The Buffalo Sabres’ second-straight loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning consisted of numerous similarities to their first home loss of the season.
Buffalo jumped the Lightning early. Thomas Vanek continued to exert his will upon the goaltenders of the NHL with a beautiful takeaway and finish on a short breakaway. Brad Boyes followed up 35 seconds later with a neat finish that involved just about everything Lindy Ruff has been looking for out of the enigmatic winger; put the puck on net after driving the crease hard for a loose puck.
There was little to complain about after the first 10 minutes of the hockey game for the Sabres. Then the wheels fell off. In nearly identical fashion in which the Sabres allowed Carolina back in on the October 14, Buffalo allowed the Lightning back into this game. Short of gift wrapping countless shorthanded opportunities, the Sabres played sloppy hockey and failed to clamp down on the collective throats of a downtrodden Lightning team.
Rather, they watch as Tampa Bay’s two veteran superstars connected for a rebound goal to draw within one and then fell victim to a terrible bounce with under one minute to play on the tying goal. Buffalo was unable to regroup in the second period, allowing the go ahead tally on what appeared to be another unfortunate bounce.
Ryan Malone’s late breakaway goal may as well have been Jeff Skinner’s game-winner as it was not only a goal you wish Ryan Miller would have saved, but it was a goal that probably wouldn’t have transpired. After making a deft move in the offensive zone, Tyler Myers had his shot blocked and ricochet to Malone who went in and beat Miller. Miller didn’t play the breakaway particularly well and was beaten on a fairly simple move, one he typically turns away.
Having both home losses play out in such similar fashion is less than encouraging for a team that had to wait until November for their first home victory. Neither loss could fall under the “trying too hard to entertain the home fans” banner. These were two poorly played games that saw the effects trickle down from the forwards to the goaltender.
- The record should show that Ryan Miller probably needs to stop one of the four goals. Whether it is playing Nate Thompson conservatively and staying on his post, or staying aggressive on a shoot-first player like Malone; Miller needs to keep one out of the net. Otherwise the loss shouldn’t be saddled on his shoulders, by any means. He didn’t face a lot of shots and didn’t keep the score to one goal, so the Miller Bashers will be out in full force, but this was not a game in which you can look to the goaltender as a reason for losing.
- To slightly contradict the above statement, this was a game ideal for Jhonas Enroth. He has been shelved up since his outing in Pittsburgh on October 15 waiting to get back in net. Miller has been far too good to remove, but the loss on Saturday pretty much wiped the slate in terms of Miller’s hot streak. Enroth should have gotten the nod with Miller returning for Thursday and beyond. Hopefully Lindy isn’t already fumbling the goaltenders, it is far too early for that.
- Thomas Vanek is seriously good. He is on a hot streak like no other and is fully embracing the Atlas moniker so gracefully bestowed by The Goose’s Roost gang. As of now, the Vanek-Adam-Pominville line is keeping the Sabres’ head above water.
- Brad Boyes is indeed capable of scoring goals. He made a great play to get his first of the season. He stuck his nose in the play and the puck ended up in the net. He had a sound game and should parlay his first tally into a few more in the next few contests.
- Something needs to be done about the power play. This isn’t a drunken 300-level “SHOOOOT” proclamation. The man-advantage unit could barely set up and establish zone time, let alone find the proper rotation to establish a scoring chance. The Lightning were good enough to clog the center of the ice. But the Sabres have plenty of players with cannons for shots. Get pucks to the net front and let Vanek, Gaustad and Stafford poke away until the puck is behind the goaltender. Leave the fancy passing plays on the whiteboard until the penalty kill units are stretched thin.
- Tyler Myers had a rough night, not much more can be said than that. He was victimized by some bad bounces and made a few poor choices. This is back-to-back seasons where he has had a slow start. Perhaps there is something missing in his off-season regiment. His partner, Robyn Regehr continues to play like his hair is on fire. So keep that end of it up.
1. Mathieu Garon
2. Thomas Vanek
3. Steven Stamkos