Someone help me understand how this team can look so good sometimes and than others they play like they did tonight. This game was here for the taking and the Sabres just failed to show up. Buffalo was coming off of an emotional 6-5 shootout victory against San Jose on Friday night. The Canes just got finished getting smacked around the ice by Florida earlier in the week and Columbus last night. That's right...the Canes played last night. So how is it, the Sabres looked like the tired team?
If I sound frustrated...it is with good reason. The Sabres had an opportunity to move up in the standings with a win tonight and instead they are only three points ahead of Carolina who is in ninth. There are still 25 or so games left in the season and there will be plenty more big games but tonight was inexcuseable. I know that I am not on the ice skating with the team but it seemed that I had more energy whiloe sitting on my couch than most players on the Sabres had while on the ice.
Lindy Ruff had some interesting comments in his post game press conference but he called out his team and rightfully so. He said "A lot of players were bad tonight and for some it was their worst game of the season". Some of that may be the emotion of the moment but it's hard to argue with him. Lindy didn't call out any players but I will...tonight was the by far the worst game of the season for Tim Connolly. I don't need to tell you stats to back me up if you watched the game but I will anyway. Connolly had only two shots on goal (both were from the outside) and he had three turnovers. He didn't seem into the game mentally either, evident from his back pass while shorthanded that turned into a scoring chance for the Canes.
This isn't pick on Tim Connolly night because let's face it...he's been pretty good until tonight. A player that looked bad tonight, and has looked bad recently, was Toni Lydman. I'm not sure what happened to guy that looked so good earlier in the year but Lydman seems slow and is often out of position. Connolly and Lydman are just two of the many players that looked bad tonight. I could have picked any two players and pointed to how bad they were.
There was plenty of concern about the Sabres offense when the news broke that Thomas Vanek would be out of the lineup for three to four weeks. That concern is now turning to panic. The Sabres have scored only eight goals in the four games that Vanek has missed and five of the goals were Friday against the Sharks. They scored three in two games against Ottawa and were shutout at home against the Canes on Sunday.
Nathan Gerbe was called up as an answer to the loss of Vanek but he hasn't done much to ease the burden. He has no points in his three games and against Carolina he looked like a rookie. He has done some good things and you can't question his desire but he is not ready to help this team.
In watching the post game comments from the players and from Lindy Ruff there was prominent theme. The Canes wanted it more. My question is simple...how is this possible? Everyone is aware of the standings and understands that they had an opportunity to gain seperation from the Canes and Pens. Instead they folded under pressure and watched the Canes take the two points.
The play that summed up the Sabres night was the Canes second goal. Eric Staal skated around three Sabres players while they all waved their sticks at him and watched him skate by. Miller made a nice save on Staal but nobody picked up Larose and he easily slipped a rebound into the net.
Only Two Played Well
Only two Buffalo Sabres played well tonight and that was Ryan Miller and Patrick Lalime. Miller was replaced by Lalime after one period, not because of poor play but because the team needed a spark. They didn't get much of a spark but Lalime was good in relief. he made plenty of nice saves and was the only reason the score wasn't more lopsided.
The Big Picture
As much as I've criticized this team for the effort tonight, it's just another game of many. The Sabres have plenty of big games still on the schedule, including two against the Canes. They need to just put this game behind them and move on to the next game and the game after and so on. Plenty of time for the Sabres to move up or down the standings but they need to be better than tonight if they want to move up.
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Buffalo will be off tomorrow and will head to Toronto on Tuesday to take on the Leafs. It's a Versus telecast only so no Rick and Harry unless you listen to WGR. I'll probably be catching it on DVR so enjoy the thread.