Habs face ‘rock bottom’ Sabres

Ruff

The 14th place Buffalo team that hosts the Canadiens on Friday night trails Montreal by two points in the Eastern Conference standings and is coming off perhaps their worst performance of the season. They looked like a completely different team against the Flyers than the club that downed the Habs 3-1 just two and a half weeks ago.

The last time the Canadiens played the Sabres on Jan. 31, Buffalo played a full 60 minutes and were in the early stages of a run that saw them grab 11 of a possible 12 points, their best stretch of the season. On Thursday they played a full 20 minutes, taking a 2-0 lead on goals by their top two scorers, Jason Pomminville and Thomas Vanek — after which they surrendered seven straight goals.

“The collapse brought the phrase ‘rock bottom’ to mind,” wrote John Vogl in The Buffalo News.

Little has gone right for Buffalo lately, now losers of three straight following that good run. Coach Lindy Ruff, who missed three games recently with broken ribs he suffered from a collision in practice, wanted to give Ryan Miller the night off on Thursday and save him for the Canadiens. Miller had played a season high 10 straight games.

But the Flyers came out roaring in the second period and backup Jhonas Enroth only stopped four of seven shots in the first 6:49 of the second giving Philly the lead. That changed Ruff’s plan.

The first was a deflection by Max Talbot of a point shot. The second and third goals were nearly identical, power play tallies in which the Sabres could not contain Wayne Simmonds who — despite taking a puck in the mouth during warmup and being so stitched up he couldn’t speak after the game — stood right in front of Enroth unchecked and batted home rebounds of point shots. The Sabres had no answer for the Flyers net presence.

Those early second period goals forced Ruff to insert Miller, hoping he’d stop the bleeding. It didn’t work, even though Miller didn’t play nearly as bad as the stats would indicate. The former Vezina Trophy winner allowed four goals on 17 shots the rest of the way, but he had no chance on each goal, thanks to awful defending by the Sabres who left Flyers completely alone in endzone coverage or broke down in transition from offense to defence and allowed 2-on-1 breaks.

“That’s about as bad as you can play defensively,” coach Lindy Ruff said afterward.

So the Sabres will try to regroup against the Canadiens on Friday, but like many teams that have fallen out of the playoff race, they are living with trade rumours swirling mightily around them.

First line centre Derek Roy, second line winger Nathan Gerbe, third line centre Paul Gaustad, shutdown defenceman Robin Regehr and even Miller have had their names floating around. If the trade talk hasn’t unsettled this team, their has to be another reason for such a brutal performance on Thursday night.

“It got away from us, and it got away from us big,” defenceman Jordan Leopold said. “I’ve been through plenty of trade deadlines. It’s something that’s completely out of your control as a player. The only thing you can control is how you play.”

They didn’t control much on Thursday. They’ll try to put it back together against the Habs in front of their home fans — who likely won’t be too friendly if things start to go sour again.

Except for Miller, who will almost certainly start in goal, here’s how the Sabres lined up at the start of the Flyers on Thursday. Ex-Flyer Ville Leino, who had been on the third line, started on the first line where Thomas Vanek usually plays, as a courtesy from Ruff since he was back for the first time in his old home rink. No telling how their lineup will look on Friday after the debacle in Philly.

Ville Leino, Derek Roy, Jason Pominville
Nathan Gerbe, Tyler Ennis, Tomas Vanek
Drew Stafford, Paul Gaustad, Patrick Kaleta
Matt Ellis, Brad Boyes, Zach Kassian

Tyler Myers, Christian Ehrhoff
Robyn Regehr, Jordan Leopold
Andrej Sekera, Mike Weber

Ryan Miller
Jhonas Enroth

26 Comments

  1. Nobody says:

    Pathetic this season is and worse this late surge of sorts will just ensure we do not get a top draft pick nor move our pending UFAs while we cqan get something. Wasted opportunity on to of a wasted season.

  2. timothy13 says:

    I don’t expect a Habs win tonight against the Sabres. I mean the Habs usually do not have a strong record against bottom feeder teams and those on a major L streak. Montreal chases its shadow and often mails in its effort. The down and out teams suddenly shine against the Habs. The Carolina loss is a case in point. Will the Habs’ GM be in place next year? Probably because this Montreal team is about taking risks to win. They settle to be middle of the pack. Simply making the playoffs is their hope and nothing bigger than that!!!!! Sad. I hope I am wrong!

  3. JF says:

    I wish the people who run this site would fix its technical problems. Earlier this morning, this link did not work. Now the other one does not.

  4. gismo111 says:

    I agree, playoffs are out of reach for our Habs. Bring Schultz up from the minors, keep White playing and rest Gomez, he needs a little break after that impressive season (1 goal lol)!!!!!!. Put players on the ice who at least can put on a show for the fans. Keep Plekanec, he might not always be playing to the best of his skills but he is the most underrated player of the team. Oh and by the way he does not get 7 millions a year, i think he produces his share for his contract. I think he should wear the “c”, he plays like a captain better than Gionta. Bye Gauthier and Gainey, and please do not bring Tremblay back in Montreal, he and peanut were the ones who ruined our team starting with the Patrick Roy incident and you know the rest…..

  5. JohnBellyful says:

    ‘Rock bottom’, meet ‘backs to the wall’

  6. Praj12 says:

    Can’t wait for tonights tilt!! 24 rows up in Buffalo, Anchor bar for the original wings, 5.50 for a tallboy at the game, doesn’t get better than this. OH yeah taking my two sons with me to the game.

    GO HABS GO!!

    HABS fan since ’68

    • habfab14120 says:

      I’ll be 20 rows up at center ice, though I don’t know which side.
      Bought my buddies tix and didn’t ask.

      No Anchor Bar, even though it’s right around the corner from work. Duff’s is way better.

      Bringing my only child (son) tonight.

      See you there! If only in spirit. :)

  7. The Cat says:

    Gainey better not see the results of the MVP poll…Hes bound to instruct his reporter friends on RDS/TSN to oversell “The Eli Manning of the Habs”.

    [Disclaimer]: I’m a hockey fan. I care about the habs, but probably not as much as you.

  8. steve17 says:

    As a fan, the biggest frustration is that Gauthier is still GM. With his erratic behaviour this season, I am not sure he can manage the trade deadline and exploit the great opportunity the Habs have to retool on the fly. It is true that with Cole and Bourque, Gauthier has to a degree, added some size and toughness. I think it is positive that Emelin finally came over, but I am not sure how much of that had to do with Gauthier.

    Now, the Habs can add some prospects and take advantage of the teams that are really thinking they can go all the way with a player, or two. Chicago really wants a 2nd line centre, so see what they would give up for Plekanec. The Habs can afford to trade him if it brings back another power winger that can play on the 2nd line. Why not offer Gill, Plekanec and Weber for Stalberg and Beach?

    Then look at what the Habs could get for Kostitsyn, Gionta, Campoli, Nokelainen, and Kaberle. I would keep Moen unless someone makes a ridiculous offer! and of course, Do whatever they can to remove Gomez from the roster. Blunden was playing well before he was injured and will be solid on the 4th line when he is healthy.

    Let Markov wait until next season. With some prospects and picks to fill holes that will balance the forwards, the Habs would be a much stronger team long term. On defence, Nash will be back from injury and adds size, Pateryn should be done in University and he is also a big stay at home d-man with an edge and can put up some points. St. Denis did not look bad when he was called up, and Beaulieu has a chance that he could make the team, although, it may be better for him to play in Hamilton for a bit. Emelin and Diaz will be that much better having an NHL season under their belts. Subban will also benefit from his “sophomore” season.

    I see a team that can be on the rise if they do the right thing at the deadline. Players like Avtsin, Kristo, Gallagher, Prybil, Bournival,and Quailer add some nice pieces for the future

    Habfan17

  9. jonnyp says:

    White is a type of player that wins your championships not players like camploi , gill, darche , ak , plec ( if deals right ) weber or Diaz gotta go can’t keep 2 d man that play same !! We need more players like bourque or cole !!

    • The Cat says:

      Agreed. Habs gotta rid themselves of players who become invisible as the games get tighter near the end of the year and the playoffs.

      [Disclaimer]: I’m a hockey fan. I care about the habs, but probably not as much as you.

    • Marc10 says:

      Ditto. But we also need kids mature beyond their age (or if they’re not, the necessary oversight) so they don’t all go Mike Ribeiro on us…

      LL seems to be a kid that’s going to fit the bill. He’s one serious kid, never takes a shift off, smart, tenacious and with a good hockey IQ. He’ll be alright.

      But yeah… we need another two Ryan Whites. Blunden might do. I’d love an answer to Thornton. A big guy who can go with just about anyone, but won’t embarrass himself. And if we could get a bad arse D like Orpik… well then… we’re in business!

      We play better when we’re up against big, tough teams. So let’s make every game a war and get the weapons to wage it.

  10. G-Man says:

    Stu Hackell, official opposition scout for HIO. Thanks, another great read.

  11. nickster13 says:

    Why is it the Lightning “get it” but we don’t? They are higher up than we are, yet they have put Kubina on the market, and traded Dominic Moore. They get it. We sadly aren’t gonna make the playoffs, so why havent we announced yet that some players are on the market? Its not tanking, its just knowing when to fold, its not shameful, as we can retool for next year.

    • habsperspective says:

      Agreed, but knowing how PG works, can you expect any difference. Or this lack of activity, is a sign that a plan to get Gaughtier out is in the works.

      Hopefully

    • G-Man says:

      The Lightning don’t get it. They are using 1-3-1 with a load of scorers on the team. They have suspect D and their goaltending is awful.

    • The Cat says:

      We dont know what the plan is though, or if theres even one. Who will be GM next year? Like a politician avoiding tough decisions before an election, maybe PG’s only hope to save his job is if by miracle they make the playoffs.

      [Disclaimer]: I’m a hockey fan. I care about the habs, but probably not as much as you.

  12. Marc10 says:

    All we need to do is play like we did against Boston. But I’m betting against it…

    The usual suspects will show up, but the others will need an injection of willpower… Thankfully Ryan White is around. I’m hoping he lights the match again… The Habs play better when they’re challenged to bring it.

    • Dulljerk says:

      Not sure what all this talk about Ryan White is about. Yes, he’s a mucker and a fourth liner, but that’s about it. He’s not going to make any difference to the performance of this team overall. He’s not going to win you hockey games and he is not going to get you the big goal when you need it. I’m assuming that what people missed about him is he is “game”. Most teams have 3, 4 or even 5 of these guys and most have more talent.

      “Is the little dog going to yap, or is he going to bite?”

  13. Trisomy 21 says:

    Normally I’d suspect that MTL has the upper hand playing a team who’s played the night before…..

  14. G-Man says:

    And you follow a team you despise. Yzerman gets it that with shit D and terrible goaltending, his team could sell early. There are 10 days left to trade. Plenty of time for injuries to contending teams to make deals.

  15. munch17 says:

    Add AK 46 ( who we have destroyed) and Moen ( who I like) – at least they should get good picks or prospects.


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