The Buffalo Sabres were once again defeated by a team ranked well below them in the standings, and this time it was the Ottawa Senators. Buffalo lost to their division rivals at Scotiabank Place Tuesday night by a score of 4-2. The Sabres amassed a mere 13 shots on goal the entire game. That’s not a joke; 13 shots on goal through 60 minutes of play were all the Buffalo Sabres could accomplish offensively. This mark nearly ties the franchise record of 11 shots on goal, set in 1981 against the Boston Bruins. With the loss, Buffalo falls to 34-28-8 and further decreases their playoff chances.
Mikael Tellqvist started his first game in net as a Buffalo Sabre, and it was anything but a memorable occasion for the third string goaltender. Tellqvist stood tall, facing 36 shots in the game, compared to Brian Elliot who was only hit with 13. Two of those shots went in for the Sabres, and both goals came in the first period. Defenceman Toni Lydman scored his 2nd of the year on a delayed penalty call to put the Sabres up 1-0. Jason Pominville added another tally (his 15th), shoveling in a return pass from Thomas Vanek, giving the Sabres a 2-0 lead at the end of the opening period.
Once the second period began, however, it was like watching a completely different game as it was all Ottawa. The Senators got on the board about a minute and a half in when Dany Heatley picked Tellqvist’s pocket, as poor coverage by Jaroslav Spacek left him untouched in front of the net. A little over 4 minutes later, Brendan Bell tied the game while Henrik Tallinder was serving an interference penalty. Early in the third period, Drew Stafford was in the box for elbowing when Daniel Alfredsson scored the go ahead goal. He received a pass from Jason Spezza in a 2 on 1 situation, and a poor read by Buffalo defenceman Andrej Sekera made Alfredsson’s job easy as he caught Tellqvist out of position (at no fault of his own), putting his team up 3-2. As if to punctuate Ottawa’s dominance of the Sabres this season, with 8:34 left to play, Brendan Bell got his second of the night with the man advantage, making the final score 4-2.
There so many atrocities to point out in this game from the viewpoint of a Sabres fan, that it’s tough to only pick a few. Actually, only a few will be pointed out as hopefully this game can quickly become a distant memory. To begin, the Sabres amassed 9 penalties in the game for a total of 18 short handed minutes. Three of those penalties went to Henrik Tallinder for two hooking calls and an interference call. At one point, the Sabres had 7 straight penalties before they’d get a power play chance of their own. Some people blame biased refs, when they should really blame lazy hockey players.
Despite the poor play and sloppy penalties, the biggest frustration of the night is how the Sabres didn’t fight for their new goalie, Mikael Tellqvist. Imagine how he feels, being the new guy on the team, wanting to make a statement and help the club advance in the standings. Tellqvist makes 32 saves, keeping his team in the game while his fellows managed to only put 13 shots on the the opponent’s goalie. The Sabres should have just spat in Tellqvist’s face as it would’ve been equally insulting to their teammate as their performance last night. The effort put forth in this game proves the theory that the Sabres don’t show up when Ryan Miller isn’t in net. Save a few plays here and there,other backup goalie, Patrick Lalime, has been solid in his nine outings in place of Ryan Miller. All he has to show for it though, is a 3-4-2 record. Without speaking any words, the Sabres have repeatedly shown if anyone besides Ryan Miller isn’t stopping pucks, than they don’t feel like playing hockey.
The rest of the world be damned.
To frustrate Sabres fans even further, Ottawa is 5-1 against Buffalo on the year and has owned the Sabres since being knocked out of the 2005-2006 post season by Buffalo. Add this to the fact that Ottawa is ranked 24th in the league, and it becomes clear that the Sabres can’t win close games against good teams, and can’t win period against bad teams. Buffalo’s chances for a post season birth aren’t over numerically, but after watching this club play last night, the realization that no lead is safe forces fans to accept the fact that this team isn’t very good.
-Buffalo failed to score on 4 power play opportunities compared to Ottawa’s 3 scores on 9 chances.
-The Sabres had 1 shot on goal in the entire second period. The Senators had 13.
-In their last 7 losses, the Sabres have totaled 13 goals.
-The Sabres are 3-5-2 in their last 10 games, losing to the Senators (twice), Atlanta Thrashers, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, and the Anaheim Ducks. Only two of those teams are higher than Buffalo in the standings. The three victories were against the Phoenix Coyotes, Florida Panthers, and the Montreal Canadiens, of which only the Coyotes are below them in the standings.
-The Sabres started the season 6-0-1, but since then they’ve gone 28-28-7.
-Jason Pominville is a -6 in his last 8 games.
It may be too early to panic about missing the post season as the Sabres are only 3 points out of 8th place, but they keep making it harder on themselves and for their fans to keep the faith. Here is how the Eastern Conference looks:
- Boston Bruins (99 points)
- New Jersey Devils (95)
- Washington Capitals (94)
- Philadelphia Flyers (84)
- Pittsburgh Penguins (84)
- New York Rangers (82)
- Montreal Canadiens (81)
- Carolina Hurricanes (79)
- In the hunt: Florida Panthers (78), Buffalo Sabres (76), Toronto Maple Leafs (71)
Something this team needs to do within the span of their final 12 games is to develop an identity, hold onto leads, and find consistency in their play. All of these elements are lacking right now, and it has turned them into a group of losers. After the game against the Senators, Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff said:
I’m very embarrassed. Embarrassed for our fans, embarrassed for how we played the last forty minutes. It’s not acceptable this time of year.
Lindy, 13 shots on goal and 9 dumb penalties are not acceptable any time of the year. On Friday the Sabres take on the Philadelphia Flyers at the HSBC Arena. Anything other than a win in this game and Buffalo’s playoff hopes become nothing more than a hope and a prayer.