Well, a win’s a win no matter how ugly it gets. The Buffalo Sabres notched their 3rd straight win in the past week, beating the New Jersey Devils 3-2 in a shootout. While still four points behind the 8th place New York Islanders, the Sabres seem rejuvenated since a roster shakeup saw three erstwhile starters moved before the trade deadline.
Much of the Sabres’ success lately can be attributed to Steve Ott. Ott has scored a goal in each of the past three wins and perhaps more importantly, has only made a trip to the penalty box once. Ott was recently named an assistant captain for the squad after former captain Jason Pominville was dealt before the trade deadline. It seems Ott’s new responsibilities suited him well.
Unlike the Sabres’ previous two wins against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators, the win against the Devils tonight shined a light on many of the Sabres’ glaring problems. The Sabres were lucky to scrape by with the victory as they were out shot 39-26. Much of the game the Devils’ fearsome forecheck had possession of the puck for minutes at a time in the Buffalo end.
The rare chance the Sabres did have the puck they played dump and chase, which usually resulted in little or no time to set up any offense. This especially stood out during one powerplay in the 2nd period where the Sabres didn’t get a single shot off as they relied too heavily on the quick, break-away style play that seems to be their only offensive strategy.
The Sabres also allowed the Devils to tie the game in the 3rd period with another shorthanded goal and continue to hold the dubious distinction of most shorthanded goals allowed. It is clear that the offense needs to be retooled in the offseason. There is no way the Sabres, who usually play two defenders on their powerplays, should be leading the league in shorthanded goals against. If the Sabres’ powerplay was potent it could be acceptable, but they are last in the league with a paltry 12.4 percent.
Ryan Miller continues to be the team’s main fulcrum. Their heavy reliance on the goalie, especially since the offense rarely fires on all cylinders, is very worrisome. If the Sabres’ goalies have an off night it will inevitably end in a loss.
The Sabres have three very winnable games out of the next four, so a week from now the Sabres’ chances at making the playoffs should be much clearer.