The Buffalo Sabres suffered their first loss of the season Thursday night, as the Carolina Hurricanes finally found some offense and used it to bury their visitors, 6-3.
Eric Staal did most of the damage for the Hurricanes, netting a hat trick after being held scoreless in Carolina’s first two games. Jeff Skinner also provided some ammunition, chipping in two goals. As a team, the Hurricanes did they what they have done best: they shot the puck on net, a ton. In two games, they had led the NHL in shots-on-goal, and they continued to outshoot their opponents last night, by a mark of 38-33. In the second period alone, the Hurricanes blasted 21 shots on goal . . . which may account for the four goals they scored in that period.
It was a less-than-stellar showing by the Sabres, on the other hand, who looked like a very different team than the one we saw on opening weekend. Captain Jason Pominville said it best: “I think we gave up the puck too much. We battled back a couple of times . . . we gave up too many rush opportunities and were a little too casual with the puck. It just wasn’t our usual game.” Sloppy puck-handling has been on display early this season for the Sabres . . . as it has been for pretty much every time in the NHL right now. The rust was especially evident opening weekend, but at least then, every one was falling victim to turnovers. Now that teams have warmed up a little bit, the teams that are still having problems controlling the pucks are going to start getting burned more, as the Sabres found out the hard way last night.
Buffalo did generate some offense, especially in the second period, when they nearly matched Carolina’s intensity and firepower with 17 SOG of their own. Honestly, in most games, three goals is probably enough to be competitive. It is troubling, though, to look at the stat sheet and notice that, once again, all of Buffalo’s goals came from the pairing of Jason Pominville-Thomas Vanek-Cody Hodgson. Seriously, you can schedule your bathroom breaks and concession stand runs around this shift, because if they are not on the ice, not much is happening for the Sabres. Pominville had two goals, the second on a fantastic give-and-go with Vanek, and Hodgson, as usual, was mister In the Right Place at the Right Time, stuffing in a rebound past Carolina goalie Cam Ward. Meanwhile, Tyler Ennis had no shots on goal. None. Not a good showing for someone we all thought would be fighting to be Buffalo’s number one center. Overall, the offense isn’t impressive, and Lindy Ruff is going to have to start juggling his lines in order to get some scoring from top to bottom, because no team in the NHL can win with just one quality line.
Even with the lazy puck possession and lack of a reliable second scoring unit, the Buffalo Sabres still could have won last night’s game . . . if only they had started a goaltender. Hmm. . . let me see . . . it says that Jhonas Enroth was supposed to get the start last night – did any see him at the arena? Did he show up at all? You get the point: that was not a good showing by Buffalo’s back-up goaltender last night. Enroth assumed responsibility for Carolina’s offensive breakthrough: “I’m very disappointed in myself. I felt a little bit lost. I wasn’t really in the right position on a couple of shots.” Like the honesty – but I don’t want to hear a goaltender tell us that he was lost and out of place. Lindy Ruff also acknowledged that Enroth’s effort wasn’t enough last night, saying ,”You’ve got to get big saves on those plays or they end up hurting you,” in reference to Staal’s second goal of the evening. Enroth didn’t make the big plays last night; therefore, he shoulders a lot of the blame for last night’s L.
All in all, this was not the effort the Buffalo Sabres needed to support me when I argue this team deserves more respect. Sabres fans can only hope the team left last night’s game behind them in Raleigh and come out tonight focused, energetic, and backed by some solid play between the pipes.