Buffalo Sabres Struggles Redux: How Will the Slide End?

Marc DesRosiers – US PRESSWIRE

The Buffalo Sabres were downed 4-3 by the Ottawa Senators last night, which brought their record to 1-6-1 since they opened the season 2-0.

First, let’s give credit where credit is due.

The team certainly didn’t give up and fought back from a 4-1 deficit to make the game interesting in the final five minutes, and Tyler Myers likely played his best game of the season. The forwards created a lot of chances, especially the reunited Marcus FolignoTyler EnnisDrew Stafford line, who got back to what they excelled at last year: Puck control deep in the opposition’s zone.

But where there were some positives, there were also plenty of negatives.

Jhonas Enroth looked shaky at best, especially on the Sens’ second goal. He simply needs to have that one. Another gripe on the second goal: It was the second game in a row the team gave up a goal straight off the faceoff, something that is not as common as many would think.

The forwards also need to start burying more chances. This isn’t to say that every chance needs to go in, but there were at least five last night that had someone driven to the net harder or had their stick on the ice when they should have it was a tap in to an empty net.

Those chances include the power play. The Sabres were 0-4 with the extra man last night and have dropped to 17-percent on the season. Granted, both units looked good last night in terms of puck movement and gaining and maintaining the Senators’ zone, but they were unable to capitalize on their zone success. Another positive note: TJ Brennan seemed to make a huge difference on his unit. He needs to hit the net, but the Sens were giving his howitzer a lot of respect. Their kill unit was shadowing him a bit more than the other point men for the Sabres, opening the ice for the lower forwards a bit.

Realistically, it’s hard to talk about where the team needs to go from here after a game like last night though.

Had Enroth made a save or two and the guys choke down on their sticks a bit more, the Sabres easily could have walked away with the two points last night. The first period wasn’t pretty, but despite being down 3-1 at the end of it, the Sabres had some nice chances toward the end of the frame and kept that momentum into the second.

But when you’re on a slide like the team is now, something needs to give to get back on the right path. The team is sixth in the NHL is goals for, last in goals against. It seems pretty clear what needs to give. Unless the plan is to hang it up this season and play for the Seth JonesNathan MacKinnon bowl, the defense needs to tighten up and the goaltending needs to be better, as Lindy Ruff stated last night.

On top of that, Darcy Regier is likely one of the busiest general managers in the league right now. The team needs some help in the faceoff circle and on the wing on the second or third line, depending on the lineup that night. Enroth also has fallen from grace, as he’s winless in his last 13 games. That’s not what the team needs and/or wants out of its backup netminder.

As was discussed the other day, it seems unlikely that Ruff gets fired during the year given the short period of time a new coach would have to work with the team to begin with, and the lack of quality options available for the Sabres. Realistically, if the Sabres were to continue their skid through the weekend, their hopes to join the playoff ranks are pretty much over, which would likely make the decision pretty clear for the end of the year.

John Buccigross shares that sentiment, as he stated on Twitter last night:

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