Kukla's Korner Hockey
by @DaveDavisHockey on 10/16/10 at 06:00 PM ET
With the excitement of the 40th anniversary ceremonies only to be followed by the Sabres losing a 2-1 snooze-fest to the Montreal Canadiens, you can see why many folks in Buffalo took the liberty of comparing last night’s game to the 3-0 loss to the Habs on 10/15/70.
But there’s a much more recent anniversary that you could say is more suitable for comparison.
It was six months ago this weekend that the Sabres were in the midst of a futile week-and-a-half-long attempt to scrape together some offense in a first round playoff series against the Boston Bruins - a team that for various reasons was supposed to have major goal scoring problems of their own.
There are some striking similarities between Buffalo’s poor playoff performance and the events of last night’s game - and for that matter of this young season. It’s a scary reminder that nothing in the past six months with this team seems to have really changed.
The Sabres couldn’t buy a power play goal in the Boston series, and this season they’re off to a 2-18 (11.1%) start. One of their top forwards didn’t play due to being knocked out from a controversial hit by an opposing defenseman who didn’t seem too concerned with facing retribution (Thomas Vanek by Johnny Boychuk in Game Two of the playoffs, Jason Pominville by Niklas Hjalmarsson on Monday).
But most of all, just like the last three playoff losses, which were decided each by one goal, noone on this team was able to break through last night with a big goal in the waning minutes of a tight game when it was desperately needed.
In Tim Connolly’s defense, there wasn’t much he could do about that - short of finding a way to score from the end of the bench, which is where he spent the last 18 minutes of the third period.
Head Coach Lindy Ruff has declared that he’s taking the kid gloves off.
“We might play three lines, we might play 2 1/2 lines,” Ruff said in his post game press conference. “They know that. The gig’s up now. You can sit on the end of the bench. The guys that are going to put the work in are going to play.”
Complain all you want about the defense, but giving up fourteen goals in five games shouldn’t get you four losses. The biggest problem with this team is the same now as it was in April. The top six forwards collectively aren’t good enough.
The offense has scored nine times in five games. Derek Roy, despite the occasional defensive lapse, has come through with five goals. But no other forward on the entire roster has even scored twice.
There were some quality forwards available this summer. Nathan Horton looks to be a great acquisition for the Bruins. Fans have been told by some of the mainstream media here that the Sabres coveted Saku Koivu and Matt Cullen. But when it was all said and done, GM Darcy Regier was unable to complete a deal for an upgrade.
So now Sabres fans are left hoping that Tyler Ennis is more like Daniel Briere and less like Maxim Afinogenov, that Vanek and Drew Stafford exceed their numbers from last season, and that Roy and Connolly come through with much better showings in this season’s playoffs - which the optimistic preseason prognosticators have discovered are no longer a foregone conclusion.
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About Kukla's Korner Hockey
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.
Email Paul anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org