The Sabres have had four days off since losing to the Sharks at home last Saturday night in what has been a mostly uninspiring, unwatchable and mundane start to the season. The Sabres (should I say surprisingly?) sit in last place in the East at 3-7-2 with 8 points after 12 games played.
I do not think that this is the start that Phil Housley and Jason Boteril envisioned as they put this team together. The defense has actually been worse than last season, the scoring non-existent, Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly mostly invisible, and Robin Lehner up to his same old lazy antics, giving up a late winner to Logan Couture on Saturday to spoil an otherwise solid effort by our boys. He is vulnerable up top short side and the whole league knows it.
The book on Lehner is out and it’s time for The Sabres to move on from this player. He is a liability in the net and the team cannot count on him to win them games. Yes, he made a great save on the breakaway to Marchand against Boston to give the team some much needed momentum, and yes, he beat Detroit 1-0 for his first shutout, let me repeat, his FIRST shutout as a Sabre, but these two highlights are vastly outweighed by his negative plays and bloated career (as a Sabre) Goals Against Average. I DO NOT CARE about his save percentage, it has absolutely no correlation to wins, and wins are the only thing that matters. Lehner is not a #1 goalie (neither is Johnson) and until the Sabres get a #1 goaltender, any efforts the team makes will be sabotaged by the flaws of their net-minder. I am not one of these people looking for the next Hasek because nobody will ever be Hasek again, but we need a competent goaltender that can keep us in, and win us, some games. The guys we have on the roster now simply can’t do that.
The Sabres need to move on from the failed Robin Lehner experiment.
One other note- Justin Bailey got a lower body injury last Saturday but is looking to play tonight. Nick Baptiste has been called up for the first time this season but is not certain to dress, and Justin Falk will make his first appearance of the season tonight.
Tonight the Sabres take on the Arizona Coyotes, who amazingly have just 3 points after 13 games played, and only won their first game of the season last week. It’s early in the year, but this is a must-win for the Sabres. If they can’t beat a team that has 1 win on the year (I mean, we only have 3, but we have under performed, and we should have a better record according to our talent) then I think it might be time to push the panic button. Meanwhile, a more important Buffalo sporting event happens to be scheduled for tonight.
I’m talking about THE 5-2 BUFFALO BILLS ON NATIONAL TV AGAINST THE JETS!
Yes, this is a Hockey/Football piece because I cannot just sit here and ignore the obvious elephant in the room. I know that the bars are going to have both games on, but I am 99% sure that most if not all the patrons will be watching football to see if our Bills can go to 6-2. There might be some side glances at the one or two TVs with the hockey on, but I highly doubt that anyone will care to watch the 8 point Sabres battle the 3 point Coyotes instead of the Bills, who just added the dynamic #1 Wide Receiver Kelvin Benjamin. I hope he suits up and plays tonight, but I understand if he doesn’t due to unfamiliarity with the playbook and T-Mobile. However, even if he did play and pulled coverage out of the box to give Shady more running room, that would be a positive impact to our running game, which has recently gotten going with strong offensive line play. Benjamin is going to be a big impact player and fills a huge need for the Offense.
Sean McDermott is the early leading candidate for Coach of the Year. I believe in The Process and I Love our Coach.
Our Defense is humming along with a +14 turnover differential, which leads the league, and just had Micah Hyde named as the AFC Defensive Player of the Month. Tre White, Matt Milano, Jordan Poyer and EJ Gaines (with Shareece Wright filling in) make up one of the top defenses in the league. Stalwarts Kyle Williams, Jerry Hughes and Lorenzo Alexander make the Bills defense tough, and are going to put pressure on whatever scrub QB the Jets run out there tonight. I look for Shady to get loose, Tyrod to make good decisions getting the ball out quickly and using his legs, and our Defense to continue to win the turnover battle tonight. I predict 2+ takeaways, two Shady TD’s and a big 35-7 Bills win.
GO BILLS, GO SABRES, LET’s GO BUFFALO, Big-Time Thursday Night Tonight!