Niagara Gazette

Pro Sports

January 1, 2007

TIM SCHMITT: Sabres win, but power play still snoring

COMMENTARY

BUFFALO — New Year’s Day was made for La-Z-Boys, not the blue plastic chairbacks at HSBC Arena. Add in a 4 p.m. faceoff and the Sabres’ 20th sellout crowd was destined for something more banausic than breathtaking Monday, the small buzz surrounding Ted Nolan’s return notwithstanding.

Lindy Ruff even alluded to the hushed crowd during his postgame press conference, yielding a room full of chuckles when he noted that, “a late night and an early game hurt our fans. Our fans weren’t sharp tonight.”

It’s true. Kiss cam might as well have been snooze cam as Buffalo churned out a 3-1 win over the New York Islanders with a mixture of good goaltending and an incredible individual effort from Maxim Afinogenov.

The good news is the new year rolled in like the old one bolted, with two points. The bad news is the power play did the same. Buffalo did bang one in with the extra man — Paul Gaustad’s golf swing gave the hosts the ever-important first strike — but the Sabres followed with four uninspired opportunities.

Buffalo managed a power-play goal in each of the four victories during this holiday homestand, but it’s a far cry from the guns-a-blarin’ specialty unit that ravaged the league last season. The Sabres came into Monday’s game 18th in the league in power-play efficiency, scoring on less than 17 percent of their chances.

Put simply, Buffalo’s power play, much like Monday’s crowd, seems sleepy.

“We’ve had some good power plays and some bad power plays. There’s times when we’re really out of sync and there’s times when we really pass it well,” Ruff said. “We’ve got to keep working at it. Sometimes our passing has been very poor coming up ice, sometimes it’s been excellent.”

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