The Buffalo Sabres are at the bottom of plenty of statistics lists for the 2013-14 season. The team is last in wins, way last in goals for, and last in the league standings. But, there are a few lists where the Sabres make the top 10. Buffalo is fourth in shots allowed, tied for first in worst goal differential (okay, kind of cheated there), and seventh in time spent killing penalties. In other words, the Sabres play a sloppy game and are not very proficient on defense.
Last night, the Sabres lost 4-3 in a shootout against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Jackets are one of the higher scoring teams in the league, but the Sabres had Columbus down early in the game and could not hold on.
Buffalo defensemen were making blind passes out of their own zone that resulted in giveaways right in front of goaltender Ryan Miller, and defensemen like Tyler Myers would pinch in the offensive zone, then watch as the Blue Jackets flew out of their zone with the puck, leaving him out of position.
Myers scored two goals last night, but his team still lost. He and several other Sabres were on the ice when all five Sabres would collapse to the front of the net, and then wonder why the puck wound up past Miller. When the opposition bears down on the Buffalo blue line, the Sabres’ defenders would back in instead of standing their ground. The most heinous crime of all is allowing the opposition to stand in front of Miller all game long without making any attempt to clear the front of the net.
When the opposition scores on Miller, the Sabres all look frustrated and confused. The simple fact is that with the exception of players like Steve Ott and Zemgus Girgensons, the team is not checking the opposition off the puck, there is no aggressive stance to defend the Buffalo zone and the team looks woefully out of position for at least 50 out 60 minutes in each game.
All of these habits were developed when Lindy Ruff was the head coach, and now they are habits that the team is to break. But as the season goes on, it is becoming more and more apparent that the roster Sabres fans see now is not the roster that will start the 2014-15 season. The Sabres need aggressive players who can also make smart decisions. As of right now, very few players on the Sabres’ roster are both aggressive and smart.