Sabres Abandon System, Collapse in Boston

Brandon K.Correspondent INovember 20, 2008

The Boston Bruins defeated the Buffalo Sabres in a 7-4 rout in Boston last night. It is no secret the Sabres are struggling as of late. They have lost three straight games by allowing at least five goals against and have only won three in their last 10 games.

It was not so long ago when Buffalo recorded back to back shutouts and sat atop the Northeast Division. Now those high hopes linger just a smidge and the players are left sitting in the locker-room scratching their heads...

What is going on?

It is evident to those who follow the Sabres to know that they have completely abandoned the defensive system that lead to their early season success.

The Sabres started the '08-'09 campaign with a new mindset. Defense first, offense second. They dumped and chased, played sound defensively, out worked their opponent and made very little mistakes with the puck. Totally opposite to what the team has been accustomed to in years previous, which has been run and gun, and giving up odd man rushes a plenty.

Coach Lindy Ruff's newly implemented system worked wonders early on because his team clearly bought into it. They wanted to forget last season and get back on track to playing up to their potential.

Well, I made the mistakes and got my hopes up. I was fooled by the 'new look' Sabres only to be reminded this past week how sloppy and foolish this team can look.

Buffalo's latest debacle came in front of an overjoyed crowd at the TD Banknorth Gardens in Beantown. The first period was anything but ordinary. Buffalo got off to a quick start when Jason Pominville roofed a nifty backhand past Boston goalie Manny Fernandez. But Buffalo's lead lasted just over a minute when Buffalo defensemen Henrik Tallinder made a nice pass to....well...the wrong guy. Just seconds later Chuck Kobasew put home his second of the season and second against the Sabres in as many games.

The Sabres did not seem to be fazed by the bad giveaway by Hank. They stormed back down the other end and added two more quick goals. Derek Roy and and the league's leading scorer Thomas Vanek put the Sabres ahead quickly 3-1.

Soon after David Krejci's shot takes a bad bounce off Teppo Numminen and over Ryan Miller's shoulder to make it 3-2 and once again Buffalo's Thomas Vanek scores. This time on the power play. 

The wacky first period is topped off by another bad two on one given up by Buffalo. Marc Savard put Boston within one at the end of one.

But that was all she wrote for Buffalo. Five straight Boston goals, including two by Zdeno Chara on the power-play, bury the Sabres in the final 40 minutes.

Bad penalties, bad giveaways, and selfish plays lead to a lopsided finish in Boston. Again, the Sabres abandoned the game plan in place, and took it upon themselves to do exactly what their coach told them not to do in the days leading up to Wednesday's nights match-up.

Coach Ruff was not happy after the game and says the players will be held accountable. Either the players correct their mistakes on the ice, or find a seat on the bench. Ask Henrik Tallinder, who played only 5:49 after a terrible giveaway in the first period which led to Boston's first goal of the night. That same giveaway might even keep Hank out of the lineup Friday when the Sabres take on the Flyers.

The giveaways in the defensive zone have come far to often for Buffalo. Captain Craig Rivet told the media Thursday that the same mistake Hank made in the first period against Boston is exactly what Coach Ruff preached against. They were told to make the more simpler play and move the puck along the boards. There is no excuse for those kinds of mishaps.

It isn't the coaching staff, it is the players. The players need to correct their mistakes if they want to break out of this slump. And if they don't, they'll not only lose games, but also playing time, and maybe even a roster spot. There are plenty of young guys in Portland begging to get a shot in the pros. And at the rate they're going, it is only a matter of time before significant changes are made.