it. Everyone here is a good player, so when we get the lead we have to go for the next one and bury a team. We didn’t quite do that, but I think it was a step in the right direction.”

Ryan Miller got the win, making 29 saves.

  • Former Sabre Tim Connolly’s return was the big story coming in, but at the end of the night, he didn’t spoil the party. Connolly was -1 and was 13-of-23 on faceoffs in 16:33 of ice time.
  • Mike Weber’s return has really helped transform the Sabres defense into something a bit more effective physically. With Buffalo sporting Weber, Robyn Regehr and Brayden McNabb on the blueline Friday, they packed a good amount of punch. That physical edge was lacking without Weber in the lineup.
  • Big ups to Toronto’s penalty kill for the confidence boost to the Sabres’ powerplay.
  • Zack Kassian had a huge bounce-back after what seemed like a weak effort against Ottawa. His work on the first Vanek goal was sublime.
  • Drew Stafford quietly has points in four of the last five games. He along with the rest of the team’s secondary scoring is crucial to the team’s success. When guys like Stafford are getting on the scoresheet, the wins are gonna come a lot easier.
  • There was some debate as to whether or not that should’ve been a penalty shot. Looking at the rule, it’s a good call. In fact, I’d like to see penalty shots called more often.
  • Sabres dressed seven defenseman but Lindy Ruff avoided using Marc-Andre Gragnani as a forward as much as he did against Ottawa. It helped. Forwards adapted well to double shifting. Defense’s ice time was more spread out. Only Ehrhoff and Leopold played more than 20 minutes on the blueline.
  • Ennis has five points in seven games since returning from injury.
  • Buffalo finished the five game homestand with a 2-2-1 record. You’d expect to be better than that. With the way the Sabres have played at home this year, unfortunately, that’s not bad.

Posted on December 17, 2011, in Sabres/NHL and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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