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Sabres Central

Sabres House of Horrors
By Rick Anderson
October 12, 2003

Sabres defenseman Dmitri Kalinin chases Dave Scatchard around the net in Sabres embarrassing home opener.
[AP Photo/Don Heupel]

It isn't even Halloween yet and already there is a horror show being featured around the country. The show is so horrific that it is scaring ticket holders as they run away aghast. The Buffalo Sabres are playing a frightful brand of hockey these days.

The Sabres first two games have been grotesque to say the least. Against two average goalies, the Sabres have not scored one goal. They lost to the Flyers 2-0 on Thursday and were even more gruesome in a 6-0 home opener loss to the Islanders before a packed house of 18,690. The product the Sabres put on the ice was so frightful that it probably scared those fans away from coming back for some more Fight Nights on ice.

"That was probably the most embarrassing game I've been a part of," lamented Sabres coach Lindy Ruff. "The more we tried to do things the worse it got. That was something I didn't want to be a part of and something the fans didn't want to be a part of."

This is definitely not the kind of showing that Sabres new owner had in mind to attract all the fans the Sabres had lost the past two years. In fact, it is the worst nightmare on Main Street for the team hoping to get back to respectability both on the ice and at the gate.

In Sabres Central team preview article the title was "A brighter future." The way the season has begun that couldn't be further from the truth. Not only haven't the Sabres scored one measly goal, but in front of their cheering fans, they manage a mere 13 shots on goal in the entire game. They mustered just 5 shots in the first two periods.Jack the Ripper couldn't scare away anyone as fast.

House of Horrors

HSBC Arena was certainly a House of Horrors Saturday night against the Islanders. It is unimaginable how a team that went through all the nightmares of last season would put forth such an inept effort in their home opener. Everything has been fixed except on the ice. All the free agents have been signed and are taking home bigger paychecks as a result of the generosity of the Sabres new owner B. Thomas Golisano. In fact, he made Miroslav Satan the second richest Sabre ever, right behind former great goalie Dominik Hasek when he inked him to a $10 million contract for two seasons.

Chris Drury came to Buffalo from Calgary and got a brand new contract and commitment from the Sabres who locked him up for 4 years. They also signed powerplay specialist Andy Delmore to help put some octane into the Sabres powerplay which has been sputtering the past few years.

Everything the front office has done has gone down the toilet the first two games. Just how could this team come out with such a poignant effort in front of a packed house?

No heart?

The Sabres heart seems to be failing. In fact, the team may be on life support and needs a heart transplant. The real Sabres heart was sitting on the opposition player bench Saturday. Michael Peca, who the Sabres traded a couple years ago, is one of the elements this team is lacking. The Sabres came out flat and no emotion against both the Islanders and Flyers. The more recent captain, Stu Barnes, is scoring goals for the Dallas Stars. In fact, in his first game, Barnes scored twice the amount of goals the Sabres have gotten in two games.

The old Sabres heart is beating strongly in different cities. It certainly doesn't have a pulse in Buffalo.

A team that went all last year without an owner, filed for bankruptcy and had quite a few free agents after the season in Hell, should have been rejuvenated by the settling of all accounts. The team was saved by Golisano and he lived up to his promise to spend whatever necessary to make the team competitive. The players have not lived up to their end of the deal.

The players will say all the right things. They are embarrassed, they accept full blame, but like in years past, it turns out to be only lip service. They will continue to go out and play the same kind of lackluster, unemotional game the next time out.

"It's the way we lost. Tonight there's no excuses for that. It was embarrassing out there," Daniel Briere said.

Sabres defenseman, Jay McKee, echoed Briere's thoughts and expounded on them.

"I've never been more embarrassed, " emphasized McKee. "This game as whole, you can't point the finger at one guy, two guys, three guys. It was just a mess. It was the worst game as a team that I've ever participated in."

"I'd like to point fingers, but I don't have enough," Ruff said in a serious tone. "I'd use my thumb for myself, my fingers for the players. We're in this together. We'll get out together."

Sabres Talk

And now the Sabres are left trying to explain two futile efforts.

"We deserved that, playing like we did," admitted Satan about the chorus of boos the team received for their efforts.

"I'm a little embarrassed right now," said Sabres rookie goalie Ryan Miller who must feel a little shell-shocked right now. "It's tough to swallow. I thought the first two periods they got some bounces on their two goals. Then the third period shows up. Ouch."

Ruff was quick to defend his young goalie who he started in the two losses.

"I thought he made some key saves when the game was 1-0 or 2-0 to give us a chance to get back in the game," defended Ruff. "You can't fault Ryan. What's the difference now if it was 1-0 or 10-0? He's played solid goal for us."

"It's your home opener...you make big mistakes and it snowballs," described Ruff about the debacle. "You make even bigger mistakes. Our guys that we need to produce haven't. Our meat-and-potato guys have done their job, but from an offensive standpoint we weren't good enough."

Meanwhile, at the other end of the rink, the Sabres made another goalie look like an all-star. Rick DiPietro now has his first NHL shutout thanks for only having to face 13 shots.

"I think this was a huge game for us mentally," remarked DiPietro. "For a young group of guys to shake off the game in Washington and to come out and have a game like this, it was really fun to watch. Shutouts don't mean much to me. As long as we get the win that's the most important thing. But tonight was the icing on the cake to get the shutout."

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