Another game against the Ottawa Senators and another loss for the Buffalo Sabres. The Sens have now earned 10 of a possible 10 points against the Sabres while Buffalo has earned only one in a shootout loss earlier this season. You have to wonder if the Sabres struggles are as much mental as they are physical.
It didn't take long to figure out these two teams don't like each other and they were both ready to play. Just a couple minutes into the game, Matt Ellis crushed his check just inside the Sens blueline and that sparked a battle between Patrick Kaleta and Zack Smith at center ice. I'm not willing to declare a winner but there was no question that Kaleta had the fans on their feet and behind the home team.
The Sabres seemed to play well in the opening minutes but a great play Chris Kelly gave the Sens the first goal and that started the downward spiral. The Sabres seemed to get back on their heels and Kaleta tried to spark his team once again.
Kaleta gave the Sabres another spark when he agitated Mike Fischer to the point of forcing Fischer to take a cheap shot. The hit itself seemed like a light push but there was no question it was from behind and it came on an icing play. Fischer was given a five minute major and a game misconduct but the Sabres did not capitalize.
The power play continues to be a problem for the Sabres and tonight was the same old story. They negated the five minute major by taking a penalty of their own and they finished the game 0-for-4 with man advantage. We have come to expect a hapless power play but the Sens converted once on two power play opportunities. Those aren't the penalty killing numbers of a team that is ranked #2 in the league, they are the numbers of a team that is scared of their opponent.
The Sabres were not terrible tonight. They had chances to tie and even win the game but some bad luck and good goaltending by Brian Elliot proved to be the difference. Buffalo had 43 shots on goal and the best chance was the one that doesn't count as a shot. Vanek streaked up the wing and his slap shot drilled the goal post after it beat Elliot.
This was a frustrating game because it might have been the Sabres best game against Ottawa all season and they still came out on the losing end. The light at the end of the tunnel is knowing that if the special teams had been better, they probably win the hockey game.
- We all wanted to see the Sabres beat the Sens but the irony is this loss may keep the Sens away from the Sabres in the playoffs. If the Sens can finish fifth in the Conference the Sabres likely wouldn't meet them until the Conference Finals if either team makes it that far.
- In the past Lindy Ruff has been a genius when calling players out publicly but I don't think Roy and Vanek respond well to public criticism. In the past they have gone into shell when the coach criticizes their play, we'll see how they handle it this time.
- Patrick Kaleta has been known to agitate and not back it up. It seems like he is aware of that and has made a point of backing up his words lately. He did it again tonight when he fought Zack Smith in the opening minutes.
- This loss is certainly a set back but the Sabres should still coast to a division title and the number three seed in the playoffs. The next nine games will be a tune up for the playoffs and they get one more crack at the Sens.