We said yesterday that the Sabres were in for a tough physical test against the hard banging Columbus Blue Jackets.
It was a pretty obvious challenge for the newer, tougher Sabres lineup, considering the stats.
No game in the NHL is truly a gimme, and this contest is shaping up to be a good test. The Sabres should be and are expected to outscore and skate off with a W tonight, but Buffalo’s new-found physicality and size will be pushed to the limits. Just how well the Sabres can protect the blue paint and survive a forecheck could turn this game around in just a shift or two.
Regehr’s got his mitts full tonight.
Watch for the Sabres to send a message (Thundersticks) early. When all is said and done, we should have a good idea of just how tough we are after this one.
Frankly, all we did there was point out the obvious – one of the Sabres broadcast’s “Keys of the Game” was “surviving the Columbus forecheck.”
Well, the Sabres outlasted and bettered Columbus at their own game. They outhit the Blue Jackets 14-10. They sent that early message. They sent it with extreme prejudice.
You might say the Sabres kicked their Bass.
The Thundersticks were brought out early and eagerly. Cody Bass was no match for the onslaught. The Jackets were able to claw back to a 2-2 tie after being down 2-0, but they weren’t able to play their game. Instead, they found themselves playing catch-up on the scoreboard, and then playing catch-up to the speedy, rolling Buffalo lines.
Kaleta put the death bullet in the heart of the would-be Jackets’ rally, scoring the game winner with six minutes left. Pominville made sure the quick and talented part of the squad had a say too, driving home an easy goal off an incredibly sweet feed from Thomas Vanek. (Vanek joined 11 other Sabres players with his 400th point with the Blue and Gold on the play. Pominville now has 371 and is closing in fast.)
Thundersticks and speed. This Sabres team is loaded at both ends of the sword, from the tip of the blade to the brunt of the hilt, and they use both very well. It’s already a tough task to beat the Blue and Gold this season, and the team hasn’t completely gelled yet. Mike Weber, leader in hits on the team last season, has yet to suit up for a game.
The Sabres stand at 6-3. Their goal differential is an excellent 27-19. The line of Vanek, Pominville, and Adam have combined for 35 points in this 9 game span. Ryan Miller is enjoying a save percentage of .930 behind a revamped defense, which is only going to get better. Enroth: .950. Key parts of the Sabres’ core offense are becoming parts of Sabres history. All these are wonderful portents for success.
But last night, the Sabres sent the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the NHL, a message.
Try and forecheck all your want. From now on, we’re coming for you.