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This is Not On Lalime
by Andrew Kulyk & Peter Farrell
Scoring drought leads to team’s dizzying fall
Uniondale, New York—While player after player was echoing the word “frustrating” after last Saturday’s disappointing loss to the New York Islanders, nobody in the room was pointing the finger at Patrick Lalime.
Lalime was quickly thrust into the starter’s role after the high ankle sprain suffered by starting goalie Ryan Miller during the February 24 game against the New York Rangers. Miller is out indefinitely, though judging by similar injuries suffered by other goaltenders, one has to think he’ll be ready to go, and well rested, once the playoffs begin.
Nobody is thinking that right now, because the Sabres have been a washout since Miller skated off the ice. In the three games following the Miller injury, the team went 0-2-1, with the lone point coming in a shootout loss against Carolina. While just two weeks ago the team was thinking fourth seed and home advantage in the first round, now they are teetering on obsolescence.
Derek Roy says he needs to get better, and the team has to start finding the back of the net. “There’s absolutely no reason why we can’t give Patty some goal support. There’s just no excuses. Not this time of the year, or, for that matter, any time.”
For his part, Lalime seemed disappointed following last Saturday’s game down in Long Island. While he stopped 32 of 34 shots and was absolutely fabulous, especially in the first period, his counterpart, young goaltender Yann Denis, was just a bit better. “They just seemed a lit bit hungrier than we were tonight,” Lalime said. “They are a young team that seems ready to go to work.”
“This is no reflection on Pat” said coach Lindy Ruff. “He has done everything we have asked of him.” Added Roy, “Patty has answered the call and has been there for this team. Now it’s up to the rest of us.”
While some would say that Lalime let in a couple of softies against Anaheim, his stellar play against Carolina and New York went for naught, as the team managed only one goal in six periods of play, that by Patrick Kaleta, who crashed the net against the Hurricanes for the only goal production.
“This is not sufficient,” Ruff fumed after the Islanders game. Speaking about the one time in that game where the Sabres pressed in the offensive zone, Ruff said, “We can talk all we want about the missed opportunities. You need to take advantage of shifts like that. I think we only got one puck right to the net during that stretch and that is not good enough. You’re only going to have maybe five or six such shifts a night where you can dominate for that length of time and it’s your opportunity to put the puck in the back of the net and we didn’t.”
Everyone in the locker room is watching the tight Eastern Conference standings, and Jason Pominville lamented the loss of points from a team that on paper the team was supposed to handle with ease. “These are tough points to leave on the table. But we have no one to blame but ourselves.”
Can the Sabres pull out of this funk and keep in the tough playoff hunt? “The way things are now with the standings, every game is like a playoff game,” said defenseman Jaroslav Spacek. “There are no easy games. Every game is a tough game.”
At press time, the NHL was at the trading deadline, which took place this past Wednesday, and speculation was rife on what would happen to talented but oft-injured forward Tim Connolly. Also, forward Thomas Vanek has been skating, and is ready to go. His presence alone should give the team a boost.
While big games are coming up for the Sabres, the tale of the 2008-09 season could have already been written by what happened on deadline day. Were the Sabres buyers or sellers, or did they stand pat? More importantly, what did Pittsburgh, Carolina and Florida do for their fortunes this year?
One thing is for certain, scoring one goal, or zero goals, isn’t going to win you many hockey games.
■ Taro is not liking the new intro video running on the HSBC Arena video board as the teams take to the ice. Fans attending the games have seen the piece—a dad and his wide-eyed kids heading from Lackawanna to play pond hockey with their heroes at Erie Basin Marina.
What’s wrong with the video? It’s nice, really nice, but this is the juncture of the event where one needs to get the fans revved up, clapping, excited. Clap-along music, the highlight reel of the franchise’s goosebump moments, the stuff that brings people to their feet.
If there’s a “Sports Shorts” category at the Cannes Festival, by all means send it in and mop up the awards, because our video production crew is the best. Otherwise, Taro is guessing that this presentation gets the hook by the playoffs.
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