The Buffalo Sabres began a four-game road trip tonight at Madison Square Garden, one of hockey’s biggest stages, and the results are a bit of a mixed bag.
For two periods, the Sabres were arguably the better team on the ice, and they opened the third period with a 1-0 lead on the New York Rangers and a boatload of confidence, one would think.
The problem is, they leave Madison Square Garden with a 3-2 loss in a shootout, and what could have been 2 points and a lead over the Rangers in the Eastern Conference standings becomes 1 point and a 2 point deficit.
Opportunity missed, despite what the very optimistic Rob Ray over at MSG said on the air.
This late in the season, the Sabres cannot afford to get one point to every two their conference rivals earn, so I fail to see why anyone would be happy with tonight’s results, especially when you consider that the Sabres had a lead going into the third and lost it, due to the sheer stupidity / recklessness / chemical imbalance (you be the judge!) of Patrick Kaleta. If you’re unsure of what I’m referring to: with Buffalo already down a man after Andrej Sekera was called for hooking 2:55 into the period, Kaleta single-handedly turned the game around for the enemy by checking Brad Richards headfirst into the boards. Kaleta was assessed a five-minute major and tossed out of the game, and it took the Rangers all of 7 seconds to capitalize on their 5 v 3 advantage to tie the game. The Rangers continued to play inspired hockey, taking a 2-1 lead only 43 seconds later. Steve Ott and Nathan Gerbe were huge in stopping the bleeding, as they teamed up to score a short-handed goal that knotted the game back up at 2-2, but Kaleta’s penalty changed the game, giving the Rangers life, and the Sabres ultimately fell short. It’s impossible for me to sit here and say the Sabres would have won that game had Kaleta not pulled that garbage . . . but the Sabres would have won that game had Kaleta not pulled that garbage. As a result, the Sabres lost a golden opportunity to leapfrog over the Rangers in the standings.
While I’m being critical of Kaleta, my wife was all over Ryan Miller, complaining that he wasn’t sharp tonight. I tried to explain to her that he’s playing in his 76th straight game (well, it feels that way) and that those two goals he gave up were PP goals, the first of which he had exactly a zero percent chance of stopping. She was having none of it, saying he just didn’t look the same, and once the shootout rolled around, she was convinced the Sabres would lose. For someone who doesn’t “know anything” about hockey, she sure called that result, as Miller was totally owned by both Rick Nash and Ryan Callahan in the shootout. Callahan especially made Miller look foolish, faking him clean out of every piece of gear he was wearing. Not a proud moment of his, I’m sure. My wife, on the other hand? Very proud of herself.
So the road trip begins with the Sabres gaining a point, but losing a chance to improve their lot in life. That’s too bad, because after three-straight wins the Sabres showed signs of being an improved team, on both ends of the ice. They should still feel better about how they are playing hockey, especially since they are starting to get production from the second and third lines. If they can get Thomas Vanek back soon, this type of fighting effort will give them an outside shot at making the playoffs . . . but they have to remain disciplined and smart on the ice. And it wouldn’t hurt to give Ryan Miller a night off, either!