This was a tough loss to swallow for the Buffalo Sabres and especially their fans. The New York Rangers had lost earlier in the day and the Sabres actually controlled their own destiny in the playoff race. That's right...controlled their own destiny. Never thought I would be saying those words after the way this team played in March.
The worst thing to do against a team like the New Jersey Devils is to fall behind early. It's even worse when that is a two-goal deficit. Martin Broduer didn't break Patrick Roy's record because he gives up leads. That lead was eventually stretched to 3-0 and what turned out to be an insurmountable deficit.
The Sabres responded in the third period firing shots from all over the ice on Broduer. They were rewarded with two goals and plenty of chances but came up short.
It's easy to ask the question...why did they wait until the third period to start playing? I would answer by saying...they didn't. The effort as not the problem on Saturday night. This team gave it all they had for 60 minutes but the Devils were just better. A couple of early bounces and a smothering defense were the recipe for the Devils victory.
Statistically it looks like the Sabres only showed up to play 20 minutes of hockey but anyone who watched the game knows that isn't true. The Sabres played their hearts out but couldn't get anything going. With the lead the Devils just sat back and protected. That stategy worked to perfection in the second period but the Sabres made adjustments for the third.
A Statistical Look at the Devils
It's amazing just how important the first goal of the game is; that is never more apparent than it is with the Devils. The Devils were 35-5-2 when they score the games first goal and last night was no different. The Devils went ahead 2-0 after 20 minutes and went into a defensive shell. They only scored a third goal because of a horrible miscue by Andrej Sekera.
The Devils held a 3-0 lead after two periods. Allowing another team to come back is something this Devils team doesn't do. They are now 37-1-1 when they hold the lead after two periods. This all goes back to scoring the first goal.
The most telling stat may be the two teams record in 1-goal games. It's something the Devils have thrived on all season with a record of 23-9 while the Sabres now find themselves at 16-16.
Was Lindy Ruff looking for a spark? Was he upset over some of the goals that Miller allowed in the first two periods? Try, none of the above. He was simply resting Ryan Miller because the Sabres have four games in six nights this week and need to win all of them.
As Lindy stated in his post-game press conference, "the Devils weren't trying to score" Ruff said "with the score the way it was, they weren't going to try to score".
It's important that Ryan Miller is on top of his game this week. He may be asked to steal a game with the Sabres difficult schedule and the more rest he has the better. Keep in mind that Miller has played the last five games after missing a month of action.
MacArthur Stays Hot
Clarke MacArthur scored the Sabres second goal last night, giving him five goals in his last seven games. MacArthur increased his season total to 17 goals scored and is starting to prove himself as an offensive player. He has been on a line with Thomas Vanek and Tim Connolly although the lines were juggled around last night.
It will be interesting to see what the line combination will be on Monday against the Red Wings. It really isn't important who C-Mac plays with, he needs to contribute offensively to make this team better.
Harry Neale Quote of the Game
There were actually a couple of quotes we could have used but we'll use the suggestion of billsct11
"The Sabres are hanging on like aaaaaa..." then he paused before mumbling something.
Roll Call: D.O., qdloser, dfderie, billsct11, kellyn
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The Sabres will stay home and play against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings on Monday night. It's a nationally televised game on Versus with the season hanging in the balance. I expect this team to come out flying.