The Sabres lost another game on Tuesday night in an as expected somewhat boring game. Before you correct me, yes I know the final score was 4-1 but all five goals scored went off of sticks of Devils players so I’ll say they scored all five. The lone Sabres goal went off of Dainius Zubrus in front of the Devils net.
It’s pretty obvious at this point the Sabres season is done and it’s time to look towards next season. Are they buyers to improve the team or sellers to start over again? That’s a debate everyone will have until February 27th. As someone who covers the Rochester Americans I hope that whatever they do does not rip away at what little there is of the Amerks roster but instead finds a way to improve that for their playoff push. The Amerks still have a chance.
The first period started out slow which is to be expected when you’re playing against the New Jersey Devils, the one team where everyone expects to see a boring game. The pace started to pickup as the period went on but penalties by Regehr at the start of the game and Vanek at the end did little to help the Sabres.
The Devils scored first with only 34 seconds left in the first period with some great passing on the Vanek penalty. Patrik Elias sent a great cross ice pass to Ilya Kovalchuk who had no problems burying the puck into an open net.
Into the second period the Sabres had a few great chances early in the first three minutes but tried to be too fancy instead of quickly shooting it. That’s the only way you’re going to get a puck past Martin Brodeur, quick puck movement where he can’t be in position.
Zack Kassian was again in front of the net when Bryce Salvador shot the puck over the glass and was called for a delay of game penalty. The two players were trying to battle for the puck and Salvador overreacted when he finally won the battle and got his stick on the puck. Unfortunately the Sabres power play unit couldn’t take advantage of it.
Thomas Vanek was originally credited with tying the game at one with a goal that looked sloppy at the time and later in the game it was credited to Pominville unassisted. Ehroff had passed the puck down the boards to Pominville who back handed it towards Vanek who was battling for position in front of the net and it went off a Devils player and past Brodeur. No surprise that the only goal scored didn’t even go off of a Sabres stick. Vanek is working towards goal number 225 which will move him past Miro Satan for the 7th spot on the all-time franchise list.
It is a surprise though that the second period didn’t end with a higher score due to all of the Sabres penalties. All of the penalties were sloppy and should’ve been avoided. Derek Roy tripped a Devils player going across the blue line instead of playing the body. Jordan Leopold did a superb job stopping a two on one Devils break but was called for hooking behind the net immediately after. Christian Ehrohoff with a sloppy tripping penalty as well followed by Mike Weber cross checking Zach Parise head first into the back of the Sabres net as the second period ended.
Lindy Ruff hinted in the post game press conference that the penalties were suspect but also bad. In a loss like this why even toss in an excuse? A bad penalty is a bad penalty. The ref’s may have been delayed at times calling them but they were still penalties. Especially Mike Weber forcing Parise into the back of the net. This game was similar to the Amerks vs Marlies game recently. The Amerks could’ve had a chance but seven penalties forced the team to play short handed for too much of the game.
The Devils started the third period with a five on three advantage for the first 43 seconds and were able to kill that off but the Devils scored on the ensuing five on four thanks to a tip by Andrej Sekera. Petr Sykora took a shot from a bad angle and Sekera had his stick down to block it but did the opposite, deflected it. That’s something I would’ve expected from him in Rochester during the 06/07 season, not the Sabres 11/12 season. Let the shot get through to Miller who’ll make the save.
That was the game right there. The Devils just outworked the Sabres at everything. Passing. Shooting. Defense.
Kovalchuk continued to lay it on the Sabres though scoring two more goals for the hat trick. In the last minute of the third period with Ryan Miller on the bench it was almost as if Kovalchuk was toying with them waiting to score his third of the game just standing around with the puck. He finally put it in the net with nine seconds left.
A couple of other things..
* Patrick Kaleta is a standout on the penalty kill which I guess is where he plays often. I don’t watch every Sabres game like I do Amerks games so it was interesting to see. It’s great to see a player evolving his game to make himself relevant. I’ve been critical of Kaleta since his Rochester days but it’s appearing as if he’s turned a corner. That’s good for him considering he’ll be a restricted free agent at the end of the season, a good reason to try and earn a contract.
* Zack Kassian does a great job getting himself to the front of the net when he can and holding his position, something he’ll keep getting better at and will likely keep him in professional hockey for a long time. There was one play he took the puck down the ice trying to beat two Devils players but he was quickly left alone in the corner and lost the puck. That same play in the AHL would’ve generated a shot and depending on the opponent a possible goal. Kassian only played a minute and 43 seconds in the third period for a total of seven minutes and 32 seconds the whole game. What’s the point of having him here if that’s all he’s going to play? Besides that one play taking the puck down the ice he wasn’t bad. He didn’t make mistakes. That’s one part of Lindy Ruff’s game I’ll never understand, the lack of ice time. If no one else is doing anything give someone else a tap and tell them to create something.
* Gragnani was the only player with less time at five minutes and 12 seconds but that’s to be expected.
It was amusing that “Shattered Dreams” was playing over the PA system as everyone was exiting the arena. Another season of shattered dreams for Buffalo sports fans.
Thanks for reading a rare Sabres recap!