Oh Those Turnovers!
by Andrew Kulyk & Peter Farrell
Defensive lapses prove costly in these playoffs
There will come a time when the Buffalo Sabres defensive corps of Marc Andre Gragnani, Tyler Myers, Andre Sekera, Jordan Leopold, and Mike Weber will be absolute beasts. Throw in Chris Butler, or don’t, and look down to the well stocked farm in Portland, where guys like Alex Biega, Nick Crawford, T. J. Brennan and Drew Schiestel are chomping at the bit to show their stuff on the big stage, and you have the good bones for a defense that will dominate for years to come.
But not right now.
The Buffalo Sabres are not sweeping this playoff series against the Philadelphia Flyers, and in fact might be out by this weekend if things play out the way they have in the first three games of this series. And one can point to any number of factors—our world-class goalie didn’t come up large enough, the marquee players did not produce, the power play was anemic, the fans weren’t loud enough, the mayor wore an orange tie.
But at the end of the day, it is those defensive lapses, those momentary mistakes that happen in the blink of an eye and just suck the oxygen right out of the team, which has been devastating to the Sabres chances.
No one is off the hook here. No defender gets a mulligan. Yeah, one can look at Chris Butler and how he gift wrapped the puck to the Flyers in game three to an open Dan Briere. Steve Montador giveaway and its 3-1 Flyers just a few minutes later. But Leopold and Weber had their own glaring miscues, and thanks to posts and wide shots, the scores could have been far, far worse. The giveaways in game three were just a continuation of similar gaffes in game two in Philadelphia, where a track meet of a first period ended in a disappointing 5-4 loss.
“Yeah, it’s part of the game. I don’t think we’ve ever gone through an entire game where we haven’t turned pucks over,” said Chris Butler. “For whatever reason, it really hurt us tonight. Especially this time of year it’s something you try to limit, but unfortunately tonight that was the name of the game.” Mike Weber added, “We can’t feel sorry for ourselves. You kind of have a short term memory loss. We’ll come in here tomorrow and have a quick practice and focus on the next game.”
“The results aren’t good enough,” Coach Lindy Ruff reported after the game three loss. “These guys have battled for me all year long. Every game in this league is a one goal game now and these playoff games are tough. You’ve got to make a difference. You get that one opportunity and your best player has got to make that difference for you.”
As the teams head into the weekend’s play and the conclusion of this series, there will be a few keys to the Sabres’ success: Can Ryan Miller revert to the form of game one and his stature as an all world goaltender? Can the offensive stars finish and convert their chances? Can Nathan Gerbe be the counter punch to Danny Briere? Will we hear from Brad Boyes and Jason Pominville anymore this season? But the biggest issue of them all…oh, those turnovers!
TARO SEZ... (Cheers and Jeers edition)
• Cheers: To the well produced and executed pregame video profiling the Sabres/Flyers playoff rivalry in all its glory. Rene Robert scoring in the fog on Bernie Parent; Steve Shields and Garth Snow flailing away at each other; Jay McKee’s overtime winner; more fog footage; Brian Campbell creaming R.J. Umberger; Danny Briere’s double overtime game winner. Chills. Chills.
• Jeers: No disrespect to Tara Minogue, but anthem singer Doug Allen is flush when it comes to the playoffs. Hopefully his absence at game three was not due to some mysterious “upper body injury.”
• Cheers: That being said, Tara Minogue > Lauren Hart and that Dead Fat Woman.
• Jeers: 100 different fans will offer 100 different opinions as to game day entertainment and music bumps. Team President Ted Black has been listening to his public and soliciting ideas. But cacophonous rap during pregame warmups? Deadening Beach Boys love songs at the break? We’ve been to all 30 NHL arenas, and marvel at the cool things they do at other venues to get the crowd pumped. Why not here?
• Cheers: Moving over to Banditland and the raising to the rafters of the banner for #16 Rich Kilgour. He was a mainstay of the Bandits team from 1992-2008, and gave his all to the franchise throughout his playing career. A well deserved honor.
• Cheers: And speaking of the Buffalo Bandits, they are the Eastern Division champs, and will host their first round playoff game against the Boston Blazers the weekend of April 29. If they advance, they will also host the second round matchup the following weekend.
• Cheers and jeers: When 5,000 fans brave the evening chill to make the “Party in the Plaza,” a happening event outdoors, that deserves props. Too bad the fans inside the arena didn’t have their game faces on, not even coming close to the noise and energy of the Flyers faithful at Wells Fargo Arena.blog comments powered by Disqus
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