Immediate Reactions: Senators 1, Sabres 0
blog by Ryan Nagelhout • October 04, 2013 @ 11:01pm
(Photo via Buffalo Sabres Facebook Page)
Ryan Miller sold his house in July, but he all but owned the ice Friday night at First Niagara Center in Buffalo. Miller was spectacular for more than 58 minutes in a 1-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators in the home opener. He’s been great in both losses for the Sabres this season, despite a lack of scoring from the guys in blue and gold.
With giveaway wristbands blinking in the seating bowl, Sabres fans were treated to a Ryan Miller they’ve only seen flashes of since his last Olympic season. It was vintage Miller, if you can call anything done by a 33-year-old “vintage.” He was aggressive in the blue, robbing Jason Spezza on a cross-crease glove with 8.2 seconds left in the second period. He stopped a handful of shots on a chaotic shift with just over four minutes left in the third, finally making a stop to get a whistle and catch his breath. It was the Ryan Miller that once towered over the concept of a backup goaltender demanding playing time. The Miller that once was thought to be untradable.
With 95 seconds left in the third, however, another “vintage” aspect of his game came back to haunt him: the late goal to spoil a shutout. This time, however, Miller didn’t have the luxury of goal support. After drawing big cheers all night, a cross-ice pass from former Sabre Clarke MacArthur is one-timed in by Erik Karlsson. Sabres fans had no counter to the dim roar of the few traveling Sens fans in attendance, and the points slipped away.
If Sabres fans are struggling to find a reason to be excited about this season, Miller can be the answer. Despite all the talk about cashing in expiring contracts for future considerations, the next few months could be less about #Suffering and more about following an American hero to Sochi. That journey is going to be mighty tough without some support up top, though. The Sabres had more than enough chances to hit the back of the net, but they’ve scored one goal in two games against division opponents. The power play isn’t working, and neither are Vanek, Hodgson, or anyone else you’d expect to light the lamp. It’s going to be a process, but it could be an interesting one. With the Miller playing like this, the Sabres will always have a chance for points. It’s the rest of the team you need to worry about right now.
Fresh Hot Takes
— The new lighting system the team installed is pretty snazzy. Lots of blue and gold, and the video projection system is back as well. There are also white banners hanging up in the corners for projection, a la Vancouver. The team’s anemic offense made those look like preemptive signs of surrender as the game wore on, though. The Sabres may not have done a ton in the free agent market, but they sure went to town on some AV catalogs.
— Here’s our own Kat Przybyła with the Vine of the pregame work, if you’d like to form your own opinion on the matter:
— Miller and new captains Thomas Vanek and Steve Ott all drew large cheers from the First Niagara Center crowd during introductions, but it was John Scott who arguably got the biggest ovation. Not many Phil Kessel fans in Buffalo right now.
— Vanek had nine shots on Friday, including the Sabres’ best chance of the night to score. He sniped the crest of Anderson’s jersey instead of picking any number of places available in the mostly open net. I heard the term “snakebitten” at least a half-dozen times from the assembled media in the press box. So it goes for the guy we sometimes call Atlas.
— Getting to First Niagara Center might be a bit different for you if you’re driving into downtown Buffalo. If you’re planning to use the Metro Rail system, your commute is essentially unaffected by the construction. However, with work finishing up on One Canalside, the start of HARBORCenter construction, and the East Canal terminus being built between the two, you’re in for some challenging road conditions on Washington and Scott Streets.
If you’re parking to the East of First Niagara Center, between the new Casino and the parking ramp, your walk to the arena will be unaffected. I’d recommend getting to those lots via Michigan Avenue, though. Stay away from Washington at all costs. You can’t get anywhere near the arena that way, and it’s one-lane traffic and construction vehicles from the Buffalo News building on down.
If you’re parking anywhere else, be prepared to walk. The Memorial Auditorium pit, One Canalside, East Canal construction and HARBORCenter construction essentially create a gigantic wall of temporary fences that are not pedestrian friendly. Stroll by Canalside and stay away from the cars and construction. The weather’s still pretty nice for that in October.
No matter how you’re getting to the arena, make sure you leave a bit earlier than usual. If you’re early you can always just gawk at the big construction cranes, a machine species thought to be extinct in Buffalo until they reappeared earlier this year. Life, dear friends, always finds a way.
— With 17:05 left in the third period of a scorelesss game, Section 309 tried starting The Wave. I hereby request Section 309 be tarped off for the next home game. Full quarantine is necessary to remove the threat. I am not joking. Lives are at stake here.
— A few familiar numbers are now on the backs of some unfamiliar players this year. I think we all should get a 5-game cushion on player recognition for the likes of Henrik Tallinder (20, not 10), Zemgus Girgensons (28) and Rasmus Ristolainen (55). New Gaustad and New Hecht jokes should end by mid-October, too.
Hot Twitter Takes of the Game
Via ESB, the #Sabres/Sens' combined 39 shots in the 1st period were the most in a scoreless period in the expansion era (1967-present)— Sabres PR (@SabresPR) October 5, 2013
I’d highly recommend you follow @SabresPR if you like numbers, the Sabres, and combinations of the two.
Good to hear "FIRE REGIER" guy in 316 renewed his season tickets this season. #Sabres— Brandon Schlager (@B_Schlag) October 5, 2013
It’s good to have the boys back.
Hit of the Night
That “Royals” song by Lorde played in the arena during the second intermission. Best rookie performance of the night other than Girgensons, who won the Carubba Collision and was great on the backcheck on Friday.
Hero Villain of the Night
Cory Conacher — Conacher is from Burlington, Ontario, which is 64.7 miles from downtown Buffalo. The 5-foot-8 winger actually played his college hockey in Buffalo, at Canisius College, so every time he walks by HARBORCenter he will have Nam-like flashbacks of driving down the Scajaquata for a Griffs practice at a Division III ice rink. Welcome home, Cory.
Did you know? There’s an IKEA in Burlington. I bet Cory knows a lot about particleboard.
Stat-line I liked:
Ryan Miller: 45 saves
— Tied for second-most in his career. Still wasn’t enough for the win. It’s, uh, tough to like many stats in a shutout loss.
Stat-line I didn’t like:
Johnan LarssonL 6:55 TOI
— Lots of hype for the kid in preseason. He played one more shift than John Scott.
Next Game: Saturday (10/5) at Pittsburgh. The next time you’ll see this is next Saturday (10/12) at Chicago.