Ok, so he had help, but I knew this was going to be an ugly game from the first minute, when Ryan Miller got run around his net like a pee wee goaltender chasing the forward to an empty net goal. While that was the only time the Buffalo Sabres were down against the New York Islanders all game except for the final score in overtime, the Buffalo Sabres could not put the gas on well enough to take the Islanders out of the game.
It didn’t help that the HSBC Arena sounded like the Nassau Coliseum for most of the night, and that no one wanted to play defense – but when you have one of the top goaltenders in the world playing for you against a New York Islanders team that is looking to off the street free agents for goaltenders – you have to wonder where your starting goaltender’s head is.
Maybe he sees the writing on the wall that his starting streak could reach into the forties before he sees a game off. Maybe its because he knows there is no relieving him if something happens – as much as he has befriended Patrick Lalime since his time here started – do you really trust him with your crease if you need to step away for a game or two, or heaven forbid longer.
Ryan Miller needs a game off. Not to rest, but to refocus. Lindy Ruff needs to sit his starting goaltender, the goaltender that won a Silver Medal in the Olympics, and that won the Vezina Trophy last year. The Boston Bruins didn’t think twice about benching Tim Thomas the year after he won the Vezina, he just didn’t show up to play the following year. Same story in Buffalo, but we still rely on Miller to carry this team. Granted, we have no Tuuka Rask waiting in the wings to take the crease from Miller, but I am sure with as serious as Miller takes hockey, you put him in the press box for a few games and call up Jhonas Enroth to start in his place, and Miller thinks twice about where his head is.
This afternoon’s loss is not all Ryan Miller’s fault. Andrej Sekera struggled with the puck in overtime that caused Grabner to go solo against Miller to net his hat trick, and the game winning goal. Chances were not buried and penalty trouble put the Islanders back into the game late. The whole teams inability to put the Islanders where they belong early on prevented this team from picking up two points when it needs them the most. Granted, they pulled one point out of today’s debacle, but Carolina played Atlanta today, and thankfully that game did not turn into a three point affair. These Sabres are now just two points back of ninth place Atlanta, and now four points back of eighth seed Carolina. The Sabres have four and three games in hand respectively, but that only means anything if you can win your games in hand.
The positive note that we can take out of this game is that Drew Stafford netted another hat trick, and is shooting at 100% efficiency, scoring his last six goals on six shots for two hat tricks. I almost tweeted during the game that Drew Stafford was pricing himself out of Buffalo – but I want to withhold comments of such nature for awhile to give new owner Terry Pegula long enough to make those decisions. Reacting to Drew Stafford this year with a major deal could be a hindrance, depending on what kind of Drew Stafford we get next year. I would say right now though that we need to sign him to a Vanek like deal, long term with a front ended contract…making it easier to get out from under towards the end. I wouldn’t mind a six year deal worth around 24 million, where you pay him five million for the first three, and three million for the last. That gives Stafford the money he deserves, whil giving you an annual cap hit of only about 4 million.