#32: Sabres @ Senators in NHL 12

As a Montreal Canadiens fan at heart, today’s STAT BOX STORIES for NHL 12 proves somewhat difficult to play, as both the Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators are Northeast Division rivals.  In the 2011-2012 season so far, the story of the division has largely boiled down to the red-hot Boston Bruins and then everyone else.  With only a few points separating the teams in the division not from Massachusetts, today’s match-up was an intriguing one to consider in the game.

With some lingering Colorado Avalanche fandom in my blood—and former Avalanche goalie Craig Anderson now suiting up in Ottawa—as well as a clear advantage for the Sabres in terms of ratings, I decided to play as the Senators.  Would I be able to overcome American Olympic hockey hero Ryan Miller?  Read on to find out!

As I concluded today’s game for STAT BOX STORIES, I was a bit worried about what I would talk about in this eventual write-up.  As the Box Score shows, a single goal was scored in the game in the first period.  The shots on goal were fairly one-sided as well, and only a single penalty was called at the very end of the third period.

And this leads to a general observation about the games I play for STAT BOX STORIES; in games like NHL 12 and FIFA 12 where the action flows almost non-stop, it is difficult to find much to recall in telling the story later.  Penalty shots in both games provide a stop and a point of reference, but otherwise the events of the games are what rings most true when the game is over.

About halfway through the first period, Daniel Alfredsson set up Nick Foligno with some space and a slap shot rang true towards the top of the net past Ryan Miller’s blocker.  The side-to-side motion across the Buffalo defensive zone was key to the play, as Miller was forced to try to move and position himself at the same time; complicating his attempt to make the save.

Although shots on goal increased on both sides as the game continued on—Buffalo running 3-4-6 and Ottawa going 5-8-9 over the course of the game—no other shots managed to get past the two net-minders.  Indeed, few chances were of high quality until the waning moments of the third period when—for the second game of NHL 12 in a row—I took a 5-minute Major penalty and Game Misconduct for Checking from Behind, this time with Chris Phillips of the Senators.

With only a one-goal lead in the game and just over a minute remaining of mandatory 5-on-4 (and 6-on-4 once Buffalo pulled Miller for an extra attacker), I was suddenly quite nervous about my chances of taking home a win.  Shortly after Phillips went to the penalty box, my fears became realized as Buffalo broke loose into the Senators zone with plenty of space for their best scoring chance of the entire game.

Thankfully, Anderson was more than up to the task with an impressive glove save, preserving the lead and earning a face-off to help Ottawa’s penalty killers regroup.  After some more tough work defending the zone, Ottawa had done enough to last until the final horn with the 1-0 lead.

In the final Team Stats, the one-sided feel of the game is clear; not only did Ottawa put 9 more shots on goal compared to Buffalo, they also had 7:03 of Time on Attack, which nearly doubled the time spent by the Sabres.  Buffalo’s passing was markedly more successful, but it did not translate to enough high-quality scoring opportunities to make a difference.

And, in such a low-scoring game, the 3 Stars of the Game were cookie-cutter; the goal-scorer, Nick Foligno, took the top honor while the game’s two goaltenders ended up in 2nd and 3rd position, Anderson getting 2nd by virtue of the shutout and the victory.

Though today’s entry marks the end of the “regular” stories for STAT BOX STORIES this week, guest contributions to the BOWL BLITZ INVITATIONAL project will continue through the upcoming Christmas weekend due to the number of Bowl Games to be played in the coming days.  Be sure to keep an eye on the site so that you don’t miss any of the action!

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