Sabres Flyers HockeyFor a team who is fighting for their post season lives, the Buffalo Sabres looked completely uninterested in a playoff spot, losing to the surging Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 Tuesday night at the Wachovia Center. The game was tied at 1 going into the 3rd period and it looked as if Buffalo would at least gain a point on the night. However, the Sabres lost their edge, allowing 3 goals in 6 minutes and falling to 33-27-7 on the year. 

Game Summary 

The Sabres got off to a good start, scoring less than 2 minutes in as Maxim Afinogenov netted his 3rd goal of the year while parked in front of goaltender and ex-Sabre Martin Biron. Biron has been solid against his former team, going 3-0 against the Sabres this year. With just 13.6 seconds left to go in the opening period, the notoriously ugly Scott Hartnell would tie things up on the power play getting the puck past Buffalo net minder, Patrick Lalime. This was Lalime’s 7th straight start in place of the injured Ryan Miller who is out indefinitely with a high ankle sprain. The second period would remain scoreless, as both teams alternated between skating and figure skating. Then came a monumental 3rd period collapse by the Sabres. A mere 27 seconds in, the Flyers took the lead as Jeff Carter, standing all alone up front, got one over the pads of Lalime to go up 2-1. An unchallenged Mike Richards would make the score 3-1 when he deflected a sniper shot past Lalime. Minutes later, Carter would score his second of the night to put the Flyers up 4-1, prompting a Buffalo goal change. Replacing Lalime in net was the new trade deadline acquisition, Mikael Tellqvist. Tellqvist looked decent in his first appearance in a Sabre sweater, only letting in a fluke goal that shouldn’t have counted. Hartnell bumped the puck in off of his chest for his second of the night, putting the Flyers up 5-1 with five minutes remaining. It was odd that the goal counted considering a similar goal was disallowed by Sabre Jason Pominville in a previous game this season. The goal wouldn’t matter though, as the Sabres only other tally came with 1:22 left to play. Jochen Hecht scored the meaningless goal to give the Sabres a pair on the night.

Game Analysis

To be blunt, this game sucked for Buffalo. Once again the Sabres were soft in their own end, sticking it to their goalie by allowing Flyers to crowd around the net. While this game counts as a loss for Lalime, it is yet another example of him fulfilling his duty as a backup goalie, while the rest of his team took the night off. Lalime has Sabres Flyers Hockeyshown that he can weather the storm in place of Miller, provided the other Sabres give him support up front and on the scoreboard. Low scoring drawn out mental contests are not Lalime’s forte, and it goes to show how losing Ryan Miller was such a serious blow to this team. The problem with the Sabres is that they aren’t aggressive enough throughout 60 minutes. This has been said of them for the past two seasons, as they are a team who chases sticks rather than bodies. More aggressive play in their own end could have prevented a number of goals in this game, and the confidence meltdown by Lalime.

Props to new Sabre Dominic Moore, who seemed to be the only Buffalo player who was physical and actually skating with some purpose. Moore took some silly penalties, but he did come from the Maple Loafs so that has to be expected. The only 3rd period highlight for Buffalo was by Patrick Kaleta who beat the crap out of Arron Asham with 3 minutes left to play. The fight was one for the highlight reel as both players exchanged savage blows.

I feel the need to mention that the Versus coverage of this game was horrendous. Who gives a crap if Scott Hartnell hasn’t cut his hair in a year and a half. Seriously? This is a relevant point to make when the clubs are tied at 1 in the thick of a game with playoff inclinations? Lame.

Fast Facts

-Biron made 27 saves while Lalime made 25 and Tellqvist 3.

-The Flyers have outscored the Sabres 9-1 this year in the 3rd period.

-Against the Sabres this season, Biron has a 3.19 GAA and one shutout. His career record against his former team is 4-2-1. This stat confuses me : shouldn’t the Sabres know all of Biron’s tricks and ‘isms’? Shouldn’t they be able to lace this guy with goals? After all, he was drafted by Buffalo in 1995 and didn’t leave the club until 2007. It’s just another frustrating example of the Sabres inability to make things happen.

-The Sabres have 15 power play goals in their last 11 games. The club is 5th in the league in power play conversions, scoring 22.5% of the time with the man advantage. That’s great and all, but Buffalo was 0-3 on the power play in this contest.

-Before this game, the Sabres penalty kill had allowed only 2 goals in the last 32 chances. They allowed back to back power play goals against the Flyers.

-Jason Pominville leads the Sabres in shots on goal with 190, but he has only 14 goals on the year. 

Sabres Flyers HockeyThe Final Word

Before this game, Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff stated “That the pressure has definitely come up. We’re playing .500 hockey… and this time of year we have to play better than .500 hockey.” No kidding coach. 

Buffalo has 15 games remaining this season (9 of which are against teams with higher seedings), so it’s tough to not feel like a broken record when every game has a ‘MUST WIN’ label attached to it. However, the Sabres have cornered themselves in the standings, and if they want to play hockey in May, every game from here on out is a must win. On a night where the Sabres failed to pick up a point, their rivals in the playoff picture all gained ground on Buffalo: The Montreal Canadiens won and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Florida Panthers in a shootout, giving each team at least a point. Here is how the standings look in the Eastern Conference:

  1. Boston Bruins (95 points)
  2. New Jersey Devils (89)
  3. Washington Capitals (88)
  4. Philadelphia Flyers (82)
  5. Montreal Canadiens (79)
  6. Pittsburgh Penguins (78)
  7. Florida Panthers (77)
  8. Carolina hurricanes (77)

       In the hunt: New York Rangers (76), Buffalo Sabres (73), Toronto Maple Loafs (67)

It’s tough to see teams like the Penguins and Hurricanes pass the Sabres in the standings as Buffalo was, at one time, in control of their own destiny. Tomorrow night the Sabres square off against the Panthers in a crucial game that may lay waste to post season hopes in Buffalo.