Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sabres vs. Senators, 10/22/10 - More of the Same

Recap (NHL.com)

Remember what I said a couple weeks ago about the Ottawa curse perhaps being lifted?  Yeah, about that...

Just for fun (and because I'm pressed for time this morning), I thought I'd revisit the last time I recapped a Sabres-Sens game to look for similarities.  I didn't have to look far - the first sentence said it all:
"You can count on two things when the Sabres play Ottawa: as Rob Ray mentioned, the Sabres will sit back and let Ottawa dictate play; and whoever Ottawa puts in net will be a brick wall."
This game was typical of so many others that the Sabres have lost to the Senators since the lockout: skate poorly, get caught standing around, give up early leads, then play well enough to catch up only to have the Senators retake the lead.  The Sabres never play well from behind against Ottawa (that's the "brick wall" part of the equation) and last night was just another chapter in that book.

Positives
  • The Roy-Stafford-Vanek line looked great, even though they were held off the scoresheet. Their dominant shift to open the game and a monster shift in the second where Vanek and Stafford had two or three excellent chances in succession stood out to me in particular.  As a trio, they had far more ice time than all other forwards (Stafford had the least of the three with 18:40, and the next highest Sabre forward was Connolly, the guy who scored two goals, at 16:36).
  • That statement in the previous bullet point wasn't a typo.  Yes, Tim Connolly scored two goals.  I know it sounds weird to praise him, but he was the only Sabre who bothered to do that.  I'm still not sure how his first-period wrister eluded Brian Elliott, but the laser beam he launched on his second goal might still be traveling had Elliott not slowed it down with his armpit.
  • Haven't mentioned Miller much this year in this space, but without him, last night's game would have been ugly.  He made save after jaw-dropping save in the first period to keep the Sabres in it while the rest of the team was apparently still in the locker room.
  • Daniel Alfredsson.  I'm not going to mention an opponent's achievements in the Positives very often, but 1,000 points is a heck of an achievement.  Especially when you consider that much of it was done during the Dead Puck Era.  The guy has been such a Sabre killer over the years.  Good on ya, Alfie.
  • Thomas Vanek smashing Jarko Ruutu into the glass deserves a mention here.  Not because it was a boarding penalty, but because of Ruutu's spectacular acting job.  He contorted his face to make it seem like he just got hit by a bus, and was one of the funniest things I've seen all season.  The diving penalty he got was well-deserved.
  • Tyler Ennis's ability to hang on to the puck in traffic is mind-boggling.  I think he's the most impressive dangler the Sabres have had since Afinogenov was in his prime.
Negatives
  •  I fail to understand how this team can never seem to get up for a game against Ottawa.  Aren't they your biggest rival right now (current standings disregarded)?  Aren't they that team you should hate to lose against because they've beaten you eleventy billion times in a row?   So why do you come out of the locker room like you're in a coma?
  • I mentioned that this game was more of the same that we've come to expect against Ottawa.  See if you've heard any of these before: they got caught running around in their own zone and couldn't clear the puck; Ruutu, Neil, and company started running Miller early, with no response from the blue and gold; the Sabres lost a ton of battles along the boards; and the Sens dominated puck possession, especially in the first two periods.  It is the exact same script against this team. Every. Single. Time.
  • Ottawa entered the game 2 for 24 on the power play, but of course had no problem converting two power plays against the Sabres. (One was an empty netter, but still.)  It's just a reminder that no matter what problems Ottawa has that you think the Sabres can take advantage of - a bad power play, a poor start to the season, fielding a near-AHL roster - Ottawa always seems to overcome.
  • Another bad play from Myers, who should have cleared the puck off the glass and out of the zone.  Instead, the support he thought he had wasn't there, his behind the back pass was picked off, and the puck ended up in the Buffalo net.  Settle down, kid.  Just make the simple play.
Next Game: Tonight, 10/23 vs. New Jersey.  Oh, yippee, it's the Devils again.  Pray to the deity of your choice and beg for this game to be more entertaining than the last game against them.

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