Game 70: Conviction in gloom
A second straight Sabres loss with seven goals allowed was an exhibition of growing pains in full view.
BUFFALO — It was a fascinating confluence of teams from different conferences in similar positions each coming off a 7-0 whooping on Sunday. The Buffalo Sabres took theirs from the Boston Bruins and the Nashville Predators took it from the New York Rangers.
Both teams are on the fringes of the playoffs and both teams desperately needed something to feel good about after those beatdowns. A classic “something’s got to give” battle wound up in the Sabres continuing to take it on the chin allowing seven goals again, this time in a 7-3 loss.
The similarity in how Tuesday’s loss played out with others they’ve had in the past month or would be concerning. Goaltending came up small in some parts while the team defense was porous and turnover-prone in others all while the offense struggled to put passes together, never mind scoring goals.
Defensive breakdowns had the look of a team desperate to not make a mistake only to create a big one in the process. Goaltending errors, even those disallowed, showed why some of the defensive breakdowns occurred in the first place. No one is blameless, no one is happy, but no one is giving in despite the brutal scorelines.
If the results were a bit more polite, you’d say the Sabres are in a rut, but having allowed 38 goals in the past seven games it’s more like a chasm.
A more veteran team performing like this would have all of us scouting out who might be coaching or managing the team next year. Instead, it’s the youngest team in the NHL that’s in their first playoff race with the added angst of a decade-plus absence from the postseason looming over the entire situation. Stress, pressure, and, as Don Granato has explained it, anxiety have replaced the confidence and swagger that accompanied his team for most of the season.
Growing pains like this hurt like a bastard.
“You have to have the ability to keep things in the game simple, and that’s what we’re going to learn through this,” Granato said. “How to keep it simple. You just need to get through the neutral zone, you don’t need to make a perfect play through the neutral zone. You just need to get depth, you don’t need to make a play through sticks. So, the resolve is you’ll learn to keep the game simpler, you’ll learn the greater respect for how to keep the game simple, and it will be situational awareness. When you have a team that’s a growing team, that’s what they have to learn, situational awareness.
“I stand here with conviction knowing that we will be better through this.”
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Noted Hockey to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.