TAKEAWAYS FROM THE THIRD PRESEASON GAME
Brian Duff's analysis of the Buffalo Sabres' 5-2 win over Carolina
“He’s got solid 10-year pro written all over him.”
That was a direct message tweet I received from an old media friend in Ottawa right after the game tonight.
The subject matter - Johan Larsson.
Thank goodness I’m not the only one talking about this guy in glowing terms!
Hey, we all of our favorites, players that for whatever reason we can sometimes overlook the bad and over-accentuate the positives.
In Larsson’s case, it’s just been a steady progression since he joined the organization last April from Minnesota in the Jason Pominville deal.
So far this preseason (he and Mikhail Grigorenko are the only Sabres to skate in all three games) Larsson has centered Zemgus Girgensons and Drew Stafford, Tyler Ennis and Joel Armia, and Corey Tropp and Ville Leino.
After game one vs Montreal, coach Ron Rolston noted that while pleased with Grigorenko and Larsson, they needed to keep making adjustments to be better each night.
Considering how much time the coach spent answering questions about Larsson (who was later credited with two goals, after originally earning a goal and an assist) it’s safe to say he’s been making the right adjustments.
He ended the night with a game high seven shots on goal, won 71 percent of his faceoffs, and played 15:44, the lowest of his three games so far, but he did top all Sabres forwards with 3:51 of short-handed time on ice, including one memorable kill where he was relentless in keeping the play alive and creating multiple chances around the ‘Canes goal.
Beyond Larsson, the other highlights up front were clearly created by the Hodgson line.
Joel Armia’s unassisted tally was nice, but the play of the game belonged to Thomas Vanek - still the best passer on this team - when he fed Hodgson for what turned out to be the game winner with just under 6 minutes to play.
Tyler Ennis had his second consecutive strong game on the left wing despite not finding the scoresheet.
And Ville Leino, through these eyes anyway, is 2-for-2 in good games this preseason.
A Rochester duo a year ago, there was an expected comfort level for the duo and that gained traction in period three.
After the scoring changes, McNabb left the building a with 1 goal and 2 assists, and perhaps the boost he needs to really thrust himself into this battle on the blueline.
Otherwise it was a pretty uneven game at times when trying to evaluate players. I canvassed a lot of people on press row and there was very little consistency in the opinions being expressed.
Bottom line, the Sabres have trailed by a goal six times in this preseason and have answered every time. Ryan Miller deserves a lot of credit for not letting this game get out of hand in period one. The players in front of him did their part in the final 40.
See you Saturday on the Blue and Gold Carpet!