Are You Not Entertained?

by Ryan

are you not entertainedvanek

Actually no, I’m not.

Call it what you like, but I wasn’t very impressed by Saturday night’s come from behind victory against the Hurricanes. To me it seemed more like Carolina imploding than the Sabres surging back, but perhaps the ‘Canes history of third period disasters is to blame for that. Still, the first two periods on Saturday were yet another reminder that the “Bizarro Sabres” are the ones that play good hockey.

For all the preachings of change and maturity we’ve heard over the summer, the last few weeks have been filled with long stretches of bad hockey and spurts of strong play. It’s hard to differentiate the last few years of Sabres hockey from the last few weeks, save for an appearance by Mike Grier here and there. It’s a two horse team, with Miller and Vanek leading the way while the rest of the team struggles to get things together.

In fact, the only real difference between this season and the two seasons prior is that Vanek has had longer bad stretches than we’re used to. He’s been a non-factor in a number of games this year, and that’s an alarming trend on a team that relies so heavily on him to be a consistent 40-goal scorer. No one else is standing up and putting the puck in the net, and that’s been the main problem for this team over the last few weeks.

The only constant source of support is Ryan Miller, who very well might be playing the best hockey of his career. Time and time again the Sabres have relied on Ryan Miller too much, played him in too many games; and the result is a worn down, out of gas goaltender during the playoff push.

One of the theories being tossed around by fans right now is simple: ride Miller early and stack up a ton of points, then coast a bit following the Olympics and let your franchise goaltender rest up for the playoffs. That’s all well and good, but we’ve already seen the Sabres lose games they should not lose with Miller starting. Games against Florida, the Islanders, Atlanta, and almost on Saturday against the Hurricanes, all were games against bad teams where the effort in front of Miller wasn’t good enough.

So no, tossing in five against a shaky team at home after a lousy two periods isn’t good enough. And getting pushed around by Toronto for a few periods and then breaking through won’t be enough tonight, either. If this team is more than just a franchise goaltender, if this “core” is worth much of anything, then they need to win games on their own. It shouldn’t take a huge save with a few minutes left in the second to “spark” a comeback in the third.

Say what you will about “good teams finding a way” to win, but good teams don’t get outplayed by terrible teams who are winless on the road and without their franchise goaltender. Good teams never give those teams a chance.

October gave us some hope that this Sabres team might be different this year, but on the last day of the month I can’t say that November helped their case very much. After a patented Buffalo Sabres strong start, November has given us a lot of signs that this team might just be more of the same.

7 Comments

  1. Steve

    Wow, seriously? The Sabres won back-to-back games. Guess how many times that happened last year? Once, in April. Yes we played 2 bad periods against the worst team in the NHL. You think the Hurricanes weren’t desperate for that win? There are no easy wins in the salary-cap NHL. Washington lost to Toronto recently. Pittsburgh lost to the Islanders. Detroit is losing to everyone.

    Ryan Miller is the 4th-highest paid goalie in the league, and he’s outplaying the three guys ahead of him. Why shouldn’t we rely heavily on him? Yes, we had a 4 game losing streak. We’re still 1 point out of the division lead, with 3 games in hand on Boston. These are not last year’s Sabres. I don’t understand the negativity.

  2. The Rick

    Ryan I totally agree with you. Where I thought Friday’s game was well played. I was very frustrated on Saturday. 2 point is great anytime you get it, but against better opponents 60 mins are definately needed. Most teams you cannot show up for 20 mins and win. With the exception of Goose, Miller and Grier I see very little effort or heart being put forth on a regular basis. With Goose out, someone is going to need to step up

  3. Mark B

    This team definitely has issues, and it’s firmly focused on our questionable top six. And even with the added leadership of Grier, they still play down to their opponents and have trouble playing hard for 60 minutes. Hope this changes.

  4. Mike

    I think you’re being a little harsh on the Sabres. I think they’re better than last year, but teams don’t change overnight, and you’re right in that there have been more than a few games this year that have been shades of the past two years. Leadership is slowly starting to coalesce on this team in a way that wasn’t always present before. I think the encouraging thing to take away from Carolina is that Rivet, Gaustad and Kaleta were out. That’s a lot of the soul of this team, and they still found a way to win. Yes Carolina is bad, but the Sabres didn’t win in a shootout or 2-1. They put them away with authority, and that’s not something we saw last year.

  5. You know, I’m fine with this “stop and start” approach to learning how to a good hockey team. I think I’d be suspicious if they were suddenly “all good, all the time”. Why on earth would they suddenly shed everything we’ve come to recognize as “them” this season? The fact that they’ve been able to recover from their dips into suckitude has been heartening and an indication that maybe, MAYBE, they’re finally learning something (maybe).

    Also, in ’06 we saw a team come barreling out of that gate, start to fold late in the season and then ultimately play without passion in the playoffs. I’d rather the pacing of the season go the other way around.

    A little adversity now might serve them well in the spring.

  6. With the Olympics and compressed season we need to get the points against the teams we should be beating or else we won’t even make the playoffs. It’s easy to get excited with this team, last year it was the same story. We need consistancy and 60 minute efforts. TML game was a vast improvement from Sat.