On a night when the sporting options were plentiful, I hope you had the sense to change the channel and watch something that was more entertaining. Unfortunately I didn't and I watched until the bitter end of the disgusting effort put forth by the Sabres. There are losses like Saturday night against the Rangers and the loss to Washington before Thanksgiving when the team played well and things didn't go their way, tonight was not one of those games. Tonight was a night when the Sabres looked like they were the Niagara Purple Eagles NCAA hockey team instead of a NHL team.
The Devils deserve a lot of credit for their outstanding play tonight. They outplayed Buffalo in every aspect of the game because they outworked them. They were willing to dig in the corners and to go in front of the net, while the Sabres were content to play the game on the perimeter and wait for the perfect opportunity.
I thought the Sabres had some jump in their game for the first 10 minutes but when they failed to get any scoring chances the Devils took over. It was a Toni Lydman hooking penalty that seemed to be the turning point. The Devils started to put some pressure on the Sabres during the man advantage and it snowballed from their.
Still the Sabres remained in the game until the Devils scored two late first period goals, the first coming on a deflection off of Henrik Tallinder and the second on a long shot that Ryan Miller stops more often than not.
There is obviously disappointment and frustration after watching a game of this nature. If you are interested in reading what the winners have to say, visit In Lou We Trust for full analysis. (I am not a Devils fan but In Lou We Trust is my favorite non-Sabres blog on the internet).
Miller Was Not Miller
I did not see the post game comments by the players or coaches but I'm sure that Ryan Miller would be the first to tell you that he was not very good tonight. The first goal was questionable as to whether it should have been stopped but the last two were shots that Miller normally stops.
There is no way the loss can be blamed on Miller who allowed three goals on 37 shots on goal. Miller would like to have a couple of those goals back but his defense was not very good in front of him. Steve Montador had his worst game since joining the Sabres as a free agent in the summer. Toni Lydman had a couple of his typical giveaways as well.
Playing Without Grier
There were plenty of comments about how this is a different team without Mike Grier. Grier has missed a total of six games this season and the Sabres record is now 2-3-1 in those games. The Sabres won the first two games they played without Grier but they have earned only one point in the last four games played without him.
Now that we established the team does not fare well when he is out of the lineup we need to figure out why. Is Mike Grier that valuable to the team? I came up with two reasons why the team struggles when Grier is not in the lineup. He is a guy that is not afraid to get dirty in the corners and he leads by example. He is not going to fight too often but his presence in the lineup makes the Sabres a tougher team.
The biggest issue when Grier is not laying is the lineup without him. Patrick Kaleta was forced to play on the third line and he is not a good enough player to play the third line role. In addition to Kaleta moving up a line, they are forced to play Nathan Paetsch on the fourth line and he is useless in that position. They are going to have to raid the Portland Pirates roster to bring in reinforcements when Grier is out of the lineup.
Sending a Message
Lindy Ruff was clearly sending a message to his top scorers by sitting them on the bench in the third period. Derek Roy played less than any other forward in the third period and Drew Stafford was right in the same area. Here is a look at the Ice Time for the forwards in the third period.
- Tim Kennedy - 7:33
- Jochen Hecht - 6:58
- Jason Pominville - 6:44
- Thomas Vanek - 6:02
- Adam Mair - 5:46
- Tim Connolly - 5:43
- Clarke MacArthur - 4:22
- Matt Ellis - 4:07
- Patrick Kaleta - 3:56
- Drew Stafford - 3:12
- Nathan Paetsch - 2:46
- Derek Roy - 1:53
Think back to when the Sabres were dominating the Philadelphia Flyers earlier this season or last week against the Montreal Canadiens. When those teams tried to make a run at a comeback, it was their best players on the ice trying to make the comeback. Lindy Ruff has a habit of growing impatient with his top players when they were not playing well. I live by the motto of fighting to the finish...Adam Mair getting more ice time than most of the forwards is not putting up a fight.
There is good news as the Sabres get ready to put this game behind them and move on to the next. They are 2-0 in games following a shutout and they went on a four game winning streak after getting shutout by Washington a couple of weeks ago.