The Buffalo Sabres probably wouldn’t have imagined themselves not taking at least one point in their first two games at home but that was just the case after another home loss on Monday night to the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Black Hawks.
The Sabres, who opened their season with a win on Friday night in Ottawa, didn’t look like the same Northeast Division Champions as last season. Saturday night in Buffalo the team got off to a very shaky and sluggish start against the New York Rangers and couldn’t recover. This included being outshot 10-4 in the first period alone. Whether it was the excuse of already playing two games in the first two nights a bad pre-game meal at home, or just not bothering to put in the effort, its safe to say it wasn’t the brand of hockey that Lindy Ruff wanted from his team in front of the home fans for the first time this season. Turnovers in the offensive zone, combined with the Sabres forwards lack of back checking led to a number of odd man rushes and scoring chances that the Rangers used to get a couple of goals by Ryan Miller early. Miller can’t be faulted on any of those goals as much as his forwards and defensemen can be for coughing up the puck and not back checking. Another strategy the Rangers used was the use of the long breakout pass out of their zone, especially on the transition game to further pressure and stretch out the Sabre defense. This seemed to put the defense on the heels for most of the night, and more often that not, the Rangers was always in better position on the breakout than any Sabre was at any point all night. Ruff’s Sabres did try to mount a late surge but it was too little to late, despite outshooting the Rangers 32-17 in the final 40 minutes.
Another negative from Saturday nights game was the play of Sabres highly touted sophomore Tyler Myers. Myers didn’t look comfortable from the get go and you could hear some of the Sabres faithful giving him the gears for it. I know it was only two games in but you gotta give the kid a bit of a break to start off. Myers was by far one of the best d-man for the Sabres last season and that may have led to some major pressure to perform, but some people have to realize he is still only 20 years old and still learning the game. Myers had a bad turnover that led to a Rangers goal and at that point you started to wonder about a potential sophomore slump happening to him. I firmly believe that Myers may tail off a bit this year in his stats but will still continue to be a top defenseman in the NHL for years to come. Sabre fans just need to have patience with him.
A couple of positives from this weekends games. The play of center Derek Roy and of the newly acquired Jordan Leopold. Roy has been the hottest player in the NHL the last week, accounting for 4 goals and 1 assist, including the game winner on Friday night and he will need to keep up that torrid pace to keep the Sabres going up front all year. On the back end, Leopold has shown why the Sabres picked him up in the off season, for his offensive abilities. He had the first two Sabres goals on Saturday night, both bullet shots from the point, including a beauty right off a face off win that seemed to go right through Henrik Lundquivst. Combined with two assits on the weekend and Leopold is right up there with the top scoring defenceman in the league right now with 4 points.
Overall the Sabres probably could have had a better fate on both nights had it not been for some mental mistakes. If they would have played the same way in the first period like they did the last two against the Rangers they had a chance to at least take a point and similarly on Monday night. The Sabres had a 2-0 lead early and watched as the Hawks scored 4 straight goals to take a 4-2 lead and hold on for a 4-3 win. I will not make excuses for teams losing but you can’t fault the Sabres for maybe losing some confidence and momentum on Monday night after watching one of their teammates, Jason Pominville, get taken off the ice in a stretcher. Pominville is very well liked in the room and seeing him go down the way he did may have taken the wind out of the sails for the Sabres. Combine that with not being able to convert on a 5 minute powerplay and that would be a swing of momentum the other way.
The Sabres continue this homestand this week with games against New Jersey on Wednesday and Montreal on Friday night at the HSBC Arena. Both teams play Buffalo well at home so the Sabres may find themselves in tough this week. Buffalo needs to start taking some points at home. A point in October still is the same as a point in March, and with the East being solid from top down one point can be the difference between a playoff spot or an early round of golf.
Jason Pominville was taken off the ice on a stretcher during Monday nights game against Chicago after a hit from behind by Niklas Hjalmarsson. Pominville was diagonosed with a concussion and also took some stitches above his eye. As of right now there was still no date for his return to the lineup but a big positive is that Pominville was moving fine and that there was no other damage done. Jason Pominville had been the Sabres “Ironman” so to speak by playing every game in the last 4 seasons, 336 straight to be exact.
About the Author
Written by George Kouvalis
A huge fan of sports who loves to travel for major events. I've seen my fair share of major games and events including three Olympics, Wimbledon, The Masters etc.... Always up for a road trip or a drink to talk over sports or pro wrestling, in any city I am in or online. Favorite Teams: Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto FC, Toronto Blue Jays, Chicago Bulls, San Francisco 49ers, Toronto Argonauts, Manchester United, and of course the teams I blog for, the Texas Rangers and Buffalo Sabres. Follow me on twitter at the handle georgekouvalis