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"Outside Sabres Opinion"
New York, NY • United States •
Let us go back to the days of last season before January 1st. The Sabres of yesteryear had their foot on the proverbial throttle. Consecutive win streaks, destroying franchises in a single game (Philadelphia) and generally wrecking havoc. During the month of October, the Sabres scored 53 goals (4.8 a game!) and by the end of the season, won the Northeast Division by 8 points.

However, as Sabres fans can attest, something happened to that team in the second half of the season that didn't show up in the score sheets. They started taking periods off. They started taking games off. Often, it seemed like the Sabres starting playing in the last 10 minutes of the game.

This has been well documented by other columnists as "flip the switch" mentality whereby a team thinks it can play and win whenever it wants to and usually doesn't play until its lead or win are in doubt. You can see this in other sports. For example, the Lakers when they had Kobe and Shaq were often described as flipping the switch come playoff time. The problem with this mentality is that teams can get too deep into "holes" during the game and not even their talent can save them.

At first, last season, I didn't believe the Sabres had that mentality. I looked at their Boston game on November 2 (where they scored 3 goals in the third period to eventually force a shootout win) as indicative that the Sabres could not be stopped, not that they stopped playing during the game. I believed Miller when he said: "We were in a deep hole. This shows we don't quit."

As I said previously, something happened after the calendar turned to January and the Sabres were playing listless for whole games. After the Minnesota Wild loss, the team was described as "struggling" and Derek was even quoted as saying "We have a lot of firepower... everybody knows that...I think it's just a matter of execution."

Of course, we all know what happened in the postseason. The Sabres played down to the Islanders, barely beat the Rangers and got blown out by the Senators.

This season, there were very few positive changes to the roster in order to counteract this malaise of the mind. Bringing in the oft-injured Thibault (who looked injured again last night), not adding anything to the defense (I don't give much weight to Spacek playing well now, just ask any Oilers fan about his up and downs) and losing 2 captains on the offense suggested that nothing was really done to fix what ailed the Sabres mentally.

Last night's game reawakened my fears. The season so far has been uneven. Manhandled by the Isles, blowing out the Thrashers and Caps by a combined score of 10-3 and then last night's game. Yes, the Sabres hit multiple posts over the first 2 periods and yes they were playing a "starting" goaltender in Raycroft vs. the Sabres backup but to me, the effort was not on the ice in the first two periods. They found themselves down 2 goals in the third period and rallied back to beat the Leaves in OT. Of course, we are talking about the Leaves here, the ultimate 3rd period collapse team. However, I hope the Sabres don't have the same mentality as last year that they can be down by 2 in the third and everything is ok.

As Tim Connolly said after the game: "I thought we played our best hockey once we got down by two goals. We never gave up. We started to play desperate, play physical, and really get pucks to the net." But why weren't they playing desperate hockey BEFORE the third period? I realize the season is long and there is pacing involved but I hope that the Sabres realize they have to come out with guns blazing right from the start or history will be doomed to be repeated.

The season is 5 games old. As the old Douglas Adams saying goes "Don't Panic" but I hope that the Sabres learn from the past and keep playing hard every night.
Filed Under:   Buffalo Sabres  
October 16, 2007 12:25 PM ET | Delete
The things is tho, I dont think they took periods off last night. They just didnt play all that well. Effort was there, the Leafs were just the better team.im not worried. this team knows how to work hard and will even more now.
October 16, 2007 12:55 PM ET | Delete
I agree with Capt. with one exception, we did not play all that poorly in the first 2 periods. Heck, five shots went off the post and we out shot them nearly 4:1. What did look bad was turnovers, and that's been our problem all year so far.
October 16, 2007 1:45 PM ET | Delete
I agree its not as bad as last year in terms of giving effort, I would just like to see 3 full periods of solid hockey otherwise they might start falling into the trap that they can come from behind when they want to like last year.
October 16, 2007 3:49 PM ET | Delete
I'm sorry but this post greatly annoyed me. Its October!! Give it a break. Enjoy the hockey and stop worrying about "taking periods off." Friday night I sat near a couple of Sabre fans who had a constant comment for everything. They were actually complaining about how the Sabres could possibly be losing to the Washington Capitals. From what I could tell they had no knowledge of hockey whatsoever; but they are not the only ones complaining about ridiculous things that really no one has control over. NOTE TO SOME SABRE FANS: Other teams can sometimes beat the Sabres. Relax. I hate the way we Sabre fans are turning out. You know what, worry about the Sabres taking periods off come April, May and June. Right now just enjoy the game of HOCKEY!!!!!
October 16, 2007 3:55 PM ET | Delete
I appreciate the comments s51. All I will say is that yes it is October and yes there is a long way to go in the season, it just seemed that last year there were signs in the regular season that something was wrong that manifested themselves in the postseason. I would say, watch the games, cheer on the Sabres but be mindful of the past. Go Sabres!
October 16, 2007 4:08 PM ET | Delete
I hope I did not sound to harsh in my message, but I wanted to make the point that analyzing this sort of thing means nothing. My opinion means nothing and your opinion means nothing. This sort of thing is way out of our control and that its not worth it. Last year I thought like this and I stressed over it and nothing was done. So now I just watch the game and hope they win.
October 16, 2007 7:24 PM ET | Delete
I would say they are off to a better start this year than last. I think last years problem was they had their hot streak at the beginning of the season, instead of the end. If the sens continue to win this early on, it will be interesting to see if they can actually carry that momentum through the whole 82 games and into the playoffs. I bet they can't. I bet they end up much like Buffalo did last year. I'm hoping Buffalo hovers in the middle of the pack for the next month or so before turning into the unbeatable team they were at the beginning of last year. Now is definitely the time to lose.
October 16, 2007 10:33 PM ET | Delete
Destroying a franchise?!?!?!??!! A bit full of yourself arent you? A Storied franchise with 2 cups, (how many do the sabres have?) and you destroyed them? What a joke!!!!Come back and play with the big boys when you can sustain an exceptional performance over a period of years -- better yet, come back when and if the slugs win any thing. Doesnt matter if its been 30 years for a Flyers cup -- how long has it been in the "loWhat a joke -- I didnt even need to read the rest of your blog -- go off on one team -- your motive is set -- glad to see the slugs lose and if htey keep siging 56 point players to 3.52M a year salaries you will soon be in the basebent where you belong
October 16, 2007 10:33 PM ET | Delete
Message Posted
October 16, 2007 11:13 PM ET | Delete
Lukin relax. Just let people have their opinion. You don't have to come and bash everything. Ok, he made a mistake and said we destroyed a franchise but other than that he gave us something to think about.
October 17, 2007 12:42 PM ET | Delete
yeah, Lukin, read the whole article next time. He brought up some valid points or observations (at least), for Sabres fans to consider. So, he ripped the Flyers a little; all fans can be overly agressive in their comments toward other teams at times -- and with no intention of sparking a fuse.
October 17, 2007 12:48 PM ET | Delete
BTW - I watched that game the other night and it was a great game. I think you have to give the Leafs some credit. They are playing better than what I (and probably even some Leafs fans) expected. As for the Sabres periodic lack of urgency or determination, I think all teams go through that, peridically. Its one of those things where it is better to play with that winning determination from the start of the game and for a full 60 minutes, but then when both teams play that way, some team will still lose the game -- thanks to the wonderful Bettman blunder called a Shootout!
October 17, 2007 4:31 PM ET | Delete
October 17, 2007 4:39 PM ET | Delete
Sorry about the "no post"...I think they are working harder this year, and for that I am thankful. I remember the first games of last season as showing the signs for concern of "taking time off" and lackluster effort we saw late in the season. This year what I see is more effort, yet the mistakes being made are more glaring i.e. forwards getting behind I defense, blown coverages, or running around in our own zone. These mistakes seem to be happening less as we move on but are still the things that I find myself concerned about. Thankfully, I think these mental lapses can be improved through coaching and hard work, unlike the problem of yesteryear of assuming we could turn it on "at will".
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