Delayed Overreactions, 51st Edition: Encouraging efforts aren’t always enough

After an extended absence from First Niagara Center, there may have been some hesitation in expecting a welcoming atmosphere. The Sabres had dropped to the basement of the Eastern Conference in the course of their 18 days between home matches, and finally seemed to be turning a corner in their last two games, both tight wins.

But it turned out alright. Not good, but alright.

Welcoming the 1st place New York Rangers to town, the Sabres got a stellar performance from Ryan Miller in a 1-0 shootout loss.

Of course, there’s a fine line between a low scoring game being brutal to watch and intense. The Sabres and Rangers walked the line and a national television audience enjoyed a goaltending clinic.

“It was fun to be a part of. I haven’t had too many good outings in the last few months,” Miller said. “To go up against Lundqvist, who’s having a great season, and have a night like this, where it kind of puts us in the spotlight at each end, it’s nice to be a part of.”

Miller made 29 saves to earn his second shutout of the year, but took the loss after Ryan Callahan beat him in the fifth round of the shootout.

All-Star captain and American hero Jason Pominville was the only Sabre to beat Henrik Lundqvist in the shootout, extending it in the third round after New York’s Marian Gaborik scored in the first round.

  • The deservingly vilified atmosphere in the arena was noticeably improved, and the active crowd was a pleasant change. It felt like an important game for once. They should. They’re all important.
  • Tyler Ennis looked like the best forward on the ice, even considering the two penalties he took. He drew a penalty on Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman late in regulation, and rang a potential winner off the post in the shootout. He’s the most exciting player on the roster.
  • Henrik Lundqvist’s save on Brad Boyes in the shootout was straight-up dirty.
  • Zack Kassian’s effort was alright, but I didn’t see anything that made me think he’s a changed man. Used his body well, but didn’t initiate as often as he did. Still prefer he stays in Rochester.
  • Biggest thumbs up to the game presentation department: no flag pass! The funniest part? It worked.
  • Going into the game, I said to myself that I felt like the result should reflect where the season is going. Walking away empty handed from any game just pushes them closer to firesale mode. Finding ways to win can snowball. They got one point. Sounds about right.
  • Biggest thing that bothered me about the game presentation was the still unreasonable selection between regulation and overtime. In my frustration, I looked up at the booth to see people in headsets dancing around to Run-DMC. Again, this is between regulation and overtime, a minute of preparation for the most important part of the game. For what reason would this give anyone reason to believe that the people running this know or care about the sport and the outcome? Nope, keep dancing.
  • Luke Adam watch: team-low 10:10 of ice time. Again with McCormick and Ellis. Poor kid.
  • When looking back at that awful stretch of play throughout January, the most obvious reason at this point has to be the absence of Christian Ehrhoff. The team has been much better defensively since his return, and the goaltending has been improved because of it.
  • Attending the game with a buddy of mine up in the 300s, it was funny to listen to people rip Derek Roy incessantly. He’s filling the void for Tim Connolly haters quite well. Everyone needs a scapegoat.
  • Overall, I was pleased that many of my suggestions or complaints about the game presentation had an impact. They cleaned up a few things, added some others. The crowd was better. I’d like to think that did have a slight relation to how well the team played. The Sabres (not very good) shutout the team with the best record in the East. They played hard. Not a shock to me.

Posted on February 3, 2012, in Sabres/NHL and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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