Overreactions, 37th Edition: Long December continues for Sabres

For Sabres fans, there’s been plenty of reason to have the feeling that it’s all a lot of oysters, but no pearls.

Of late, it’s hard to come up with new things to say about this team. The pervasive use of “injuries” as an excuse for the team’s poor play has masked many of the team’s problems. Those problems have led to the team losing five of the last six thanks to an absence of offensive depth and the

Friday night, it was just another loss, with the Sabres’ top line being the only effective unit and goaltending that wasn’t going to steal anything. When the clock expired, it was Buffalo on the wrong end again, falling to Washington 3-1.

Struggling superstar Alex Ovechkin scored twice for the Capitals, who got a strong game from former Montreal Canadien Tomas Vokoun.

“I mean, they got a fortunate one on the first one,” right wing Jason Pominville said. “We kind of would like to get a few of those go our way, but that’s just the way it’s been going for us.”

Jochen Hecht scored Buffalo’s only goal, being set up by team MVP’s Thomas Vanek and Pominville.

Unfortunately, the injury excuse just got a little more support, as defenseman Christian Ehrhoff went down with an upper body injury, and could be out “weeks” according to coach Lindy Ruff. Having lost Andrej Sekera the game before, the team’s defense is now decimated with Tyler Myers still on the shelf and no sign that the goaltending will pick up the slack. Ryan Miller stopped 18 of 21 shots against the Capitals.

Buffalo’s last win on the road was December 3rd in Nashville. A team that’s been struggling at home and had the road record to compensate for it isn’t getting wins anywhere. With one game left against Ottawa, the Sabres are 4-7-2 in the month.

Injuries have kept a many players out for extended stretches, but the core of the team has remained in the lineup. Outside of Vanek and Pominville, none of them are contributing.

It’s been a long December, and there’s not much reason to believe right now.

  • Derek Roy got killed immediately by fans and media for that awful turnover at the blueline. He’s the new Tim Connolly. I’m not justifying his poor play, I’m just pointing out that he’s going to draw the most ire from fans now. Especially with Ville Leino out.
  • Jochen Hecht is producing. He’s honestly been pretty good whenever he’s been healthy. That said, I think it might be a good idea to get him off the top line. Vanek and Pominville are gonna produce with just about anyone in the middle between them. If Hecht is going good and you can put him with Derek Roy or Drew Stafford and get them going, it might be worth a shot. The team’s not winning. Something has to change.
  • Mike Weber is a solid #6 defenseman. May eventually be a good #5 blueliner. But right now, he might be the third best defenseman that’s healthy. Yikes.
  • Not picking on Matt Ellis for being the player he is, because he’s the player he is. But on Ovechkin’s second goal, he stops skating on the backcheck and leaves an open passing lane for that pass across from Backstrom. Ellis has to recognize that even though Weber is there and it’s not an odd-man rush, that opportunity needs to be eliminated. Lazy play from a guy that’s supposed to be on the team to bring energy and effort.
  • Is it better for Zack Kassian’s development to go dominate in the AHL for a bit or produce nothing on a struggling team in the NHL? Personally, I think it might be the former.
  • Lindy Ruff has been riding Miller again. He’s gotten eight starts in a row over the last three weeks. His goals allowed in those games? 3, 4, 5, 4, 3, 2, 3, 3. I get riding a hot goaltender, but this is Ruff’s inability to handle backup goaltenders coming back into the picture as one of his greatest faults. Miller isn’t playing well. He isn’t winning regularly. What gives? Ruff is gonna ride him into the ground like he has every year.
  • Buffalo has generated 30 shots on goal twice in the month of December. They’ve had less than 25 seven times.
  • Other than one horrible giveaway in the defensive zone, Marc-Andre Gragnani was pretty good in his return to the lineup. He logged almost 20 minutes of ice time, and he’s going to be looked at to step up in Ehrhoff’s absence.
  • If Jason Chimera gets any discipline for flipping off Ryan Miller, then the NHL continues to be a joke.
  • Two fights in the game, and it’s two defenseman that have to drop the gloves. Where’s Cody McCormick? Patrick Kaleta? Paul Gaustad? Those guys have roster spots to provide this “toughness” that is assumed to be required to win. McCormick has no points, a -4 rating and one fight in ten games since coming back from injury. The team could pay a guy the league minimum and get this production. McCormick’s got a $1.2 cap number. Why?
  • Buffalo has four of their next six games at home before hitting the road until February. If they don’t grab at least 9 points in the next six, they’re toast.

Posted on December 31, 2011, in Sabres/NHL and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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