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Double Minors: Sabres play with fire one too many times

March 15, 2012

After conceding a head scratching tying goal in the dying moments on Monday, there was no way the Sabres would allow the same thing to happen again.

Of course, we’re talking about the Sabres. Yielding leads throughout games all season, Buffalo’s killer instinct has been something that has come and gone on numerous occasions. A defensive breakdown on Monday led to the tying goal, virtually the same play cost the Sabres last night.

Jamie McGinn’s second goal of the night tied the game at four, sending the game to OT. The Avalanche went on to win the game 5-4 in a shootout as shootout extraordinaire Peter Mueller picked up the deciding goal. Of course, McGinn’s goal should have never happened.

While being stuck with the same personnel due to an icing, Lindy Ruff had Cody Hodgson, Jason Pominville, Ville Leino, Christian Ehrhoff and Mike Weber on the ice. Not exactly the best defensive set Buffalo could roll out. However, they are a little short on lock down forwards without Jochen Hecht, Paul Gaustad and Nathan Gerbe for various reasons.

My real beef was the defensive pair that Ruff chose. Mike Weber has been thrust from the sixth defensive spot to the fourth due to Tyler Myers’ suspension and Andrej Sekera’s illness. Weber played Gabriel Landeskog soft on his entry, his shot, the rebound and the following play behind the net. Weber is serviceable in a limited role, but not as a shutdown defenseman in the final moments of a close game. I have to question the thought process that Ruff had regarding who he was putting on the ice.

The unfortunate finish tarnished a great game by Marcus Foligno, who had a pair of goals and three hits. Foligno has meshed well, just like Corey Tropp, and is making a serious case to stick around beyond the re-call. Tropp has all but cemented his spot.

Foligno’s pair were part of a +3 evening that saw the rookie lay three body checks. Of course, Landeskog stole the show. He had a goal and an assist, five shots and eight hits (really?). His game was solid and he keyed the rush to tie the game. Regardless, Buffalo’s neutral zone forecheck was close to nonexistent and Weber’s soft play gave Landeskog and easy lane to shoot and pursue the rebound. Passive net-side play allowed Ryan O’Rielly to get the puck through and in front to McGinn.

  • Ryan Miller actually played a pretty strong game. He made 38 saves and was able to keep his team alive for a good part of the game. At some point, you need him to make a save on one of the goals, especially if you give him four to work with. But I honestly had little issue with his contributions this evening. Two wide-open tap-in goals are really to blame here.
  • Funny to see Miller’s adjustment to O’Rielly’s chance last night and the read he made on Monday against Montreal. Expecting a stuff attempt by Erik Cole, Miller held his post and was beaten on the cross-crease one timer. It seemed as if he had a better grasp of the time on the clock yesterday, making himself big and hoping to block as much net. For those just blaming Miller, the chance hit the side of the net, Mike Weber’s shin pad, the post and then rolled across the goal line. Had Weber stayed on his side of the ice, the puck stays below the goal line and there is someone available to tie up Jamie McGinn. Miller made the right read, he was done in by a bad bounce.
  • I have liked Alex Sulzer. He even beat Cody Hodgson to his first goal as a Sabre. I wonder if his play will be a factor when the Sabres evaluate their defensive depth this summer.
  • Brayden McNabb is a fine defensive prospect, he is even a solid guy to insert permanently. However, when you have to bump Sulzer and Weber to increased roles to fill in for regulars like Sekera and Myers, there is a serious problem.
  • Between the defensive depth issues and the lapses in-zone, trading Paul Gaustad is finally biting the Sabres. His absence has not been a major issue, you can just see certain areas weakening due to his trade. Considering the give and take, I’d still make the trade.
  • I’ve long questioned Buffalo’s attitude when holding a lead. I truthfully cannot say whether it is a personnel or coaching issue. But to see the Sabres sag back and attempt to shell-up for the umpteenth time, makes me question “the system”. To give up 16 third period shots in the middle of a playoff race with just a one-goal lead is criminal. Lacking that killer instinct is something that needs to be addressed. Whether that is accomplished with a new coach or players with certain intangibles, the change needs to be made.

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