Ah, those streaky Buffalo Sabres.
After kick-starting the ’12-13 season with victories over Philadelphia and Toronto, the boys in blue and gold have lost three straight after going down to the Washington Capitals 3-2 in D.C. From 2-0 to 2-3, this is shaping up to be one hell of a rollercoaster of a season.
Adding insult to injury? This is the second time the Sabres have provided a winless team with their first victory of the season. Someone needs to inform the organization that the season of giving is over – keep the charitable work off the ice!
The game started out exactly the way any fan of the Buffalo Sabres would have wanted it to: with someone not named Vanek, Pominville, or Hodgson scoring. For the first time this season, Tyler Ennis put the biscuit in the basket, flipping a backhanded shot over Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth after receiving a gorgeous feed from Steve Ott. Check it out:
That play started when Drew Stafford made a great play at center ice, and the 3-on-2 rush that ensued was enough to get the hopes up of Sabres’ fans everywhere: finally, we were going to get some offense from a second line! The timing could not have been better, considering that Thomas Vanek was out of the lineup today due to a muscle strain. So Ennis scores, the Sabres jump out to the early lead, and it looked like the offense had turned the corner.
That’s about when the offense hit a brick wall. After ending the first period in a 1-1 tie, Buffalo came out in the second period and managed . . . six shots on goal. Six. I don’t know much about coaching at the NHL level, but I am pretty certain that the philosophy of, “Shoot the puck less” is NOT the remedy for a team that is struggling to find a consistent offensive attack. Take a look at the stat sheet: you’ll see that there are 8 Sabres listed as taking only one shot on goal. Not bad if you are a defenseman . . . I guess . . . but Cody Hodgson? Jason Pominville? Did you guys miss Vanek that much? Wayne Gretzky once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” (I know this because my kid got a t-shirt at a hockey camp with that saying on it!) Washington has been giving up 30 shots and almost 4 goals a game; Buffalo managed 24 and 2. SHOOT THE PUCK.
After falling behind 3-1, Buffalo once again got its fans’ hopes up, when Marcus Foligno (who threw his body around, had three SOG, and overall played the best game of any Sabres today) took advantage of a loose puck to pull the Sabres to within one with under ten minutes to go:
Still, it was too little, too late, and the Sabres probably should have lost by a final score of 4-2, as Alex Ovechkin misfired with under a minute to play, just missing the empty net.
All in all, it was another one of those nights that the Sabres would probably like back. For starters, the team looked a bit uninspired. Then there is the fact that they are turning the puck over too much, a lot of which can be blamed on their offensive struggles. In an effort to score some goals, the Sabres are trying to make impossible passes, instead of staying patient and waiting for the defense to give them an opening. You never want to see a team pressing so early in the season, but especially with this shortened season, it is important that the Sabres keep desperation from creeping in on them. They need to get a good, hard, and smart practice in, and come out Tuesday night against Toronto with a better understanding of who they are as an offense, and who they are not. Of course, by Tuesday the Buffalo Sabres may look a little different, depending on whether they choose to keep Mikhail Grigorenko on the roster or not. Right now, I don’t see why they wouldn’t want to keep him – his confidence seems to be building, and he had a hand in creating a quality scoring opportunity early in the third period – but we’ll have to wait and see what transpires. Until then, it’s back to the drawing board for Lindy Ruff and his staff.
Check out Grigorenko’s “almost” moment, and feel free to leave your comments below, or @theaveragedick.