This game can be summed up as a game that Buffalo should have won. Don’t look at the stats, don’t look at the standings... Buffalo should have won this game. Montreal is struggling this season, and is right next to Buffalo (well they were) at the bottom of the East.
Again, I don’t care about whether Myers played in his 200th game, and got his 100th point with a goal tonight. That’s great for him. I’m happy for him, but it doesn’t matter in the end now does it? I can come up with cutesy names for players too, but that just distracts from the real issues doesn’t it?
Let’s focus on the fact that Buffalo gave up 2 power play goals, to the 29th ranked power play in the league. Forget the fact that the Habs controlled the puck in the Sabres end and and pretty much set up a shooting gallery for 2 minutes on their power play. How about the fact that Buffalo allowed 3 goals on 19 shots? Out hit again, 18-9?
Last night, was a disgrace. Tonight, same thing, and I don’t care that the score was only 4-3 in a shootout loss. Don’t care that it was a loss in a shoot out. I don’t care if the Sabres got 1 point. They desperately needed 2. Especially against a team who they needed to beat Buffalo needed to win in regulation, and keep the Habs from getting any points period. It didn’t happen. No, I’m not surprised.
Wins get you into the playoffs, not shootout loses.
Buffalo’s season, the longer this continues, inches closer and closer to being over. If this game happens in November, it’s a different story. But it’s in February, 24 games left to play, and 9 points out of 8th place, 13 out of 7th place. So just forget about 7th, if Buffalo is to make a run at all. 8th place, is Buffalo’s only shot.
Since the other Sabres blogger won’t go there, and focuses on fluff and the highlights of Buffalo’s season (not to mention those nauseating pet names), let’s talk about what’s really going on and why Buffalo continues to lose.
Buffalo has no identity and no consistency. Everyone has been finding excuses for the way Buffalo continues to play. There are no more excuses. It’s easy to say that injuries are the cause of bad play, it wasn’t before, and they’re proving it now. It’s easy to say that Buffalo’s players have all hit cold streaks, but that’s just not the case. A cold streak, generally doesn’t last the whole year round, for the whole team. That’s just called... a bad season.
Buffalo is unable to win games because this is a soft team that has no identity. Buffalo lacks players with authority that other teams have. They get pushed around very easily. Plus, Buffalo also is too committed to their core players. I’m all for keeping the core players, but enough is enough. They just cannot win.
As I said in my last blog, Pegula came in and gave Regier a blank check. So, they push the teams payroll, and get a 15th place effort, and are on the verge of not making the playoffs. Mathematically, is it possible that Buffalo could defy the odds and make the playoffs? Yes. Realistically, not a chance.
So, what needs to happen moving forward? Numerous things.
First off, Regier needs to go as I have said numerous times. New coach as well. I’m a huge fan of Ruff, always have been. (Regier, should be run out of town) But it’s time for a new voice in the locker room, and a new style of play to be brought to Buffalo.
Buffalo needs to get back to using their speed and generating good odd man rushes. Notice how Buffalo doesn’t get any of those anymore? When’s the last time you saw a Buffalo Sabres player walk in alone on a goalie to get a premier scoring opportunity? (shootouts don’t count). And speaking of shootouts, how about the fact that the only 2 shooters for the Sabres tonight in the shootout just walked in and let simple wrist shots go? Whatever happened to trying to out maneuver a goalie?
How about the sloppy defensive play that Buffalo exhibits night in, night out? Buffalo continually gives their opponents as much room as they need to come into the Buffalo end, and that’s at even strength. What about no longer challenging their opponents and playing physical hockey, forcing whoever has the puck to make a quick decision that may not be the best one, and force that turnover? Again, this doesn’t happen.
I can go on and on with this stuff. It’s every single night that this happens. This is no longer a fluke, it’s an every night occurrence. This is coached. This is practiced. And no matter how good it looks in practice, it means nothing when it doesn’t work in a real game.
The style in which Buffalo plays is a passive style. Can’t work in the NHL, and that style has gotten Buffalo bounced from the playoffs in the first round the past 2 years. Buffalo literally gets pushed around.
However, it just starts there. Players need to be moved too. I’ve seen numerous comments about how certain players in Buffalo are safe. I’d say only a few are safe, Vanek, Pominville, Miller, and maybe Myers. That’s it. Time to offload the core, and bring in fresh blood, and build the team around them. Also, bring in players who will compliment the guys who don’t get traded or sign elsewhere. Bring in someone who can play with Vanek and Pominville, and help get the other players playing to their full potential, like Stafford and Leino.
Third, Buffalo needs to get well-balanced lines. Buffalo has Gerbe playing with Gaustad and Kaleta. Call me crazy, but I see Gerbe as a guy who can score. So why is he playing with 2 enforcers? Buffalo has been doing this all year round. They have so many inconsistencies with their lines, that no one can get used to each other, and players who have the potential to be 20 goal scorers, are sitting with only a few, due to their line mates. Buffalo has done this with Stafford, Leino, and even Vanek tonight, with Vanek playing with Matt Ellis of all people at the start of the game. Doesn’t make sense does it?
What I’d like to see is Buffalo trim down the enforcers, and bring in some good big power forwards. Buffalo needs some big bodies on offense. Players like Kassian, who aren’t afraid to take a hit and get their hands dirty. But it’s just not going to happen.
Again, this all comes back to the GM making some moves, and as long as Regier is in charge, it won’t happen.
Finally, there’s a mental edge to this game that ties into coaching. A coaches job is to motivate his players, and to believe in them. Your voice in the locker room has to carry, and be heard by all the players. They need to inspire. This doesn’t happen on this team. There appears to almost be a feeling of accepting the loss, and no inspiration to put forth 100% every night regardless of who they are playing.
I don’t like saying it, but it may be time to accept the fate that faces the Sabres this year, and start preparing for a better effort in 2012-2013. Time to rebuild, but it shouldn’t take that long. The great thing about hockey is that a team can make a few key moves, and drastically improve their team. But, it starts at the top, with bringing in a realistic general manager, to bring in the players that the team needs in order to compete. It also takes a coach, who sees what strengths he has, and utilizes those strengths in his game plan.
How many of these heartbreakers have we watched this year? How many games have Sabres fans said; “we could/should have won this one”? The good teams in the NHL, the truly good teams, find ways to win. Tonight was a game, where Buffalo could have, and should have, won. But again, the men were separated from the boys, and the Sabres couldn’t find a way to win.
That being said... I’m going to be heading to Buffalo for the Sabres vs Penguins game on Sunday!!! I’m going to be up in section 316. Anyone who’s going to be at the game, please, feel free to come on up and say hello. I’ll be the guy in the white Taro Tsujimoto jersey (hats off to anyone who gets and understands the reference). I’m always happy to discuss the Sabres and hockey with you, so feel free to come say hi (and yes, my name is Andy). Hope to see you there!