Buffalo - December 22, 2014 - Following every Sabres game, we’ll be taking a little look at the previous night’s action with a little segment called “good, bad and ugly”. Expect a loooooooot of ugly.
Welcome to the Weekend Edition, covering back-to-back losses to the Avalanche and Bruins over the weekend.
Between injury, sickness and the performance of his counterpart, I think it’s clear that Michal Neuvirth is the backup and Jhonas Enroth is now the official starter. Enroth has come back to Earth from his scorching hot stretch of 13 games where the Sabres won 10, but he stepped in when Neuvirth couldn’t go (illness) and almost helped the Sabres win on Sunday against the Bruins.
This isn’t to say Neuvirth isn’t capable of being the #1, but Enroth has been “the man” for the Sabres for the bulk of the year and should be rewarded with the lion’s share of the starts from here on out. He’s played well, he’s answered the bell and he’s been one of the few constants for the Sabres all year long.
He might not return to the level he displayed during the Sabres’ hottest stretch, but he’s proven himself to be a dependable, more-than-capable starter.
Hoo boy, were they bad against the Avalanche on Saturday. Erik Johnson, having himself a nice little season offensively already, picked up his seventh goal of the year just 2:23 into the game and the visitors never looked back. When Cody Mcleod of all people added a shorthanded goal at the seven minute mark, it was all but over.
The Avalanche poured it on in the third period, making it 4-0 by 5:09 of the closing frame. Enroth looked utterly human on the night, but it’s easy to forget that despite their struggles, the Avalanche are a pretty talented offensive team. Alex Tanguay, Ryan O’Reilly, Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon, Jarome Iginla and so on. Just so many ways to hurt a team, especially one that has been playing over its head in recent weeks.
That hot streak the Sabres had made it easy to forget that the Sabres can be shelled on any given night if Enroth (or Neuvirth) is off. That was the case on Saturday (he stopped just 18 of 22 shots) and things were over before they even started.
He’ll likely earn a suspension for it, but the hit by Matt Bartkowski on Brian Gionta during Sunday’s game is exactly the type of play that the NHL is hoping to eliminate.
Those blind-side hits are bad enough as it is – the unsuspecting player can’t brace and take the hit, instead being caught totally unaware and suffering greater harm – but when the point of contact is the head, it’s even worse. And yes, Gionta cartwheeling and landing on his head makes it appear worse, but the hit is bad enough before that.
These blind-side hits need to be punished more than hits that start with better intentions and just happen to make inadvertent contact. This was a hit meant to hurt, nothing more.
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