The Buffalo Sabres ridiculous roller-coaster ride in reverse keeps rolling.
For the 2nd time in a week, the Sabres dropped a game to Northeast Division rival, the Ottawa Senators. The last place Sabres could have found themselves within one point of the 2nd place Sens, but now find themselves 5 points back following the 2-0 loss.
In the last meeting, the Sabres were without defensemen Christian Ehrhoff, Robyn Regehr, and Andrej Sekera, and had Ryan Miller resting on the bench. Initially, it looked like that foursome was making a difference as the game got underway. The Sabres controlled most of the play in the period, thanks to great sustained pressure in the offensive zone and displaying an overall balanced game throughout the period. Mikhail Grigorenko appeared to be a whole different hockey player, following a one-game benching. The rookie created a couple great scoring chances, skated with force and vigor, even laying out a solid hit. Unfortunately, the Sabres inability to capitalize on their chances plagued them, highlighted by Drew Stafford missing a wide-open net. Stafford is now scoreless in 14 games.
The Sabres completed the period leading in shots (13-7), leading in hits (11-4), and held an edge in faceoffs (10-9).
In the second period, Buffalo began to besiege themselves with brain-farts, taking on too many penalties. A questionable call was made when Pat Kaleta stick-tapped Erik Karlsson on the back of his jersey, and Karlsson went down like a bag of pucks, clutching his head. Shortly after that, Regehr made head-scratching attempt at decapitating Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson. ‘Alfie’ came back and missed a wide-open net, thanks to one of Mike Weber’s legs.
The Sabres power-play, which has been dismal since potting 3 extra-man goals in their opening game against the Philadephia Flyers, gave up the game-winning goal to Karlsson with 4 minutes left in the period. Buffalo found themselves flat-footed and standing around. A minute later, the Sabres created an even deeper hole, when they got caught running around the zone again, with no man coverage. After a loose puck popped in front of Ryan Miller, Kyle Turris and Erik Condra continually poked at it until it went in.
After the period, the Sabres still held the shot advantage (27-24), started losing the faceoff edge (22-24), and fared well with blocking shots (14-4).
In the third period, the Sabres did more of the same. There were some decent scoring chances created, but the Sabres could not get a goal, and the fatigue of having to kill 8 penalties throughout the game started to take its toll. The line jumbling caused by the multiple kills made it tough to get a steady rhythm established, and the futility of the power play did not help the cause. The Sabres continue to struggle with zone entries on the power play.
While the Sabres fired a respectable 42 shots on the Senators, not many were high caliber. League-leading goaltender Craig Anderson (1.36 GAA, .956 Save %), enjoyed a fairly easy night, with most pucks being sent right into his chest. Anderson played well positionally, and the Sabres could not exploit his weakness – traffic in front. With players like Thomas Vanek, Cody Hodgson, Marcus Foligno, and Steve Ott in the lineup, the lack of bodies in front is inexcusable. It is not as if the Senators are overloaded with hulking, punishing defensemen.
For the 2nd game in a row, the magic of the Vanek-Hodgson-Jason Pominville line was non-existent. If the Sabres are to go anywhere this season, balanced scoring needs to be established. With only one goal in the last 2 games, this is a glaring sore spot for the team.
The lone bright spot in the game remained to be Ryan Miller, who for the second game in a row, stood on his head and kept the team in the game with numerous miracle saves. Once again, the Sabres let Miller down, and ruined his superb performance with another loss.
Following the game, it appears brutally blatant that Buffalo needs a shake-up or a wake-up. Coach Lindy Ruff still seems ineffective in his role, but we all know that he isn’t going anywhere, for some reason. Darcy Regier needs to work the phones a bit harder to make something happen; otherwise, this season will be in the toilet much quicker than we realize. With the next 2 games being against two of the top three teams in the East, the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins, things are not going to be getting any easier.