Thursday, March 9, 2017

Free falling.

Published by, 3-8-2017

It took all of 11 days for the Buffalo Sabres to completely extinguish any hope of making the post season this year. From the time the returned from their bye-week until last night Buffalo mustered a meager 1-4-2 record that effectively has them reaching for their golf clubs and scheduling their tee times.

No sense in getting up in arms over what's transpired over the course of this season, in hindsight there's simply no way in hell this team was going to make the playoffs, beginning with the injury to Jack Eichel. For 21 games the Sabres were without their superstar center and for 21 games the coaching staff tried to figure out a way to win without him, and Evander Kane who missed Games 2-11. Without Eichel in the lineup Buffalo went 7-9-5.

Say what you will about the defense and how much of a cluster-eff it was this season, but it really never had a chance, not when your presumed top-pairing defenseman misses most of camp because of the newly introduced World Cup of Hockey and then proceeds to incur a season altering tailbone/back injury. Dmitry Kulikov was a train wreck this season and with him being in and out of the lineup, he had very little chance of locking into Dan Bylsma's system on the fly.

And then there's Bylsma's system. What kind of system makes this team a disaster on defense and the worst 5v5 scoring team in the entire NHL? A system that has the team at 27-28-12 with Eichel almost at a point/game, Kane having a career season with 24 goals in 55 games, Rasmus Ristolainen on the precipice of a career year and a host of other either meeting or exceeding expectations.

The Sabres threw in the towel last night. They're cooked. They've given what they had to offer and they just couldn't overcome what was thrown against them during the course of the season. It is what it is. The Philadelphia Flyers won 6-3 in Buffalo as the Sabres constantly turned the puck over and then proceeded to skate around like they had no idea how to defend. It's not even worth getting into individually as everyone from Robin Lehner to the skaters in front of him seemed to go through the motions.

It was the first time all season Buffalo allowed six goals in a game.

Those who predicted this happening will feel vindicated, tossing numbers around like confetti, while those who thought the Sabres could've and should've done more will simply have to resign themselves to the fact that GM Tim Murray's got himself a mess on his hands.

You can pick apart the defense with much credence, but then again, support from the forward group was lacking much of the time. You can say that they just don't have enough talent, but if one looks at the individual stats, some of which were mentioned above, there's a lot of talent on this team. Some may point to goaltending and there's reason to believe that inconsistencies as well as a dearth of shootout acumen played a big role in the situation they now find themselves in.

What it comes down to is coaching. WGR has it's poll up and it's fitting: Is it time for the Sabres to move on from Dan Bylsma?

Based on the game last night, it looks as if he might be done in Buffalo. The wheels came off at the worst time. Since they inched ever so close with a win vs. St. Louis on February 18, this is the answer they came up with a 1-5-2 record and included in that record are third period breakdowns where they gave up three goals against Arizona and lost, a two-goal lead to Nashville (OT loss,) a one goal lead to Tampa Bay (SO loss) and a one-goal lead to Pittsburgh (loss) when they jumped out to a 3-0 lead.

That's unacceptable.

And we'll see how far this free fall goes before heads are gonna roll.

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