As I was driving home from work tonight, getting into the mood for Sabres hockey, Enemies by Shinedown came on the radio. As I’m singing along in the car, I come across the lyric “You’re taking all that you please, you want more, but you’ll get nothing from me.” As much as I’d love for this to be the song the Sabres come out of the locker room to, there’s one portion of the song that’s wrong with this...
The line, “but you’ll get nothing from me.”
I suppose that the opposite of that would be “We’ll give you everything”.
That’s how I’d explain Buffalo’s play in their own end for the 2 games against Carolina.
Reality check time folks. The Sabres have returned to normal, and are playing that same, lazy, sloppy play that we and they are accustomed to in their own end. Let’s start with last night. The first goal for the Canes, Hodgson blew his coverage, and leaves Skinner alone in front of the net. The second goal for the Canes, Pominville gets the puck on the point for the power play, he has the ability to walk right in a little bit and let a shot go because the Canes were pulled to the opposite side of the ice. What’s Pommer do? He holds the puck, decides to pass, and it’s intercepted. Down the ice go the Canes; 2-0 score.
To save you the agony, that’s just a taste of the Sabres play the past 2 nights. They continue to play extremely soft hockey in their own end. For example, as I’m watching round 2 of the Sabres vs Canes series tonight, I see Kaleta and Ott standing in their own end, failing to hit anyone. Here are 2 guys known for this, but they won’t do it. We saw this last year, and now it’s carrying over into this season. Ryan Miller looks great for now, but how long can he keep this up?
However, this soft hockey isn’t the only problem.
Last I checked, there was a lot of hype about Steve Ott, Ennis, Foligno, Stafford, Myers, Ehrhoff, and a certain rookie named Grigorenko. So far, not a lot of goal scoring outside of the top line of Pominville, Hodgson, and Vanek.
While last night, there weren’t a lot of great chances, tonight, they’re getting some decent opportunities (and giving up a lot too). However, they fail to connect on these. Now, we all know that you’re going to get stopped on shots more times than not. But some of these you have to bury. If Buffalo wants to succeed, they need to start getting more balanced scoring. Plus, Grigorenko needs to be turned lose. I haven’t seen many shots from him. He’s supposedly got a great shot, let’s see it. If I’m Lindy Ruff, I tell him to not be afraid to pull the trigger. However, after not seeing him on the ice in the 3rd period tonight, I doubt he’ll be in blue and gold much longer this season.
Also, face off losses are going to kill Buffalo. They can’t seem to win draws at crucial points in time. Buffalo needs to get better in the face-off dot. A face-off loss in their own end by Buffalo gave Carolina the winning goal in the 3rd period tonight.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s some positives here too. Buffalo is showing, at times, that they’re willing to use their speed to generate chances in their opponents end. However, there’s no consistency. Tonight, and the home opener were the only 2 times that I’ve seen this. It needs to become more consistent. The Pominville, Vanek, Hodgson line looks pretty good. They look a lot better than I expected this season. Unfortunately, the team is relying on them all too much when it comes to getting goals.
I also love the fact that the team isn’t afraid to hit (at times) and also are standing up for each other. After the Bowman hit on Gerbe yesterday, on the replay, you could see Myers speed up to skate down and get in Bowman’s face after the hit. They’re finally standing up for each other, and it needs to continue.
But the soft defense will be the death blow to this team in the end. In the third period of tonight’s game, Vanek is standing in front of Ellis. The minute the puck gets close to him, he’s on the ice. When’s the last time you’ve seen Buffalo do that? Buffalo needs to take that aggression and start using it. There’s no point in bulking up the team if you’re not going to utilize it correctly.
While Buffalo is getting a lot of hits, Buffalo’s hits aren’t coming at the appropriate time. They lose the 1 on 1 battles on a regular basis. The time that they should be hitting their opponents, they fail to do so, and their opponents take full advantage of it.
Buffalo continues to give their opponents space when they enter Buffalo’s zone. Buffalo’s opponents know that they can dictate play in the Buffalo end, and Buffalo continues to allow it to happen. Happened last night, continued tonight. Buffalo also continues to give up simply phenomenal chances to their opponents due to lackluster play. Good teams don’t allow the high caliber shots that Buffalo has allowed in their last 3 games. The only reason tonight wasn’t as bad as last night, and the reason Buffalo won against the Leafs, is that Ryan Miller was in net.
I hate saying this, but THIS is the team that I’ve expected to see this season. Luckily, it’s early in the season. There’s time to fix the problems. However, Buffalo needs to acknowledge the problems in order to fix them.
It’s time for Buffalo to adopt the “But you’ll get nothing from me” attitude. Their opponents aren’t going to give them anything. Let’s extend the favor.
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Also, I'm hoping to do a radio segment on betweenthebenches.com late Sunday recapping the Sabres season to this point. Check it out on Monday.