Double Minors: Special teams letdown in loss to Habs

For all intents and purposes, last night was a road game. Montreal fans surely outnumbered Sabres fans at First Niagara Center for last night’s shootout loss.

In what is becoming a disturbing trend, Canadian road fans are coming out in droves to support teams other than the Sabres. Obviously Buffalo’s struggles this season have a lot to do with the current supply and demand of tickets, but even this is embarrassing.

It is one thing to have a large portion of your market hail from southern Ontario, it is an entirely different situation to have roughly 9,000 fans wearing Maple Leafs or Canaidens jerseys.

The shootout loss made things worse, of course. The Sabres special teams play has gotten progressively uglier in recent weeks. The power play has become rather stagnant and the penalty kill can’t keep pucks from going in. The two power play goals Buffalo allowed came at the tail end of the respective penalties and the Sabres’ inability to clear their zone was the main culprit in the two goals.

Buffalo’s power play was equally ineffective. Granted, they were facing one of the league’s best penalty kill units. Still, to end the overtime period with an extended four-on-three opportunity is where the good teams and bad teams are separated. Tyler Myers had a great game and earned his spot for that final power play, but why leave the team’s hardest shot (Ehrhoff) on the bench?

Sabres fans can start scouting Nail Yakupov, Mikhail Grigorenko and Filip Forsberg. The Sabres currently sit last in the Eastern Conference and hold the third pick in the 2012 draft.

  • Ryan Miller wasn’t the goalie the Sabres needed him to be last night. He was visibly upset with his performance in the shootout and admitted to it in his post game interview. Miller made a few big saves in the third as the Sabres pushed to get the game to overtime, he just wasn’t up to task in the shootout. I’d sit him down for tomorrow’s game against Pittsburgh. Give him a proper day off while allowing Jhonas Enroth to get a full start under his belt. Besides the playoff push is over, no reason to ride Miller into the ground.
  • Ville Leino wasn’t too bad last night. He picked up a pair of assists – one on a great effort behind the net – and looks as if he has rounded into form. It took a little longer than expected, but ensuring he sees top-six minutes is obviously the key to getting regular production from him. Shocking that a skill forward would need big minutes to be prodcutive, no?
  • I understand that Thomas Vanek was sat down due to another offensive zone penalty. However, your best players need to play big minutes. If Vanek is seeing less time than players like Mathieu Darche, there is a problem.
  • Zack Kassian was all but invisible last night. He needs to play with that physical edge on a nightly basis. I still contend that a veteran presence sitting next to him in the locker room every day would help bring out the most in the rookie. For example, what Mike Grier did for Thomas Vanek in terms of accountability and drive.
  • Robyn Regehr was born in Brazil, this much is true. However, he is a Canadian through and through. I wasn’t sure which the Sabres would choose to post, his citizenship/international hockey affiliation or his birthplace. It was cool to see the Brazilian flag on the videoboard for Regehr’s first goal as a Sabre.
  • The Sabres were credited with only nine hits last night. Regehr and Ville Leino were the only players in double digits. I want to know if it is coaching or some sort of culture in the locker room that keeps this team from finishing their checks. Boston and Philly are prime examples of teams that never miss a chance to put their man into the boards. I just wonder if the onus lies with the players or the coaches. Maybe it is a little of both.

Game Summary/Event Summary

The Morning Skate: Reeling Sabres and Canadiens finally meet in Buffalo

With only 25 games remaining on the schedule the Sabres welcome the Montreal Canadiens for their first visit to First Niagara Center, this season.

After a demoralizing 7-2 loss to Philadelphia last night, the Sabres dim hopes at a playoff berth appear dead. They’re now closer to winning the first pick in the 2012 Draft then they are to playing in the post-season for the third year in a row.

The Sabres are currently 27th in the league and would have a legitimate shot at winning the draft lottery. Depending on your opinion on highly drafted Russians will form your opinion on what the Sabres path should be the rest of the season.

If there is one thing to take away from this game, it is the fact that Ryan Miller and Carey Price always manage to provide a great head-to-head matchup. For whatever reason the two netminders usually have a good outing when facing each other. So if there is nothing else for you to enjoy, try to enjoy that.

Montreal comes in with their own skeletons in the closet. Just as the season has spiraled out of control on the Sabres, the same can be said for the Canadiens. Montreal’s $7m albatross finally scored a goal last week, their coach is being chased out of town for not speaking French and the team can’t seem to piece together many wins.

Tonight’s game – and the final two of the season series – will be played for little more than pride between these two teams. It is certainly a tough pill to swallow, but the next few games will be auditions for trades and come with the potential that the roster may be revamped.

Highlighted Matchup

Paul Gaustad, Brad Boyes, Drew Stafford and Derek Roy. Basically rope just about every available forward into the matchup for tonight. The Sabres are edging very close to sell mode and could potentially clean out a major portion of the roster. The four players listed above have had their names mentioned in different rumors through the year. At this point anyone not named Vanek or Pominville are likely on the chopping block.

Projected Goaltenders

BUF: Ryan Miller

MTL: Carey Price

Last Meeting

Sabres 3 – Canadiens 1, Bell Centre, 1/31/2012

*No stats for today’s game*