Sabre Tactics: It’s Al(most) Over



newsabres11After defeating the 2nd seeded Washington Capitals 5-4 in overtime, and then losing to the 3rd place New Jersey Devils 3-2  at home, the Buffalo Sabres left themselves no margin for error when they took on the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Detroit Red Wings last night. The Sabres however, decided to become musicians, writing the first verse of their 2008-2009 swan song, losing 4-1. The loss has put Buffalo’s post season hopes in serious jeopardy as they slip to 38-32-9 on the year.

Game Summary

The Sabres hoped that playing a “must win” game in front of their home fans would give them an extra jump in their step against Detroit, and for the first 13 minutes of play it did. Buffalo pelted Red Wing’s goalie Chris Osgood with 13 shots compared to the five Ryan Miller turned away in the same time span. Then, the Sabres went on the power play and stopped skating, opting to glide around a very patient Detroit club. Not surprisingly, Buffalo failed to capitalize and at the end of one, the score remained 0-0.

With five minutes gone by in the second period, the Sabres began to lose their patience as Detroit’s strong defensive play began to give them momentum. With 1:19 remaining in the frame, Brad Stuart scored with the man advantage to get the Red Wings on the board first. Seconds later, the Sabres were granted a power play of their own, but Tim Connolly stupidly chopped a Red Wing’s stick, breaking it in half and getting a penalty himself to force 4 on 4 hockey for 1:58. The penalty bled into the beginning of the final frame…

36 seconds into the third period, Marian Hossa cashed in on Connolly’s idiotic play, scoring to put Detroit up 2-0. 9 minutes later, Hossa got his second of the night, freezing Buffalo defenceman Henrik Tallinder and getting the puck past Ryan Miller. Paul Gaustad, one of the few Sabres still playing with heart, got Buffalo on the board 38 seconds later (his 11th on the year and a career high), finding the puck in a scramble in front of the net. In the end though, it didn’t matter as Nicklas Lidstrom scored an empty netter, making the final score 4-1, Red Wings. 

Ryan Miller faced 31 shots while Osgood was blasted with 33. The Sabres were 0-4 on the man advantage while the Red Wings were 1-2. The desperate Sabres only managed to score once on a Detroit team who played the night before against the Minnesota Wild. Pathetic.

Game Analysis

Some thoughts:

-Chris Osgood is that good. His victory last night was the 389th of his career, which ties Dominik Hasek for 10th on the NHL all time wins list. Buffalo was the town that groomed Hasek and Detroit was the town where he won a Stanley Cup (which he failed to do in Buffalo). Osgood said after the win, “I don’t know a lot of things, but I knew that today I could tie Dom here, so that’s pretty cool. It’s a great honor for me to be mentioned with a goalie of his stature. To do it here [in Buffalo] is a little more special.” This should make any Sabres fan’s ears bleed.

n47000657_31394819_5112778-Both Buffalo and Detroit have a few things in common: they both have horrendous football teams (the Bills and the Lions are the two clubs with the longest playoff droughts in the NFL), they both have dying economies and freezing cold winters, and they both share the shores of Lake Erie. However, Detroit has one thing over Buffalo; their hockey club is superior. Since 1996 the Red Wings are 15-1-2 against the Sabres and embody everything that Sabres fans hope to see in their club in the near future.

-Right now it’s tough not to hate on Henrik Tallinder and Tim Connolly. Perhaps these thoughts come from an angry place, but the Sabres should have traded Connolly and kept Kotalik. At least Kotalik could score in a shootout. To pick on Tallinder, he needs to be more physical in the crease. His injury history has caught up with him and he’s turned into a sissy. That’s right, it’s time to call out this ‘veteran’ with his -5 rating and 1 goal and 11 assists in 63 games.  

-The thought that numerous sportscasters commented on how Ryan Miller’s mind would be on his alma mater’s performance in the NCAA Championship Game is ridiculous. Miller should have been focused on stopping pucks from the Detroit Red Wings. Period. If he really was thinking about that college basketball game, his new contract deal should be re-evaluated. 

-Where the hell has Thomas Vanek been? Wasn’t he supposed to be our offensive savior since returning from his jaw injury?

Fast Facts

-Ryan Miller is 2nd in the NHL for total wins (32) and shutouts (5) this season.

-Useless stat of the day: The Sabres are 11-4 in their third jersey’s this season.

-When entering the third period down at least a goal, the Sabres have only won 7 games this year. Also, in 4 on 4 situations this year, Buffalo has managed to score only 5 goals.

-The Sabres are 4-5-1 in their last 10.

-Sabres/Washington Capitals stats: Miller is 9-3-0 against Washington in his career. Since the 2002- 2003 season, Washington has defeated Buffalo only twice, and both victories came this season on Dec. 26th and Dec. 30.

-Sabres/New Jersey Devils stats: the game was Jason Pominville’s 300th of his career. 

n47000657_31394832_3478325The Final Word

It’s not over until the fat lady sings, but it’s practically impossible for the Sabres to make the playoffs. ”It’s tough. Until you are mathematically out of it, you can’t quit. Even if you are, you can’t quit. We put ourselves in a tough spot,” said Ryan Miller after the Detroit loss. According to, the Sabres have a 1.8% chance of making it to the post season and need the following things to happen: 2 losses out of 3 games by the Florida Panthers, 2 losses out of 3 games by the New York Rangers, and the Sabres need to win out their final 3 games. Here is how the Eastern Conference standings look today:

  1. Boston Bruins (112 points/4 games remaining/clinched conference)
  2. Washington Capitals (104/3/clinched division)
  3. New Jersey Devils (102/3/clinched playoff spot)
  4. Philadelphia Flyers (95/4)
  5. Carolina Hurricanes (95/3/clinched playoff spot)
  6. Pittsburgh Penguins (93/3)
  7. Montreal Canadiens (92/3)
  8. New York Rangers (89/3)
  • In the Hunt: Florida Panthers (89/3), Buffalo Sabres (85/3)

In their final three must win contests, the Sabres face the Toronto Maple Loafs and the Carolina Hurricanes on the road, and close out the year against the Boston Bruins at home in Buffalo. Anything can happen, but things aren’t looking good…

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