Double Minors: Offense falls short as playoff hopes dwindle

The Sabres are inching perilously close to entering sell mode as they mustered only one goal for the second-straight game. It was the 34th game the Sabres failed to score three goals, Buffalo has won only six times when scoring fewer than three goals.

Ryan Miller had another fine effort that was squandered by Buffalo’s offensive output. Say what you will about Buffalo’s goaltending this season, but the one constant has been the lack of offense produced by this team. Ryan Miller had a substantial slump this year, but has been dazzling since the All-Star break – and even in a few games prior. Beginning with Buffalo’s 2-1 shootout win against New Jersey immediately prior to the break, Miller has allowed 12 goals in eight games. Buffalo has scored 17 goals over that same span. Keep in mind that number is augmented by the 6-0 win over Boston.

If the dire need for scoring isn’t giving Darcy Regier a perpetual headache, I’d be shocked. The obvious conundrum of trying to swap out current players for new ones capable of changing the Sabres’ offensive output is going to be challenging. But there needs to be something done about the inability to score goals at FNC.

The Sabres had their fair share of struggles tonight. Their penalty box parade handcuffed them and the lopsided penalty numbers (Seven minors to two) were incredibly skewed. Regardless, not capitalizing on chances is a worthy excuse for a few games, but this team has been all Swedish and no Finnish this year.

  • It is convenient the Marty Brodeur brings his A-game against the Sabres every game, even in an off-year. He robbed the Sabres on multiple occasions and has been sterling for the entire season series.
  • Based on the video, the Myers/Sekera pairing had a rough night. Obviously Sekera’s deflection and his gaffe at the blue line are glaring errors. But the pair as a whole struggled. I’d assume you see Myers and Ehrhoff back together once Ehrhoff is healthy.
  • Regardless if Thomas Vanek scored that goal or not, he and Jason Pominville remain the only two viable offensive threats the Sabres have. As I said, something will need to be done soon and I’m hopeful the trade deadline is where the retooling begins.
  • Zack Kassian still has a lot to learn. I’m not quite sure if he can learn it by getting nine minutes a night. He is showing flashes that he has the skill this team is looking for. I maintain that he needs a guiding force that can get him to play that gritty game on a nightly basis.
  • Second thought on Kassian. Is it possible that his recall was motivated by potential trade suitors? There is a chance that he is being showcased or that he will be stepping up to a bigger role if certain players are moved.
  • The penalty situation the Sabres have found them in recently has not been helpful. It seems as if they have been on the wrong side of the coin for each of their last few games. Tonight in particular was tough to swallow. Granted, Buffalo did it to themselves with lazy, offensive zone penalties.
  • I don’t see the Sabres remaining in a position to make a playoff push any longer. The few losses they have to give are evaporating quickly and they don’t appear to have the offense necessary to make a proper push. The deadline is looming, lets see what moves are made.

Game Summary/Event Summary

Double Minors: Yet to reach rock bottom

Look on the bright side, Ryan Miller held the opponent to fewer than three goals. he made 26 saves on 28 shots.

Of course, the Sabres lost. A 2-0 shutout at the hands of the Maple Leafs. It would seem as if the Sabres are still spiraling their way to the bottom. Thomas Vanek left the game early, leaving the Sabres with one capable scoring threat. The Leafs had little trouble snuffing out the Buffalo attack on their way to an easy win.

A slow start equated to a flat effort that came from a team that is slowly drifting into coach-killing mode. As to what may shake the roster from the funk? It will either be a new voice or some new faces. Frankly, having the same players with a new bench boss will only go so far. Eventually these guys will revert to passionless hockey. The real solution would be to pluck a few from “the core”. These players need to know they aren’t safe, a shake-up would prove that.

  • Buffalo’s goal scoring has become flat-out embarrassing. To hear Darcy Regier say no shake-up is imminent goes beyond embarrassment to blatant lunacy. The Sabres are in desperate need of a new identity. Terry Pegula was supposed to bring that when he came on board, he was the first drop in the bucket. Now the Sabres need to identify the issue staring them in the face. It may already be too late.
  • Ryan Miller once again played a strong enough game to get his team the win. Considering the timing of some of the questionable goals he has allowed lately, early ones trump late ones in my opinion. If there was any heart or spark on that bench, the 2-0 deficit would have been easily erased. Hell, it happens enough in the other direction. Miller can’t be blamed tonight. Yet another game no goal scoring failed the team.
  • Hopefully Thomas Vanek truly did have the flu. The Sabres are an obvious train wreck without him in the lineup. He and Jason Pominville may be the only two players keeping this team on the rails. The “slump” being experienced by the Sabres’ depth scorers has far surpassed the typical definition of a slump. These players are flat-out underperforming with the production they have been putting forth.
  • Pat Kaleta’s game is going to drive him out of the league. His penalty today was borderline, but probably the correct call. While he is effective on the penalty kill, there is little else he can add at this point. It will be a tough call to re-sign him in the summer. Particularly considering Corey Tropp is knocking on the door.
  • How awesome is Toronto’s goal song? It is a rip off from a couple other teams, but it is tailor-made for an NHL goal celebration. However, based on Twitter, the atmosphere in ACC was generally awful. Probably because 60% of ticket holders show up in suits and want to discuss profit margins. I wonder how high their hockey IQ is.
  • January will officially determine if the Sabres are buyers or sellers at the deadline. If Regier makes a deal during January he will open the door for his team to turn around. If he waits, the Nail Yakupov sweepstakes will have begun.

Three Stars

1. Jonas Gustavsson

2. Nikolai Kulemin

3. Mikhail Grabovski

NHL Links

Game Summary

Event Summary

Sabres After 41: Looking back

Few expected the Sabres to be in this sort of hole at the halfway point of the 2011-12 season. Perhaps some pessimistic fans expected the team to struggle, but the vast majority of fans expected some sort of improvement over last season’s seventh-place finish.

The injury bug has certainly bitten this team hard. The results of the injury plague that has swept through the roster can’t be ignored. But there are still plenty of other factors at play which are far more telling signs as to why the Sabres currently reside in 11th place in the East.

Poor goaltending, spotty defensive play and barely any goal scoring have truly condemned this team. As the second half of the 2012 season begins, there are plenty of questions surrounding the future of the core, the coach and even the general manager. First, a few reflections: Continue reading

Double Minors sprinkled with stats

Last night’s loss was yet another performance in which Ryan Miller surrendered at least three goals. In fact, Miller has allowed at least three goals in seven of the ten games he has started since returning from injury.

However, last night also marked the ninth game in the last fifteen which the Sabres failed to score more than twice. The Sabres scored only once in six of those nine contests. Only twice in the past 15 games have Buffalo scored at least three goals only to lose a game. Clearly Buffalo’s issues go far beyond the goal crease.

Buffalo managed only a handful of scoring chances last night, most coming with the man advantage. At even strength the Sabres were rather stagnant. Yet again, secondary offense was absent for most of the game. While Thomas Vanek added yet another point to a fantastic year, he received no help from the likes of Brad Boyes, Drew Stafford or anyone else who would be considered outside the top-six.

There is no debating that Ryan Miller is not playing at an all-world level. A basic eye test would show strong efforts on most nights, however his is still allowing three goals and hovering around a .900 save percentage on most nights. Obviously his game needs to be elevated.

What is unfortunate is that the team in front of Miller doesn’t appear to have the ability to provide the scoring support their goaltending needs. It is becoming obvious that Miller (or Jhonas Enroth) will need to steal any win the Sabres get.

It is clear that a shake up is in order. Whether that is in the locker room or on the coaching staff, something needs to change and it needs to change now. This team will have trouble staying between ninth and eleventh in the East, let alone scratching into the playoffs.

  • Vanek and Pominville have truly reacted to their responsibilities as leaders. They have stepped up and become leaders on the ice. The same can’t be said to the other three wearing letters this season (9, 21, 28).
  • Losing Andrej Sekera certainly isn’t a good thing. First, it means that Marc-Andre Gragnani will see a few games. Second, Sekera had been one of the most consistent defenders for the Sabres this season. His play as of late has tailed off, but he was certainly bringing some stability to the blue line.
  • The Sabres won the special teams battle last night, they didn’t win much else. The shots were even, the Sabres only sustained zone time came with the man advantage and Buffalo didn’t create very much offensively.
  • Miller made a few sparkling saves to keep the game respectable last night. You probably want him to stop the first goal, but there wasn’t much he could do on the second or third markers. Still, Miller will need to steal a game or two if the Sabres are hoping to go on a run.
  • Enough is enough regarding Luke Adam. Sure, he has a good bond with Zack Kassian. But the Sabres had the most success with him centering Vanek and Pominville. It is astounding that Lindy Ruff won’t reunite that line.

Sabres Stat Pack: Goal scoring becoming a cause for concern?

More secondary scoring may elevate the Sabres' game

The Sabres are in the midst of a 15-game stretch that sees them play 11 contests at First Niagara Center. It is a stretch of games that some may say could define the season, whether that is true or not remains to be seen.

The run began with a letdown against New Jersey on November 16. There are six games left in the “homestand” – so far the Sabres have only won one home contest. They won’t start winning if they don’t start scoring. Or defending, for that matter.

The Sabres offensive woes have been far more pronounced that the struggles they have had defensively this season. There have certainly been patches in which Buffalo has managed to look like mites in their own zone, but it has been on offense where many issues remain.

Lindy Ruff has shuffled his lines more than a blackjack deck this season and it seems to be catching up to him. Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville have each slowed the torrid pace with which they began the season. Luke Adam has managed to find the net again after a dry spell, but there is little support beyond those three players. Adam, Pominville and Vanek have accounted for 29 of the 66 (43%) of the Sabres’ goals this season. The other 37 have been scored by 17 other players.

Lindy Ruff is wasting Vanek and Pominville with Jochen Hecht. Hecht is a quality center/wing who can contribute offensively while providing the most return in a defensive role. However, Ruff’s apparent love affair with the German has placed Hecht on a scoring line year after year. It is a tired game that jumped the shark along with “putting on a show for the home fans” and expecting Ryan Miller to be Dominik Hasek. Continue reading