A View from the Roost: The Start of Nothing

by Ryan

I don’t exactly believe in the “you should always beat tired teams” philosophy, nor do I believe in the “play a different style at home” philosophy either. I think both ideas are far too simple; there are always other factors in how you play, and a “game” isn’t something you put on like an outfit. What I do believe in is that if your “game” consists of stupid, defensively inept hockey you will lose.

Regardless of anything else, that last statement rang true tonight. The Sabres made stupid mistakes early to get themselves in a hole, and absolutely soul crushing mistakes to put the game away late. Bad penalties, awful turnovers, and missed opportunities took away another very winable home game.

The biggest problem with this team is that no one seems to give a damn on the defensive end. Three goals were scored on the rebound in front of Miller tonight, and no one seemed to be in any particular hurry to put a body on a guy. Other than the Salvador tip and the Clarkson disaster the rest of the Devils goals could have been avoided by clearing the front or, better yet, clearing the side of the net.

The Sabres have had defensive issues for the past two seasons, but we may be reaching the boiling point here. Lydman continues to be the bright spot on a group of guys that has become an odd mix of elderly, inept, and youthfully incompetent. Not a good showing from seven guys who were supposed to come together and show signs of improvement.

You have to give the Devils credit for how they’ve been playing lately, but I think a lot of what happened tonight was a direct result of individuals playing stupid hockey. Clarke MacArthur is a great example of this. He takes a stupid, retaliatory cross checking penalty about ten minutes in that led directly to an early deficit.

His issue started on a faceoff at the beginning of his shift, and he spent the remainder of his time on ice looking for payback. He came away empty handed, and as the play moved into the Sabres end he went off for a change, but not before going out of his way to cross check a random Devil, right in front of an official. It’s a futile attempt at personal retribution that will only cost your team, and it did. He goes to the box, Hank gets called on a hook 50 seconds later, and before Clarke can hit the ice again it’s in the net.

I don’t care if Tallinder shouldn’t have been called for that penalty, and I don’t care how weak the cross check was. Clarke MacArthur took himself out of the game to satisfy a personal aim last night, and it directly correlated with his team losing. It was a stupid, selfish, immature play that you just can’t have in a game like this. The Sabres came back after an early goal and Clarke throws all that away because someone gave him a rough ride for a shift? If that’s how he needs to play hockey I don’t want him on my team.

I’m also willing to part with Nathan Paetsch, who had a putrid game. He and Teppo make me die a little on the inside with each shift, and I think it’s time for another round of the Mike Weber Experience if Rivet is going to be out for an extended period. Nathan and Clarke combined to give David Clarkson the game of his life, with MacArthur getting blown up along the boards and Paetsch forgetting that the other team is allowed to handle the puck. That giveaway was disgusting, plain and simple.

Perhaps Miller should have had that save, but perhaps those two also shouldn’t be lying on the ice with two Devils alone in front. Ryan didn’t exactly have a stellar game, but I’m not pinning the loss on him when I saw what was playing in front of him. There were too many guys trying to do too much and ending up doing nothing at all. Sekera trying to stickhandle through a phone booth instead of making a good pass. Max making one good move and then two bad ones. There were too many guys standing around instead of playing good, solid hockey and it makes the entire team look bad as result, goaltender included.

Saturday night and the Sabres’ recent play made it look like things were starting to turn around, but the more we see the more it looks like the start of nothing in particular. Sloppy play at home equals zero playoff games, and what we saw tonight was the same group of guys play “meh” hockey once again. The more games I see like this the more I think this team needs to be shaken up; but the more I get to know about this team makes me think that absolutely nothing will be done.

A few other things while Paetsch gives away all your Christmas presents:

– I have no idea what was going on with the lines last night. Why Goose was out there late with Pominville and Hecht is a mystery to me, as is putting Vanek on with Mair and Kotalik. Was he being punished or something? Why put two centers on the same line and demote your best player? I mean it kind of worked for the Gaustad goal, but I’m pretty sure Vanek can put in a layup like that, too. Strange.

– Things started really well with the Sabres first power play, but that was mostly because the Devils just refused to skate. No idea if it was “tired legs” or what, but they had absolutely no blue line pressure on that first penalty kill, and the Sabres worked the puck around with ease. However, it was the only real chance with the man advantage because for the rest of the night they pressured hard and did a great job forcing passes from the point. To be honest that’s exactly what I expected, but I was surprised to see them so lax that first time out.

– The PA announcer was freaking terrible. He announced the Sabres second and third goals before announcing the two prior Devils goals. How does that even happen? I know they happened relatively close to one another, but did you forget or something? Did you think we would forget? Come back, other guy with better voice inflection.

– I went to the game with a friend I’d never watched hockey with. This seems obvious, but it was sort of strange because everything was so different. We left at a different time, parked in a different spot, and sat in a completely different place. It was sort of like having a dream that was based on your real life. Things were relatively normal but you knew something was… off. You know your refrigerator shouldn’t be on the ceiling but it seems okay within the context of the situation.

– Max made the best defensive play of his career tonight, and if he would have scored on the resulting rush it would have been the best shift of his life. I know that’s not really saying much, but maybe Darcy should hit the phones now. This may be the best show we get out of him.

– Kaltea reminded all of us that he does have some offensive talent when he chooses to use it. I think that’s good to know.

7 Comments

  1. Zach

    I think the reason for the delayed call on the goals was because the actual goal scorer was not determined until well after. I think thats the reason for the delay. Not sure though.

  2. Steve

    Ugh, MacArthur was terrible. Twice I saw him get hit, fall down, and just decide that was enough and skate to the bench while the Devils took the puck into our zone (the second time being that Clarkson goal). Yet he’s played 30 games this year! What’s it going to take for Lindy to sit him out?

    I really don’t like Roy on the powerplay, he does the same thing every time. Stand there on the side boards, hold the puck forever, and then force a pass across ice that more often than not doesn’t get there. And if I know he’s going to do it, the other team must know he’s going to do it. Is that really the only play he can think of?

  3. buffalosportsfan

    I was confused about the whole Vanek situation. I mean he had a quiet game, but when does the guy get a break.

    I agree about Paetsch being completely dispensable. I think in order for the Sabres to dump Max it’s going to have to be a Max and younger player type deal with Clarke, Paille or someone where they can get Max for this year and then one of the others for future building. But Paetsch is terrible and I would like to see more of Weber along with other Portland blue liners seeing as how ours don’t give a damn.

  4. twoeightnine

    His name is now Fucking Pae. He’s worthless as is Clarke. And Max is still Max, put him on waivers. If we lose him we lose him. If not maybe he can dance in Portland.

    Stafford has really started to turn it around. He just needs someone to stand between him and the goal. No more wide open nets. Nice to see Kaleta back out there playing balls to the wall as usual.

  5. dave in Rocha

    Ryan, your mood swings are rivaling those of a pregnant women. Yeah, last night’s game was shitty, but you seem to have let it get you right back into the “this team is going nowhere” mindset, whereas one game ago you were talking about how they’re heating up. I’m not saying that you should look at last night in a vacuum and say it’s the only poor performance of the year, but when they’ve been trending up a bit lately (save for the 3rd period against the Leafs), this one game shouldn’t be viewed as a regression to the mean.

    Couple quotes from the post:
    – “The biggest problem with this team is that no one seems to give a damn on the defensive end.”

    You write this seven days after writing “…(Vanek) backchecks like the opposition kidnapped his only child”. So in the span of two games, he no longer gives a damn?

    – “…the rest of the Devils goals could have been avoided by clearing the front or, better yet, clearing the side of the net.”

    I agree, except for the 5 on 3 goal. When you’re down two, there’s no way Toni is getting to that guy before he gets a second crack at that rebound. Defending a 5 on 3 is all about positioning, and you don’t position yourself off the side of your own goal just to cover a guy who may end up getting lucky with a rebound. Toni played his angles, and a bad bounce meant the puck went right to the open man. Shit happens.

    All that said, I still stand by my belief that there a couple too many forwards who are too similar, and they could be used to bring a different dimension to the team (*cough* playmaking centre! *cough). If Gris is on that list, I’m fine with it.

  6. Ryan

    Dave,

    For the record I said it “could” be the start of something. I honestly haven’t been that optimistic about the team in general because I continue to see the same mistakes from the group overall. There are games when certain players stand out (Vanek, mostly), but most often the overall play has been the same set of mistakes determining a similar outcome. I wouldn’t say the Leafs game was a good performance because it was another winnable game that slipped away. This team always seems to be in a position to get two points if they win the third period, and they’ve rarely won that period when it matters. Last night was an example, Friday was another. I think the reason I’ve been so up and down is that I’m honestly surprised when they can pull out a close game like we saw against Pittsburgh or Jersey.

    The first quote… Again, there are a few guys who have showed up on both ends, but for the most part the defensive indifference on this team is laughable. I dislike putting all the blame on the back end with bad zone play, but that may be the case more than I’d like to admit. Vanek has played well on both ends, and maybe Gaustad or a few others. The rest have been forgettable. +/- isn’t a great metric for tracking this, but Paille and Hecht have been terrible in that regard and their other numbers (BTN Rating, CORSI) correlate pretty nicely as well. Again, it’s tough to go case by case and pick guys that have done well on the defensive end, but I probably should have mentioned a few guys who have.

    You’re right about the 5-3 goal, I was being hyper-critical there I suppose. They clearly had problems clearing the net last night, and the combination of that and Miller giving up massive rebounds on relatively easy shots did not mix well. However, the 5-3 goal was scored on Parise’s second shot from the side. Sekera was the guy in front and had trouble getting over because of another Devil, and Lydman was out playing the inverted triangle. Splitting hairs, I know, but it was a breakdown all around. If anyone should have got there it should have been Andrej, but it was a pretty excellent pass. Tough to defend, you’re right.

    Oh, and YOU NEVER APPRECIATE ME GET ME SOME CHICKEN FINGERS!

  7. Ogre39666

    I almost wish the team would tank just so they could have a chance to get Victor Hedman (the 6-6, 220 pound Swedish d-man) in the draft.