Dec 31, 2013; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Buffalo Sabres forward Matt D

Rich's Knee Jerk Reactions/Stars of the Game: Sabres - Jets

All right, Sabre Noise readers: let’s get this over and done with!

Dec 31, 2013; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Buffalo Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth (1) makes a save against the Winnipeg Jets during the first period at MTS Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

2013 ended with a whimper, not a bang, for the Buffalo Sabres, as they remained winless on the road under interim coach Ted Nolan after falling 3-0 to the Winnipeg Jets tonight.

Even with all the improvement the Sabres have shown under the firm and steady guidance of Nolan, tonight’s game reminded us of one crucial, inarguable fact about life in the NHL: you need talent to win games.  All the effort in the world won’t matter if you don’t have enough skilled players to put the puck in the net.  Tonight, the Sabres displayed loads of effort, but with limited options in the “Who Can Score?” department, outshooting the Jets 27-25 didn’t matter a lick.   It’s nights like this when all we fans can do is say, “We’ll be better next year.”

Jhonas Enroth got the start in goal tonight, and while he didn’t play terribly, he totally misplayed the puck on the shot that wound up being Winnipeg’s first goal of the evening.  In a moment I’m sure he would love to have back, Enroth tried to make a play on a shot by Keaton Ellerby, a shot that would have sailed harmlessly away from the net . . . except for the fact that Enroth deflected it toward, and sadly into, his own net.  Cue sad music. It’s little gaffes like that that make me nervous about a future without Ryan Miller.   Yeah, Enroth rebounded nicely from that, and you can’t blame him for the rocket that Jacob Trouba blasted past him for the second goal, but when the Sabres struggle so badly to score, every goal allowed hurts, not just on the scoreboard, but on the psyche of the team.  Enroth cannot afford to basically own-goal his team if he wants to become “The Man.”

So who are my three stars for the night, in a game where no one scored for the Sabres?  You might be surprised . . . unless you watched the game, in which case you should not be stunned to see me nominate the Buffalo Sabres’ fourth line of Matt D’Agostini, Matt Ellis, and John Scott.  Nothing against some of the other players – I saw commendable play in Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, Matt Moulson, Tyler Ennis, Jamie McBain, and Zemgus Girgensons (who took a beating) – but the fourth line got work done tonight.  I know that many of us have lamented how frequently Nolan rolls the fourth line out there, but in this game they were winning battles, being physical, and creating solid scoring chances, more so than any other line.  D’Agostini had the second most shots on the team (3), and he and Ellis combined for three hits and two blocked shots.  Meanwhile, John Scott had two hits and plenty of feisty, yet clean, play in him tonight.  Happy New Year guys – you’ve earned my three stars, for the first and possibly last time!

Anyway, thanks for a great year Sabres’ fans, and be ready for 2014, a year in which I promise to be even more awesome than I already am, and showcase a few of my dance moves, to boot!!!!

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