(Photo Courtesy of Bill Wippert/NHL)
Anyone who pays attention to the NHL knows that the Buffalo Sabres are not having the best of seasons. They lost their first three games of the season and went a horrible 2-8-1 in the first month. On the other hand the Tampa Bay Lightning went 7-4 in their first month and find themselves sitting atop the league standings with an overall record of 17-6-3. However, they are only 1 point above three other teams so this one loss can mean going from first place in the standings to fourth or worse. Luckily, Tampa was able to take Buffalo to a shoot out and at least keep one point instead of directly giving up 2.
Buffalo has been on a roll gaining at least one point in 6 of their last 7 games, including a weekend sweep of conference rivals the Montreal Canadiens, whom are only 1 point behind Tampa in the standings. “Obviously the confidence is a little bit higher now,” Jhonas Enroth said. “We’ve beaten a couple of great teams here the last couple of games so we know we can beat every team in the league, especially beating Montreal back to back there. We’re just going to try and build on that momentum and stay positive and take it day by day.” Enroth has been solid in net for Buffalo as of late and he is key for the team in the shootouts, stopping 14 of 15 shooters. He used to watch Ryan Miller practice shootouts day after day at and has been doing the same thing this season. “He stayed after practice and practiced shootouts,” said Enroth. “That’s what I’ve been doing the last couple months here and it’s paid off.”
This was the first contest between these two teams this year and it was a pretty quiet one. There were only four penalties all game, two for each side, and the scoring didn’t take place until the third period. Tampa would get on the board first with nine minutes gone in the third with Ondrej Palat, scoring his 7th of the season. It was a nice play that started in the Tampa zone and was just passed to each player on the team and down the ice and into the Buffalo net. Buffalo didn’t get discouraged though and 6 minutes later, Zemgus Girgensons scored his 8th of the season to tie the game at 1. Tyler Myers was able to take a quick shot from the blue line and with the goalie falling, Girgensons snatched up the rebound and found the back of the net. Tampa almost won the game with about 5 seconds left as Steven Stamkos put a shot right off the post and Enroth had to make a quick reaction to ensure that the puck stayed out of the net. Enroth stayed strong in net through the overtime period as well as the shootout stopping both Palat and Ryan Callahan’s attempts. Buffalo’s Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis both scored in the shootout to secure the win for Buffalo.
While Tampa continues to lead the league in the standings Buffalo has been able to jump to 26th after their recent success. Buffalo travels down to Florida on Thursday to finish the home and home series against Tampa. Several of Buffalo’s players will have their parents on this trip to Florida for the annual “Parents Trip.” For several years, members of the team have been bringing parents on one road trip a year that allows them to get a better sense of what it’s like for their children to play professional hockey on the road. “Growing up with the support we had from our parents and family members, you kind of get to pay them back in some sort of way here by showing them what we do for a living,” said Drew Stafford.
On a side note, Buffalo’s Girgensons is currently occupying the top spot in the fan voting for this year’s All Star Game. He currently has 399,356 votes, enough to hold first place over players like P.K. Subban, Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby, and Carey Price. A lot of credit is going to Girgensons hometown country of Lativa with all the votes the fans there are giving the young star. By some comments read on NHL.com, many people are unhappy with Girgensons being on top as of right now, but as a Sabres fan, I really do hope he gets a shot to show the rest of the hockey world the type of talent he has. Voting continues until January 1, with the game taking place in Columbus on January 24 and 25.