I hate being another cog in the wheel to propagate and perpetuate our cycle of Buffalo misery, but I tried very hard to find positives in tonight's game as the Buffalo Sabres hosted the Florida Panthers. How many more years do we, as fans, have to get excited about draft picks and off-season acquisitions, only to watch the on-ice product materialize into waste only one month into the season?
It may feel like we are well into the season, but it really only has been one month. It has taken that small amount of time for us to realize that we are not watching a playoff-caliber team. We knew there were a lot of new parts; nearly half of a new roster, a new coach, a new GM - and that it may take a little bit for some chemistry. We are passionate and smart enough to know that we are not watching progress in the making.
Here are some of my thoughts watching the game tonight:
-Phil Housley continues to keep Evander Kane and Jack Eichel on the same line, despite approximately 90% of die-hard Sabres fans knowing that these two do NOT complement each other.
-Housley also seems against experimenting with line alterations. For a team with only one win in sixteen games, maybe it's time to tinker? Einstein had some sort of famous quote about the definition of insanity. Coming off of a game with only one goal against probably the worst defensive team in the NHL? Time for line changes? The Panthers have given up the 3rd-most goals in the league. They were also averaging 38 shots against coming into the game. Buffalo only mustered 25 shots tonight.
-Speaking of shots, the Sabres only had 15 after two periods. Wayne Gretzky also had some sort of famous quote about shots.
-Robin Lehner actually kept the team in the game. He DID give up plenty of juicy rebounds, but he also made a bevy of clutch saves.
-Jack Eichel may have played one of the worst games that I have seen him play. Is he unenthused? Disinterested? Dejected? Most of the rest of the team seems to emulate his attitude. Although the big contract doesn't kick in until next season, he isn't playing like a $10 million man.
-Sam Reinhart...I wasn't even sure if he was in the lineup until there was a few minutes left in the period. He seems to be excelling at invisibility.
-I am not really a fan of Benoit Pouliot, but at least he was out there throwing his body tonight.
-The Sabres were dominated by one line from the Florida Panthers tonight. If the Sabres had one solid top-pairing of defensemen tonight, maybe they could have won.
-It was nice to see Kyle Okposo get on the board tonight. It was only his second goal of the season. Here is to hoping his contract won't become an anchor for years to come.
-Evander Kane is the team right now. I know there is a contingent of fans who don't like him, but he is the Sabres best player. Versatile, fast, shoots the puck, throws checks, fights. Probably the only player on the team who does the last three items that I listed.
-What kind of sunglasses were the refs wearing tonight? I saw a slew of various hooking, interference, and other penalties that were missed tonight. I've come to expect this when there is an Original Six team on the ice, but this was the Panthers and Sabres.
-Johan Larsson is an exceptional player when games are tied.
-Nick Baptiste and Seth Griffith are AHL players.
-Not going to get into the whole fighting in hockey argument, but I loved seeing Jordan Nolan throw down with Michael Haley after his hit on Zemgus Girgensons. The players seemed to me to have a silent vote on the subject when both teams were seen tapping their sticks on the ice prior to the faceoff as both players were released from their respective sin bins.
All in all, the play of the Sabres tonight was ridiculously lackluster. Without any changes, I expect similar results. Buffalo hits the road tomorrow for a Saturday showdown with the rival Montreal Canadiens.