Sunday, October 30, 2011

Film Room, Game 10: Sabres vs. Panthers 10/29/11

Box Score (NHL.com)

Jhonas Enroth's unofficial theme song is Weezer's "My Name is Jonas", and when Brad Boyes scores, you might hear "Bad Boys" played over the FN Center loudspeakers. If Lindy Ruff had his own theme song, right now it might be the Goo Goo Dolls' "Acoustic #3" (which, appropriately enough, emanated from my car stereo on the drive home):

"What's the point in all this screaming? No one's listening anyway."

I didn't get to listen to the postgame last night, as I was drowning my sorrows in vanilla bean cheesecake at TGI Fridays (a perfectly acceptable way to handle a tough loss, thank you very much).  So I'll rely on a postgame comment from Ruff found in this tweet from Phil of Black and Blue and Gold to assess the coach's current mood:
"It really doesn't matter what I think anymore" - Lindy Ruff
Oof.  Lindy's gone emo.

Ruff used words like "pathetic" and "unacceptable" as well - coach is pissed, and I don't suppose we can blame him.  The Sabres have blown leads in all four home games now, only one of which they've rallied from to win.  They've allowed 79 shots in the last two games and have looked undisciplined and sloppy during much of it.

But despite last night's poor effort, the Sabres almost got away with it when Jason Pominville scored (on the powerplay!) with 7:07 to go to give the Sabres a 2-1 lead. Seconds later, Marco Sturm got a major and a game misconduct for boarding the crap out of Jordan Leopold.  With 6:45 left it appeared that the Sabres would extend their lead at best, or be up a man until there were less than two minutes left at worst.  The game is in the bag, right?

What happened next is both inexplicable and inexcusable: Drew Stafford wiped out the first two minutes of a potential powerplay with a shove on Sturm that achieved nothing, and a minute and a half later, Nathan Gerbe erased the rest with a trip and an ill-advised chuckle at the referee. Florida proceeded to score twice while Gerbe was in the box. Composure blown, lead blown, game blown.  Points blown, too.

Despite Lindy throwing his hands up in the air last night, the sky isn't falling. This loss reminded me of the blown lead against Nashville last season, and I think we all remember that the team rebounded fairly well from that.  Yes, they've lost three of the last four games, but lack of discipline is a correctable thing - and Lindy Ruff has been correcting it for fourteen seasons now.

Pluses:
  • Another game, another slick assist - this time from Brad Boyes, feeding the puck to Pominville while on his knees for the goal that made the score 2-1.  I'm seeing a trend here: first Gerbe's between the legs assist on Kaleta's goal against Columbus, now this.  Are we going for style points, fellas?  Boyes now has points in three straight games and is looking good with Pominville and Vanek on the first power play unit.
  • Heads-up play by Vanek to go wide around Brian Campbell on the wraparound goal.  He actually seemed to caused Campbell to run into his own goaltender by way of his positioning, and the ever-so-slight bump is what caused Jose Theodore to be unable to get over in time. Very slick, Thomas.
  • It's no secret that the Ville Leino-Drew Stafford-Derek Roy line has underwhelmed, and I know Leino was even pulled from that line later on (setting off a chain reaction of juggled lines).   Despite this, I thought their first two shifts were pretty strong, with most of the play staying in the attacking zone.  Hopefully the struggling trio can build off that.
  • Andrej Sekera had another stellar game, making several good plays at the blue line to keep the puck in the offensive zone and seeming to have a sixth sense about when to pinch.  When he's on his game, boy is he a lot of fun to watch.
  • It's easy to see why so many people love Matt Ellis when he makes plays like the one he did on Tomas Fleischmann, preventing him from reaching a puck that he would have tapped past an out-of-position Ryan Miller.  Dude is 100% effort, 100% of the time.
Minuses:
  • I don't have much choice about mentioning Nathan Gerbe here, do I?  Gerbe said that he got the extra two minutes because he smiled and/or laughed about the call, and unless he's lying, that's one seriously butthurt referee.  But that does not earn Gerbe a "get out of jail free" card.  Keep it shut, go to the box, take your medicine.  I'm not willing to say Gerbe cost the Sabres the game, but he certainly hurt his team.
  • Go figure. I wrote a piece on Friday for Buffalo Wins about the notion of a goaltending controversy being ridiculous, and then Ryan Miller put up a complete clunker last night.  Bad angle goal?  Check.  Empty net while Miller was apparently joining the planking craze?  Check.  (I haven't seen any Miller quotes, but I can only surmise that he thought the puck was between his legs.  That's certainly what his body language suggested, but I have no idea why he'd think that when the puck had gone wide.)
  • Really unfortunate break for Ellis, whose goal was taken away after it was ruled that he kicked it in. I don't disagree with the ruling, as it reminded me of Karel Rachunek's disallowed goal during Sabres-Rangers Game 3 in the '07 playoffs - Ellis, like Rachunek, turned his foot ever so slightly and redirected the puck into the net.  Rulebook aside, it would certainly have been nice if Ellis' hard work had been rewarded with a goal - Ellis was probably the second or third-best player on the ice last night behind Vanek and possibly Sekera.
Next Game: 11/2 against Philadelphia. Given our defensive sloppiness and Ilya Byzgalov's recent follies, I'm banking on a 16-15 final - and then I'll be sad because I'll realize indoor lacrosse is still over two months away.

(Sorry for the tardiness of this entry - I try to get recaps up by noon the day after, but kids and landlord duties just weren't allowing it today!)

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