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Pens Schooling of Sabres Shows What it Takes

After getting 9 out of 12 possible points in their last 6 games, and with Ryan Miller finding his groove again, you had to think maybe the Sabres were starting to get their swagger back.  What better time to take on a powerhouse red-hot Stanley Cup contender on an 11-game winning streak to see where you’re at?

As it turned out, the Pittsburgh Penguins came into HSBC Arena last night and gave a lesson on what separates the big boys from the lesser teams like Buffalo.  The Sabres came through with a pretty strong effort against a truly elite team.  They showed some heart and, for the first two periods anyway, went at the Pens pretty hard. 

But it still wasn’t good enough as Pittsburgh never trailed and scored a 5-2 win.  While Sabres big guns Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek were whiffing on their scoring chances, Pens lesser-knowns like Arron Asham and Mike Rupp were cashing in on theirs. 

For all of the positives that you can come up with about Buffalo’s recent streak, last night confirmed a disheartening truth about this group.  The Sabres fall way short when matched up against quality teams.  They’re now 2-12-1 against clubs that are seeded in the top 6 in either conference.

Part of the problem is that the Sabres have become way too reliant offensively on Roy and Vanek.  When those two have an off night, it’s almost impossible to find enough scoring elsewhere to get a win.  It’d be easy to blame this on the absences of Tim Connolly and Drew Stafford, but that would be a cop out. 

Quality teams overcome injuries.  Last night, Sidney Crosby was a non-factor and needed a third period assist to keep his point streak alive.  Yet even without Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal in the lineup, Sid the Kid’s team was none the worse for wear. 

Meanwhile, the Sabres missing a couple of guys meant slotting Nathan Gerbe on the top line and Mark Mancari on the power play.  As per usual, their presence didn’t have an impact.  They now have 4 goals in 59 career NHL games between them.

To their credit, Buffalo has shown a knack for shutting down some of the NHL’s big guns.  In 6 total games against the Penguins, Capitals, Lightning and Sharks, the Sabres have held the likes of Crosby, Ovechkin, Stamkos, St. Louis, Thornton and Heatley to a grand total of 0 goals and 2 assists. 

Yet they only won 2 of those 6 games.  It’s just another example of how putting in the hard work and getting some results doesn’t equate to wins when, from top to bottom, your lineup doesn’t have enough talent.

Twitter: @DaveDavisHockey

Filed in: NHL Teams, Buffalo Sabres, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: arron+asham, buffalo+sabres, mark+mancari, mike+rupp, nathan+gerbe, pittsburgh+penguins, sidney+crosby

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If it makes you feel any better, of all the teams the Penguins have faced on their winning streak, Buffalo was by far the one that challenged them the most. In truth, if the Sabre’s top players tap in a handful of the slew of chances they had, the game could have (and probably should have) looked a lot different. One player that stood out to me was Tyler Ennis. He should be a good one!

Posted by penguinsfan on 12/13/10 at 10:02 AM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

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