Some thoughts on last night’s horrible loss to Buffalo.
- Scott did his job Bruins fans are up in arms, throwing every insult they can at the untalented John Scott (and rightly so, he’s a terrible hockey player). But the thing that cannot be argued is that he did exactly what he gets paid to do. Though they may not admit it, Scott was brought in specifically for games against the Bruins. The Sabres were embarrassed last year at the hands of the B’s, unable to even come close to matching their toughness. Scott was brought in to fix that, and he did a good job. He may suck at passing, skating, shooting, and scoring, but his job is to fight and intimidate. He did both. I wouldn’t say that the B’s were afraid of Scott; rather that he certainly will make players think twice before taking liberties with the Sabres in the future.
- Can’t knock Thornton Speaking of Scott, one can’t knock Shawn Thornton for losing the fight. However, B’s fans also can’t get defensive when one says that Thornton did in fact lose the fight. He doesn’t lose many, and I don’t remember him ever losing one as badly as he did last night, but he got beaten, plain and simple. I give him tremendous credit for taking on Scott, who has six inches and nearly 60 pounds on Thornton. Saying he lost isn’t criticizing Thornton or calling him a coward or anything like that, it’s simply stating a fact. Win some, lose some, and Thornton lost last night. It’s being reported this morning that he does indeed have a concussion. To me, this means one of two things: either Thornton will challenge Scott again next time the teams meet to seek revenge (these fighters are prideful guys, after all) or Zdeno Chara, the only guy in the league bigger than Scott, will have to give it a go. Talent mismatch, obviously. But it needs to be done.
- Vanek owns Not much else can be said about Thomas Vanek’s performance last night. One-timed lasers, beautiful dekes, sweet passes…he was on fire last night. Vanek is tearing it up so far this season, and has always performed well against the B’s. He’s a fun player to watch (and one of the few Sabres I don’t mind). One can’t help but think back to the B’s-Sabres playoff series in 2010, where Vanek was felled by a Johnny Boychuk slash and hurt his knee on the ensuing crash into the boards. He missed a few games, and that series probably has a different outcome if Vanek is healthy. Of course, the B’s went on to embarrass themselves against the Flyers in the next round, so maybe it would’ve been a good thing if they’d lost to Buffalo…
- Quietly solid night from Miller Ryan Miller is going to be mocked every time he takes the crease at the Garden. Last night, the singsong “MILL-ER!” chants started after the B’s took a 3-1 lead, but Miller was a big reason why the Sabres emerged with the win. He had the spotlight taken from him by the otherworldly play of Vanek, but he made a number of huge saves to keep his team either in the lead or in the game. His save on Patrice Bergeron late in the third comes to mind, as does his stop on Zdeno Chara’s one-timer. I doubt he’d say it publicly, but Miller must have been thrilled to have exacted some revenge on the team that punked his squad a number of times last year.
- Awful defense Pretty much sums it up. A two-goal lead should have been enough to beat Buffalo. Scoring four goals should’ve been enough to beat Buffalo. However, the B’s ensured that the Sabres could stick around by playing just awful defensively. Weird pinches, blown coverage, odd-man rushes galore…it was ugly. It was so bad that it was almost comforting in a way: the B’s probably lost solely because they played such uncharacteristically poor defense. It needs to be fixed.
- Third line traction? Nice to see the third line get on the board last night, as Rich Peverley’s goal marked the first time the third trio scored this year. Peverley was tremendous last night, playing with speed and making things happen with the puck. He’s been a bit of a disappointment so far this year, but if last night is any indication, he may be close to turning things around.