Sabres Week 16: Ohfer 2015

Congrats, Zee!  Photo from nhl.com

Congrats, Zee! Photo from nhl.com

It is becoming increasingly difficult to describe how poor the Sabres are playing this season. The list of adjectives seemed endless in October, but here we are on the cusp of February, and I have run out of words. All I really have are some cold, hard facts. As predicted, the Western Canada trip did not go well for our boys in Blue and Gold. The team is rapidly extending their record-setting losing streak with no real end in sight. The team has not won a road game since November. That’s no road wins in December. No road wins in January. In fact, Buffalo did not win a single game in the month of January – the team is 0-for-2015. Last in the league in goal differential, the Sabres are -85. Fellow bottom-feeders Arizona and Edmonton are a -51 & -50, respectively. Despite all of this, Buffalo has managed to build the slightest of ‘leads’ in the race for the bottom – 6 points fewer than Edmonton – with no prospect of a win on the horizon.

Tsk, tsk.  Photo from cravetheauto.com

Tsk, tsk. Photo from cravetheauto.com

As the team gathered following the All-Star break, one player was noticeably missing. Nikita Zadorov, half of the team’s surprising second defensive pairing, did not take the ice with the team at their practice. A mysterious press release came out that Zadorov had been suspended and would join the team later in the week in Western Canada. Fans everywhere speculated about the cause for his tardiness, but it would be days before the truth was discovered. Zadorov’s flight had been delayed, causing him to return to Buffalo later than expected. The team was less than understanding of the young standout’s plight and issued the suspension as well as a stern talking-to. This was by far the most exciting thing to happen since the entire population of Latvia voted Zemgus Girgensons into the All-Star Game.

Blown up, much like the season.  Photo from yahoo.com

Blown up, much like the season. Photo from yahoo.com

The trip started out well in Calgary on Tuesday night, when Chris Stewart scored on the power play at 10:33 in the first. Unfortunately, that was all of the offense the team would muster as the Flames scored four unanswered goals – one in the first and three in the third. While the game seemed close in the first two periods, the Sabres were outshot in each set, and it was clear which team had the better talent. It took Buffalo over nine minutes to fire their first shot on goal, and they had only two shots in the third period – a total of 18 on the night, making it very easy for Flames’ netminder Jonas Hiller to steal his first win of 2015.

Jhonas played well, but the team did not.  Photo from sabres.com

Jhonas played well, but the team did not. Photo from sabres.com

Thursday night, Buffalo traveled to Edmonton for a rousing round of “Who’s The Worst?” The definitive answer: Buffalo. Despite scoring first again, the Oilers came back ten minutes later to tie, and just over two minutes after that, Edmonton took the lead for good.  The teams traded goals in the third, but the powerhouse that is the flailing Edmonton Oilers was too much for Buffalo to handle. If any positives can be taken from the game, it is that our defense got in on the scoring, with goals from Myers and Ristolainen, and that the PK finally stood strong and didn’t allow a goal. Also, of course, the team set itself solidly at the bottom of the league – first in the Mission McDavid race.

Friday night, the Sabres skipped town to Northwestern Canada for a game against the falling Canucks. Vancouver had been shut out their previous two games, and Chris Stewart opened the scoring for the second

Stewart caps off his 3 goals in 3 games on the road trip.  Photo from Sabres.com

Stewart caps off his 3 goals in 3 games on the road trip. Photo from Sabres.com

time in three games; he’d score again before the end of the game, tallying three goals total on the three-game trip. His hot streak was for naught, however. Rochester call-up Matt Hackett saw his first NHL action of the season and put forth a good effort, but the game was laden with mistakes, and Vancouver capitalized. Buffalo’s floundering penalty kill returned, allowing two goals on four tries. Thankfully, the power play was up to the task and matched Vancouver’s PP output, keeping the game from becoming a blowout.

Fourteen games in a row. Two months since the last road win. Things are not looking good for this week; Tuesday, Buffalo heads to Montreal to face a team that is fighting for first place with the surging Lightning. Given their performance in January, it’s hard to convince myself (or anyone else) that the Sabres could get a win here. It’s a busy week as Buffalo will host the St. Louis Blues on Thursday evening – one of the most consistent teams this year. The Blues have built a very good team; their youth has stepped up as their veterans begin to age, and again, there is almost no reason to expect a Sabres win. Saturday, Lindy Ruff and the Dallas Stars come to the First Niagara Center. I think our best chance for a win is to try to get Lindy to fight a goalie. Either one will do. Sunday, the Islanders come to town. At this point, I’m rooting for a Buffalo win – it seems as though we’ve tied up last place, so a loss for the Isles means a better draft pick for us at the end of the first round.

A big thanks to everyone who continues to read these recaps, and a HUGE thanks to everyone who read the prospects article I wrote last week. This week, I’ll be taking a look at Brock Boeser and Jordan Greenway, so stay tuned for that.

As always, catch me on twitter: @SchlagsWrites and on Facebook here.

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2 Comments on “Sabres Week 16: Ohfer 2015”

  1. Karl February 8, 2015 at 12:39 am #

    They just won 😀

    • erikwollschlager February 8, 2015 at 7:37 am #

      And Edmonton lost – badly! It’s going to be a nail-biting finish to the season, eh?

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