Going into the Florida portion of the road trip, it was the Panthers game everyone was worried about. The Panthers are a much better team than Tampa Bay, and recently they have had Buffalo’s number. Monday’s game was important, that’s what you kept hearing, and with the teams so close in the standings Buffalo needed a win to get some breathing room.
So after that happened, everything seemed a like it was going well. A split was already assured, and Tampa should be an easy game anyway. They are a bad team, and Buffalo has a lot of success in Tampa recently. If the Sabres can overcome a lot of travel, injuries, and little rest to play a good 60 minutes, they could take a pretty impressive road trip into the All Star Break.
Yeah… about that.
The fact of the matter is that tonight the Sabres played bad hockey. They made too many mistakes, took too many penalties, and were a bit unlucky. Five minutes into the game they trailed 2-0 on two point shots, and it was over before it started. They played like they could get right back into it, but it would prove to be 55 minutes of futile toiling. A bad pinch, a bad save, or a bad penalty pushed a one goal deficit to two, and took away a great chance to climb the standings a bit more before the break.
I’d love to say that Tampa Bay used their big weapons to beat the Sabres, but that would be pretty ridiculous. Take a look at the box score and check the Tampa goals:
Tampa Bay 4:45, Steve Eminger 4 (power play) (Jeff Halpern)
Tampa Bay 5:19, Steve Downie 2 (Cory Murphy, Matt Pettinger)
Tampa Bay 1:23, Lukas Krajicek 1 (Andrej Meszaros, Vaclav Prospal)
Tampa Bay 13:52, Jeff Halpern 3 (Mark Recchi, Ty Wishart)
Tampa Bay 19:54, Cory Murphy 1 (power play) (Mark Recchi)
No one on that list has more than five goals this season, and in case your were wondering, Cory Murphy isn’t some girl from The Real World. He’s been on the roster for two days. Those are the players that beat Buffalo tonight, and when you lose a game in which St. Louis and Lecavalier go pointless you did a few things right and a whole mess of things wrong.
It really is strange, because even down two goals the majority of the game I wasn’t doubting that the Sabres could win. They played very well at times, with 20 shots taken in the second, but the other two periods just weren’t good enough. Bad penalties killed any momentum they had, especially after Toni Lydman went out and made things happen to start the second. When Roy puts in that rebound that should be the start of something big, but just a minute later Lukas Krajicek scores on a play that can only be described as a clusterf*ck.
When you look back on it there was a lot wasted tonight. I mean, Derek Roy was crashing the net and everything! We don’t get many games like that, and we give this one away? Vanek has zero shots on goal and we let Mark Recchi have a two point night? That’s a disaster if you ask me. If the Sabres did a good job containing their big two, they forgot about the other three lines full of pieces parts. When two players get their first goals of the year and Steve freaking Downie puts one it, you know you just lost a hell of a game.
The worst part about this game is that it will have to linger for six days until we see Buffalo take the ice again. The thought of those point shots going in will be fresh, and when you watch the All Star Game I’m sure you’ll get a flash of this:
I guess it’s something we’ll just have to get past. I’d hate to say this is a game we all just need to forget, but that’s kind of how I feel. With Hank’s injury, what becomes much more important is how our defenseman heal over the break, and if they can carry some of that other momentum out to the west coast and win some road games. It wasn’t the way we thought they would, but the Sabres did get that split on the first half, right?
God, it’s going to be a long break.