Game #55 Recap: Hecht Yea!
It was an ugly, ugly opening to the game, but the Sabres managed to tie it at 2 to survive regulation and force extra time. After a fruitless overtime period, they fell behind again in ugly fashion in the shootout. Yet again, the Sabres managed to tie it at 2 by exposing Carey Price’s weak stick side. After the game broke the franchise record for longest shootout, Jochen Hecht – the unlikeliest of heroes – tucked the puck home to win the game and pull his side into 9th place.
Jhonas Enroth, like his teammates, didn’t start out strong either. But he quickly settled in and showed the Bell Centre crowd an unorthodox style that is about 75% stand-up and 25% butterfly. It showed in his willingness to use his upper torso to make plenty of saves. This style helps compensate for his relative lack of size. However, it couldn’t compensate for how short his legs are, as Montreal’s first two shootout goals came because Enroth couldn’t reach the post in time to hold tight.
Drew Stafford is, as RJ would say, hotter than a pistol right now. He and the New York Islanders’ Michael Grabner are scoring at a break neck pace, which Sabres fans saw at Sunday’s overtime downer. Opinions are divided on whether Stafford is having the dreaded contract year bump or if he’s finally gotten it, but all Sabres fans can agree that he’s become an invaluable asset to the team’s march back into the top 8.
The Sabres’ defense was particularly maddening at times against the Habs. The Versus key to a Montreal victory tonight was matching Buffalo’s speed, which they did with aplomb. It wasn’t until the Sabres started to forecheck more aggressively that they could sustain pressure in the attacking zone instead of racing back to prevent one of many Canadien odd-man rushes.
Tomorrow night, the Sabres are home against their perennial punching bags the Maple Leafs. The last time they met, Buffalo was coming off of a disappointing loss to Pittsburgh and used Toronto as slump busters. It is widely assumed Ryan Miller will be back in the crease, which does not bode well for the traveling fans of the blue and white – Miller has a track record of coming back focused and intense after terrible efforts, and he personally likes nothing more to make life miserable for the Maple Leafs and their faithful.
Will the Ryan Miller that Toronto fans know and hate be in the crease tomorrow, or will Lindy Ruff ride the hot rookie to another victory over the Leafs?