Friday, February 5, 2016

Notes from Montreal. Boston in town.

Reprinted with permission from

The Sabres pulled out a real good road win last night as they scored three unanswered in the third period for a 4-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens. While Montreal was on the second of a back-to-back, Buffalo was coming off of the All-Star Break after a seven-day hiatus. And it looked like it.

Les Habitants swarmed the Sabres early in the first period, at one point holding a 10-2 edge in shots on goal. But as the period wore on the Sabres found their legs, turned the table and by the end of the first the Sabres narrowed the SOG to 12-11 in favor of Montreal but more importantly went into the intermission with a 1-0 lead.

On the Montreal broadcast last night there were a number of occasions where the broadcast team mentioned that the Canadiens were "fragile." Montreal had gone from 17-4-2 prior to an injury to No. 1 goaltender Carey Price and are now 24-24-2 after last night's loss to Buffalo. To those of us who remember "the core" years, the word "fragile" made it into the broadcasting vernacular all to frequently.

Last night the Sabres looked good, especially Robin Lehner in the third period where he stopped all 14 shots he faced including a Max Pacioretty breakaway and two prime scoring opportunities less than a minute later. In all he stopped 33 of 35 shots (.943 sv%) and was named the game's third star.

Cool thing about Lehner is his intensity. We've seem glimmers of that on occasion, but last night he channeled former NY Islanders goaltender and 1993 Hall of Fame inductee, Billy Smith. For those unfamiliar anything in and around Smith's crease was his and if you got too close, he was pullin' a lumberjack chop at your ankles. Whereas Smith would take a full swing, however, Lehner just did a half-one last night, but it was very cool to see nonetheless. And it seemed to have an affect on his defensemen as they really asserted themselves last night, pushing Canadiens bodies all over the place.

All in all it was good game for the Sabres and a good, come from behind win. A quick notes:

--Not sure if there was a Buffalo Sabres player more deserving of a goal than Johan Larsson. Although he hadn't scored a goal in 19 games he's been playing some real good hockey as he's always doggin' player and/or puck. He centered a line with Brian Gionta and Evander Kane and they were responsible for a strong forecheck that lead to a Montreal penalty and eventually Jamie McGinn's powerplay goal. It's kind of a weird combination on that line, but it worked last night.

--Right-handers Mark Pysyk and Zach Bogosian patrolled the Buffalo blueline as a paring last night and both showed that they're equally adept at playing either side of the ice. Neither was exclusively on their strong side as they switched back and forth and neither was on the ice for a Montreal goal.

--Jack Eichel had an assist last night. He's been paired with Zemgus Girgensons for a number of games lately and the duo work real well together. But, he really needs to unleash his deadly shot more often. Early in the second period Eichel created space for himself in the slot on his strong-side and the potential was there for him to let one rip. He passed. Pretty sure head coach Dan Bylsma will be talking with him about that.

--Finally, the more I watch Girgensons, the more I feel his hockey smarts is underrated from his stickwork to how he sees the ice. Keep an eye on him. Just because he hasn't put up the points many he thought he would so far this season, doesn't mean he's not playing well. What he seems to do, and has done so in both of his rookie campaigns with the Rochester Americans and the Sabres, is keep his feet moving while absorbing everything around him. Once he locks it all in, the flood gates open.

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