The Fiery Descent Back to Earth

by Ryan

It seems Miller and Cammalleri have some history, so look for that to get beaten to death tonight.

In that case, consider the Sabres “history”.

It’s hard to figure out what we saw tonight. Was it a defense showing signs of weakness? Was it a tired goaltender having an off night? A missed chance to steal points on the road? Or was it just a team coming back down to earth with a bit of bad luck? Well… can it be all of the above?

From the start of tonight’s game it was clear things wouldn’t be so easy this time around. Calgary wasn’t rusty, and the Sabres were a bit flat after the short rest. Four minutes in Cammalleri revisits Miller with a power play goal, and the Sabres play from behind the rest of the night.

The Sabres didn’t look terrible, but the defense was noticeably struggling. Chris Butler was a mess all night, the atmosphere and work load clearly getting to him. He was directly responsible for the first goal, and he looked nervous all night. It’s pretty obvious that when Chris Butler gets 20 minutes a night your defense is in trouble.

Let’s face it, rookies will struggle on the blue line for Buffalo. Nathan Paetsch won’t be scoring nightly, and Lydman and Rivet can’t can’t do it all. Neither are made for a half hour of ice time, so they aren’t going to be pushed that hard. That means significant time for Gragnani, Paetsch, and Butler; and mistakes will be made. If players don’t get healthy soon, the play in Edmonton will be the exception while Calgary will be the rule.

So when Phanuef made it 2-0 on a soft goal, things looked pretty much over. You can’t win them all on the road, and after such a big game maybe this team just didn’t have it tonight. But right after they went down two the Sabres continued to do some of the things we saw in Edmonton. They weren’t going to score many goals with fancy passing, but they worked the boards and started getting pressure by using their speed.

All of a sudden Drew Stafford gets the puck in the corner, walks out in front and puts it in on the second effort. Suddenly the Sabres are back in it, and Drew Stafford continues to be hot. It’s the kind of play we’ve seen from him so many times, and his ability to outwork everyone kept the Sabres alive in the second. They kept skating and drew a few penalties, and with a power play to end the second period Tim Connolly rips it home from the faceoff dot.

End of two, tied at two. One period to get two points. After all the mistakes and a soft goal, the Sabres need twenty minutes to get another ppair on the road. After the start we see that would be huge for this team to overcome all that. Going into the third the Sabres carried the momentum and were skating hard. It was only a matter of time before they got the go-ahead goal, and it would be up to Miller to keep this game in Buffalo’s favor.

But that goal never came. A few posts, a few missed penalties, but no dice. It was only a matter of time before the push faded away, and a makeup call or two was inevitable. All of a sudden Jaro gets caught on a pinch, Lydman gets beat clean by Bertuzzi, and it’s in. The clock said the Sabres had almost 13 minutes to catch up, but it already felt like time was running out. The chance had passed, and by the time Cammalleri’s second goal trickles in things were already set in stone. Cammalleri gets the hat trick less than two minutes later on a rebound, and the last seven minutes or so are just a formality.

Miller was clearly upset with himself and said so afterwards, but it wasn’t just Ryan who lost it tonight. The Sabres collectively had a chance to steal this game and make another big statement against the West. Destroying a flat-footed team is one thing, but a comeback in a competitive game against the division-leading Flames would be another indication that Buffalo is ready to make some noise.

Tonight it didn’t happen, and you can blame whatever you like for it. Miller let in a few, but after 38 shots and on short rest there’s not much you can do about that. The defense was bad, chances were missed on offense, and Kiprusoff made some big saves. Call it luck, call it mistakes, or call it the better team pulling away. Either way it’s another two points lost when it’s starting to matter more and more.

You don’t hate the effort, but you sure hate the result, don’t you?