The 1-4-1 Buffalo Sabres travelled to Philips Arena in Atlanta, GA tonight to face the 3-2-0 Atlanta Tharashers. As usual a strong Buffalo contingent could be heard throughout the Arena cheering on the Blue & Gold.
The Sabres dominated the first period outshooting the Thrashers 11-2. Atlanta failed to register a shot on net until 14:27 into the game. 'Tiny' Tyler Ennis got the Sabres on the board with his first of the season as he took a cross ice pass from Steve Montador at the red line, turned on the burners, beat Atlanta winger Nigel Dawes and ripped a wrister nearside on goaltender Chris Mason. 1-0 Buffalo.
The second period opened with more good fortune for the Sabres as the team added two more goals in the first few minutes. With the Sabres on the power play 'Tall' Tyler Myers took a pass from Chris Butler and rifled a shot glove side about half way up the net. 2-0 Buffalo. 1 minute later just 2:34 into the period Cody McCormick continued his offensive prowess notching his 2nd of the season on a rebound. The Sabres outshot Atlanta 16-10 in period two.
Period three saw Atlanta get on the board. At 1:47 with Jochen Hecht in the box for hooking Tobias Enstrom ripped a slapper glove side through traffic to cut Buffalo's lead to 3-1. Half way through the third period Buffalo put the nail in the coffin when Thomas Vanek blasted a slap shot from the right circle and beat Mason far side.
Atlanta appeared defeated for much of the third period. Nothing much in the way of physical play or any effort at all for that matter could be seen as they conceded defeat 4-1. That does take away from the luster of a much needed Sabres victory. However, credit must be given to the Sabres team for beating the Atlanta team into the shaky mental state they appeared to be in.
Despite several mistakes which have become a part of Tyler Myers' repertoire this season, he was named first star of the game. Substiture defenseman Chris Butler had two assists and was named the games 2nd star. Atlanta goaltender Chris Mason was given 3rd star.
The win was sorely needed as the Sabres had dropped five straight coming into tonight's game. The win certainly raised spirits in the Sabres locker room. Paul Gaustad was heard yelling, 'Cody McCormick in three Minutes!' (nhl.com) as the interviewer tried to talk to Ryan Miller about the team's victory. Miller said "Apparently, I'm supposed to talk about Cody McCormick and how hot he is."(nhl.com)
McCormick has recently been moved up from the 4th line and as I saw it, was playing on a line with Tim Connolly and Jochen Hecht. It would be nice to have McCormick's grit up on one of the scoring lines as well as the effect of forcing a true scorer (such as Ennis) down to the lower lines. This would even out the scoring and grit on a team that seems to lack grit on the top 2 lines while lacking scoring punch on its bottom lines. I do not harbor any fantasies that Cody McCormick will long remain on what can arguably be viewed as a 2nd line. When Jason Pominville comes back, McCormick will most likely be back on 3rd or 4th line, but his efforts, goals, and grit are surely appreciated on a team that is sorely in need of all three.
What I liked:
1) We won. Period.
2) The Power Play looked good. Good not great. Even 'good' is an improvement over the horrendous PP performances we've seen this year.
3) Thomas Vanek getting his first goal. For us to win TV has to score more often than once every 7 games.
What I didn't like:
1) The victory seemed to come against a demoralized team. It counts for 2 points but i'm still weary of what this team can do against top flight competition.
2) Thomas Vanek showing zero emotion on the disallowed goal. The goal was extremely close to being legal, but was deemed to have struck Vanek's stick above the cross-bar. Vanek put his head down and skated to the bench emotionless and defeated. The Atlanta announcers whom I was listening to, noted that Vanek's lack of reaction to the 'no goal' call perhaps helped the ref feel more confident in waving it off. I don't need TV to be whining to the refs like Derek Roy, and from all reports, the Austrian cares deeply about his effort, but his lack of emotion on a close call is disturbing.
See everyone for Friday night's matchup against Ottawa. 7:30pm at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, NY