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by Kevin Sylvester / Buffalo Sabres
Bill Wippert
♦ No one is thankful for last week.   However, it illustrated the difference with the NHL now and a few years ago.  It used to be that good teams could hit the ice against a mediocre team and win on talent alone.  In essence, the good teams outclassed the bad ones no matter the effort level. 

The salary cap has nixed that.  It has become a game of hard work.  Meaning, you have to outwork your opponent no matter what the skill level is.  With that being said, here is my breakdown of last week’s 3 losses. 

          •Florida outworked the Sabres, particularly in the second period.  Perhaps the emotion was gone from a big weekend against Calgary and Philadelphia. 

          •The more I think about the Boston game, the less problem I have with it.  It was a hard fought battle against a big tough team, which got a very good performance from Tuukka Rask.  I bet Toronto wishes they kept Rask and traded Pogge.  The Bruins also won on a tip in overtime, there’s not much shame in that.

          •The Ottawa game displayed what could be a mental block in that place.  I don’t know how else to explain why the Sabres have not won there since March of 2008.  I think the effort was there, just a few mental lapses that cost them.  Fatigue could have also been a factor.  The two positives, if you can take any from the loss, were goaltending (which I’ll get to next) and the fight to the finish, which they did not do against Florida.

♦ I hope the fans that have criticized Patrick Lalime paid close attention to his performance in Ottawa because he was excellent. The only shot that he saw that went in was the second Daniel Alfredsson goal. He made some downright great saves to keep his team in the game and others to keep it close late.  Any player on the team would second my assessment and hopefully you saw Henrik Tallinder’s post-game comments on how they let Lalime down. 

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♦ Several of you have sent questions regarding the slow start for Thomas Vanek. I don’t know the answer for sure, but here is what I think: His shoulder injury at the start of the season obviously affected him early. But he bounced back from that quickly. I think he is adjusting to what now has become the norm, the “system” or trap. 

Vanek went through and adjustment two years ago when he was thrust into the premier goal scorer position.  It took him some time, but he figured out how to gain position against the best defenders teams could throw at him and started potting goals with regularity.  Now teams are just packing it in against the Sabres, and everyone else for that matter, so getting open looks at the net is a rarity. 

Vanek’s living is around the net, not on the rush even though he is capable of creating chances and burying one-timers.  He scores on rebounds and quick feeds.  It seems to me that his teammates are having a tough time getting shots through for rebounds to occur or passes in for the quick scores.  Vanek is one of the smartest players in the league, so he’ll figure it out and help his teammates do the same. 

♦ This week’s road trip is extra special as the players’ fathers have been invited on the trip.  By my count 19 fathers boarded the plane Tuesday morning with huge smiles, handshakes for all us, and a prideful glow from the success of their sons.  It’s great to witness and a classy move by the organization.

♦ Happy Thanksgiving, and since we’ll be spending it traveling to Philly and away from home, save me a piece of pumpkin pie.  With whip cream of course!
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