Despite the picture the standings paint, the outlook is far more discouraging. And if you're looking for reassurance, stop here!
There's just no other way to describe it. For me, the only rational way one can explain the sudden collapse of the Buffalo Sabres, is to surmise that they clearly possess a high propensity for apathy.
We can talk about the lack of leadership, which I think is a legitimate argument, we could chat about the unwillingness of our players to go into the danger areas of the ice, we could discuss the myriad of players looking hopelessly for that one person to carry them through the storm, and we could even bring up the recent discussions of whether or not Lindy Ruff, fairly or unfairly, may be on the hot seat. However, from where I sit, I don't feel that any of these debates would yield the simple answer that I have for this team's underachievement. They just don't give a damn!
There, I've said it. I hate to be this guy, and I almost always try to fight for the players that I so enjoy watching on a day-to-day basis. However, my enjoyment has dwindled, and as my frustration level begins to rise I can only seek logical conclusions. For all of the aforementioned options that would assuredly spark a heated debate, and quite frankly, they're all applicable, can you explain away the following facts/observations with any of them?
Over the last 2-games, both against teams playing for nothing more than pride, the Sabres have had 30 of their shots blocked. How many shots have they blocked? Nineteen!Last night, with their playoff lives hanging in the balance (again), the Buffalo Sabres managed to get only 13-shots through to Brian Elliott. Thirteen!In their last 2-contests, the Sabres have taken 15 penalties resulting in a power play opportunity for their opponent. They've had only 7 power plays. And before you start whining about the officiating, take a close look at all of the calls against them. Many are the result of mental errors, or laziness. Moreover, when you're only getting an average of 3.5 man advantages per game, you simply aren't skating hard enough.Finally, and most fundamentally, the Sabres have lost 3 of 4 points to 2 of the Eastern Conference's bottom 5-teams. I don't think it gets much clearer than that.
Unless you don't care, there's no way your opponents, both of which again have nothing to play for, can have more than a double digit lead in blocked shots. Moreover, there's no way any team I know that cares, goes into a must win situation and plays the way they did against Ottawa last night. Again, 13-shots! Nine penalties and an uninspired effort cap off the loss. Could Buffalo have been any more out of sync? Their passes were off, their skates appeared to have cement in them, and once again their emotion was null and void.
Rest assured that changes need to be made for this to get any better moving into next season. Sadly though, rest assured that few, if any, are coming.
In the meantime, as I said after the loss to Atlanta, I'd like to see Matt Ellis and Nathan Paetsch back in the line-up, and I'm opposed to Peters coming back out. A message needs to be sent, and taking into consideration my point about the unlikelihood of any changes this off-season, the message can be made for next year as much as it can for the remainder of this one.
Then again, it's like the proverbial tree falling in the woods. If a message is sent and no one chooses to hear it, was it ever sent at all?
Only time will tell…
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Written by Tim Anderson