Out-shooting an opponent 17-5 in the first period and coming away with a mere 1-0 lead from of it isn't the best of signs. Overall, Buffalo held a 41-26 advantage in shots Saturday when it was all said and done but Ottawa pulled out a 5-3 win in a match-up that's become theirs to win and the Sabres' to lose. The thought of Patrick Lalime getting the start was unsettling however, I refuse to put the blame on him.
Had they buried more of their chances and given him a larger lead, a point if not two could have been grabbed. The powerplay was again discomforting going 1-for-8 and late man-advantages went wandering when Buffalo pulled back within two goals and had a few chances to force overtime. Ottawa's win was nothing but blind luck.
A 12-6-2 record through 20 games is excellent yet there remains a sense of worriment in the long haul. A hot October (8-2-1) is being accompanied by a mediocre November (4-4-1). Sound familiar? It should because this script was enacted in 2009 in an identical form.
But this isn't the same Sabres squad as last year. Ryan Miller's presence and skill haven't been seen in this city since the days of Dominik Hasek. Everyday he's given the nod improves the likelihood of a victory. Mike Grier, Paul Gaustad, Patrick Kaleta and Steve Montador provide toughness and grit while Tim Kennedy is a non-stop bundle of energy.
The offense is available through Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, Jason Pominville, Tim Connolly and maturing forwards Drew Stafford and Clarke MacArthur. Defensively, they are still a work in progress but it's hard not to be convinced with Tyler Myers' play. Do we really want our most dependable defender being a rookie on the other hand?
While they've clicked admirably when facing the likes of New Jersey or Detroit, it's the weaker New York Islanders, Atlanta Thrashers and Ottawa Senators that cost them points. That's why the NHL is the finest league in the world with the fierce competition and unpredictability of outcomes.
Consider this: in the six regulation losses on their record, they actually outshot their opponents 209-93 combined obviously indicating there is no lack of effort. The level wasn't the same in each match but the Sabres are doing the logical things like getting shots on net, pouring on the offense and responding to bad periods.
Slumps are unavoidable no matter how talented a team is and Buffalo is finding that out right now. Consistency, stronger starts and increased scoring are what they need a better handle on. It's too early to get excited with their record or throw in the towel because of the latest results.
We still have 62 games and mistakes are the source of learning experiences.