Between the Pipes: Ugly game underscores uglier hit

Things got ugly on Wednesday night at First Niagara Center. On top of another ugly loss, the Sabres chief goon, John Scott did his best to draw more unwanted attention to the raging inferno at One Seymour H Knox III Plaza.

Scott’s hit was dirty, awful, embarrassing, the list goes on. Basically what any sane person had to say on the matter will suffice. Hopefully the NHL sits him down for a dozen or more and does the league and the Sabres a favor. He doesn’t help this team in any discernible way on the ice – yeah, I’m sure he’s a great locker room guy – and for a roster of young, developing players, that’s not the type of guy you need.

I’d give him 15, personally

As for the rest of the game, it was a pretty bad loss in a growing trend of lopsided decisions. While almost every game this year has been lopsided in one way or the other, the results this past week have been slowly getting worse. The Avalanche and Bruins both hit the four-goal plateau and it appears that surrendering a mountain of shots on goal won’t be the only trend the Sabres follow for the foreseeable future.

At some point I plan on focusing on specific goalie-related topics in addition to the game breakdown, but each loss manages to highlight some new deficiency that probably shouldn’t go unmentioned.

Wednesday was the flawed roster and it’s damning effects on this young season.

Most of the fans in Buffalo knew this was coming. It was to be a rebuild, the Sabres were shifting to a youth movement and building through their prospect cupboard and the draft. Yet it doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel remotely close to right.

The roster is a mixture with a few too many role players occupying spots that probably should be reserved for the developing prospects. It’s almost as if Darcy Regier, in the process of constructing his team, decided at the last moment that perhaps he wanted a few more NHL veterans on the ice in the event the team made a phantom run to the postseason. Or perhaps it’s Ron Rolston’s fault for the way he’s shaped his lines. For all we know those two are fighting an Art Howe, Billy Beane battle over how the lineup should be shaped. Either way, the flaws on the roster are playing out on the ice and even #SuckforSam is starting to feel like it’s being carried out the wrong way.

There’s certainly something wrong here. It’s not the fact that the team is losing so much as how they’re losing. It just doesn’t seem like everything is lining up the way it was expected and now many are left wondering how much longer Terry Pegula will choose to endure this particular brand of suffering.

Ryan Miller

What he did well

In skipping the recap for the Avs game – Florida State’s showdown in Death Valley took precedence – I didn’t get a full look at his last game. However, for allowing five goals it wasn’t as if he was a complete sieve on Wednesday. Nor was he particularly stellar. Miller made some nice saves over the course of the game, controlled his space and wasn’t pushing or overplaying shooters at any point. It wasn’t a spectacular game by any stretch, but in a five-goal drubbing I wouldn’t pin the loss on him either.

Where he struggled

The first goal, despite being a tip, wasn’t his best effort. He didn’t look too open in trying to make the save prior to the redirection and leaky goals are typically weak goals. As for the rest of his evening, I thought he got torched by Torry Krug’s second – the first didn’t look as terrible as I originally thought – and overall I think it was pretty much a run-of-the-mill effort for him.

Save of the game

While Miller wasn’t able to stand on his head and steal one, he did have a number of great saves. His sliding blocker stop in the second period was his best. On a three-on-two that was sort of a three-on-one he readjusted in his butterfly slide to make an extra push across the crease. Had he made the save with his glove I’d contend that it would have made highlight shows everywhere.

Chad Johnson

What he did well

I’lll get the OchoCinco joke out of the way now since it’s apparently still 2007. Johnson is slightly underappreciated as he’s wound up serving as a backup to workhorses for his entire career. He plays a technically sound style that allows him to make saves as opposed to just getting hit by pucks. He did that quite well last night, showing athleticism and the ability to control the play quite well.

Where he struggled

I really thought Nikita Zadorov’s goal was pretty weak. He went to his post too early on the play and paid for it dearly. He’s a big guy and should have stayed square a little longer.

Save of the game

One of the 14 he made? I’m not sure really, the Sabres struggle so much jus to hit 20 shots that I’m rarely wowed by a save from the opposing goaltender.

Notes:

  • I’ve thought Rolston’s expiration date would be Thanksgiving if this ship continued to sink as quickly as it has. He’s not here to win, but to develop. But when the results are this eye-opening, you have to think that a change will be necessary.
  • What’s scary to think is the Joe Sacco will likely be the man to fill the job in the interim and I’m curious to know if he’s the right option for the job as well. This is a mess that probably won’t be fixed until April or May.
  • Congrats to Zadorov for his first NHL tally. He hasn’t looked out of place one bit, but I’m still cool with him going to London after five games or so.
  • If you’re looking for a really strong point of view on the flawed roster and general approach from the General Manager, go read Ryan Nagelhout’s Immediate Reactions on Buffalo.com, you won’t regret it.
  • At some point you have to give Mikhail Grigorenko a look on a more potent line, no? He’s showing flashes of his skillset but it just seems like he needs a little more of an opportunity to blossom. At least give him a look before declaring him a complete bust.

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