Buffalo Sabres Don’t Deserve Playoff Hockey


If ever there was an enigma team in the NHL this season, it would have to be the Buffalo Sabres.

A team that bears exquisite offensive potential. A team with the longest tenured coach in Lindy Ruff. A team with one of the league’s elite goaltenders.

The Sabres currently sit five points out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference with two games in hand on the Carolina Hurricanes. Ninth-place Florida is four points clear of Buffalo, having played one more game.

With 70 games played, there’s only 12 remaining on the schedule. For those of you who are unaware, that’s just one under the 13 shots Buffalo put up in 60 minutes against the Ottawa Senators last Tuesday.

It was a performance that Ruff called pathetic, and who could blame him? Six shots in the first and third periods each with one single shot squeezed into the second frame.

Fortunately for myself, I happened to be in Detroit to catch the Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers go head-to-head. St. Patrick’s Day celebrations also helped ease the pain.

Instead of witnessing a squad fight for their postseason lives as we should have, this group displayed no heart or desire.

Detroit produced 19 shots in the first period alone against the Flyers. When you make a comparison like that, it’s hard to believe that your team has any right to play in the postseason.

There are teams like the Atlanta Thrashers and New York Islanders who are just competing for pride and still bring a great level of intensity to the ice.

Buffalo is a team that still has a shot at making the playoffs, but, frankly, they don’t even deserve to be in their fortunate 10th-place position in the East. Supported by some of the greatest hockey fans a city can have, the players have done little to repay them.

Easy points may not exist in the NHL, but there are those that can be classified as easier. First, there’s the five losses in six games to the Senators. Two losses in four contests to both the Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Three straight defeats against Atlanta, including the third-period meltdown just last weekend. Patrick Lalime has stepped up his game for the team in Ryan Miller’s absence and he deserves credit for bringing his best efforts at such a crucial point in the year.

A goaltender can only do so much and an offense that hasn’t found consistency won’t assist him. Sometimes, you wonder if anyone can stop them from scoring. Other times, you think about whether or not they want to be on the ice.

This is a group that consists of many small players who are easy to push around. What few gritty and tough competitors they do have, haven’t necessarily done their expected duties.

Defensively, the number of give-aways and errand passes have occurred more than frequently.

Buffalo may be able to take a page out of the Edmonton Oilers’ strategy. Zach Stortini is mainly a fighter but they have used him in offensive situations increasingly as his confidence grows.

It’s a smart strategy in keeping your enforcer apart of the game. Why not experiment such a technique with Andrew Peters? At least someone would be around to throw down the gloves when necessary.

Again, you have to go back to Miller’s injury from Scott Gomez and how the team did absolutely nothing in response. Tonight, the Sabres host the Flyers, who have easily disposed of Buffalo in the three previous meetings of the year.

Other plans may be the wise choice for the Sabres faithful.

Teams like Florida, Carolina, New York, and Pittsburgh have played their best hockey recently to ensure at least an opportunity in the postseason. Meanwhile, the Sabres can’t put three straight victories together.

I’d like to wish all of those organizations luck in their concluding matches. You’ve all earned the right to play in April.

The Buffalo Sabres haven’t.

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