Kukla's Korner Hockey
by @DaveDavisHockey on 10/21/10 at 01:14 PM ET
It’s a mystery why the three strongest performances by Buffalo thus far have been their three road contests, where they’ve averaged over 40 shots per game, but at this stage the Sabres will take points anywhere they can get them - even if nobody is there to see it.
It was an impressive 4-1 win last night in Atlanta in front of a few family and friends at a sparsely populated Philips Arena, and the script for getting some key players going couldn’t have been written much better.
Tyler Myers netted his first goal of 2010-11, and despite an ugly first period turnover he looked much better overall. There’s just too much ability there for the turnaround not to continue. Keep in mind that even when Myers was playing at his best last season he was prone to occasionally coughing up the puck. You must have some talent if you can win a Calder Trophy after leading the NHL in giveaways.
Thomas Vanek at long last also scored his first goal of the season, and you could plainly see his big exhale of relief. Actually the building was so empty that a few fans probably heard it. The goal was such an important one for Vanek that it prompted Sabres color analyst Harry Neale to proclaim that a “10 pound per square inch piano has been lifted off of Vanek’s back.”
Defenseman Chris Butler had 2 assists to go along with a stellar defensive breakup of an Atlanta 3-on-1 in the 3rd period with the game still in the balance. He played such a solid game that it makes you wonder how much his ankle injury bothered him last season when he didn’t play well enough to stay in the lineup. If Butler is going to make a habit of playing like this then there will be a spot for him regardless of how many defensemen are on the roster.
Some quick observations about Atlanta…
- The announced crowd last night was 8,820, but some people who were there swear that there weren’t more than 6,000 fans in that building. Even using the stated numbers, if the Sabres can sell out Friday’s game then they’ll have more fans in their arena than Atlanta and Columbus had combined in theirs last night.
- Despite some criticism over the move, Dustin Byfuglien has looked pretty good back on defense, which shouldn’t be a shock given it was his original position. But someone should tell him that it would have served him better last night to spend more time throwing his 250-pound body at the smallish Sabres forwards and less time chasing Patrick Kaleta around.
The Sabres now have an opportunity to really get back on track, as their next two games are against a pair of struggling 1-4-1 teams in the Senators and Devils.
But if things don’t go well this weekend, perhaps there will be more relief in sight - they have an appointment back in Blueland next Friday.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
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