Last night, against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Buffalo Sabres had every reason to come out flying. They had just come off a bad loss to the Ottawa Senators on Monday night and should have been motivated playing at home against a struggling Lightning squad.
What should have happened did not happen.
The Sabres got run out of their own building with a 5-2 loss. It was the first time this year the Sabres played absolutely terrible without any excuse.
Monday night against Ottawa they had just returned from Colorado and a road trip so the fans and media were not so tough on them.
There is no excuse for the way the Sabres played last night. They had every reason to come out and put together a full 60 minute game. The Sabres, however, were not ready to play.
Buffalo's puck movement was terrible all night in both ends of the ice. They were thoroughly outskated and outworked by the Lightning. Tampa came at them hard all night long at both ends of the ice, and the Sabres could not counter.
It was a game reminiscent of last year’s squad. They tried to get fancy and didn't win any battles.
Ryan Miller was certainly not pleased with the way the team played in front of him.
"We proved it last year that it's not going to work, so I don't see why we should continue to do it this year," Miller said. "Maybe we're just a little stubborn, and maybe we feel like we played some good, tight games and maybe we deserve a chance to freewheel."
While Miller played less than stellar himself, he was accurate in his statements. The Sabres learned the hard way last year that you have to be responsible in your own end and you can't always make the cute plays.
Buffalo has been known to try and put on a show for the fans, and last night may have been partly just that. Jason Pominville alluded to as much after the game.
"It seems like when we get home we try to make that extra play, try to make it a little too cute and it ends up costing us."
So far this year, the Sabres have been playing smart hockey. They have been protecting the puck, limiting turnovers, and moving the puck well in their own zone.
Lindy Ruff stressed this in training camp and throughout the beginning of the season. The message appeared to be getting through and I am sure after last night the Sabres will hear it again.
The Sabres have undoubtedly missed the presence of Craig Rivet, not only on the ice, but on the bench and in the dressing room. They have started to look a lot more like last year's team with every game Rivet misses.
He provides the calming presence this team has proven it can't do without and the sooner he gets back, the sooner the Sabres will get back on their game.
Jochen Hecht has also been missed. He is usually one of the best defensive forwards the Sabres have.
Lindy Ruff trusts Hecht, and so do his teammates. He doesn't turn the puck over often and he is responsible in his own end, which is exactly what this team needs right now.
I am not too worried about the Buffalo Sabres. Yes, as Ryan Miller stated, they can be stubborn at times, but Lindy Ruff is a good coach.
He will refocus them heading into the next month. Once they get things straightened up in their own zone with smarter passes and good puck movement, things will open up in the offensive zone.
The Sabres have a great transition game that stems from their ability to move the puck in their own zone and I expect them to get back to it.