The general expert consensus around the NHL has been telling fans for the past week that the Sabres didn’t have the depth nor the grit to defeat the Philadelphia Flyers.
Not so fast.
While the Broad Street Bullies were back in action last night with their physical play, the Flyers were surprised to learn that the Sabres had a few big hitters of their own.
While the Flyers basically shut down the Sabres’ top six forwards, the bottom six surely had their work cut out for them. Paul Gaustad played like a mad man, defending sure goals at one end of the ice and creating chances on the opposing side. Mike Grier, while being one of the slower skaters, made his presence known with some bone-crushing hits. Rob Niedermayer showed his value to the team with his tough work down low behind the net. Patrick Kaleta factored in to this game offensively, scoring the only goal of the game, which was not a pretty one.
Make no mistake about it: Ryan Miller was absolutely the first star of this game. However, Paul Gaustad came in a very close second with his defensive play. It was a phenomenal display of gritty, playoff hockey.
The Flyers threw everything they could at Miller, even beating him at some points if it weren’t for a little help from his friends: his teammates, and his goal posts. Miller’s net presence was there, throwing jabs at Flyers captain Mike Richards. The Sabres made it known that they won’t let the Flyers live in the crease for this series.
On a heavier note, the Philadelphia media should be ashamed of themselves, although they will never admit it. James vanRiemsdyk was somehow voted the first star of this game, with Miller being the second, and Tyler Myers taking the third spot. I’ll admit that if there’s one Flyer that deserved to be a star of the game, it was Sergei Bobrovsky. Like Miller, Bobrovsky stood on his head for some stretches of play, and gave away an unfortunate rebound that went straight to Kaleta’s stick, who netted the only goal of the goaltender’s duel.
It is what it is. The important part is that the Sabres got the W, and the Flyers lost home ice advantage for the series after just one game. The momentum is definitely flowing in Buffalo’s favor at the moment, and it helps that Chris Pronger remains absent. Most importantly, the Sabres have made a big statement in this tight game.
They can play with the big boys.