Let’s jump start our Monday with some random thoughts, and one wacky idea, about what I saw and experienced last night at the First Niagara Center during the Buffalo Sabres – Boston Bruins game.
- Ryan Miller is better than his 5-5-1 record. I’m not saying he has been faultless, mind you – he DID earn that overtime loss against Toronto, and he’ll be the first to person to admit it. As a matter of fact, he WAS the first person to admit it! He certainly did not earn last night’s loss against the Bruins, however, since he gave the Sabres yet another chance to steal a game that should have been a blow-out for the other team. He managed to come up big all night long, with his best save of the night coming late in the third with Buffalo still down only a goal:
That was a spectacular save, but it’s a familiar sight: a Buffalo error leads to a great scoring opportunity for their opponent. Miller cannot stop them all, especially when his teammates keep handing out gifts to the enemy. Hopefully, he continues to play inspired hockey, rather than get frustrated with how his teammates are playing.
- Talking to someone who watched the game on TV is like having an out-of-body experience. As I was heading to the elevator last night following the game, I called my wife. She and my seven year-old had stayed up and watched the game on MSG, and she had a whole different take on what had transpired. I was floored – from where I was, it was pretty apparent that the Sabres should have stayed home last night. They were listless, they were slow, they couldn’t get a pass on a teammate’s stick if they had been paid to do so – wait a minute: they ARE paid to do that! – and as one follower on Twitter pointed out, “I felt like we were on the penalty kill all night long.” My wife, meanwhile, thought it was a good game and that the Sabres were competitive. Huh? I had to ask her if she was watching the game live on MSG, or had she mistakenly pulled up Gamecenter Live on the computer and was watching the first game these two teams played. (I should have known better: she could not have found Gamecenter Live on my computer if there was a masked man in our house with a gun to her head.) It’s amazing how some play-by-play and not being able to hear the crowd can color your perspective of what is happening. I was frustrated; my wife and kid were riveted. They got the better deal . . . except I was at the game, which is way cool.
- Which leads me to believe Rick Jeanneret should do live play-by-play over the PA system at First Niagara Center. Come on – if you were at the game last night, you know it was a subdued atmosphere. (Except for when Patrick Kaleta demolished Gregory Campbell, of course. The place was rocking hard for that fight!) A crowd is supposed to provide the home team with an edge, an emotional lift. I wouldn’t say the lone guy chanting “Let’s go Sabres!” gave the team much of a boost against the Bruins. Hearing RJ’s voice booming throughout the arena, however, would keep the crowd’s energy up, especially since the Sabres have been disappointing at home, winning only two home contests while losing four. If the Sabres themselves cannot pump up their crowd and give them a reason to keep coming, Rick Jeanneret certainly could!
- The Sabres need more playmakers. Stats lie: those 26 shots on goal the Sabres got last night were worth about as much as a Canadian nickel. They never created any sustained stretches of offense, and rarely tested Boston’s backup goalie, Anton Kudobin. They were stuck on 1 shot on goal nine minutes into the second period. They managed to go on the power play about halfway through the second . . . and took one shot on goal. One. And It happened with 4 seconds left to go on the penalty. Blech. Thomas Vanek goes scoreless, and the Sabres nearly go scoreless, as well. That’s not a winning formula, and everyone who cheers for the blue and gold knows that. Rumor has it that Darcy Regier is shopping around – for what, no one but those inside the Sabres front office know – but I don’t get the feeling he’s ready to pony up for the sort of playmaker the Sabres need. That’s too bad, because the Sabres have players who can finish; they just don’t have any who can create. Or should I say, they don’t have any who can easily create, every single game. One shot on goal in the first period the first time the Sabres played Montreal? Fifteen shots on goal for an entire game against the Islanders? Amazing stretches of nothingness like we saw last night? How long can the Sabres organization witness the product they are putting out on the ice and continue to argue this is a Cup-contending team? The fans are not buying it, as evidenced by the boos raining down on the players at various times last night. Fans are clamoring for a change, and while an awful lot of them are calling for coaching changes, I’d be happy to see the Sabres simply get the piece of the puzzle we all know they are missing.
Stay tuned for my Week Three Report Card, and leave me your comments below or @theaveragedick!