(WECK 1230) To paraphrase J. Walter Weatherman, “That’s why you don’t make elaborate plans on how to celebrate goals.”
Before last night’s game, there was a lot of buzz surrounding the Sabres’ potential new goal song. However, no one in HSBC Arena got to hear it because Cam Ward stopped all 40 of Buffalo’s shots to give the Carolina Hurricanes a 1-0 victory.
The Sabres had a chance to put serious distance between themselves and the ‘Canes in one of those hyped “four-point games,” but for the third time in six games, the Sabres left the ice without a point.
It wasn’t due to a lack of effort. They skated hard. They had, in the words of coach Lindy Ruff “plenty of Grade-A opportunities,” especially early on with 22 shots in the first period. And they did a good job defensively. They just couldn’t find the back of the net.
“It’s unfortunate because I think when you give up one, you should be able to win a game,” said winger Jason Pominville. “We weren’t able to tonight.”
Coming off a game where the Sabres scored six against lowly Ottawa, getting shutout at home raises a bit of a red flag. Carolina continues to breathe down Buffalo’s neck and two points would have put the Sabres in a very favorable position in terms of making the playoffs. Buffalo could have really made a statement and instead ended up making as little noise as the goal horn.
“I said this was going to be the toughest game. I thought we had some guys that skated well. I thought we had others that didn’t have much. That made it tough,” said head coach Lindy Ruff. “We came out and gave it everything we had in the first and from that point on it was a pretty even match.”
In the big picture, the Sabres are still in the playoffs. They now sit in eighth place, two behind the Rangers and two ahead of Carolina. They still play both teams one more time each this season and they still hold a game in hand over New York. The Sabres know that and aren’t panicking.
“We’re all disappointed but it’s no time to have your spirit broken by a game,” said Ryan Miller, who made 32 saves in the losing effort.
What’s a little troubling is that in the last week, they’ve lost games in regulation to teams (Toronto and Carolina) supposedly as hungry as they are. Yes, they’re due to lose a few after the great stretch they’ve been on. However, the Sabres had the chance to essentially keep two teams in their rear-view mirror and came up short on both occasions.
In both of those cases too, they ran up against good goaltending. Ward didn’t have to deal with a lot of traffic in front of the net and that very much contributed to his success. Most of the saves Ward made were on shots taken either from the blueline or from up close in the paint.
How Buffalo changes their attack against Atlanta on Saturday in light of last night’s game will be something to watch out for.
The Sabres know they’ll have to continue competing at a playoff-like level until the end of the season. While seven of their final 12 games are against teams not currently in the playoffs, there are no guarantees.
“We’ve got to play a best of 12. [We’ve] got to go 7-5 to win the series,” Ruff said. “…You’ve to at least go that.”
It’s most likely going to come down to the season’s final weekend to find out if they can, indeed, get over the hill. Hoorah, Hoorah, Hoorah, Yay.