Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The question...

...on WGR's website is, Do you think this Sabres team is capable of going on a run, similar to last year's team?

And the answer is?

Yes. Only because anything is possible. Is it probable? No.

Right now the Sabres find themselves with the exact same record at this point in the season as they were last year.

And as much as the injuries have hurt, the goaltending has been woefully inadequate, the defense suspect and the offense invisible, they are sorely missing the veteran leadership of Mike Grier and Rob Niedermayer.

Before y'all go off and say, "those two? Grier couldn't score on a breakaway if Nathan Gerbe was in net and Niedermayer didn't score his first goal until the 53rd game."

For a team that just got shut out, has scored one goal in three of the previous six games, and have scored more than two goals only six times in the last 18 games, one would think that finish is sorely missing. And that is true.

But if you can tread water and hang in there, eventually shots will start finding the back of the net.

Looking back at last year, the Sabres started the season with a dismal 3-9-1 record. From November 6 to February 10, the Sabres went from near the bottom of the conference to just outside of the top-eight. They went on a 22-13-3 run and not once during that stretch did they win more than two games in a row.

Remember when there was a big "ta-do" about that? About not winning three in a row?

Even though they didn't win more than two games in a row, they didn't go on a losing streak longer than two games either. And they did that only four times. Plus, they lost only one game by more than three goals (Florida 6-2.)

WGR's Paul Hamilton on more than one occasion said that the Sabres as a team, and more specifically, their core players, can play like world-beaters when things fall into place, like at the beginning of the season. But when things turn sour, they fold right before your eyes.

This season things are sour.

This season they had a three game winning streak in October and a four game winning streak in November. Since the four-gamer, the Sabres have not won back-to-back games (a span of 27 games.)

During that 27-game span--a span which began with the 6-2 beatdown by the Boston Bruins--they've had one three game losing streak and two three-game winless streaks (both 0-2-1.) You could say things have balanced out somewhat as opposed to last year, and that would be correct.

But one of the troubling points is that during that stretch the Sabres were humiliated three times by four or more goals.

Whereas the team made the climb last season from woeful depths, this season they seem to be headed in the opposite direction. Starting with the Pittsburgh game in December where they got walloped 8-3, the team is 2-7-2.

As usual, there's no one on this team that can carry them on their backs. This from Ryan Miller after last night's 2-0 loss at Toronto, "We're waiting for something or someone to lead us out of the dark shadows." He did qualify it by saying that it's just not gonna happen like that. But that very quote signifies what the core of this team thinks when adversity hits, that somebody else is going to do it.

Why is this team giving off "bad vibrations," as Bucky Gleason put it? It's because these guys couldn't fight themselves out of a wet paper bag.

Thomas Vanek is about the closest thing this team has to veteran leadership up-front. Robyn Regehr provides it on the back end. But as for the rest? They're all "waiting for something or someone to lead them out."

And that's where they're missing Grier and Niedermayer.

They weren't the most prolific scorers or the fleetest of foot, but they had been through cycles like this and they knew how to get out of them. Better yet, as proven last year during their playoff climb, they knew how to avoid situations like the one the Sabres find themselves in now.

So to answer the question of whether or not they'll go on a run like they did last year, the answer is more than likely no. Not with the team constructed as-is.

No comments:

Post a Comment