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View from the Fourth Line

View of terrible 6-3 loss to Canucks
By "Fourth Line"
March 17, 2000

After watching the Sabres total lack of effort in Vancouver last night, I asked myself a question. Which team was really fighting for a playoff spot? Certainly not the Sabres who only had 20 shots and about half as many hits throughout the game. When the Sabres were flying off to an early 1-0 lead and started once again putting on the pressure early in the game, I thought the Sabres were actually going to come out to play against Vancouver. It wasn't before long before I was proven wrong.

Harold Druken of the Canucks goes flying after a collision with Erik Rasmussen in Thursday's 6-3 victory over Buffalo.
[AP PHOTO/Chuck Stoody]

Once again, there was a lot of scoring in this contest between the Sabres and Canucks. Here's a full analysis of how the scoring went down. The Sabres jumped off to an early 1-0 lead about three minutes into the game. The play started off with Chris Taylor winning a battle in the Vancouver zone along the far boards and getting the puck to Dixon Ward who was standing nearby. He then took the puck, dazzled around Ohlund comfortably to the slot area where he lifted a beautiful goal past Felix Potvin to open up the scoring. The Canucks would then score two quick goals that turned out to be unlucky bounces for the Sabres, both of which deflected off of Sabres players' skates and into the net.

The Canucks tied the game at 1-1 about five minutes into the game on a goal accredited to Brendan Morrison. The play started out around the Sabres blueline where Jason Holland allowed Morrison to skate around him at the blueline missing his check and as he got back into the play, Morrison's centering pass bounced off of Holland's skate and into the net.

Vancouver scored yet another fluke goal to take a 2-1 lead a few minutes later in the first period. Todd Bertuzzi scored a power play goal that somehow found its way into the net past Marty Biron off of Jay McKee's skate as he was trying to take out Naslund in front of the net.

The first two goals were kind of lucky for Vancouver but the third Vancouver goal was a result of terrible defensive zone coverage from the Sabres. Bertuzzi scored from right in front of the net on his own rebound and no one was covering Bertuzzi. Both Curtis Brown and James Patrick were chasing Morrison behind the net, Warrener was nowhere to be found, and Betruzzi had two whacks at the puck in front of Biron before he knocked the puck home to give the Canucks a 3-1 lead in the final minute of the opening period.

I won't blame Patrick for this goal as his man was Morrison and he did his job on the play was to take out Morrison. That leaves the blame to Warrener and Brown. Brown lost his stick on the play and instead of following Bertuzzi to the front of the net after losing his stick he decided to follow Patrick behind the net after Morrison, leaving Bertuzzi unchecked in front of the net with Warrener in another galaxy on the play.

The Sabres came back about a minute and a half into the second period to cut Vancouver's lead to 3-2. The play started with Messier being stripped of the puck by Satan. Gilmour, like he did many times throughout the game, made a nice play out from the corner to feed Satan cutting to the net from the right side. Satan's shot on Potvin came loose to Curtis Brown who deked Potvin from right to left across the goal crease and scored while falling to the ice, putting Satan's rebound home.

A few minutes later, Vancouver would re-gain their two-goal lead on another power play goal, this time coming from Marcus Naslund. Both Biron and McKee looked weak on this goal. McKee committed himself way to early and went down to block the shot before Naslund shot the puck and Naslund deked around the fallen McKee for the open shot that he shot past a sprawling Biron easily to give Vancouver a 4-2 lead.

What was ugly turned worse as the Sabres gave up two goals on the same power play, deja vu to the other night when they gave up two shorthanded goals in San Jose. A few seconds after Satan gave up a breakaway on the power play that nearly cost the Sabres a goal, Vancouver scores their first of two shorthanded goals from Mattias Ohlund in transition on an odd-man rush. The play started out with Afinogenov committing a turnover along the boards in the Vancouver end. With Patrick taking out the puckhandler, the Canucks broke out on a 2-on-1 break. Woolley did all he could to defend against the 2-on-1 break but no forward backchecked to get back into the play to neutralize the odd-man rush.

A minute later, Vancouver scored their second shorthanded goal on the same power play. I know, it wasn't "officially" credited as a shorthanded goal but if you look at the time clock, Messier jammed home the loose puck past Biron before the power play expired so in my books this is another shorthanded goal for the Canucks, the fourth shorthanded goal the Sabres have allowed in two games. Richard Smehlik is the obvious "goat" on this play, no further questions. Did someone pay Smehlik to fall down with the puck behind his own net by himself? That was just brutal to watch and basically that goal put the nail in the coffin for the Sabres.

With about 13:00 left in the third period the Sabres cut the Canucks' lead in half on a power play goal by Doug Gilmour. Woolley took the initial shot from the point and missed the net totally (go figure). Curtis Brown retrieved the puck from behind the net and fed a beautiful backhand pass to Doug Gilmour who after stickhandling for a few seconds flipped a shot past a bewildered Felix Potvin to diminish the Canucks lead to 6-3, which turned out to be the final score of the game.

Expect me to be in "rant mode" when analyzing last night's pathetic performance in Vancouver, but the Sabres well-deserved this rant after the lack of effort shown in last night's 6-3 loss.

The Sabres defense played one of their worst games of the year. Most of the game was fought in the Sabres end of the rink because the Sabres failure to clear the zone, losing crucial face-offs in our end of the rink, or make good passes out of the defensive zone allowed Vancouver to keep the pressure on all night. Still, the Sabres defensemen don't seem to be on the same page as one another. It seems to me in these last two games, we have suffered too many goals against because of having too many players covering the player in possession of the puck, leaving other forwards uncovered for open passes. We had that problem cost us a few goals the other night in San Jose and the same thing happened to us in Vancouver last night. Better defensive zone coverage would've prevented Vancouver's third goal late in the third period from happening as neither Warrener, Patrick or Brown were able to cover Todd Bertuzzi in front of the net. We gave up too many odd-man rushes, let the Vancouver players float behind the Sabres defense which almost costed us numerous times throughout the contest, and played very poorly in our own zone.

I don't know what was worse, our defensive effort or the effort from our special teams. Both our power play and penalty killing played horrendous. Vancouver went 2-2 on the power play last night which pretty much explained how the Sabres penalty killed and for the second night in a row the Sabres power play gave up two shorthanded goals to the opposition. At this rate, I predict the Sabres will allow more goals on their power play goals than they'll score with the man advantage. Anyone want to take me up on this bet?

I think Ruff should keep Sanderson at the point instead of Satan. Miro's not defensively responsible enough to assume the role of playing the point on a power play. His defensive lapse cost the Sabres on Nolan's shorthanded goal the other night in San Jose and almost cost us another goal last night as he mishandled a pass, allowing Hendrickson to skate in all alone on Biron on a clear breakaway. Notice how immediately after that play, Lindy Ruff replaced with Satan with Patrick at the point on the power play unit and we never saw Miro playing the point on the power play again. Sanderson was doing a much better job on the power play at the point, handling the passes, keeping the puck inside the Vancouver zone, and making astute decisions with the puck from the point. Expect Sanderson to be Satan's full-time replacement at the point on the power play, starting with tomorrow night's game in Calgary.

The Sabres were dominated in just about every aspect imaginable. The Sabres didn't even throw ten hits throughout the game so of course they were out-hit by the Canucks, they were humiliated on face-offs, they weren't connecting nearly as many passes as Vancouver was and they were terribly outshot 35-20 in the game. Where are the hitters? Rasmussen and McKee seemed to me like the only players consistently hitting. Smehlik and Biron made rare bodychecks, but no one else played with any physical edge. I was very disappointed with Rhett Warrener who normally hits regularly but was a non-factor in the hit department last night.

I'm concerned with how the Sabres generate transition games and offensive attacks against teams who don't give any space to roam. We know that the Sabres are capable offensively in wide-open games like the San Jose game, but when the play starts to become less open, you automatically notice the difference. Marc Crawford had his Canucks play a tight-checking game and like the Sabres games two weeks ago in Long Island and D.C., the Sabres generated very little offensively against Vancouver who is another team that likes to play a version of the trap. They were skating and passing well in the neutral zone early on but as the game went on, their passes in the neutral zone and skating from blueline to blueline diminished. If you have no room to skate the puck, don't try to force passes into the middle and if worse comes to worse gain the redline (especially you Jason Holland) and shoot the puck into the oppositions zone, not forgetting to forecheck after the shoot-ins. When you're now averaging six goals against each game, having 20 shots a night like they did last night obviously isn't going to cut it. Most of their passes were off the mark and their pass accuracy diminished as the game went on. Too many careless passes led to giveaways, icings and loss of possession after throwing a forced pass to an open wing.

Another thing that concerned me was the team not standing up for one another. When Matt Cooke collided with Marty Biron, Smehlik and Holland did rush over to where Biron was pounding on Cooke but didn't join in throwing punches at Cooke. Even worse was when Afinogenov was slashed by Felix Potvin and then shoved to the ground by another Canuck, and the Sabres players did nothing in Afinogenov's defense. Since no one defended the Sabres players, I think Colin Campbell should take action. He should look over the slash on Afinogenov late in the game in Vancouver to go along with Todd Harvey's high-stick to McKee's face in San Jose.

The Sabres played their worst periods in the first and second period, but I was equally distressed with the Sabres unable to even try getting themselves back into the hockey game. They generated nothing offensively late in the game and connected more passes to Canucks players than to their teammates in the neutral zone. Instead of making things happen with the puck in transition, they played the "safe route" and casually shot the puck lightly off the boards to open wings to prevent turnovers. Down three goals in the third period, you have to take chances but the Sabres were playing like they were the team trying to sit back on a lead in the third period rather than trying to get back into the hockey game.

Ruff for most of the night kept the same line-up as last night, only switching around the defensive pairings for a shift or two.

Doug Gilmour (A-) - Gilmour was a force in the offensive zone. He scored a goal, had an assist, forechecked well in the Canucks zone, and made plays happen out from the corners in the Vancouver zone. In the first period, he won a loose puck in the corner, skated around the right face-off dot and took a shot that Potvin stopped with his pad. Gilmour's rebound came loose to Satan who flipped a shot into Potvin's Canuck emblem, showing that Gilmour's craftiness with the puck can result in quality scoring chances for the Sabres that we need more of on the whole. He once again made a nice play from the corner early in the second period, feeding Miroslav Satan from the corner in the Vancouver zone that resulted in Curtis Brown's goal that initiated from Satan's drive to the net.

Dixon Ward (B+) - What a second half of the season Dixon Ward is continuing to have! He opened up the scoring with a beautiful deek around Ohlund and wristed a shot top-shelf over Potvin to open up the scoring. He was a factor on both ends of the rink. Early on in the game, he proved his defensive worth by backchecking and even blocking a shot in front of Biron. He played extremely well in transition, skating from blueline to blueline, especially in the first period. He skated well with and without the puck, often joining the rush. In the offensive zone, he scored a highlight-worthy goal early in the first period and drove to the front of the net. Ward was one of the few Sabres who I could actually say passed well in Vancouver last night.

Jay McKee (B) - McKee was the only defenseman hitting. He made a good bodycheck in the first minute of play and continued to be the only defenseman who was laying the lumber. He also made a pretty good check in the corner in the Sabres end of the ice about halfway through the first period. Although we've seen better physical performances out of McKee, he was by far the most aggressive player on the ice for the Sabres. He blocked numerous shots and sacrificed the body often. In the first period, while defending a 2-on-1, McKee made a nifty play by sprawling to the ice, breaking up the Canucks odd-man rush. He also won numerous battles for loose pucks in his own zone and in the neutral zone. He only gets awarded a "B" because two of the Canucks goals were goals that McKee was directly involved with. The first being the Canucks second goal of the game where a shot deflected off of McKee and into the net, the other one being McKee's biggest mistake of the game when he went down to early to block Naslund's shot and Naslund deked around McKee and scored from a highly-potent scoring position. Overall, this was a sound defensive game played by Jay McKee. He did it all from getting down low to block shots, being the only defenseman making hits, playing well positionally, and most importantly compensating for a poor defensive game played by his pairing partner Rhett Warrener.

Vladimir Tsyplakov (B) - He made his biggest impact early on in the first period splitting through two Vancouver defensemen and passing the puck to a pinching Richard Smehlik while falling down, exploiting his crafty stickhandling abilities. Just over halfway through the second period, Tsyppy made a nice pass to Chris Gratton who was cutting to the front of the net that resulted in a genuine scoring chance that was backhanded high by Gratton. Early in the third period, Tsyppy made a nice drive to the net trying to cash in on the rebound of Tsyplakov's blasted on Potvin.

Miroslav Satan (B-) - Besides making another mistake at the point from on the power play, I thought Satan played another pretty solid game. He stickhandled well in the Vancouver zone, was a vulture for loose rebounds and open passes in front of Felix Potvin, and had numerous scoring chances in decent scoring position. He also chipped in with Doug Gilmour on the forecheck whenever Brown's line was on the ice. They won numerous battles in the trenches for puck possession throughout the game. He contributed on the Sabres second goal of the night by stripping Mark Messier of the puck in the neutral zone and later on in the play accepted a pass from Doug Gilmour and took the initial shot that Curtis Brown followed up on. He just needs to handle his passes better. In the first period, he also mis-handled a pass from Jay McKee in his own zone that let Brad May have a good scoring opportunity. Mis-handling a pass from the point on the power play led to a breakaway for Vancouver in the second period that led to Lindy Ruff taking Miro off the point on the Sabres power play unit.

Vaclav Varada (B-) - Varada was one of the only Sabres playing with intensity. While I do think he wasn't as physical as he can be, he did skate well, made some hits and forechecked well along with his linemates. He played tenaciously in the first period, had a good shift to open up the second period, and finished off the game pretty strong. Once again, Varada proved to be a workhorse in the trenches and won a lot of battles in the offensive zone.

Martin Biron (C+) - I can't give him any higher than a "C" after allowing six goals, but he's definitely not to blame for the Sabres loss. He bailed out his defense time and time again, made some incredible saves, handled the puck well and was arguably the most physical Sabre on the ice in Vancouver. No, I'm not joking. Biron got the "Carubba Collision" of the game when he collided with Matt Cooke while trying to play a loose puck in the corner. After the hit was made, Biron then went on to throw numerous punches at Cooke against the boards behind the Sabres net. Late in the first period, Biron made a huge save sprawling on the ice to stop a rebound. If not for Biron, Vancouver might've scored 10 goals on the Sabres as he was the only thing keeping the Sabres somewhat afloat. Biron's biggest save came just under three minutes into the third period where he made a sprawling glove save on Todd Bertuzzi, snatching his towering shot out of mid-air. Biron's lack of rebound control still cost him on a few goals and on the fourth Vancouver goal, Biron was out of position as he had to dive towards Naslund's shot on the left side of the net that he couldn't get to in time.

Curtis Brown (C+) - Brown has had better games. He did score a nice goal following up on Miro Satan's rebound that extended his scoring streak and made a nice backhand pass to Gilmour to set up the Sabres sixth goal of the night, but Curtis wasn't the dominating two-way force that he has shown to be recently. The blame for the Canucks third goal can be shared between Brown and Warrener. Brown failed to cover Bertuzzi in front of the Sabres net. When his stick was stripped from him, he decided to follow Patrick after Morrison behind the net, leaving Bertuzzi unchecked right in front of Martin Biron. The result was the Canucks gaining a 3-1 lead heading into the locker room after the first period. He also got murdered on face-offs, especially in the first period where he was out-drawn by a 10-2 count.

Chris Gratton (C+) - Gratton had numerous scoring chances from out in front of Felix Potvin. In the first period, he tried going five-hole on Potvin from the slot area that Potvin closed his pads on. In the second period, he cut to the front of the net and backhanded a shot high over the net above a sprawling Potvin. Gratton's line with Tsyplakov and Varada had numerous chances that came as a result of that line forechecking and for the most part passing well in the Vancouver zone. While he did make some good passes, he wasn't the precise passer that he had been since coming to Buffalo. I noticed too many passes thrown by Gratton to an open wing. I was disappointed with Gratton on the draw. Normally a good face-off man, he lost two consecutive draws in his own zone that led to Vancouver applying the pressure late in the first period.

Stu Barnes (C) - Barnes wasn't the two-way force that he is able to be, but what he did best was chasing after the loose pucks in Vancouver's end and forechecking. His best rush in transition came in the second period where he made a nice play in the offensive zone skating through traffic and getting a quick shot off on goal. What worried me the most about Barnes was the way he handled and passed the puck in the offensive zone. He turned over the puck late in the second period in his own zone which led to Druken having an open break on Biron with the rest of the team gathered around where Barnes turned over the puck.

Erik Rasmussen (C) - Rasmussen had a good shift to start off the game about seven minutes into the first period. On that shift, he made a nice play to backcheck and break up a play in the defensive end. Rasmussen then rushed up the ice while Barnes was handling the puck. Barnes deked around Ohlund and threw the puck to the front of the net where Rasmussen deflected the puck high. When Vancouver re-gained possession of the puck, Rasmussen made a solid bodycheck on Schaefer. Seconds later, he took a pass from Afinogenov and skated back up the ice, gained the blueline and would've had a quality scoring chance if he wasn't taken down on his way to the net. He did win a lot of battles throughout the game, especially in the third period. I also noticed that he joined in on the play when Afinogenov had the puck and drove to the net.

Chris Taylor (C) - Chris Taylor may not have a roster spot when Mike Peca returns to the lineup but has done a tremendous job filling in his shoes. By winning a battle along the boards in the Vancouver end early in the game and getting the puck to Dixon Ward, he assisted on the Sabres first goal of the night. He had a good chance with about 2:30 left in the first period where he accepted a pass from Dixon Ward and fired a shot from just inside the left circle on Felix Potvin. He was a force on the forechecking effort throughout the game and continued to be more noticed in the offensive zone.

Maxim Afinogenov (C-) - He didn't have the kind of rushes he can have because of Marc Crawford's defensive system that he installed against the Sabres (the score may not indicate this, but the Canucks did play a trap-like game last night), but wasn't completely invisible. His biggest rush was a coast-to-coast rush three minutes into the second period where he intercepted the puck in the Sabres end and flied into the Vancouver zone before getting hauled down around the Vancouver net with no penalty being called on the play. None the less, Afinogenov was much less of a factor than on most nights. He also didn't pass the puck well. His giveaway along the boards on the power play in the second period led to the Canucks fifth goal.

Geoff Sanderson (C-) - Sanderson had nowhere near the game he had against the Sharks and I assume part of the reason was Vancouver allowing less skating room than San Jose. He was missing passes all over the ice and didn't have the kind of scoring chances or rushes that he had the other night in San Jose. He did make a nice play in the second period by stealing the puck from Messier at the Sabres blueline and feeding Dixon Ward for a breakaway pass that was called on the off-sides. He played his best hockey of the night as Miroslav's replacement on the right point on the power play in the Sabres power play in the third period. He kept the puck in the zone, made crisp passes with the puck from the point, wasn't afraid to fire the puck when he had a good look at the net, and contributed on Gilmour's third period power play goal.

Jason Woolley (D) - Most of Woolley's passes were right on the tape, but he did make a few careless passes that almost costed the Sabres. He turned over the puck making a careless pass in his own zone halfway through the first period that thankfully his teammates were able to recover. A few minutes later, he throws yet another careless pass onto Mark Messier's stick who would've had a quality scoring chance on Biron if Klatt wasn't off-sides on the play because of Woolley's turnover. He did retrieve the loose pucks in his own zone well throughout the game but at times had a hard time clearing the puck from behind his own net and in the corners in the Buffalo end. An example of this was with just over 8:00 left in the second period, Woolley made a careless pass from behind his own net right onto the stick of a Vancouver player that almost cost his team their potential seventh goal of the night. Towards the end of the game, Woolley had problems handling the puck. His shot accuracy left a lot to be desired. Most of his shots were ripped wide of the mark. But at least most of the time he was able to actually get a shot off, unlike with about five minutes left to play in the second period where a shot caromed off the boards right to Woolley who had a wide open net to shoot at with Potvin down. And guess what, Woolley couldn't handle the puck between his skates and because of that Woolley missed a scoring chance with an open net to shoot at that knowing him would've shot wide of the net anyway but that's a little besides the point. He did make a stand-out hit on Todd Bertuzzi in the opening minutes of the third period as he was gaining the Buffalo blueline but besides his hit on Bertuzzi, he was a non-factor physically. With about three minutes left to play in the game, Woolley capped off his second straight poor defensive performance by letting Todd Bertuzzi get behind him and his defensive partner James Patrick.

James Patrick (D) - Patrick played a much better game than he did against the Sharks, but still left a lot to be desired. He has a tendency to play the puck-carrier, expecting his defensive partner Jason Woolley (or Rhett Warrener on the Canucks third goal late in the first period) to block the passing lane. Unfortunately, from what I have seen over the last two games, that pairing hasn't communicated well enough to consistently have one player taking the player with the puck and the other blocking the passing lane on odd-man rushes. Late in the third period, he and Woolley allowed Bertuzzi to get behind the defense which clearly showed the continual lack of communication between the two defensemen that carried over from the San Jose game. Patrick's passing was inconsistent. He did make a few good passes, including a nice cross-ice pass late in the first period to Dixon Ward in the neutral zone, but also made quite a few careless passes much like most of his teammates.

Richard Smehlik (D) - His mistakes outweighed his attributes during the game, but he did make some good plays. His mistakes were so crucial that they lowered his mark for the Vancouver game to the "D" range. Late in the first period, he and his defense partner Jason Holland allowed Druken to get behind them which resulted in a breakaway that Druken rung off the post. His biggest mistake was the obvious, falling down while handling the puck in his own end that allowed the Canucks to score their sixth goal of the game that practically put the game away. Just over halfway through the third period, Smehlik looked out of place on one particular shift. The Canucks raced on a 2-on-1 rush with Holland back. You would think that Smehlik would get back into the play but he didn't. As a result the Canucks had a scoring chance and when we did gain possession of the puck, we were forced to ice the puck. Although I cannot give him a satisfactory mark because of his crucial mistakes, I can't fail him either because of the good plays he made throughout the game that were unfortunately overshadowed by his defensive lapses. Early on, he joined the rush and accepted a pass from Vladimir Tsyplakov that was deflected high and into the crowd. Smehlik opened up the second period with a strong shift. He made a nice play breaking up Bertuzzi's rush and started back up the ice through traffic, flipping a nice pass to Dixon Ward as he was racing into Vancouver territory in transition. He even made a rare hit about five minutes into the second period on Schaefer in the Sabres end of the ice. Once again, he didn't make any hits along the boards but did get noticed with his open-ice hit on Schaefer. Once again, Smehlik made a nice play by taking out Brad May along the boards while chasing a loose puck in the Buffalo end that was eventually squirted free in Buffalo's favor, marking a rare defensive zone battle won for the Sabres. On one of his shifts about five minutes into the third period, he did a tremendous job keeping the puck in the Vancouver zone and allowed the Sabres to generate their offensive attack in the Vancouver zone.

Rhett Warrener (D-) - Warrener's defensive partner Jay McKee played much better than Warrener last night. Warrener, normally a hitter wasn't playing his game in Vancouver. I know he's just returning from his injury this week, but he needs to play his rugged brand of hockey that we saw him play around this time of the year last season. He started off the game with a costly turnover trying to rush up the ice with the puck. Around center ice, he was stripped of the puck and the Nucks went on a 2-on-1 break capitalizing on Warrener's mistake. With about five minutes left in the first period, Warrener foolishly shot the puck around the boards right to Ohlund at the point. The result was a quality scoring chance from Vancouver that started with Ohlund's shot from the point. He was nowhere to be found on the Canucks third goal scored by Bertuzzi right in front of Martin Biron. So much for Warrener being a crease-clearing defenseman that he's known to be, or at least on that play. He looked out of place late in the game. With just under two minutes left in the game, the Canucks had a 2-on-1 rush and Warrener didn't even try to get back into the play.

Jason Holland (F) - Holland's on-and-off. After being the worst player on the ice, I thought he was one of the better defensemen in San Jose the other night. He reverted back to being the dreadful defenseman he was against the Islanders against Vancouver last night. It's almost getting so bad with Holland that I'm even wishing that Zhitnik returned to the lineup. Vancouver's first goal that Holland had deflect off his skate and into the net would've never happened if Holland didn't miss his check as Morrison was skating in past the Sabres blueline, allowing him to skate in on Biron. Then with about seven minutes left in the first period, Holland and Smehlik left Harold Druken unchecked around center ice that resulted in a clear breakaway on Biron. Did anyone notice Holland shooting the puck into the Vancouver zone without gaining the red-line that resulted in icings? He did this more than once. Five minutes into the second period, Holland coughed up the puck in his own end to Bertuzzi that resulted in a clear scoring chance that Biron thankfully turned aside. Towards the tail end of the second period, Holland got beat clean by Naslund on a 1-on-1 situation in front of the Sabres net.

I don't know if playing two games in as many nights affected the Sabres play but that is no excuse for a team fighting for a playoff spot. Game by game they are losing ground and such defensive lapses as they played against the Sharks and Canucks aren't going to help their chances. You cannot expect the Sabres to top the six goals they have been giving up on the average on this Western road trip. Our defense and special teams have done us in this road trip and I fully expect a complete turnaround in Calgary tomorrow night or we'll fade out of the playoff picture faster than Maxim Afinogenov can skate from blueline to blueline on a coast-to-coast rush.


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