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Demko Blanks Sabres in a Storm

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Vancouver Canucks Buffalo Sabres game recap

It was a goaltending showdown in Buffalo Saturday evening as the Sabres are shutout 1-0 by Thatcher Demko and the Vancouver Canucks. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen also had an impressive showing in net for the Sabres in what turned out to be a defensive battle between the two clubs.

Sabres Canucks

Despite the low scoring, the game was very spirited as the Canucks had some questionable hits on Buffalo’s defensemen. First, Filip Hronek caught Mattias Samuelsson on a drive by elbow that picked Samuelsson’s head. No penalty was called on the play and he did not return to the game.

Rasmus Dahlin took a dangerous hit from J.T. Miller as Miller charged in and elbowed Dahlin in the head. The play was reviewed as a match penalty, but deemed only worthy of a two-minute minor. Owen Power stepped in and went after Miller to stick up for his teammate, and in the process received a two-minute minor for roughing.

The net result was zero powerplays for two dangerous hits to the head.

Two pucks actually found their way past Luukkonen in the game. The first was a wrist shot from Brock Boeser that beat Luukkonen clean, but the Sabres won the ensuing offside challenge. The second, which counted, was a Sam Lafferty tap-in goal as he was all up in Luukkonen’s kitchen.

There was hesitation by the Sabres coaching staff as to possibly challenge for goalie interference. Lafferty did make contact to the Finnish netminder’s head, but there ultimately wasn’t enough there to warrant a challenge in Buffalo’s eyes.

Impact Players

Without a doubt, Demko was the best player on the ice Saturday. He remained poised through dangerous chances and scattered pucks in front of him. Even though he only faced 25 shots, the shutout was well earned.

Luukkonen was solid as well, saving about a goal above expected. The Boeser goal that was called back was suspect, but thanks to the offsides challenge he came out unblemished. It another solid performance for Luukkonen as he’s starting to earn the trust of the coaching staff.

Zemgus Girgensons deserves mention for his play today, if not only for stepping up in a pinch. At a couple points, the Sabres were down to three defensemen and asked Girgensons to play defense.

Samuelsson and Dahlin were in concussion protocol from the hits to the head. Power, who stepped up in defense of Dahlin, had to sit for two minutes. That left Erik Johnson, Ryan Johnson, and Connor Clifton as the only blueliners remaining.

Then, a little after Power returned, Erik Johnson decided to square off with Miller to also stick up for his teammate and send a message. That left Power, Ryan Johnson, Clifton, and converted forward Girgensons on the backend.

The Difference

If anything made the biggest difference in this game aside from the goaltending, it was the lack of powerplay opportunities for the Sabres after the hits to the head from the Canucks. It gave the game a different tone, as Buffalo started searching for retribution instead of having the chance to make Vancouver pay on the scoreboard.

Mr. Brightside

A lot of positives can be taken out of Saturday’s performance, which is rare for a team that didn’t score. The Sabres holding the Canucks to 2.62 expected goals and only allowing one is impressive. Especially against the NHL’s highest scoring team.

Also, Tage Thompson seemed healthy and his play unaffected by the injury sustained last game. His line with Casey Mittelstadt and Alex Tuch and plenty of jump and offensive zone possession throughout the contest.

What’s Next

This is usual a straightforward answer, but the winter storm in Buffalo may have different plans. As of now, the Sabres game Monday has been moved up an hour to noon local time against the San Jose Sharks. It’s notable, however, that the Sharks have cancelled their flight into Buffalo tomorrow due to the weather.

Must Read: What the Buffalo Weather Could Mean for the Sabres Saturday

The game was moved up an hour thanks to the rescheduling of the Buffalo Bills home playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1pm Sunday to 4:30pm Monday.

The Sharks are on the opposite end of the league standings from the Canucks, as they’re dead last in the NHL with 23 points. Their -90 goal-differential in 43 games is on a record-setting pace. Needless to say, the Sabres will have a must-win Monday matinee at home.

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