It was all about making saves last night as Miller and Elliott shined in a narrow 1-0 win by the Buffalo Sabres in a shootout. Miller is well-known in the league for being one of the best, if not THE best, goaltender in the league. Brian Elliott, for his part, is an emerging goaltender who has yet to be claimed the number one for Ottawa, but he proved to be up to par in last night’s game with a solid 31 saves. It was a game for good goaltending, with a lot of frantic cycling, but for very little results.
The first period was a lot of stop and go with penalties even at 3 for each team. The power plays produced nothing on the night for either squad. There were one or two great chances , with Ottawa’s best chances coming from Erik Karlsson, Mike Fisher and Peter Regin. In the absence of Tim Connolly, out with a groin injury, and an Ottawa killer in past games, Jason Pominville, Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek were the ones to look out for with Buffalo.
Vanek sealed the deal on the night with the only goal of the game during the shootout, after Ottawa’s shooters missed all of their chances in the shootout, capping the night with a pathetic miss by Spezza as he lost the puck on the way towards Miller. For his part, Miller proved why he is so amazing, making himself big in the net and aggressively coming out to challenge each shooter, taking away their time and space, as every shooter ran out of options. This was a game that could only have been won with a team effort. Miller is just too good to beat one-on-one. Ottawa put through a good effort in overtime, but they just couldn’t connect.
Ottawa’s offensive drought has been talked about at length, but it was clear that this was not going to be solved during a game against Buffalo. Like Boston, Buffalo plays a highly defensive minded game with very few goals and almost all of their games are won by slim 1 point margins. It’s their game style. Blow out games are rare for them and they manage to keep games close by playing a tight game. It’s very controlled, very disciplined and there’s nothing fancy about it.
As a result, the majority of the game tends to happen in the neutral zone, with a lot of back and forth. It’s precisely the reason why some non-sports fans will not watch hockey- “Why would you be interested in watching a bunch of grown men chase a little ball?”- and it’s not a lot of fun to watch. Because chasing is exactly what happens. The players do a lot of puck chasing, they chase each other, everyone runs around a lot and it’s almost like watching a game of tag on ice.
The two best players on the ice were Miller and Elliott. Another good effort was put in by the Captain, Daniel Alfredsson, but he got no support from his wingers. This may just be the result of the constant chasing and players losing their focus, but Ottawa’s forwards have got to start communicating with each other better. A lot of near misses and a pass too many are the little mistakes that Ottawa has to learn to fix if they want to turn things around. Spezza seems to still have trouble finding Regin, Shannon seems to play all over the ice without partners, Michalek is making a valiant effort to find someone, anyone, to help him out and Foligno’s big nemesis these days is the back of the net.
On the defensive side, the pairing of Phillips and Gonchar makes no sense at all. Why put two veteran defensemen together when it’s clear that you need both hockey sense and speed on the ice at the same time? Make good use of your young guns and pair them with the patient, experienced defensemen. Karlsson and Gonchar are a better combination and they get better results. Karlsson should also be applauded for his aggressive offensive-minded play. Ottawa’s always talked about how having an offensive puck-moving defenseman was going to change things for the team. It’s going to be these two.
Today’s game against the New York Rangers is going to have to be better. But don’t expect to see anything spectacular. It’s a matinee game and after losing in such unspectacular fashion last night, the game style will likely remain conservative. A few line shuffles may be in order and Ruutu will have to flex his smelly glove if things get ugly with Avery. And they always get ugly with Avery.
About the Author
Written by Mika Oehling
Office worker and sports nerd. Cannot play a professional sport to save my life, but love to write. Prone to rants, raves, snarky humour and caustic commentary. My team's the Ottawa Senators. Author of Armchair Hockey, a work of humourous fiction released this year and available for sale online at Chapters and Amazon.