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Sabres Get Big Relief in Blueland

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.

Twitter: @DaveDavisHockey

Filed in: NHL Teams, Atlanta Thrashers, Buffalo Sabres, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: atlanta+thrashers, buffalo+sabres, dustin+byfuglien, thomas+vanek, tyler+myers


redxblack's avatar

I watched this game. Sparsely attended is generous. There were sections that had less than a dozen people in them. I’ve been to Tuesday night AHL games with more people. It was beyond pathetic as far as attendance went.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 10/21/10 at 01:36 PM ET

Alan's avatar

There are problems in Atlanta, that I know I’ve covered on KK (one way or another) in the past. I’ll sum it up like this:

No one in Atlanta is buying in on the “hopes and dreams” part. People here want to see results. This early in the season, and with horrible seasons the past three years, no one can reasonably expect Atlanta to fill the barn, because they haven’t proven anything to anyone.

People will throw around terms like “bad hockey market,” but we all know that’s not the case. Every team that has been pitiful for a long stretch (except the Maple Leafs) has had attendance problems. As a Detroit fan, I know this all too well. The Wolves AHL team used to outdraw the Blackhawks before they turned it around.

That’s really about it. I can’t make it any more plain than that.

Posted by Alan from Atlanta on 10/21/10 at 03:40 PM ET

Alan's avatar

I watched this game.

Late, but I’m sorry you sat through that game. Truly. The Thrashers do (and have) play better than that.

Posted by Alan from Atlanta on 10/21/10 at 04:05 PM ET

SYF's avatar

Yeah, I saw that game, too, Alan.  It reminded of JLA in the Eighties.

Hope it turns around real quick.

Posted by SYF from impossible and oddly communally possessive sluts on 10/21/10 at 04:30 PM ET

Alan's avatar

It reminded of JLA in the Eighties.

Posted by SYF from Las Vegas, NV on 10/21/10 at 02:30 PM ET

Me, too. Granted, I’m only 30, but I still got to see games every now and again when we would go to Michigan to visit family. Being one of only a few thousand in the stands made the place seem very empty.

Atlanta can have 10k people in the arena, and still have those people make a ton of noise on a good night. Even if there were only 6k people in the seats, it would have been a lot louder than it was had the score been the other way. Alas, It was so quiet there, I could actually hear my friend plain as day chanting “Let’s Go Thrashers” on the broadcast.

At that time, in the second period, he was the only one doing the chanting.

Posted by Alan from Atlanta on 10/21/10 at 05:04 PM ET

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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.

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