I’ve been slacking on here lately, especially when it comes to the Bills. The plan was to get a post up before the game today but now, a couple of hours after the game, I’m sorta glad that didn’t work out.
Immediately after the game this post would have been rather different from a pre-game interpretation of the team. However, after calming down a bit I realized that nothing has really changed. This team isn’t good but they’re not horrible either. Their defense could be comparable to a high school team at times however most of the time the offense can make up for it. That’s no different after today’s loss.
The Bills have played some good teams this year and kept it close, that’s exactly what they did this afternoon. No one expected the Bills to pull off a win today. Pittsburgh is a good team and home field advantage was essentially be canceled out from a fan standpoint. They were supposed to lose this game, badly. However, like so many times this year, they kept it close and took it to overtime…almost winning if it wasn’t for what seemed like a routine catch slipping away.
Look at it this way. If you spotted the Bills 7 points a game their record wouldn’t be 2-9, it’d be 7-4. They’d be tied for 10th in the league instead of their current standing of 29th. They’d be a decent team, and there would be playoff talk. Spotting 7 points obviously isn’t possible but how many times did a touch down slip through their fingers? How many close calls would have turned games around and gave them those 7 points?
Now, lets talk about today’s game. It’s probably the most excited I’ve been watching a Bills game in years. That says something. Making football exciting again is good for Buffalo, the team and the city. Even though the loss today might have knocked the wind out of us, at the same time, it brought us closer to this team. As bad as it felt, deep down there was a feeling of pride by coming so close to sending the terrible towels home soaked with tears.
With that said….this game should have been won. For the 3 seconds that the ball was in the air to Johnson during that OT drive every Bills fan thought we did it, we beat a much better team. A quick punch to the gut and that was over. That typical deflated feeling was back.
I still think he’s going to catch it when I watch that, it’s so simple, receivers make that catch in their sleep. Not today though, and not Stevie Johnson. Was it gods fault? Was he thinking about his touchdown celebration? Did he just crack under pressure? It doesn’t matter, he dropped it and it ended up costing the Bills the game.
So what now? We’ll complain about Johnson, debate what could have been done differently, and eventually look towards next week. A beat down Viking’s team could be just what time team needs to capture it’s third win of the season.
A couple of weeks ago I picked out a few reasons as to why the Sabres were a horrible team. Since then a lot has changed and many of problems this team had have seemed to disappear. They have earned 9 out of a possible 12 points in their last 6 games, winning 2 games in a row at home, something that seemed impossible a few short weeks ago. They’ve climbed from worst in the league to 3 spots out of a playoff spot. All this during one of the toughest stretches of the season so far, facing teams like Washington and Vancouver and coming out on top.
First off this team plays like it wants to win for a change. Monday night Vancouver stormed back at the end to rally and close a 2 goal deficit. The old Sabres team would fold and all but give up. The opposite happened, an amazing penalty kill at the end of the third and a hard-fought OT period gave them the win. Wednesday night against Washington, down 3 goals, they fought hard and not only got 2 quick goals to get them back in it but they dominated the third period giving them a decent chance to pull off the win, falling just short of doing so.
The Sabres needed players to be hero’s. And with the exception of Derek Roy that spot on the team was empty. That too has changed with the rise of Vanek who was off to a slow start this season, having many chances but never seeming to come up with the goal. He has seemed to gain some confidence in the recent games and it shows with a few multiple goal games and an amazing overtime winner. Ennis is turning into one of the better forwards on the team and Hecht has picked his game up recently also. They went from having no playmakers to multiples. Tyler Myers has even started to turn his game around netting the OT winner Monday night (even though he is still -9 on the season).
Rivet has been an unhealthy/healthy scratch for a while now. Normally that would be bad for on ice leadership but it seems to be just the opposite. A team with no captain has played like they’re a “team” more than any other time this year. It’s clear the C needs to reside on another jersey and there’s a handful of available candidates, only question is if Ruff will make the change. Word is that Rivet will be back sometime this weekend so we’ll see what happens.
Saying Ryan Miller started out slow this year is a bit of an understatement. He spent the first few weeks towards the bottom of the goalie stats…stats he dominated in years past. Turns out the Vezina hangover I thought he might have had was “just” a bum knee. After a few games off to get healthy, and an impressive showing from Enroth, it seems that was the cause of his issues. He seems to be a different net-minder now that he’s back making those saves we’ve become use to. He’s still not putting up superstar stats but he’s keeping the Sabres in games again, something we needed.
Like many I was calling for Ruff’s head during their losing streak, not because I think he’s a bad coach but more because the team needed a shake-up. Looking at his track record, Ruff hasn’t exactly over-achieved in his time at Buffalo and maybe it was time for a change of guard. However, him being able to pull the team out of this rut they were in says a lot. Lets just see if they can carry the momentum forward, if not this may be the last season Ruff is in Buffalo.
Another test comes tonight when the Kings come to town, a team on a bit of a roll themselves. The Sabres went from win-less at home to winning 2 in a row. If they can keep that streak alive and earn 2 more wins this weekend (Tampa is in town Saturday night) then maybe we can lower the cover on the panic button. The Sabres aren’t out of this hole yet but they at least have their heads above the surface.
The panic button has been pressed and it’s time to admit the Sabres are a bad hockey team. It may still early in the season but it’s clear that this team needs some dramatic changes and key players to step it up in order to right this ship. Here, in my mind, are the top 5 issues this team faces.
Coaching – I’ve never been on the fire Lindy bandwagon. Not last season after the disappointing playoff loss or the seasons before after being playoff no-shows. That was until last week. The number one problem with this team is lack of motivation. It’s not solely the coaches job to get a team to put in 100% every game but they’re a big part of it. Coaches in the NHL aren’t exactly teaching players how to skate. They’re more motivators than teachers, trying to get their team to work together as one and play at their best. Whether it’s through game plans or in between period shout-fests, the coach has to get their team ready to play at its highest level. It’s clear that Lindy has lost this ability.
Not only will a new coach bring in a new viewpoint but the firing of a coach, who currently has 999 games under his belt for the Sabres, might be the wake-up call this team needs. Proof that ownership and management is tired of the same story season after season and they’re ready to do something about it. Lindy is too comfortable. If he’s not fearful of losing his job (which I don’t think his is) Darcy should at least be in his office reminding him there are plenty of other people willing to coach an NHL team.
On Ice Leadership – When a team benches their captain you know they have leadership issues. Rivet came into Buffalo and was immediately assigned the C. I was a bit skeptical at first but after thinking it through it was a young team and he was one of the few who had the experience required for the job. Essentially he became the captain because no one else had the requirements.
Since then I haven’t thought much about it. Rivet’s worn the C and that was it. Thinking back though that’s not really a good thing. We never saw him step up in a moment of need and give the team that extra push they needed. The only mention of him as a captain was the occasional practice after a rough game where he would call a players only meeting to try to regroup them. A captain should be at the forefront of this team and remind us every game why he’s wearing that letter. You’re not a captain if you’re blending in with the rest of the team, that was Rivet’s problem.
His benching was an obvious sign this team is leaderless. The C on Rivet’s chest has a limited lease at this point and where it’ll end up is anyone’s guess and a-whole-nother topic of discussion. The only question left in this saga is will he get another chance and step it up when he does. He’s been in the league for a long time and this could be the beginning of the end for him. I’m sure this isn’t how he wanted to go out.
Ryan Miller – If you told me a year ago I’d be writing a list of problems the Sabres had and Ryan Miller was on it, I’d probably have done my best to find a new team to root for this year. Miller has been a pillar of this team for years. He’s been our superstar and the one to dig us out of holes on a regular basis.
This season that isn’t the case. Call it a Vezina hangover or whatever you’d like but Miller is no longer that superstar goalie. I hate to admit it but Lalime looks just as good as Miller this year and that’s not saying Lalime has improved. Miller is 29th in sv% and 20th in GAA. Last year he finished the season second place in both categories. Take out the couple good games he’s had and it gets ugly.
Miller needs to step it up in order to give this team a chance. If not the Sabres need to start scoring goals which, judging from previous seasons, is easier said than done.
Tyler Myers – Keeping with the topic of players having horrible years add Myers to that list. Sophomore slump doesn’t begin to describe the issues he’s having. He constantly makes mistakes and big ones at that, there have been multiple (3 I can think of off the top of my head) that have led directly to goals for the opposing team. His -10 rating shows this and his 3 goals are easily canceled out by his mistakes.
The blue line lost 2 key players this off-season and we all justified that because of Myers, knowing he’ll fill their shoes. If we knew he’d be -10 12 games into the season we would have been panicking at the loss of Lydman and Tallinder. Leopold has been the only saving grace on defense this year, save Sekera who has stepped up his game slightly.
Penalty Kill – Not only have the Sabres been taking stupid penalties lately but they’ve been allowing those penalties to turn into goals against. The Sabres are 74.5% against the power play, good enough for only 27th in the league. In their last 3 games alone they’ve given up 7 power play goals. That’s 50% of the total goals against coming on the penalty kill.
I’m fine with the team taking stupid penalties as long as they can prevent the team from scoring in those 2 shorthanded minutes. However they don’t have the penalty kill to be able to do that. It’s either step up the PK or stop taking the penalties, I think the latter is the easiest.
So there you have it. My top 5 reasons the Sabres are a horrible hockey team. This team has talent, there’s no doubt about that. They have Calder and Vezina trophy winners on their team. They have a new guy who is getting votes for the Calder this year. They had a guy who at the start of the season at least was leading the league in goals. They have a goalie who almost lead the underdog US to a gold medal in last years olympics. They have the skill. It’s just getting that talent to show up every night that’s the issue. It’s getting the few guys having a bad year to snap out of it.
If all that happens soon we’ll be fine. If not we’re in for a long season.
I may be one of the last to do so but after tonight’s game it’s time for me to press it. After 20 minutes of hockey they had 2 points all but locked up. Instead they let up and fell behind. There’s no excuse for the Sabres to play like they did tonight and there is no doubt this team has some serious issues. Looks like we’re in for a long season.
Remember when we used to think road games were tougher? Well that’s not the case this season as I for one am glad the Sabres have a bit of a road trip coming up this week. While remaining win-less at home and playing well away this is a prime opportunity for the team to pick up some valuable points before falling too far behind.
Right now the Sabres have 7 points, good enough for 12th in the conference and 4th in the division. The good news is the leaders of the conference and division only have 11 points. Four points are easy to make up when you’re only 3 weeks into the season.
In search for those points the Sabres travel to Philly tonight, Atlanta again on Friday, and Dallas on Saturday. The Sabres have only played 4 road games thus far but 6 of their 7 points have come from those games. Their only road loss being a tightly fought battle in Chicago.
The Flyers seem to be struggling this season as well as they are currently sitting on 7 points. Ex-Sabre Danny Briere is leading the Flyers in goals with 5. The rest of the scoring being spread out among the team. The 2 goaltenders, Sergei Bobrovsky and Brian Boucher, have split the 8 games played evenly with 4 a piece so it’s hard to tell who’s going to get the nod in goal tonight. Both are under 3 GAA (2.78 and 2.26 respectively).
The Sabres look to continue on their strong showing in Newark Saturday night after defeating the Devils 6-1. Vanek tallied 2 goals as it looks like he’s finally remembered how to put the puck to the back of the net. This team needs more than just Derek Roy scoring the goals so it’s good to see Vanek stepping up and filling the gap.
Luke Adam has been recalled from Portland to play tonight as Rob Niedermayer will be staying in Buffalo to be with his wife and newborn. Always good to see a young guy being called up to get a chance. He played alright in the pre-season so lets see if a few AHL games improved his skills enough and allow him to contribute.
7:30 face off tonight and for the first time of the year the game will be on Versus. Lets see which team shows up tonight. I’m hoping it’s the same one as Saturday.
If you told me the Bills would lose to the Ravens in Overtime yesterday morning I probably wouldn’t have believed you. This game wasn’t supposed to be close. The Bills can’t stop anyone from scoring and the Ravens’ defense was going to tear apart the Bills’ offense. It was going to be a blow-out and everyone knew this wasn’t going to be the week they finally get a win.
The game was anything but that though. It was a tightly fought game with the Bills having a decent lead at the 2 minute warning of the first half. Those final 2 minutes were anything but impressive for the Bills though as it was the beginning of the end for this game. A Spiller fumble on a kick-off return started it all. Follow that with a questionable call that negated a Corner interception (which I still don’t get) and a quick second half touchdown and the Ravens suddenly put up 24 unanswered points and the Bills are once again attempting to fight back from behind.
It took a 50 yard Rian Lindell field goal with 4 seconds left in the game to send it to overtime. After the Ravens won the coin toss and a Bills defensive stop the game got ugly quick. The Bills seemed to crush under the pressure and eventually Ray Lewis ended up with the ball after ripping it from Shawn Nelson on yet another questionable call. Not long after that the winning field goal was kicked.
It wasn’t all bad though. Ryan Fitzpatrick played an amazing game. One that has a lot of people talking and saying he might be the future of this team and I have to say I don’t disagree with them. Fitzpatrick ended the day with 374 yards, 4 TD, 2 picks, and a passer rating of 106.2. Those numbers are impressive for anyone let alone a player who came into the season fighting for the number two spot on the team.
The receiving core seemed to make it easy for Fitzpatrick. Johnson ended the day with 158 yards and 1 TD, Evans 105 yards and the other 3 touchdowns. Again, those are all-star type numbers against a defense that’s typically comparable to a brick wall.
Bottom line is that this team is 0-6 which is horrible and now, after a Carolina win, puts them at the bottom of the league by themselves. That 0-6 isn’t as horrible as it sounds though as many of those games have been close and the Bills have routinely put up impressive point totals. Couple that with a tough schedule and it’s making me optimistic this team might not go 0-16. Only question is when will that win come.
Tonight the Buffalo Sabres will host the Ottawa Senators at HSBC arena. The Sabres are still win-less at home however one of their two wins this season came opening night against the Senators who are also struggling early on.
Buffalo looks to build on an impressive win Wednesday night in Atlanta. The Sabres out-shot the Thrashers 42-18 which lead to a 4-1 win. As they dominated the game and finally got the payout to improve their record to 2-4-1. More importantly the 4 goals were scored by 4 different Sabres which has been rare this season. One of those scorers was Thomas Vanek finally netting his first of the season.
Ottawa has also had issues finding the win column this season as they currently sit at the bottom of the NHL with only 3 points. I’m sure they’ll be hungry for a win in hopes to gain some momentum. Add that to the fact that, minus the season opener this year, the Sabres haven’t had good luck against the team so anything could happen.
For the Sabres, getting this win is just as important as getting the win Wednesday night. They need to build some momentum, take advantage of other struggling teams, and pull themselves out of this rut they’ve seem to be in. Another losing streak like the last and that rut is going to quickly become deeper, eventually too deep to climb out of.
We always talk about games later in the season being important but the truth is that a win in October is worth the same amount of points it is in March.
A win tonight and they face an also struggling NJ team on Saturday. Those two wins can give them the momentum needed to take on the Flyers Tuesday and a Thrashers team they seemed to make easy work of next Friday. If they can turn that schedule into a winning streak they’ll propel themselves up the standings and right into the thick of things again.
7:30PM face-off tonight. The Sabres need this win as much as any other this season. Not only because of the slow start they’re having but because it’s Ottawa and who doesn’t like seeing them lose?