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Immediate Reactions: Canadiens 3, Sabres 1

blog by Ryan Nagelhout  • 

The lone moment of tension on Wednesday night came during the second period. Marcus Foligno takes a roughing penalty at 12:25 and Montreal goes to the power play, already up, 1-0.

There was the familiar buildup of pressure that comes when a team is buzzing. You could see the video game stamina bars going in opposite directions, the Sabres running out of gas while Montreal picks up a turbo boost. P.K. Subban rips a shot from the point that goes wide, but Montreal keeps possession. They cycle the puck and work Buffalo’s box over thoroughly.

After more than a minute of zone pressure, Ryan Miller runs out of saves and David Desharnais makes it 2-0 Habs. Those wearing red jerseys in the First Niagara Center crowd leap out of their chairs while Sabres fans check their phones.

On Thanksgiving Eve, it was a less than festive mood. By night’s end, Montreal finished off a 3-1 win while Habs fans serenaded empty blue seats with chants of “Olé, Olé, Olé.”

Going to a Sabres game at this point is a lot like attending church on a Sunday evening. You feel more than a bit obligated to attend, but the mood is dour and the only reason you pay attention is the off-chance the priest had a bit too much communion wine at the earlier services and gets a little lippy with the choir leader. It’s a weird scene filled with long stretches of silence and the occasional bit of salvation.

Whining about the atmosphere at First Niagara Center is an endeavor as tired as the team itself. It’s not going to fix anything. I kind of feel icky about mentioning it at all. The formula for crowd noise is fairly simple: Good teams draw good crowds because the games are exciting and winning is fun. Mediocre and bad teams don’t get those crowds often, and the Sabres have been mediocre-to-bad for some time now. I get it. It totally makes sense.

It’s just kind of a bummer, is all. If the hockey’s not going to be fun, Sabres fans need distractions to keep them interested this season.

The rookie experiment was a failed distraction. Bringing back Pat LaFontaine and Ted Nolan was a pretty good one, but after an initial spark of enthusiasm the team has quickly reverted to losing generally uninteresting hockey games.

You can see signs of progress in the team here and there, and Ted Nolan continues to say the right things in press conferences. But the games all end the same, with quiet press conferences from Sabres players rattling off the mistakes that cost them the game. Crowds leave early to let the visitors celebrate in private.

The fans that do leave just seem happy to be free of First Niagara Center’s quiet confines. Like kids after church, ready to return to their normal lives for another week. At least until the next date in their envelope full of tickets. But hey, at least you don’t have to tithe.

welcomeback

Fresh Hot Takes

— During a commercial break in the second period, a fan won a trivia contest where the prize was a new third jersey. The crowd was going to cheer until the emcee said “new third jersey” and then it was an uproar.

Huge, audible groan, then some booing. It’s the first time I’ve seen real human beings emote about the new jersey, and it wasn’t good. The jerseys are okay. Just okay. They aren’t going to kill anyone, but they are clearly not popular.

The whole concept of a third jersey is to bump up merchandise sales. I can’t imagine they are flying off the racks. But we will endure and watch this team play poor hockey in weird jerseys. Bumbly bees bouncing around the ice and attempting to play defense. It’s almost kind of cute.

— John Scott did his job on Friday. While one pass thudded off his skate on the rush, he did a nice job with puck possession at times and crashed the net in the third period, drawing a spirited fight in the process. He also saw some power play time in the first period after Steve Ott drew a double-minor high sticking call. That part was weird. The rest is fine with me.

— Drew Stafford had a fairly strong game as well. He set up Matt Moulson’s goal in the second period, which made it 2-1 Habs. Stafford can have value even when he’s not scoring goals, and he showed that on Friday. Working the corners, making good passes and playing solid defense can make him valuable. It’s good to see him improving.

— Daniel Briere plays for the Canadiens and I totally forgot about that. I didn’t notice him at all. He played 13:25, according to the stat sheet.

— The game was kind of a bummer, but I definitely want you all to have a lovely Thanksgiving. You totally deserve it, gang.

Hot Twitter Takes of the Game

That’s a good stat. A good, depressing stat.

Hodgson was coasting two feet from Andrei Markov when he netted the first goal. He’s always near the puck, but mostly watching someone else score with it.

I don’t like using my tweets here because that’s just gross, but I’m putting this here for posterity’s sake. This totally happened.

Hit of the Night
There were some solid hits in the actual game, but the Electric Organ won the night. The “let’s take a crazy song and transition into Let’s Go Buffalo” war is hitting its peak. We had “I Have a Little Dreidel” used in the second period. I’m pretty sure they’re just trying to see the craziest possible song combinations at this point. Is Battle Hymn of the Republic next? Amazing Grace? It would be awesome if they somehow fit military taps in there, too.

Between the synth organ music and the laser light extravaganza the team installed, First Niagara Center looks and sounds like a digital jukebox pulsating in an empty dive bar. Sounded like one for most of the game, too.

Scratch of the Game
Corey Tropp — He wasn’t scratched as much as he was banished from the team. Hey, man, I wasn’t going to mention this anywhere else. There was some hope that Tropp was improving and turning into a real NHL hockey player this season. Apparently that wasn’t the case. I really can’t come up with a strong take on the matter. I think my indifference speaks for itself here.

Hometown Hero Villain of the Night
Francis Bouillon — Bouillon was born in New York City. That’s not the closest player hometown on the team, but I was kind of amazed he’s from the Big Apple. Francis Bouillon is the most French Canadian name ever. I bet the Habs didn’t even bother to check his birth certificate when they claimed him off waivers in 2002.
Did you know? New York City is located in New York State!

Stat-line I liked:
21:32
— That’s Tyler Myers’ ice time on Wednesday. He played like he deserved the load, even with that wonky penalty that led to the Habs’ final goal. He’s getting there.

Stat-line I didn’t like:
5
— First period shots. They are playing better in first periods, but better is not good.

Next Game:
Friday (11/29) vs. Toronto (7:30 p.m.) — Great. More leftovers.

(Top photo courtesy of Bill Wippert at the official Sabres Facebook page.)

Ryan Nagelhout is a freelance writer who blogs at The Goose’s Roost when he’s not writing children’s books.

TAGGED: buffalo sabres, downtown, hockey, immediate reactions, montreal canadiens, ryan nagelhout

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