Unlike the game against the Montreal Canadiens the Buffalo Sabres managed to show up for the game against the Florida Panthers, at least for the first 40 minutes. The red hot Thomas Vanek opened the scoring for the Sabres after receiving a nifty between the legs pass from the captain Jason Pominville. With the goal Vanek re-took the NHL scoring lead from Steven Stamkos; yes Vanek is now ahead of Stamkos in scoring.
As per usual Vanek, Pominville and Cody Hodgson were left to do all the scoring combining for 9 points on the Sabres 3 goals. The rest of the offence will need to pick up the slack in a hurry as even head coach Lindy Ruff doesn’t see Vanek keeping up his red hot streak;
“I don’t think Thomas can keep up his pace, the line has really played well together have great chemistry but we do need other players to get on the scoreboard.” ~ Lindy Ruff
That has been the major problem for the Sabres who have now dropped 6 of their last 7 games: no secondary scoring. The Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno and Drew Stafford line that was extremely good down the stretch last season has done next to nothing combining for just 3 goals. Someone, maybe even the rookie Mikhail Grigorenko, is going to have to step up and help provide some secondary scoring because Vanek won’t be hot forever.
The next biggest problem for the Sabres has been keeping the lead. At one point in the 2nd period the Sabres were up 3-1 but ended the period tied at 3- at what point does this team decide it needs to play D and help Ryan Miller out? The defence once again looked horrible despite Tyler Myers looking much more calm than he has in the past 7 games. Alexander Sulzer was able to score on a wicked blast from the point but looked almost lost out there on the defensive side allowing the opposition to dance right around him.
Lastly the Sabres need to take advantage of their opportunities- during the 3rd period when they were 3-1 they had 2 point blank chances both of which missed
the net completely. Pot those 2 chances you’re up 5-1 and the game is all but over, but right after the 2nd point blank shot went wide the Florida Panthers recovered the puck and George Parros scored to get the Panthers right back into the game. It wasn’t even just today’s game; it’s been a theme all season long- the Sabres can’t hit the net. Drew Stafford had 3 glorious scoring opportunities but failed to hit the net on any of them- you can’t score goals unless you hit the net!
The Sabres got out-worked and out-hustled in the 3rd period and couldn’t muster any offence managing only 6 shots and taking costly penalties which kept Vanek off the ice. Vanek even turned down a penalty killing shift so he could be rested to help the team tie the game late in the game. You have to have your best players on the ice in crucial situations and by taking penalties that doesn’t happen.
I’m not to sure where the Sabres team is that managed to beat the Boston Bruins 7-4 but that team needs to show up again and quickly. Dropping 6 of the last 7, sitting last in their division and 11th in the conference they need to start playing hockey in a hurry or this season may be over in a hurry. In a 48-game season there is no time to play the kind of hockey the Sabres are playing. Ruff needs to rally his troops and get them pumped for their next game.