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Double Minors: Fright night in Pittsburgh

December 18, 2011

It was the great Cosmo Kramer who said, “Yamma hamma its fright night!” That line may be the best way to describe what took place at Consol Energy Center last night.

Fresh off an invigorating home win, the Sabres were looking to start their first winning streak since early November. Then Jason Williams wired a curving slapshot by Ryan Miller from at least 60 feet. You might say Miller wanted that one back.

The 60-footer was just the first of an avalanche of goals against. Miller was very clearly “off” as Simon Despres scored on a pretty poor one-timer. Evgeni Malkin chased Miller with a nifty three-on-two goal in which the Buffalo defense opted to let the world-class lottery pick shoot from the hash marks. No fault to Miller on that one, but that was one of the few mistakes he wasn’t responsible for.

Credit to Miller, who catches heat for not taking responsibility for his play, he stood up and said he was bad and was a big reason for his team’s loss. That certainly doesn’t let him off the hook, but it isn’t as if he said the system wasn’t working and there were letdowns in other areas.

Jhonas Enroth wasn’t much better during his time in the net, but he also fell victim to very loose defensive coverage.

The issues last night extend far beyond number 30 and number 1. The entire team was flat and didn’t bring much punch. Perhaps they expended so much in their victory over the Leafs that they didn’t have any gas in the tank. It would be a flimsy excuse, but it wouldn’t necessarily be a foreign one.

Frankly, Lindy Ruff made the wrong choice by starting Miller. If there is one team Miller can’t beat it would be Pittsburgh. A simple eye test would show you that, the numbers back up the reasoning as well. Add the Toronto game from Friday, a travel day into a back-to-back situation and you have a pretty good recipe for starting Enroth. (Here is some work Alex did over on BBG on Miller’s struggles when fatigued)

Executing and stopping the puck is Miller’s sole responsibility, so there is no letting him off the hook. However, it was astounding to see Enroth back on the bench last night. Maybe Ruff wasn’t happy with Enroth’s recent play, but it was a major mistake to come back with Miller last night.

  • Thomas Vanek scored again. He is having a brilliant season and has truly developed into a major talent for this team.
  • Ruff played with Derek Roy and Luke Adam between Vanek and Pominville, he is going to have to take his medicine and put more offense between his top two forwards.
  • Speaking of Adam, he had a great goal for his 10th of the year. He has had a few struggles but seems to have plateaued at a pretty impressive level. It may just be time to reunite The Subway Line.
  • Paul Gaustad is, in fact, still playing for the Sabres. He scored his first goal in North America this season. Hopefully he can get on a bit of a roll to provide some secondary scoring for this team.
  • The injury situation is downright comical. Tyler Ennis and Colin Stuart fell victim to the bug. I’ll say it again. JT Allaire was the strength coach with the 2007 Bills. They had a whole bunch of odd injuries that year. He is now on staff with the Sabres and everyone has seen the results. Maybe he is just unlucky, but his luck is reflecting poorly on the franchise.

Three Stars

1. Evgeni Malkin

2. Simon Despres

3. Jason Williams

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