Monday, October 8, 2007

Sad Sports Weekend

The Buffalo Sabres lost both its first 2 games. Sigh...they actually look hauntingly familiar to the end of last season, which is not good. I suppose part of it could be blamed on the abscence of Drury and Briere but I don't know how much credence I would give that explanantion (notice I didn't say excuse?). The majority of these guys were on the team last year. So it's not as if they were playing with all new teammates or a new coach. Half the time, the guys played like they didn't know where anyone was. So the lines were different, but how is that different than what Lindy Ruff was doing towards the end of last year and throughout the playoffs? But maybe that's the problem. Not much has changed other than a few faces from last season.

Ruff had a difference of opinion, "We improved in a lot of areas, we improved defensively. Our penalty killing was a lot more aggressive and on the same page. I thought our power play, we had two or three that were really good, and we got one power-play goal." He must mean having them play a little more up ice on the blue line and shooting a little more. That’s what gave Spacek his opportunities to score. But I still don’t think they are shooting enough.

The Sabres had 8 PP opportunities, that's 4 more than what they gave the Islanders. Okay, so that's definitely a positive. But both teams had 1 power-play score. Hmm, 1:8 ratio doesn't look all that good to me, but then maybe my expectations are a little higher than Ruff's and maybe he's thinking 1 is better than none. Another thing that irritated the crap out of me was that the Sabres were back to their puck-passing dance during PPs. They have got to increase their shots on goals during PPs rather than sitting back on their heals, passing the puck back and forth waiting for that perfect shot. Sometimes you just got to let it rip and be there for the rebound. If it takes you 3-5 seconds to set up your shot, what do you think your opponents are doing during that time?

Friday's 1st period actually looked like the Sabres that everyone feared last season, actually looked like the President's Cup Award winners. But the rest looked just like the team toward the end of last season. Maybe their penalty killing skills have improved, I don't know. I didn't do a comparison on those stats. And let's tell it like it is okay? Capitalizing on power-plays was and still is one of problems they struggle with. But maybe Spacek will change this.

We should be thankful that Ruff took what Spacek said to heart. Ruff and Spacek had an “airing out” conversation at the end of last season. Who would have thunk Spacek would be the go to man for PPs? Hey, if he want to earn his big paycheck, I say let him! I’m all for call him “da PP man” rather than the putz who looks like Dan Akyroid. Perhaps Ruff will learn from this and have similar talks with the rest of the team before the team becomes 1-10 (oh geez, just shoot me now).

In all fairness, the Sabres did have chances to tie or even win the game. Sometimes it all rides on the luck of the bounce. If Connolly had a little more luck, a couple of his crossbar hits would have bounced right into the net.

Ruff also said, “It’s going to be baby steps. There’s some guys that are trying to find their way, and this is a test for us.” Well, okay, I'll agree with that for now. But let's see how far the baby steps take them at mid-season. Maybe Ruff needs to run some tapes from earlier games of last season when they were so deadly to Friday and Saturday's games. It certainly can't hurt.

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