It looks like the Buffalo Sabres had Rob Niedermayer’s name spelled incorrectly on the back of his jersey again last night. I am certain that I saw it, at least 18 times.
In fact, the goal-less Niedermayer was a healthy scratch (finally) for last night’s game against the St. Louis Blues. But, in honor of his loss to the lineup, the entire team took it upon itself to assume his role: to glide innocuously about the ice while there is a hockey game going on around you – and above all else, do not score a goal.
Yeah. It was a miserable game.
There were some moments – far and few between – that showed there was some life in the roster full of hockey cadavers last night. Tim Connolly had a quick breakaway on Ty Conklin, after a smart pass from Drew Stafford. Connolly whiffed. Pat Kaleta had a thunderous check on Carlo Colaiacovo, which sent the fans at HSBC into a rare fit of applause – but the fans were quickly silenced when Colaiacovo slumped to the ice, injured.
Some fans continued to clap. There is no honor amongst a fan base when their team is losing.
Ugly all around.
But it’s not as if the Sabres are playing without distraction. The ownership transition is officially happening over this weekend. Their captain, Craig Rivet, hasn’t played a game in a very, very long time. No one is sure if they will have a job at the HSBC, from players to coaches to staff, when Pegula takes the helm on Tuesday. But the Blue and Gold weren’t alone in the distraction category:
“To be honest, we had a lot of distractions today. Seeing Brew go right before the game, our captain. He’s a hell of a good teammate, so it’s pretty impressive how the team responded.”
Ty Conklin summed it up pretty good there as to how a professional team is taught and paid to respond in the face of adversity. The Blues showed mastery of their emotional core, while the Sabres seemed to be shaken to theirs.
There is still plenty of hockey left to be played. The NHL has become a hot bed of player movement, as a heap of trades have already happened as the February 28 trade deadline rapidly approaches. Much can happen for the Sabres to improve their game.
Indeed, last night may have been the most boring, apathetically played game of the season, but today is a new day. That, my friends, might be the biggest distraction of all for the Sabres.
The Golisano/Quinn/Regier core of Roy, Pominville, Connolly, Miller and Vanek is seeing its last days. Heck, the new core is already arriving, with the likes of Tyler Myers, Tyler Ennis, Nathan Gerbe, Mike Weber, Luke Adam and even Paul Byron making statements this year. Zack Kassian, Marcus Foligno, Brayden McNabb and Mark Pysyk will be arriving sooner rather than later to change the culture of the core to a bigger, nastier squad.
This team of Niedermayers last night just may be realizing that. Their time in Buffalo has run its course. They might have one last shot at the playoffs together.
But they better get their old act together very quickly.