Saturday, November 30, 2013

Buffalo wins 6th game of the season

Unfortunately (or fortunately if you're looking for a top-2 pick in the 2014 draft) it has taken the team nearly two months and 27 games to achieve that feat.

And two of those wins have come against arch rival Toronto, including the 3-2 OT decision last night.

Matt D'Agostini in his first game as
a Buffalo Sabre.
(photo Bill Wippert, Getty Images)
The Sabres welcomed waiver pickup Matt D'Agostini to the lineup last night and he played a real strong game.

Although he didn't hit the scoresheet he was a plus-1 in 15:39 of ice-time and made a key play with less than a minute to go in the third period.

With the game tied at two and the Sabres on the powerplay, D'Agostini hauled ass on the back-check and flung himself at James van Riemsdyk who was going in all alone on Ryan Miller.

D'Agostini took out van Riemsdyk on the play but the ref who was right on the play ruled that D'Agostini had touched the puck first nullifying any penalty.

After seeing many questionable calls against the team the past few games (at least) Miller was pretty happy that the team finally got a (non) call go their way, "It came around," said Miller. "[D'Agostini] got back hard and he [forced] the ref to make a decision. The ref decided he got the puck."

Miller said that this game may have been the best game the team has played all season. And he's probably right.

After a somewhat slow first period, the Sabres skated like a real hockey team, took checks, dished out checks and maintained composure throughout the game.

Interim coach Ted Nolan had been ticked at the number of penalties the team has had over the course of his short tenure and has been imploring his team to play more disciplined.

The result this game was only one penalty to Henrik Tallinder for a stupid high-stick early in the third period. The Leaves got only one shot on goal during the ensuing power play.

No parade to the box allowed the team to roll their lines and they looked good.

D'Agostini was on a line with Steve Ott and Ville Leino. That line was very strong and it may have been Leino's best game yet.

Zemgus Girgensons was with Tyler Ennis and Luke Adam. That line provided a strong forecheck and ample opportunities for Adam who finally got a goal. He was the recipient of a fortuitous bounce that left him with a gaping net. He blasted it home.

Enforcer John Scott may have finally found himself a home. No, not in the penalty box tending to his knuckles but in front of the net in the offensive zone. And he looked ecstatic.

As soon as the puck was secured in the zone by his teammates, Scott would head to the front of the net. And with some better shots from the point, they may have scored. It looked as if he may have even tipped a shot.

Scott played a real strong game (relatively speaking.) The guy plays hard and he really wants to play. He knows his skill level is what it is and kudos to Nolan for getting the most out of that very limited skill set.

The top-line of Cody Hodgson centering Matt Moulson and Drew Stafford took the brunt of the Leaves checking unit. They worked hard. In fact, for the second game in a row Stafford has been a bull. We've seen him use his body in the past, sporadically, but it would seem as if Nolan's got him finally playing the game the way he can--as a power forward.

Staff logged 22 minutes of ice-time last night and most of it was quality.

As for Moulson, he now has goals in two straight games after going 11 without. As has been mentioned here before, the guy can finish. The Sabres should seriously entertain re-signing him long-term even at an inflated salary.

And finally, Ted Nolan has been doing an outstanding job thus far.

His coaching hasn't translated into wins yet because the team is devoid of depth and talent, as evidenced by scoring no more than one goal in the previous four losses.

The more he gets a feel for individual players, the more he's finding ways to put them in a position to succeed.

The team is getting better and it seems as if they're starting to see light at the end of the tunnel.

Sure, it took them 27 games to win six, but if they keep playing the way they did last night, that win total will increase significantly in less games.


One of areas that Nolan and Director of Hockey Ops, Pat LaFontaine need to direct their attention to is upgrading personnel. And although they might not be able to add sheer talent from outside the organization at this point, they can add players who play a certain style.

D'Agostini appealed to Nolan and LaFontaine because of certain attributes like speed and defensive awareness, both of which were on display last night. And he seems to think the game very well.

After D'Agostini made that defensive play to eliminate van Riemsdyk's opportunity late, he provided the screen that allowed Christian Ehrhoff to win the game off a shot from the point in OT.

In somewhat of a shot at the previous regime, Nolan was asked if it surprised him that D'Agostini made those plays, "You know," he said, "players that come from the St. Louis' and Pittsburgh's (both teams that D'Agostini played for, most recently Pittsburgh) know how to play the game right."

Little by little, one by one, the Sabres are starting to "play the game right."

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