What is most interesting for me is what will happen to the power play. With Vanek and Gaustad out, both power play units are missing the player that camps out in front. This means different power play lines and perhaps a different philosophy when dealing with the man advantage. The shot selection on the point needs to be better, and there will be less-skilled sticks sitting in front when those shots do get through. Watch what the Sabres do very closely on Wednesday, as the power play only becomes more important with Vanek out.
This is Thomas Vanek, and he is clearly missed by the Buffalo Sabres.
Twelve power play opportunities, and just one goal. For the first power play of the night, Buffalo sent out Hecht/MacArthur/Kotalik. Yes, it was that bad. Stafford didn’t look comfortable in front at all, and only Connolly was willing to let shots go from the point. We will not discuss the six minute power play that was wasted.
Aside from Ales’ lone shot from the point, the rest of the power plays were a mix of bad passing and poor decision making. Down two goals the Sabres were making extra passes to players already engaged by a defender. I’m sorry, but guys like Derek Roy and Jason Pominville need to take a shot when they are within ten feet of the goalie. They made Brian Elliot look great for the second game in a row, and that’s embarrassing. This is not the Ottawa of old, this is a broken, one dimensional hockey team that has taken it to a superior team missing a few key guys. Twice.
Tonight the Buffalo Sabres just looked like a bunch of guys playing mediocre hockey. No one stood out, no one stepped up, and that’s why they lost. Hecht was invisible again, and you have to wonder how bad Paille has been if he couldn’t crack that roster. Who knows how long he sits after a game like this, but his replacement in the lineup didn’t do too bad all things considered.
Gerbe was probably one of the better Sabres out there, and he got plenty of time on the power play. Last night he said he is “cursed” when it comes to scoring goals in Buffalo, and after that breakaway I’m starting to believe him. He did his job and even did some hitting, but he was brought up to score goals and still hasn’t done that.
You don’t want to base too much off of just one game, but this is a pretty auspicious start for a hockey team determined to show they are more than just Thomas Vanek’s teammates. For a large part of the season this team relied on Vanek to give them a spark, but when Atlas went down the hope was that they could carry on at the same pace. The comeback in the third period gave some cause to that belief, but what we saw tonight makes me worry.
If you’re an optimist you say that the Sabres have taken points in six of ten and were caught still in a bit of shock over the loss of Vanek. However, if you’re a Sabres fan you know Pominville hasn’t scored in 17 games, Roy is getting up there, and the Sabres just got out hustled by Ottawa’s checking line for the winning goal. That’s not good, and we haven’t even talked about Miller’s softie to put it away.
With San Jose in town on Friday, it’s not hard to imagine a pointless week for Buffalo at the worst possible time. The Sabres have finally gotten within striking distance of the teams ahead of them, and they can’t afford to let points slip away against weak teams. Montreal may lose tonight, but the Rangers picked up two points, and Philadelphia picked up another game on Buffalo.
It’s nothing to panic over just yet, but it’s certainly not helping the morale around these parts.