The Sabres hockeybuzz fans have been sort of quiet since the loss to Ottawa on Monday, and I don't blame them. The only good thing for me is that Teppo is on my fantasy team, but then again, I also wagered that it would take him a lot longer to score his first goal of the season. Spezza is also on my fantasy team, so I am conflicted as to whether I should be happy or sad that he had two goals and one assist.
1. The Sabres didn't get on the board until five minutes were left in the game, by which time Ottawa had already scored their five goals.
2. Ottawa won 37 faceoffs; Buffalo won just 21.
3. Both Sabres goals were on the PP. They went 2 for 10, while Ottawa was 2 for 6 on the PP.
4. The shots were almost even: Ottawa 28, Buffalo 27. However, 12 of Buffalo's shots weren't until the third period.
Why they lost:
Sure the shot total was nearly the same, but Ottawa's first few goals came on either tragic giveaways or the continued pressure of being on the PK and then, the inability to gain any momentum on their PP chances. Granted, the first few calls were weak; Max's penalty, which led to Dany Heatley's goal when the penalty carried over into the 2nd period, was a bad decision by the ref. Later, the 5-minute "fighting" penalty on Mike Weber was another bad decision.
However, even with these questionable calls, Buffalo found themselves on the PP 6 times in the first two periods and couldn't manage any offence. Instead, Ottawa racked up four goals on the board.
The inability to take faceoffs is starting to hurt. This is the time where Hecht, Gaustad, and Connolly could really help out.
Aside from the hit on Alfredsson, I didn't notice much of Weber, which could be good or bad. He registered 0 giveaways, 0 shots, and just that 1 hit.
I sort of gave up by the time it was 5-0 in the 3rd and stopped listening, but I'm glad that they didn't just hand Auld a shutout, and better, that their two goals were on the PP. But that's just not good enough; you can't play a game backwards (meaning, start slow and finish well) if you're just going to put yourself in a 5-0 hole. The lack of leadership and the inability of some of the fourth liners to play consistently every single game (I'm looking at you, Matt Ellis) is starting to show and the Sabre pile-up on the IR is actually hurting.
It's easy to say "well that was expected" in retrospect, sure. But the Sabres' continued slow starts and their "holding on for overtime" attitude finally got the better of them. They face another weaker (but possibly just as desperate) team on Thursday in the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Seriously, the Sabres really need to do these things:
1. STAY OUT OF THE PENALTY BOX. It's absolutely killing them; while they remain one of the most penalized team mostly because of their rabblerousing, they get caught up with way too many 2-minute minors as well. It's killing their offensive chances.
2. CAPITALIZE ON THE PP. Scoring is nice, but even garnering some momentum might be good enough. Watching the puck constantly scoot over the blue line and having to regroup isn't good enough.
3. BETTER PRESSURE ON THE TOP LINE. I mean, c'mon, everyone knows that Ottawa's a real one-line team this year. The Sabres have to be able to stop giving the top line so many chances. I understand the Sabres like letting their defence go deep into the offensive zone, but when Spezza/Heatley/Alfredsson are on the ice, they simply cannot do that and then give up an odd-man rush. Pretty much all three goals in the 2nd period were scored like this. Tampa Bay has very much the same one-line mold, and the Sabres will have to put defensive pressure on Lecavalier/St Louis if they're looking to come out of there with a win.
4. GET DESPERATE, NOT WORKED UP. I feel like the Sabres turned their frustration into stress, rather than working harder and winning one-on-one battles, faceoffs, and finishing checks. After letting the first goal in, or even that second one, the Sabres needed to work harder, not frustrate themselves further. Maybe it's the lack of Rivet as captain that's been causing that -- who knows.
LET'S GO BUFFALO!