Butterflies and Empty Wings

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Hmph. That didn’t go very well.

Thursday night in Carolina taught us a few things about the Sabres. First of all, they can totally lose hockey games. I had forgotten they did that quite a bit over the last few years. That’s a bummer.

They also might be bad defensively. They had plenty of offensive chances against the Hurricanes, but playing defense is kind of important in hockey. It’s so important that the idea of them playing it poorly is alarming enough to worry about so early in the season.

I have no specific analysis about the Sabres’ poor play in front of Jhonas Enroth. They just kind of looked like junk. Of course, Enroth has to be better on the second goal. And the third. And the fourth. But you could say that about all five goals he let in because he’s the backup goaltender. Ryan Miller would probably do better against those 37 shots on goal, but he has to rest sometime. This is part of the deal. The Sabres have to win in front of Enroth eventually.

The Sabres top line is still playing well. There is that. Jason Pominville scored twice and Thomas Vanek is still doing that Atlas thing he does sometimes. His backhand pass to Pominville on the captain’s second goal of the night was simply astounding.

That single flick of the wrist will flap its wings and its impact will be felt all around the world, like a mediocre Ashton Kutcher film. Somewhere in Vienna an 8-year-old boy is practicing that dish and will lead Austria to Olympic gold when the Russians host the Winter Olympics on the moon in the not-too distant future.

In Buffalo that back pass will be replicated hundreds of times in pickup games and pond hockey tournaments. Its success rate will be about 5 percent, but the one time it actually works will be worth all that practice.

Vanek and Pominville and Hodgson are still scoring goals. It’s the rest of the team that’s the problem. A quick look at the team stats shows the Sabres’ top line takes up the top three spots in points.

In fourth is Christian Ehrhoff, who plays defense. After that, eight players sit tied for fifth with a single point. Five of those are defenseman who probably got to play with the top line at some point.

And that’s it. Three games in, that’s the scoring tale for the Sabres. It’s great to see a dominant first line causing so much trouble for the opposition, but there isn’t a whole lot going on after their shift is over. That, too, is a problem worth talking about, even after only a handful of games.

The good news is that with this compressed schedule there isn’t much time for pondering the problem of a small sample size. A genuine home-and-home series is afoot, and the Sabres get a crack at Carolina on home ice 24 hours after they screwed it all up in Raleigh.

Hopefully we’re not talking about the same problems after that one’s over.