Wednesday’s hockey game had all the makings of a snoozer.  The NHL’s two worst teams, the Devils boring trap style defense, and a Sabre team that lately hasn’t been able to do anything right.  Boy I couldn’t have been any more wrong on that prediction.  The two basement dwellers combined for 8 goals and a four round shootout that ended with the game on the stick of Ilya Kovalchuk.

Lindy Ruff was coaching in his 1,000th game.  MSG showed Lindy Ruff highlights throughout the game including the time he attacked Isles goalie Billy Smith in the ’79-80 playoffs. 

Period One: 

Jhonas Enroth is in net.  Pominville, Hecht, and Tim Connolly start the game off.  Tyler Myers is playing with Andrej Sekera while Shaone Morrisonn and Chris Butler make a pairing.  Steve Montador and Jordan Leopold make up the third pairing.  Ilya Kovalchuk is the knife and he slices thru the Sabres defense like butter for an early chance.  Save Enroth!  Stephen Gionta is playing in his 2nd NHL game as he makes a powerful drive towards the Sabre net.  Another save by Jhonas Enroth who’s looking good.

Early thoughts: The Sabres are looking like a real hockey team.  They’re breaking out of the zone and keeping possession in the offensive zone.  Perhaps it’s more a function of playing against the Devils, who are a poor team.  However, I am surprised at the offensive space being given to Jason Pominville, Derek Roy and Tyler Ennis.  This is a game where our small quick forwards should flourish.    

Pominville gets off a nice blast and is stopped by Hedberg.  Swedish forward Mattias Tedenby gets welcomed to the NHL by Tyler Myers, who gives the rookie a rough ride into the corner.  Derek Roy with a shifty pass to Tyler Ennis who is stoned by Hedberg.  Jason Arnott picks up a rebound and the puck is in the net! 1-0 Devils off a blast from Patrick Elias and an Arnott rebound.  Enroth would like to have handled that one better as it glanced off his glove.

Disaster almost strikes as the Sabres are enjoying a delayed penalty call.  The puck is passed back to the point, is missed, and ends up inches from the Sabres gaping net.  The goal would have counted.  Sabres dodge a bullet.  The power play looks slightly better than normal although the puck gets cleared several times and the Sabres fail to capitalize.  Jhonas Enroth with two more fantastic saves, one on Tedenby and another on Volchenkov who unleashed a blast from the high slot.

This game is slightly more enjoyable to watch than most Sabres games this season.

Period Two:

The 4th line is out to start the period.  Kaleta slides the biscuit into the crease, Matt Ellis tips it at the crease, and Goose has a point blank chance go wide!  Missed opportunity.  The Sabres are continuing to have space to skate.  Steve Montador with a blast from the point off a Pominville drop pass; Save Hedberg!  ‘Doubting’ Thomas Vanek is all alone on net and dishes off when he should have shot.  That’s disconcerting.  The Sabres are rewarded for sustained pressure as Jason Pominville slaps a rolling puck top shelf! 1-1 game.  Nice work by Tim Connolly, Jochen Hecht, and Jordan Leopold. 

Wait, what?! I just got back from the John and, the puck’s in the net again!  Derek Roy with a slapper from the point. 2-1 Buffalo!  Hedberg would like to have that one back.  Two goals for the Sabres 13 seconds apart.  Devils coach John MacLean takes a timeout to berate his team.  Eight minutes in a wide open David Clarkson takes a pass from Vasyunov and directs it high over Enroth and into the net. 

Patrick Kaleta comes out and crashes the net; a scrum ensues but cooler heads prevail.  Steve Montador starts something in the corner but nothing comes of it.  The Sabres are handing out some physicality and I am liking it.  Despite the two goals I am liking Enroth in net.  Tyler Ennis trips up Jamie Langenbrunner and sends him into the boards.  Ennis gets two minutes for tripping.  My first thought is that I’m happy we’re finally on the giving end of those hits and my second thought is DAMN!, the puck is in our net.  Power Play goal for Jason Arnott on a blast from the right circle.  3-2 Devils, 12 minutes in.

This is not your typical New Jersey Devil game.  Is this the end of an era of Devils hockey or is it simply an anomaly.  I believe the latter.  Brodeur is absent and this coach is looking for any spark to get his team a W.  The Devils are desperate and so are the Sabres and that is making this a great game to watch!

Tyler Myers dishes out some pain with a nice check at the blue line.  Next up for Tall Tyler, A GOAL! 3-3 Game as Myers takes a pass from Rob Niedermayer and rifles it from the high slot into the far stick side upper corner past Hedberg. 

Martin Brodeur is texting his friends telling them he’s at the Devils game and he’s sitting in a sweet luxury box.  MSG shows the Devils injured players up in the press box.  Zach Parise looks unhappy and I don’t blame him as he is out until 2011.               

Patrick Kaleta is shaken as he takes a shot in the face.  The period is almost done but the Devils are not!  Jamie Langenbrunner tosses a shot from the side and Chris Butler’s skate directs the puck in past Enroth.  Unlucky!  Jason Arnott loses his cool and decks Patrick Kaleta well after the puck is gone.  Power play to finish off the period for Buffalo.  4-3 Devils as the period ends.         

This game is fun to watch.  It’s been a while since I’ve been able to say that about a Buffalo Sabres game. 

Period Three: The announcer says, ‘This has been a night of great forechecking.’  I have to disagree.  Both teams are having an easy time getting out of the zone.  The lack of forechecking and the easy breakouts are exactly what’s making this game exciting.  Mike Grier with a bad giveaway.  Kovalchuk all alone in the slot lets loose a wrister; SAVE Enroth!  Enroth came out nicely to challenge on that one. 

Cody McCormick is this year’s surprising player so far.  Think about it; last year he was on Portland all year, then he’s brought up for the playoffs and has an immediate physical impact.  If I remember correctly I think he tried to fight Chara!  This year he outright makes the team; expected to be a permanent 4th liner.  McCormick has shared lines with Connolly and other top forwards.  I don’t expect him to score 20 goals, but he’s got two so far, to go along with a handful of fights.  He’s been a physical presence in every sense of the word.  Good for Cody McCormick; a bright spot so far on this year’s Sabre team.

‘Tyler One to Tyler Two!!!!!’ - Rick Jeanneret with the call as the Sabres tie the game 4-4.  Tyler Myers has the puck behind the Devils net and slides it out front to a waiting Tyler Ennis who buries it from close range.  Unlucky 13 minutes into the period Rob Niedermayer trips up Jason Arnott and sits for two minutes.  The Sabres successfully kill off the penalty.  The Sabres look like they’re protecting the tie as the Devils are the more desperate team as time winds down.  Two minutes remain as Jochen Hecht drives the net.  Tim Connolly makes a nice move and releases a shot that’s saved by Johan Hedberg.  Waning moments Kovalchuk is all alone and blasts it over the net.  Regulation ends 4-4.

Overtime:  The teams skate to a scoreless tie during 4v4 play and now head to a shootout.

Shootout:

1)    Pominville comes in and shoots it wide

2)    Jason Arnott – Save by Enroth!

3)    Thomas Vanek – GOALLLLLL!!!!!!!!

4)    Patrick Elias – Save Enroth! One shot away from the win.

5)    Tyler Ennis shoots wide of the net.

6)    Jamie Langenbrunner scores for New Jersey, tying the shootout at one.  We’ll go to an extra shooter.

7)    Derek Roy would probably prefer that the entire game was a shootout so nobody would touch him.  But he’d probably still find something to complain about to the referee.  Roy goes to the backhand and SCORES!

8)    The game rests on the stick of Ilya Kovalchuk.  The puck rolls off his stick and he misses.

Sabres Win!

 

What I didn’t like:

1)    Thomas Vanek is invisible.  We need Vanek to be a big part of our game and he’s nowhere to be found.

2)    Other than winning face-offs, Paul Gaustad is pulling a Houdini.  Gaustad is 6’5”.  Toss that big body around!

What I liked:

1)    The Sabres were not victims tonight; rather they dished out the pain.  Tyler Ennis tripped Langenbrunner into the boards, Morrisonn gave Kovalchuk a little extra business, and even Andrej Sekera had a nice facewash on Tedenby.  It’s usually the other way around with Buffalo taking the abuse.

2)    The Sabres got two points.  This team needs all the points it can get if it’s going to climb out of the basement.

3)    Tyler Myers looked like an All-Star tonight.  1 goal and 2 assists.