Among the sellout crowd of 18,690 at First Niagara Center last night, there were a few hundred New Jersey Devils fans in attendance. The red jerseys made it appear that someone sprinkled paprika into the crowd. Those fans were treated to a hat trick by the 100-million-dollar man, Ilya Kovalchuk. Meanwhile, the Sabres faithful were subjected to a 60-minute display of ineptitude by the Buffalo players.
Injuries are no longer a scapegoat for any missed opportunities by the Sabres squad, as Cody McCormick was the only Sabre scratched due to an injury. Buffalo was plagued all night long, mainly by two things:
1. Terrible passing.
2. Undisciplined play.
The atrocious passing display should not be a problem 56 games into the season, and would likely not be as much of a factor if players on the roster consistently skated on the same lines. The amount of line juggling that goes on is, at the least, ridiculous – it is, at best, absolutely absurd.
The exceptionally strong positional and zone play of the Devils also contributed towards the Sabres passing struggles.
The undisciplined play by Buffalo is also a component that should not be going on this deep into a season. It was not as if the matchup was an overly physical one; most of the penalties were the result of mental lapses. Tripping and hooking are awful penalties to be succumbing to at a home game. “I would say half were bad penalties, just flat-out bad penalties,” coach Lindy Ruff said after the game.
The Devils made them pay, with 2 power play goals in 7 chances.
Entering the night, the Sabres could have left the game only 6 points out of the final playoff spot; instead, they remain 8 points out of contention with 26 games to go. My projection is that the Sabres will need to go 20-6 in the final games to have hopes at a playoff spot.
When it comes to the “buyers or sellers” question, I am torn. My heart wants to watch them will their way into a playoff spot. My brain knows better, and recognizes that this Sabres team is missing some ingredients and still needs fixing and retooling.
Let’s hope that the Sabres brass will follow their brains more than their heart, and start addressing the problems sooner than later. We have poisons that need to be extracted, both on the bench and behind it.