NHL – Devastating Loss For Sabres

21 Mar

Crushing, disheartening, devastating – choose your adjective to describe the Buffalo Sabres’ loss to Nashville on Sunday – they all fit. The Sabres have played some maddening games the last couple of seasons, and have given their fans fits, but Sunday’s meltdown may have been the worst. The club is in a battle for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot and needs every point it can get, yet somehow they managed to blow a 3-1 lead with a little less than 3 minutes left in regulation, then lose within the first 30 seconds of overtime. The Predators, like Buffalo, are striving for the last playoff position, in the Western Conference, but they had no business winning this game. The Sabres completely choked, giving a 2-goal lead away with terrible turnovers. Their supposed world-class goaltender, Ryan Miller, couldn’t make the big save when they really needed it either. Miller may be one of the bright young faces the NHL is trying to market, but that doesn’t make him a great player. He is average at best most nights, and regularly loses to supposed “lesser” goalies in head to head matches. On the other hand, Coach Lindy Ruff has said he plans to spell Miller in back-to-back games, and young Jhonas Enroth has played great in his opportunities. So Ruff starts Miller in this game, not only a back-to-back game but an afternoon game following a night game. Was Miller spent by the end of Sunday’s contest? And does Ruff share the blame for panicking and not sticking to his plan?

The Sabres  are still sitting in a pretty good position to secure a playoff spot, controlling their own destiny, but after going 30-0 when leading after 2 periods last season, the club has followed a disappointing pattern. They blew leads in 2 playoff games last year, costing them the series with Boston, and lead the NHL this season in blowing two-goal leads. That’s a sign of a team that lacks mental toughness, and if they happen to sneak into the postseason this year, any likely top-seeded opponent, like the Philadelphia Flyers for instance, will eat them alive in a playoff series much the same way the Bruins did last year. They know that mounting any kind of a forceful forecheck will result in the Sabres wilting and coughing up the puck with regularity, and I don’t get the feeling that any top-seeded team has any fear of being “stoned” in a playoff series by Miller, the way they might have with Dominik Hasek in the past, since Miller has never really shown the ability to do that. He has had his good moments, but in my opinion possesses the same trait as the rest of his teammates – a lack of mental toughness necessary to sustain the effort needed to close out a playoff series. I hope they prove me wrong, but I doubt if they will. The good news is that new owner Terry Pegula will likely not any waste time weeding out the dead weight on the roster after the season ends, and will spare no expense to upgrade the team next year.

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