– There couldn't have been two more starkly different emotions on display at Joe Louis Arena on Monday night following the Detroit Red Wings
' 5-0 pasting of the Buffalo Sabres
While the Red Wings celebrated setting a franchise record with their 15th straight home win this season – besting the 14 that Detroit strung together in 1965 – the Sabres were down the hall fielding questions about another mistake-filled, lackluster effort that had Buffalo reporters pressing for answers afterward.
Prior to reporters being let into the Buffalo locker room, Sabres owner Terry Pegula and other team executives walked directly into the room as players dressed while trying to wrap their minds around the fact they've got just 43 points and have a steep mountain to climb if they even want to get into the playoffs.
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Sabres captain Jason Pominville
said Pegula didn't address the team, but added that it didn't matter if he did.
"It's not up to him to say anything to us," Pominville said of Pegula. "We've got to figure it out ourselves with the coaches and everything. It's up to us to figure it out and, I mean, it's not up to him to come in here. We know we've got to be better and even if he would say something, it still falls on us. We're the guys out there playing. We're the guys that have to be better."
That comes along with a feeling of responsibility, as well – after all the things Pegula did to try and win big for Buffalo and its hockey fans. This is a team that some thought had a chance to make a run at the Stanley Cup this season, but instead is sitting seven points out of the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
"It's tough because he's done his part," Pominville said of Pegula, who wasn't made available for comment. "He's done more than his part. He's given everything to us to have success. He's remodeled the whole arena basically, went out and has been really good with our families and really good with the players and … I mean it's (up) to us to give back and right now we're not doing a good enough job. It's been frustrating. I'll take the blame for it. I'm frustrated. A lot of guys are. It's been a tough little go for us here."
The Sabres (19-21-5) spent big in the off-season on players such as Christian Ehrhoff
and Ville Leino
and made a trade to pick up steady stay-at-home defenseman Robyn Regehr
. Ehrhoff and Regehr are currently among a spate of injured Sabres, while Leino – who also missed time hurt – has 3 goals, 7 assists and a minus-7 rating in 33 games.
No Sabre summed up the team's frustration as vehemently as starting goalie Ryan Miller
– who allowed all five goals in just 24:32 of action and was pulled early in the second period. Miller has gone through a slump plus a concussion that kept him out for three weeks and might still be something he's battling to regain his focus from.
After he was pulled, in front of family and friends at Joe Louis Arena and after his younger brother Drew Miller
set up the fifth goal, Miller was seen smashing his goalie stick in the hallway behind the bench. He wasn’t much happier after the final horn sounded.
"Well, we've been good before and for some reason, it's just a search right now," Miller said when asked whether he thinks they can right the ship and make the playoffs. "We've got to stop being nice. That's what it comes down to."
As for suggesting that a trade or trades to shake up the mix in the locker room, it's probably best to not even go there with Miller right now.
Goalie - BUF
GAA: 3.12 | SVP: 0.898
"It's not my decision," Miller said. "If it's going to happen, it's going to happen in the locker room. Do you guys (in the media) really think there's any kind of trade made anywhere that's going to affect this team any more than we can affect it in this locker room? (Reporters) are just … I don't know what to think, because there's no such trade. There's never going to be a trade in the history of the NHL that's going to affect anything like that."
He wasn't finished.
"If you want to just destroy a team and just go out and be reckless and do something, yeah, then there's going to be new guys in here," Miller fumed. "But other than that, this locker room's going to be pretty much the same, if not completely the same – and we've got to find it from in here. We can't sit and wait for somebody else to do it."
The Sabres got off to a good start, with a 10-5-0 record heading into a road game on Nov. 12 against the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins
– which they lost 6-2 and had Miller get his concussion after being hit hard by Milan Lucic
while out of the net playing a puck.
Since that game, Buffalo has gone 9-16-5 and dropped out of the playoff picture for the time being. Pominville was asked about that on Monday night, but said the poor record after losing to the Bruins was more of a coincidence than anything else.
He said it's simply time for the Sabres to start playing like a winning team and do less meeting about what's gone wrong.
"Myself and other guys on the team are constantly talking, whether it's leadership meetings and stuff like that, but it's got to be enough with the talk," Pominville said. "It's got to be going out there and playing. Until we do that, nothing will happen. We can say the right things, but you've got to go out there and execute."