Overreactions, 32nd Edition: One step forward, eight steps back

Coming off one of the more uplifting efforts of the season into the second half of a back-to-back (which the team has been strong in this season), one would expect the Buffalo Sabres to come out to play when they visited Pittsburgh Saturday night.

Unfortunately, it appeared to be the complete opposite.

After Ryan Miller gave up four goals in the win Friday night, coach Lindy Ruff decided it might be a good idea to stick with him instead of going with Jhonas Enroth, who had notched a win in Pittsburgh earlier this season.

Miller, who went into the game with a career line against Pittsburgh of 4-9-3 in 17 GP, with a 3.25 GAA and .886 save percentage, apparently was a better choice than Enroth in the eyes of Ruff, despite the rookie’s 1.51 GAA and .950 marks against the Pens.

The choice paid immediate consequences. Pittsburgh’s Jason Williams beat Miller with a 60-footer 2:17 into the game and the Pens led the rest of the way, as Miller surrendered five goals on 15 shots in an 8-3 defeat.

Pittsburgh got a five point night out of Evgeni Malkin, as the superstar’s hat trick and two assists keyed the win.

“I wasn’t good enough,” said Miller, 4-10-3 against Pittsburgh. “I don’t think that was anywhere close to good hockey on my part, so I just have to regroup and recover.”

Thomas Vanek, Luke Adam and Paul Gaustad scored for Buffalo, who trailed the entirety of the game after the first goal.

Miller gave up three goals in 9:43 and gave way to Enroth, who finished the first period allowing one goal. Ruff decided to reinsert Miller to start the second period, where he gave up two goals before Enroth took over after the second intermission. The Penguins added two goals in the third to add insurance.

Buffalo also added a few names to the injury report, as Tyler Ennis and Colin Stuart were both banged up and didn’t finish the game. Ennis indicated after the game that it seemed like a short-term injury, but Ruff said after the game that Stuart will be out “in the month range or something like that.”

  • As bad as Miller played, since he admitted he didn’t play well, are we okay with that now? Seems like his attitude after bad games has drawn so much ire in the past, after this effort and his postgame remarks, you’d think it’d be easier to swallow. Nope.
  • Incredible stat of the game: Paul Gaustad was +3.
  • At this point, there really isn’t much the team can do on the ice but battle with what they’ve got. The injury situation is laughable, and until they get healthy, no qualified decision can be made on exactly what the problem is. When they get to that point, they’re going to need to do something.
  • Once it gets down to Matt Ellis or Zack Kassian and which one gets sent down to Rochester, Ellis has no chance to stay up, right? Hell, I’d even put Paul Szczechura about even with Ellis at this point. Ellis’ play has been far below what’s needed from him. He hasn’t been filling the expanded minutes he’s been getting as well as he needs to.
  • Any discussion as to what the “core” of this franchise is or should be must lead with Thomas Vanek being first on the list. To this point, he is the most valuable player on the roster. Whether the team’s playing well as a whole or not, he’s been showing up on the scoresheet on a regular basis. Closest thing to a Hart candidate the team has.
  • Buffalo’s penalty kill is just 13-of-19 over the last five games.
  • Luke Adam grabbed his 10th goal of the season on a nice snipe in the third period. His production has been much better lately, and he’s had some obvious chemistry with Kassian.
  • Marc-Andre Gragnani has been getting a lot of negative feedback in these recaps lately, and that effort on the Malkin goal isn’t gonna help his case.
  • If the team is gonna scratch Brayden McNabb, they gotta send him down. They can’t afford the cap space and they can’t afford to leave a young player in the press box when he can be playing. The kid has looked good for the majority of his recall, but he gets nothing out of sitting out.
  • Back to the goaltending, I’d be much more okay with Jhonas Enroth getting lit up than Lindy doing what he did and starting Miller. The “schedule” they continually speak of is garbage. Miller has been playing well. I get it. Great. Ruff’s record has been to ride good runs into the ground. If Ryan doesn’t come out against Ottawa and recover from that outing, it’s on the coach for putting him in that situation.

Posted on December 18, 2011, in Sabres/NHL and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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