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DUFF: RISTOLAINEN'S BEST GAME YET?

Brian Duff's analysis of the Sabres final preseason game

Saturday, 09.28.2013 / 11:07 AM / Features
By Brian Duff  - Sabres TV Host
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DUFF: RISTOLAINEN\'S BEST GAME YET?
Brian Duff\'s analysis of the Sabres final preseason game

The Sabres seven-game preseason schedule has come to an end and with that now come the tough decisions.

While there may have been few bright spots - at least offensively - in the finale against Carolina, there were those that stood out among their peers.

Brian Flynn was energetic throughout, starting the night on the left side with Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford and finishing back on the right side with Ennis and Steve Ott.

While concluding the preseason with zero points in five games, Flynn did produce three of the 18 shots versus Carolina, after totaling six shots in his previous four games. He was noticeable, which he needs to be with his speed.

Tyler Myers again showed confidence in his decision making, sometimes dominating shifts with his ability to move in down low and battle for loose pucks. His postgame assessments were again honest.

“[Thomas Vanek] made a comment after the game and he’s absolutely correct. Most of the teams in this league play the same way and they came out a lot harder than we did,” Myers said. “They just developed a lot more momentum to start the game and they carried it on in the second period. We just didn’t get after pucks the way we needed to to control the play and our shots on net at the end of the second [only seven] ...that can’t happen if we want to win hockey games.”

Myers again played with Henrik Tallinder, while Mark Pysyk lined up with Nikita Zadorov for 42 mintues before Zadorov was felled by a hand injury.

                 Rasmus Ristolainen

The third pairing featured Christian Ehrhoff and Rasmus Ristolainen. For Ristolainen it was his fifth game of the preseason and maybe his best.

It looked that way when watching him live, and upon further review of all of his shifts

Friday night, he was almost flawless. He was poised from the outset, calm with the puck when moving it around the boards or reversing it to his partner.

An early hit on Nathan Gerbe saw Kevin Westgarth come after him aggressively. Didn’t faze him.

A quietly brilliant play came with just under 10 minutes to go in the first, when he chased down a puck at the edge of the trapezoid and was feeling pressure from both sides as Zac Dalpe and Drayson Bowman closed in.

As he reached the boards and took a bit of a hit, he was in no position to get a good stick on the puck, so all in one motion without hesitation he subtly kicked it with his right foot - and with some velocity - all the way around to Ville Leino who was above the hash marks by the boards. An easy exit from the zone would follow.

Just like his first preseason game in Montreal, he was momentarily downed by a shot, as he blocked a Jordan Staal attempt with his right leg. And once again, he never missed a shift.

Even though the power play went 0/4 there were reasons to believe that he could be helpful in this area too. Often this preseason, the Sabres have employed two right-shot defensemen and in these situations Ristolainen looks really comfortable playing the left side. He drifts down into the faceoff circle creating a good shooting angle, and he also wasn’t shy in joining the rush and being the first into the corner to win a battle for possession.

He was given plenty of opportunity on both special teams, playing 3:57 shorthanded and 3:42 on the power-play as part of his 20:32 night.

Another subtle gem came nearly eight minutes into the third. As he swung out from behind the goal to the left of Ryan Miller - and again with two Canes closing in – Ristolainen made a sweet little nine foot pass out in front of the net to Cody Hodgson who was in motion, turned up ice, and started the transition.

There are very few wasted plays by the rookie. I only counted a couple of passes that didn’t connect with teammates, and even when you think he might be in trouble, he has attackers either bounce off of him, or he just looks them off (think Teppo Numminen) and sees them skate right past.

He was also very aware of not screening the goalie in rush situations, something he may have learned from experiences earlier in camp.

Ron Rolston’s assessment of Ristolainen Friday night?

“He probably was our best defenseman and could’ve been one of our better players.”

Does it mean he’ll make the team?

We will find out very soon.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - BOS 82 54 19 9 261 177 117
2 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
3 x - TBL 82 46 27 9 240 215 101
4 x - MTL 82 46 28 8 215 204 100
5 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
6 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
7 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
8 x - DET 82 39 28 15 222 230 93
9 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
10 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
11 OTT 82 37 31 14 236 265 88
12 TOR 82 38 36 8 231 256 84
13 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
14 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79
15 FLA 82 29 45 8 196 268 66
16 BUF 82 21 51 10 157 248 52

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
C. Hodgson 72 20 24 -26 44
T. Ennis 80 21 22 -25 43
D. Stafford 70 16 18 -19 34
C. Ehrhoff 79 6 27 -27 33
C. Stewart 63 15 11 0 26
C. Conacher 79 7 19 1 26
T. Myers 62 9 13 -26 22
Z. Girgensons 70 8 14 -6 22
M. Foligno 74 7 12 -17 19
J. McBain 69 6 11 -13 17
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
M. Neuvirth 4 8 2 .921 2.78
J. Enroth 4 17 5 .911 2.82