Weak 5……. I mean………..Week 5.

Well, it’s happened. One day shy of a month into the season, and I’m calling it. Many of you called it before the season, and many have called it since. I have done my best to remain optimistic and to try to convince myself that, despite the fact that we’re all cheering for the worst (best) possible outcome of the season, the Sabres could produce a respectable product from game to game, but it’s just not the case. The team was poised this week to grab a couple of wins – elevate our status for at least a little while, maybe take some of the sting out of the jokes that are made at our expense. Instead, we are here at the bottom, sole possessors of last place and that much closer to the coveted center. Seven months. Sixteen days. Eight hours. Seven minutes.

Gionta would score in the shootout, but, ultimately, the Sabres would lose. -  Photo from nhl.com

Gionta would score in the shootout, but, ultimately, the Sabres would lose. – Photo from nhl.com

The week started out well enough with the Sabres matching division rivals the Montreal Canadiens for forty minutes – even outshooting a team that is considered to be far superior! The Habs seemed to come out a bit sluggish, likely tired from the 5-0 slaughter at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks on the previous night. As the third period began, however, Montreal caught their second wind, and seconds into the last frame, Parenteau bested Michal Neuvirth to open the scoring. The Sabres were able to respond quickly, though, as Drew Stafford scored his second of the year ON THE POWER PLAY! The momentum seemed to be swinging back to the blue and gold, and the Sabres even took control of the overtime period but were unable to score. The shootout started well with Brian Gionta scoring for the Sabres, but Montreal’s Alex Galchenyuk met the challenge and tied the shootout. Two second round misses set the table for Zemgus Girgensons to once again secure a win, and he had Habs goalie Dustin Tokarski beat with his final move; however, Tokarski stabbed at the puck in desperation, knocking the puck off of Zee’s stick. Parenteau again beat Neuvirth, ending the Sabres’ win streak at one.

The Sabres had a night off to think about the loss to Montreal, to gather themselves, reinstate that killer instinct, and ensure they wouldn’t repeat the same effort against their Western Conference counterparts, the basement-dwelling Edmonton Oilers. Edmonton peppered the Sabres netminder with 19 shots in the first, but Neuvirth was up to the challenge, and less than half of a minute into the second, Matt Moulson put the Sabres up 1-0. Edmonton answered less than a minute later, quieting the crowd at the First Niagara Center. Christ Stewart would once again try to inspire a better effort for the team, squaring off against the Oilers’ Keith Aulie, and the team responded with an increase in physical play. Drew Stafford broke the tie at 6:34 of the third period, and the game became a race against the clock, with the Sabres desperately trying to hold the lead. Trying, and failing. With less than half of the period remaining, the Oilers tied the game again, and then, five minutes later, took the lead for good. All-in-all, the Sabres allowed the Oilers to let 52 shots loose on Neuvirth, who continues to shine as he does his best to keep his team in most games. The frustration of the team was evident; after the final horn sounded, Tyler Ennis appeared annoyed at a last-second offsides call that killed a final attempted rush, and whacked the linesman on the hand while trying to get his attention.

Neuvirth made nearly 50 saves, but the Sabres couldn't respond. Photo from blog.syracuse.com

Neuvirth made nearly 50 saves, but the Sabres couldn’t respond. Photo from blog.syracuse.com

The unraveling continued on Saturday night as the Sabres hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins. One week prior to this game, the Pens had held home court and embarrassed the Sabres 5-0, and coming off of two straight losses, one may have thought the team would show some pride. Saturday was not going to be the night for a moral victory. While they were able to avoid the shutout, Girgensons’ goal came when the Sabres were down 5-0, and even then, Pittsburgh was not finished scoring. The penalty kill, which had not allowed a goal since the previous meeting of these two teams, once again succumbed to one of the best power play units in the league right now. The story of the game has to be NHL darling Sidney Crosby and his five assists – two of which came on the power play. Head Coach Ted Nolan had little to say following the loss, but did take a moment to recognize Zee and his effort so far this season; “Zemgus is only one of the true ones that knows what it takes, and he competes all the time,” he said. Defenseman and Assistant Captain Josh Gorges has been vocally critical of the team, but he turned his criticism on himself as he was a -3 on the night and was on the ice for every goal Pittsburgh scored. “We keep talking about it, but I got to face the facts: It’s not nearly good enough,” Gorges said. “My job is to be solid defensively, give the team a chance, be a leader, and to be scored on that many times is embarrassing. I’m embarrassed for myself. I got to be way better than that.”

The Pens set up for another power play goal.  Photo from yahoo.com

The Pens set up for another power play goal. Photo from yahoo.com

It’s not going to get easier for the Sabres any time soon. They start the week off in St. Louis, facing a Blues team that sits one point back for first place in the West’s Central Division. The Blues have already dealt with some injury problems but have bolstered their goaltending and are keeping the ship steady until some of the ailing stars are able to return. Thursday, they’ll face the Buffalo Sabres West…errrr…the Minnesota Wild. The game could be interesting as former Sabre Thomas Vanek looks to up his stats, which are curiously lower than anticipated. On Saturday the Sabres will host the streaking Maple Leafs, who, following their 4-0 drubbing of Buffalo, have gone on to win four of six.

7 months.  7 months.  7 months.

7 months. 7 months. 7 months.

This is generally the part where I say something like, “If the power play can get some goals,” or “The Sabres will be facing a team coming off of back-to-back games,” but nope. Not this time. The Sabres have a tough week ahead and too much working against them. They are playing teams that are either far superior on paper or that have already proven to be far superior in head-to-head matchups. Grab your silo six pack and your Z-Train t-shirt. Watch Neuvirth make another 100 saves in a week. The blue and gold may be black and blue by the next time I put pen to paper. When you feel your blood boiling over, just keep repeating this mantra: “seven months.”

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One Comment on “Weak 5……. I mean………..Week 5.”

  1. erikwollschlager November 11, 2014 at 8:12 am #

    Reblogged this on ewollschlager and commented:

    Weak 5

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