What We Learned In Game 1

Here are some thoughts on the 1st game of the playoffs:

The Sabres should not have won this game. There were several factors that gave them the edge they needed to capture home ice advantage in this series.

Ryan Miller is back, I missed him. He was the goaltender we saw last season and in the olympics. He was a stablizing presence, coving his angles and not letting rebounds get away.

It was the type of unremarkable, remarkable games that I loved watching last year and hopefully we’ll see more of that this postseason.

So much has been made about the Flyers’ depth at forward, but in game 1 Buffalo was the deeper club. The Flyers were able to shut down the Sabres’ top two lines but it was the bottom six that really hurt them.

Gerbe-Gaustad-Kaleta was a dominant energy line that consistently got offensive pressure. this line will be hard to play against for any team in the playoffs and instantly makes Buffalo a tougher out. Niedermayer-McCormick-Grier was a surprisingly effective line, but Grier and Niedermayer always turn it on in the playoffs and all three guy were playing the body.

All of the bottom six were playing the body well. Gaustad had some good physical play, McCormick was hitting people, Grier got in a few good shots too. It was the return of Pat Kaleta though, that really changes this team. He was flying around and smashing anyone admiring a pass. It was the type of play the Sabres needed and he was rewarded with a goal.

The top six got their chances and they will score soon. Ennis-Boyes-Stafford wasn’t the most effective line out there, but they used the speed of Stafford and Ennis to create chances and Boyes to crash the net. They will look to generate more pressure positionally in game 2.

Vanek-Connolly-Pominville were hungry on the forecheck and the got their chances, they just couldn’t bury one. They will break through and soon if they keep playing the way they are now.

Philly will be back too. Leino, Briere, Richards and Carter all had their chances. They will be scoring soon and it will be a whole different game when that starts happening. Hartnell, Versteeg and their physical players were non factors and if they get it together this Flyers team will be dangerous against the Sabres who can only score one goal.

There are only three areas that I would have the Sabres improve on for game two, even though game one was not a particularly strong effort. The first thing is stop taking dumb penalties! I don’t mind a slash or a trip, but a suplex, Montador? Really? Get it together, because Philly has a good power play and you penalty kill was good but it won’t last forever.

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Part of that penalty issue is clear the darn zone! I’d rather you put too much on it and ice the puck than just trickle it to the point. It’s such a simple concept but no one at any level seems to get it. You must clear the zone or it will end up in your net.

Finally the defense just needs to be better. They in no way inspired confidence during the game. I hope that Sekera and Leopold can get back soon so Morrisonn and Butler can take seats. Gragnani had a pretty good 1st playoff game with an assist. He did jump out of position a couple of times but that can just be getting too excited. Weber too was pretty solid. Montador and Morrisonn, the veterans who were supposed to be the rocks in the playoffs had terrible games. Butler looked shaky but Myers made up for him with strong play.

All in all it’s great to have the win thanks to great goaltending, depth and penalty killing, but it isn’t one that inspires confidence. I will pose this question to everyone, now that I’m slightly more optimistic about this series: what happens if the Sabres get healthy? Roy, Hecht, Leopold, Sekera, they could all be back. Who comes out? what types of lines would we see? How good can they be?


Adam Qutaishat
Adam Qutaishathttp://www.sabreseverywhere.com
Adam is a 23-year-old student attending the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point majoring in Music Education. Adam lives in Stevens Point, WI and works for many local and national sports media outlets in many different mediums.
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