Will the real Buffalo Sabres please stand up?
That’s the question every single fan of the blue and gold has to be asking their team today after watching the Sabres get absolutely pasted on the road by the Montreal Canadiens, 6-1.
It’s a question well worth asking. Are this year’s Sabres going to resemble the team that marched into Boston and beat the too-proud Bruins 7-4 on Thursday night? Or will games like the Bruins one be an anomaly, fleeting moments of greatness surrounded by a flood of crap games like today’s disaster?
Don’t ask me! I’m just as confused as you are.
Rarely am I able to discuss a game without finding anything positive to say, but after a shellacking like this one, I must admit, I’m not able to find much. Sure, Thomas Vanek scored a goal, his seventh of the season. Of course it was late in the game, after the Sabres had fallen behind by five goals, so the best I can say is, “At least it wasn’t a shut out.” Neither Vanek nor the rest of the Sabres could score when they really needed it – say, at any point in the second period, when they were getting spanked on live TV. The fact that he scored a goal means Vanek has a chance to get a nice points streak going, but in this game it was not the kind of clutch scoring we have come to expect, and probably will rely on, from him.
If Sabres fans were looking for any more evidence that this team is still lacking that final piece that will help this team generate some meaningful offense, the boys from Buffalo gave you an entire period’s worth of proof: the first period, in which Buffalo managed one shot on goal in twenty minutes. One shot. Twenty minutes. Let’s have fun with math: that averages out to one shot every 1200 seconds. For comparison, I watched a Geico commercial during intermission in which Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom scores 15 goals in 15 seconds. I wish I had thought of this – I could have Tweeted it to Lindy Ruff – but maybe the Sabres coaching staff should have considered playing that commercial for the team on the bus ride home. You know, in order to remind them that they need to actually SHOOT THE PUCK TOWARD THE NET. One shot on goal doesn’t even qualify as offense; they could have stayed in the locker room and just fallen short of that result. I hate to say I am right, but as I wrote the other night, the Sabres just are not built to score. Through eight games, the number of goals they have scored is (in order) five, two, three, one, two, three, seven, and one. Two of those games required five point nights from Vanek – the games in which they scored five and seven goals. The Sabres can keep praying that Vanek will post impossible numbers night in and night out, or they can do the man and favor and bring in someone to help lighten his load.
Now for the defense . . . people with heart problems, or weak stomachs, you might want to skip to the end. Allow me to quote Andrew Papile over at bleacher report, from his pre-season power rankings: “If Buffalo is going to make a playoff run, it is their defense that has the potential to carry them. Tyler Myers, Christian Ehrhoff, Andrej Sekera and Robyn Regehr is a solid top four and they know what to expect from the man at the back in Ryan Miller.” Don’t laugh – he really wrote that! I have no major complaints about Ehrhoff and Sekera this year, and at least their +/- today was zero. Myers, meanwhile, continued his _________ play (I’ll let you insert your own adjective – it’s reader participation time!), making mistakes and bad decisions galore. Where was he on this goal, for example:
If you answered, “Nowhere to be found,” you are correct! He took himself right out of the play by trying to do -what, exactly? Make a big hit? He didn’t seem to be trying to keep the puck in Montreal’s zone, that’s for sure, and by going for – and missing – a hit, he took himself right out of the play. His plus/minus today was a godawful -3. I just don’t know what he is doing right now, but however you would describe it, “playing defense” would not be accurate. This is the second game in a row I have seen him try to do too much with the puck on the offensive end, and every time he’s found himself chasing the opposing team instead of getting back in sound defensive position. You’re not a forward, Tyler, so stop acting like one. Shoot the puck from the blue line, but for God’s sakes stay back on defense! My wife thought I was being too hard on him (and Jordan Leopold, Myers’ -3 buddy today) in my article yesterday, in which I was initially going to call for Myers to be benched for today’s game. I softened my argument and said I would give him this weekend. Now I’m going back to my hardline stance: bench him. Tomorrow. Please.
Overall, EVERYONE – forwards and defensemen alike – let Ryan Miller down today. Once again, they had problems clearing the puck from their zone . . . or they simply iced the puck, just so it could be brought right back down for a face-off. They gave up odd man rushes, they allowed skaters to skate circles around them . . . I have to stop typing, or I’ll get angry. Or cry. Not sure which. It was just U-G-L-Y, and another one of those games where I can’t fault Ryan Miller for all five of the goals he gave up. Miller alone kept the Sabres in the game for the entire first period, and he was victimized by terrible defense on the late goal Rene Bourque scored as the period was nearing a close. Whatever you think about today’s game, remember this much: Miller was not the reason the Buffalo Sabres lost.
The Sabres have a lot of soul-searching to do, and a very little amount of time to do it, since they host the Florida Panthers tomorrow at 3 p.m. Can they muster up some offense like they did in Boston? Can they clear the puck out of their own zone, to give Ryan Miller a damn chance? Can they show us what type of team they really want to be this year? I know about 19,070 Sabres fans will be showing up tomorrow afternoon to get the answers to these questions.