Sabres/NHL Notebook: Sabres produce mixed results in return to North America; Panthers and Lightning making mark in different ways
Thursday October 20, 2011 | By:Mike Haim, Special to Metro
As the Buffalo Sabres returned to North American shores and played their first three games on this continent, their fans must feel like the childhood fable character Goldilocks.
The home opener against the Carolina Hurricanes came with big expectations, but the resulting loss was disappointing, especially when it came to allowing two shorthanded goals and the game-winner with 84 seconds left. Tuesday night’s win at Montreal was likely Buffalo’s smallest overall performance of the young season, but somehow the team found breaks at the right time and rode hot goaltending from Ryan Miller to score a win. And Saturday’s win at Pittsburgh was just right, a reminder of how well the team played in its two European games.
While the season will be full of ups and downs – and yes, it’s unrealistic to think that the Sabres will be able to play every game like they did in their first three wins - the quantum differences between the good games and the bad games should make many followers feel a little squeamish.
Granted, the fact that Buffalo tied the Hurricanes in the final two minutes was a positive in a game where momentum swung in Carolina’s favor on Brandon Sutter’s shorty with mere seconds to go in the first period. But coach Lindy Ruff was quick to point out afterwards that some players were trying to do too much and it got the team in trouble.
It happened again in Montreal, when the Canadiens got the game’s first goal after Ville Leino tried to do more than necessary and coughed up the puck in his own zone.
The margin of victory in today’s NHL often hinges on not making a costly decisive error which leads to an opponent goal. So far we’ve seen that the Sabres are generally good enough to get results without relying on a timely mistake. But we’ve also seen that they aren’t good enough to consistently overcome their own misguided plays.
Though they have only one loss so far, the Sabres were laden with such high expectations that games like those played recently against Carolina and Montreal should put those plans for a Stanley Cup parade on hold for awhile. Losses sustained while playing well can be forgiven, but it’s hard to win with regularity if lackadaisical play becomes a habit.
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The Sabres’ next opponent, the Florida Panthers, came into the season with modest expectations and hopes for improvement with an overhauled roster.
Through their first five games, the Panthers have shown signs of offensive life.
They’ve already scored eight power play goals, with newcomer Kris Versteeg leading the way with three and defenseman Jason Garrison – who had all of seven goals in his NHL career entering the season – adding two.
It’s a remarkable start for a team that scored just 35 times with a man advantage all of last season.
The Panthers’ seven-goal output Monday night against Tampa Bay marked their highest total since the 11th game last season. It also gave them bragging rights in Miami for the night, since they outscored the NFL’s Dolphins, who lost 24-6 to the New York Jets.
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Meanwhile, on the Sunshine State’s Gulf Coast, the Tampa Bay Lightning are making headlines for an array of improvements made to the St. Pete Times Forum.
$40 million of upgrades, all paid for by owner Jeff Vinik, include a pipe organ (like the old landmark instrument at the old Chicago Stadium), theatre-style seats (like the newest movie multiplexes), and Tesla coils (like in no other public facility that I know of).
Tesla coils, in case you forgot elementary school science or haven’t gone to Google or YouTube by now, are devices which shoot lightning. The arena will have a pair of the coils generating the visible electric display after each Tampa goal.
There are a couple of pretty cool videos on YouTube which show the Lightning testing their, uh, lightning. The usual phalanx of Sabres fans who will invade the Forum on Saturday night should be forgiven if they want to see at least one goal by the home team.
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