CHICAGO – If there is any time one does not want to be anywhere around this team, it is now.
Tonight at the United Center in Chicago, the Buffalo Sabres extended their trail of woe on the road, losing their 10th straight game away from the First Niagara Center. That is a franchise record, a dubious record that no Sabres team has ever put tgether, not even the bedraggled group of prospects and castoffs that graced this team in their first season in 1970-71.
The goat in this game was Ville Leino, who has but three goals to show for his efforts after being awarded a massive $27-million contract to come play for the Buffalo Sabres. Until Leino’s massive gaffe which gave the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead, the team was actually playing pretty well, holding their own against a far superior Chicago squad. Jason Pominville’s two goals were the answer, but after the Leino errant pass which led to the game winning goal, the wheels came off for the Sabres and they basically slept walked through the rest of the game, losing 6-2 before 21,114 full throated fans.
Said Pominville, “We did a pretty much job battling back. It was a misread on our part and after that it took a lot of energy out of us.” Pminville talked to Leino after the play happened. “He’s got a good shot and at time he needs to make that shot. If he makes the play something good might come of it and we could get it in the back of their net. Obviously he didn’t connect on that play. But he’s got to trust his shot a little bit more.”
Pominville tried to rationalize that everyone is frustrated right now. “On some nights we would have deserved to be in tighter games. Knowing that our desperation has to rise and we have to make that run soon knowing that we may be running out of time.”
Lindy Ruff’s postgame comments only added to the tension out there. He was repeatedly grilled about Leino, and he repeatedly replied that he had not reviewed the tape. “I hadn’t looked at it again, but it looked like he had Stafford and Stafford moved away from the hole. It was a tough play and a situation where we should make that play.” Ruff took special exception to the suggestion that Leino should have been sat, even for a couple of shifts, citing the sickness of Jochen Hecht and Stafford’s sitting a part of the third period as his rationale for keeping Leino on a regular shift. He ended the presser by snapping these words to a reporter – “You coach!” before storming out of the gathering of media.
The most telling remark before Ruff’s sudden departure from the conversation? “We’re not handling adversity very well right now. Until we learn to win again we won’t win on the road. There are some players who are way away from our game.”
The Sabres try to break the streak in Winnipeg on Thursday night. Three games into this road trip, they have been outscored 15-4. Yikes.
Not a good time to be around this team. Owner Terry Pegula is on this trip, tonight hanging around the media room with his embattled General Manager Darcy Regier, looking very pensive and somber. Coach Lindy Ruff, usually the gentleman, humiliating reporters for asking tough questions. Players hanging their heads. The slightest wrong gesture or conversaton likely to set people off, right down to the assistants who mind the team. Let’s hope they figure it out. Everyone involved deserves better.
Catch you from Winnipeg…Thurday’s High -4 and Low -22. As in fahrenheit.