Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Sabres headed to Toronto with a little wind at their backs

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

It could have been disasterous. Well. About as disasterous as a last place team could expect.

The victory at San Jose' was a welcome reprieve from the ineptitude of the first two west coast contests and it provided the team with some postitives as it heads to Toronto tomorrow night.

First off, they were able to come out of the San Jose' contest with a win in regulation, the first time they could make that claim this season. Second, they showed they could score two goals, and they could do it with players not named Tyler Ennis, Zemgus Girgensons, Marcus Foligno and Torrey Mitchell, the only four players to have scored through the first eight games. The Sabres were also able to head into the third period with the lead for only the second time all season, and unlike their game against Carolina, were able to hold on to the lead.

So that's good.

What's even better is that the Sabres have two winnable games in front of them.

First stop is a battle with the arch rival Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre, and whether you use analytics or just watch the team, Toronto is not doing all that well. Sure, they have seven points to their credit in this young season, but five of those points came on the road. The Leafs are 1-4-0 at home and they lost by three or more goals in three of those losses. Pretty sure AGM Kyle Dubas would much rather stick to his analytics rather than actually watch. Which is what fans of the Leafs do.

And they're not happy.

Kevin McGran, writer for the Toronto Star says the fans are even more ornery than that. He says they're angry and to show their displeasure they've taken to throwing their jerseys on the ice, which amounts to sacrilege in the country that invented and, at one time, dominated the sport. And McGran quotes a Leafs fan from twitter, "“What good is a win when you can’t muster one in front of your fans? This is just tragic,” said one angry fan on Twitter. “I encourage fans to boo.”

How are the players taking it? McGran quotes winger Joffrey Lupul as saying“There are some nerves coming into this building. It’s quiet, it’s one of the quietest buildings in the league. And it can quickly turn bad."

Kinda reminiscent of last year's edition of the Buffalo Sabres, eh?

Oh, and remember the flak that Ryan Miller and Steve Ott took for calling out the home crowd? Said Lupul about this year's Leafs crowd, “I understand people haven’t necessarily had a lot to cheer about here. Tickets are the most expensive in the league. We get that. Just (a loud building) in sport is important."


Some things are universal.

On Thursday the Sabres come home to face off against a team that completely dominated them in an earlier meeting, the Boston Bruins. The B's smoked the Sabres 4-0 in that game. It wasn't even a contest. But they're beginning a stretch where they'll be with out injured captain, Zdeno Chara. Chara injured his knee and is out for six weeks.

The Bruins were off to an inauspicious start with him in the lineup going 4-5 to start the season, but they were able to start this stretch without him with a 4-1 victory at Toronto on Saturday. Defenseman Dougie Hamilton picked up the slack by picking up a goal and adding two assists in over 22 minutes of ice time. They are home against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday before heading to Buffalo.

In between those to NHL games, the Rochester Americans are bringing their 4-2 record to the First Niagara Center playing host to the Hamilton Bulldogs. The Amerks will be looking to avenge a 6-4 loss at the hands of the Bulldogs on October 11.

Rochester has a pretty solid team with depth throughout the lineup. Their offense is lead by forward Johan Larsson (3+5) and defenseman Chad Ruhwedel (2+6.) Tim Schaller and Phil Varone (7 pts. each,) Mikhail Grigorenko and Akim Aliu all are tied with Larsson for the team lead with three goals while Larsson and Luke Adam have five assists each, one behind Ruhwedel. Schaller's plus-6 rating is tied with Mark Pysyk for the team lead.

The team is enjoying it's success and having a little fun.

Defensemen Drew Bagnall and Nick Petrecki found a band hat while "looking for bad Christmas sweaters and decided that they would crown the game MVP with it. Schaller was the first to wear it as he was instrumental in the team's comeback victory over the Rockford IceHogs.

It's a much more fun environment in Rochester this season because the team is having early success. Just take a look at the highlights below.

There's sheer joy and happiness coming from the players, especially Grigorenko.

Here's him talking about the 4-1 victory over the Adirondack Flames as well as his developing chemistry with Joel Armia:

Thanks to the Rochester Americans for the videos.

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