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Sabres Central

Sabres malady continues against Bruins
By Rick Anderson
December 9, 2001

Bruins goalie Byron Dafoe makes a save on Buffalo's Eric Boulton in first period play. The Bruins went on to beat the Sabres 4-2.
[AP Photo/ Robert E. Klein]

Buffalo Sabres fans thought their team was out of the doldrums. Well, look again! They are right back where they were a couple weeks ago. The goaltending is shaky, the powerplay is working in reverse and the hitting has gone south for the winter. After winning three straight road games and looking as if they were about to make a run up the standing ladder, the Sabres have slipped and fallen back into last place. The Boston Bruins handed the Sabres a bitter dose of reality Saturday night in Boston as they doused them 4-2. The score doesn't even represent how badly the Bruins outplayed the Sabres.

When the Sabres were struggling before the November 21 game with the Toronto Maple Leafs, goalie Martin Biron was struggling. Suddenly with the Leafs game, Biron started playing the way the Sabres brass had hoped he would play when they sent future Hall of Fame goalie Dominik Hasek packing for Detroit. For two weeks, Biron played very solid in the nets and the Sabres were climbing out of the huge hole they had dug for themselves in the early part of November. Well, Biron is back giving up goals that should be stopped and the Sabres are back digging that humongous hole again.

The Gambling Man

Biron tried to employ Hasek's gambling style against the Bruins and it backfired on him. With the Sabres on a powerplay, P.J. Axelsson cleared the puck out of the Bruins zone and Brian Rolston chased after the loose puck. Biron, after seeing Hasek come out and challenge shooters for years, thought he'd try it. Biron raced to the puck in his attempt to beat Rolston, but loss the race as Rolston picked up the puck, deked around the sprawled Sabres goalie and scored into the empty net at the 5:10 mark of the first period.. Strike one against Biron.

"I think I might have hesitated a little bit at first," admitted Biron. "I tried to be aggressive. I tried to cut him and I got caught."

"I'm not mad at Marty," said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff. "Marty made a decision to gamble. He gambled and he lost. He rolled the dice and he made a bad decision."

With just a little over a minute gone by in the second stanza, Joe Thornton took a slap shot from the point that went through a maze of players, clinked off the goal post and into the net, making it 2-0 Bruins. On that goal, Biron was screened, but it was still strike two against the young Sabres netminder.

The Sabres went on a powerplay at 19:24 of the second period as Martin Lapointe went off for interference. Miroslav Satan fell to the ice when the puck came back to him, allowing Rolston to go down on a 3-on-1 towards Biron. Rolston skated to Biron's right, faked a shot and got Biron to drop to the ice. That allowed Rolston to skate past Biron and he shot the puck into the empty net with only 4 seconds left in the period. Strike 3 for Biron and backup goalie Bob Essensa stepped up to the plate for the third period.

"That's the way the game goes," sighed Biron. "There are times where you really don't have it, times where it's for different reasons."

Rolston became the first Bruins player to score two short-handed goals in a game since Bryan Smolinski did it March 27, 1994, at Washington.

Rolston's 2nd shorthanded goal made him the first Bruin to achieve that feat in a game since March 27, 1994 when Bryan Smolinski did it.

The Sabres were finally able to break Byron Dafoe's shutout bid when Satan lifted the puck over Dafoe. Thornton made it 4-1 on his second of the night a little over 3 minutes later. Vaclav Varada scored the final goal of the night when he also went up high on Dafoe, cutting the lead to 4-2. The Sabres would never come closer and lost their second straight game in Beantown.

No hitting, no intensity

The same symptoms of the Sabres sickness that inflicted the entire team from late October until mid November have come back stronger than ever. During the stretch where the Sabres were playing strong and beating the likes of the New York Islanders, the Leafs and the Calgary Flames, they had an aggressive style that caused their opponents fits. The intensity was there during those games as was the hitting. During the majority of the two games the Sabres played this weekend against the Colorado Avalanche and the Bruins, the hitting part of the Sabres game was non-existent. In order for the Sabres to play their game, they have to deliver timely blows and then hustle to make plays. This did not happen in the Sabres back-to-back losses over the weekend.

Sabres Talk

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff will have to get his powerplay units functioning in the positive instead of allowing goals if he wants his team to get out of its slump.

"Special teams obviously cost us the game," said Ruff. "We were just caught standing around."

Biron talked about the first goal where he challenged Rolston and lost the race.

"I think I might have hesitated a little bit at first," explained Biron, "and that's the one thing since I'm 12 they say: If you go, go; if you hesitate, stop, come back. That's part of my game. Maybe I'll pick better times to do it, but I did it again in the second period and it worked that time. It's something that I will always do, and I've been doing for a long time."

Rolston did a lot of damage to the Sabres when playing the penalty kill.

"He has a lot of different things that he brings," lauded Bruins coach Robbie Ftorek. "He puts fear into the other team because of his speed and his shot. He has a lot of different dimensions. He's done a good job for us."

"I've never put together this many goals in as short a time," said Rolston, who now has 14 goals and 10 assists. "I feel confident this year. I feel I'm playing consistent and I want to keep doing that."

The Sabres powerplay, which has been struggling all season, has now gone in complete reverse by allowing two goals while they had the man advantage. Ftorek wouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth.

"You have to take advantage of what you're given, and tonight we did that with the penalty killing," said Ftorek.

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