Buffalo Sabres' Vanek Schools Toronto Maple Leafs in Homecoming

Andrew ZelaznyContributor IFebruary 5, 2009

After spending the last two and a half weeks on the road, the Buffalo Sabres were most certainly glad to be playing back home in HSBC Arena. They played their first home game since January 17 when they defeated the Carolina Hurricanes.

Tim Connolly started things off early with his 10th goal of the season, and his 8th since returning from his latest injury, a broken rib. If Connolly can stay healthy, he will be a key component for the Sabres' push to the playoffs.

Once Buffalo set the tone Toronto didn't seem to care much about stopping them. The Leafs didn't register their first shot until the second half of the first period, and only mustered 16 through the entire game, most of them in the third.

The Sabres' forwards were crossing the blue line at will, while Buffalo's own D were solid in their own end. Teppo Numminen returned to the lineup, relieving some of the strain on Mike Weber and Chris Butler who have been filling in for Henrik Tallinder and Jaroslav Spacek. It's good to know that the future talent in the organization is looking bright.

Drew Stafford scored late in the first with a nifty move between his own legs to beat the D, and buried the puck into the top right corner of the net. Too bad it won't make Sports Center since his name isn't Crosby or Ovechkin.

For the rest of the game it was all Vanek, adding two power play goals from his usual position at the top of the crease, as well as a howitzer from the right faceoff circle. His natural hat trick put him in the lead in the league for PPG with 15, as well as a tie for second in the league with Jeff Carter at 32 goals.

On a side note, the Sabres' broadcast team took a little time to discuss the place of fighting in the NHL today. In case you don't follow the Sabres, this team includes fighting legend Rob Ray, former defensemen Mike Robitaille, Harry Neale of the Canucks, Kevin Sylvester, and Buffalo play-by-play legend Rick Jeanerret.

Razr gives his commentary from the box between the benches, and during this discussion, I found it quite comical that a Leafs fan managed to give him "bunny ears", and apparently so did Robitaille.

On a more serious note, Razr naturally argued to keep the rules regarding fighting as they are, while Robitaille and Neale felt that the game has changed so much since their playing days that the "fighting" in the game today is completely staged and simply in place for entertainment.

Any true hockey fan loves to see the players they support get passionate about the game and cause a little excitement. I however agree with the "old guard" on this. If I wanted to watch a fight, I'd watch MMA, not the NHL. Unless of course the Sabres are going to play Ottawa, as they will this coming Saturday. I'd love to see Kaleta give Chris Neal what's coming to him.