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The Canadiens' four game winning streak came to an end in Ottawa with a blowout loss. They're now 0-2-0 against divisional opponents, can they rebound against the Sabres?
I talked to Andy Boron, managing editor of Die By The Blade and asked him a couple questions to get to know this Buffalo Sabres team the Habs are up against today, here are his answers:
1) Down goes Thornton was probably worth the cost of signing John Scott already. I don't really have a question here, but can we just go over how awesome that was?
Oh man, that was so awesome man. The fact that it led to some Boston fans subsequently questioning why Chara or Lucic didn't step up to fight Scott afterwards makes the turning of the tables that much sweeter. Scott and Ott have really brought a mentality of team toughness that each player seems to be embracing so far (see: Drew Stafford fighting Scott Hartnell) and Scott has been better on the ice than advertised. The days of the Sabres being the NHL's pushovers are (hopefully) behind us.
2) The Sabres have seemed to be a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde team so far, or what's going on there?
So far, the Sabres have been their top line, Ryan Miller, and then everyone else. They've lost every game that their top line of Vanek, Hodgson, and Pominville hasn't scored at least three goals or Miller hasn't stolen the game. It's nice to enjoy Vanek and Pominville sitting in the top of the NHL points race, but if they don't get contributions from secondary scorers like Stafford, Ennis, Foligno, Ott, Ehrhoff and Myers, and soon, then they'll be dead in the water as soon as their hot guys cool off. The team is still clearly gelling and trying to find its new identity somewhere between toughness and creativity, and they need to find it soon before they fall too far behind the rest of the East.
3) Tomas Vanek has two 5 points games already and leads the NHL in points. For years the talk is that Ryan Miller is the team MVP, but is he still, or has Vanek taken over?
That is a fantastic question, and one that I don't really have an answer for. Who's more valuable, they guy who can take over a game or the guy who can steal a game? We've nicknamed Vanek "Atlas" simply for the reason that he can carry the team on his shoulders for stretches, but afterwards he always cools off and disappears for a few weeks. Miller is the heart and soul of the team, but has been inconsistent since his Vezina season. When he's hot, he's as good as anyone, and he's been more solid this season than last, but he needs the players in front of him to do their jobs to have another Vezina-caliber season. The players would vote Miller as the MVP, but I think the fans would lean towards Vanek. The fact that this question has a flawed answer is part of the reason why this team hasn't had consistent success over the past few seasons.
The most dangerous player the Sabres had against the Montreal Canadiens last year was the now traded Derek Roy. Roy had 8 points against the Habs last year, and no other Sabre had more than 4. Unfortunately 6 Sabres had 4 points in the season series, including the supernova hot Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville.
For the Canadiens' last year's top line was the only positive note against the Sabres offensively. No player other than them had more than a single point against Buffalo.
Max Pacioretty lead the way with six points, while Erik Cole and David Desharnais each had 4. Speaking of Pacioretty, 7 days ago he had emergency surgery to remove his appendix that was supposed to put him out 3-4 weeks. Yesterday he practiced with the team, playing full contact. After the practice, he said the doctors told him that he couldn't make it any worse, so the said he wants to play today.
Let's be clear, Pacioretty is extremely unlikely to play today, or even tomorrow, but the fact that he's even considering playing at this point is just ridiculous. this guy heals at a rate not normal for an organism of this planet.
Who will be returning to the lineup today though, is franchise defenseman P.K. Subban. Subban will be paired with Francis Bouillon to start, but considering that this is P.K. Subban we're talking about, I highly doubt he plays the 12-15 minutes a game that Tomas Kaberle was playing. How many shifts before he's back with Josh Gorges? I'm not sure, but I'd be willing to bet he plays over 20 minutes today.
Carey Price has a ridiculous .934 save percentage in his career against the Sabres, but somehow still has just a 9-8-6 record in 26 games.
Game time is 2:00PM EST on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada and RDS.
I answered some questions for Die By The Blade as well, so check them out for coverage from the opposing side.
If you're in Montreal for the game, get tickets to the game for as little as $53: Montreal Canadiens tickets.