December third. That was the last time that the Sabres had won a game played on the road – until last night of course. Buffalo finally exorcised the demons of travel as they defeated the New Jersey Devils 2-1 in a shoot out at the Prudential Center in Newark.
Ryan Miller played like the Ryan Miller of 2009-2010, making 27 saves in his team’s victory. Some of the saves were of the stellar and spectacular variety.
Alas, there are still major problems to be fixed if this team even wants to attempt to get back into the playoff race (which is all but unlikely now). The biggest being the complete lack of offense.
The team is finally healthy, just Tyler Ennis and Paul Gaustad remain sidelined out of the Sabres opening day roster players and both are expected back immediately following the NHL All-Star break, yet they still cannot score to save their lives. It has become even worse in recent games. The team has scored three goals in their past two games and all three goals have come from defensemen. Mike Weber and Tyler Myers scored in Buffalo’s 4-2 loss to the Blues on Saturday, and Jordan Leopold scored the only “goal” for the Sabres in last night’s win over the Devils, and that came off of a fluky bounce.
It is completely unacceptable that the team’s defensemen are the only ones scoring for this team. Where have the offensive leaders such as Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville been during this time? Aside from his two goal outing in Buffalo’s blowout loss to Chicago last week, Pominville had just one point during their five game losing streak – an assist on Tyler Myers’ garbage time goal against St. Louis. Vanek on the other hand did not record a single point during the losing streak and has been on a massive slump as of late. He has just two points (1+1) in his last eleven games. If Buffalo wants to even think about going on a run to the postseason, Vanek has to play better.
It is like beating a dead horse, but Derek Roy and Drew Stafford also need to step it up for this team to make a run. Hell, yesterday it seemed as if Roy was, as a fan put it, “penaltying his way out of Buffalo”. It may not show on the score sheet, but Roy played one of his worst games this season. The back-to-back penalties that lead to Patrick Elias’ tying goal were just the tipping points. He looked to be out of position often and just seemed extremely lazy on the ice. A part of me truly believes that Lindy Ruff has lost the core group of players on this team, but I do not want to believe that just yet. I want to see what happens after the All-Star break.
Now that the team is near full health, the excuse making needs to be over with management. They must take the next three/four weeks to evaluate exactly what they have with this team and make the necessary moves needed to try and make a run at the 8th seed. Right now the team is in a four-way tie for 12th in the east and sit ten points back of 8th place New Jersey. With 33 games left in the season, Buffalo would have to win about 22-23 games to have a strong chance of making it. I’m not going to say that it will not or cannot happen, but I will say that the only way it does happen is if changes are made, and made soon.