The Sabres took two important games to end 2006. They defeated the Carolina Hurricanes, to sweep their season series (and it’s a shame these two teams won’t play again during the regular season) and end the Canes’ win streak. They also avenged an earlier overtime loss to the hot Atlanta Thrashers.
During the Carolina game, there was another gem from RJ:
Jeanneret: “Doug Weight says ’I don’t even know who the kid [Pominville] is.’ And Pominville says, ’Well, he should know me by now because he hit me from behind and my name’s on the back of my sweater.’”
Lorentz: “That was a great comeback, wasn’t it?”
I don’t think the Sabres played great in either game, particularly against Atlanta, but they made enough plays to win. I’m still worried about the defense, but it does appear that the return of Tallinder has made a difference. I still miss Jay McKee; the Sabres simply do not block shots like they did last year. However, my impression is that these two teams were not able to camp in front of the Buffalo net and screen Miller as much as the 5-6 games immediately prior. I also think they are controlling the puck better in their own zone than they have been doing in a while.
The two wins mean that Buffalo is tied for the NHL in wins—but I was surprised to see that the Anaheim Ducks had surged ahead in points, 62 to 59. The Sabres now have less claim to be called the best team in the league than when they started the season on a ten-game win streak.
I’m happy to get my stats and figures from the professionals covering the game; I lack my own research department. So, the MSG crew revealed that it was the first time since the 1992-1993 season that a Sabre had scored 20 goals before January 1. And this season, both Drury and Vanek have have done it.
Vanek now has two 20-goal seasons; he’s been in the NHL for only two years. After the win against the Thrashers, where he got two goals—thanks to a great deflection in front of the net and an empty net score late—he is sitting at 22 for this season.
Pominville increased in population, to 17 against Carolina and 18 against Atlanta. Jason Pominville, the town’s namesake, also had a great defensive check—coming back fast to the puck carrier—against the Hurricanes when Lydman was beaten on a rush. It might have saved a goal.