COMMENTARY | One of the biggest question marks surrounding the Buffalo Sabres enter this season centered on the offense and whether or not it would be able to score enough goals to win games.
People knew it would be an issue, but no one expected it to be this big of a problem.
They're sound enough at the back end to win some and Ryan Miller is guaranteed to play well enough to steal a handful, but if there is no one who can put the puck in the back of the net, the Sabres won't be winning a thing.
Through the first two games of the season, Buffalo has 54 shots and one goal while allowing 80 shots to be fired at its goaltender who has allowed only three by. When your goaltender gives you that solid of a performance in two games, you better win at least one, if not both, of those games.
There's only so much a goaltender can do. At some point, pucks have to find twine.
Against Ottawa on Oct. 4, Buffalo had opportunity after opportunity; open net after open net, but not one shot was able to find the back of the net. Even the team's top offensive player, Thomas Vanek, had nine shots - a few being of the high-quality scoring chance variety -- that night yet failed to score once.
"We played well, but we didn't get the job done offensively," said Vanek.
When looking for a place to point a lot of blame for Buffalo's anemic start to the season on offense, the power play would be a good place to start. Through the first two games, Buffalo is 0-11, and has struggled mightily to even put consistent pressure on opponents.
The team has stressed getting the power play to improve from where it was last season where it ranked 29th out of 30. Instead of improving though, the power play, which is 0-for-11 through two games, seems to be just as bad, if not worse, as last season. It's like the team has regressed in an area where many didn't think was possible.
After the Ottawa game, head coach Ron Rolston wasn't pleased with his team's performance, and made sure people were away of his feelings.
"We don't have enough guys playing the right way right now early in the season," he said. "So we're back to... back to square one."
When you're a team as young as the Sabres are (second-youngest in the NHL), it's obvious that there are going to be some growing pains that accompany the youth. That's when the veterans on the team need to step up even more than they are originally expected to.
One of those veterans is forward Drew Stafford.
Through two games, Stafford has a grand total of two shots on the season which isn't going to help a team score goals when you don't put pucks on net. Stafford is a former thirty goal scorer, and the team needs him to get back to that level of hockey if they are going to right the ship before it's thrown too far off course.
Another player who has disappeared is Tyler Ennis. A play-making forward, Ennis is a player who needs to be productive in order to earn himself a new contract after this season. So far, he's been nowhere to be found in the offensive zone.
Maybe the Monstars stole Stafford and Ennis' talents in order to give hockey a try.
One would expect a level of frustration to accumulate as the team fails to find the back of the net, but Rolston and the players on the team don't sense that it's happening yet through the first couple games of what is a long season. It may be safe to assume, however, that if the offense struggles continue, frustration will set in much sooner than later.
With the way the goaltending and, for the most part, the defense has been, Buffalo is just a couple goals from talking about the succesful start to the 2013-2014 season. Instead, it's a team looking for answers.
Buffalo's effort through two games against very good teams in Detroit and Ottawa has been good, and again, it's only two games into the year with, obviously, plenty of hockey still to be played, but it's already at a point where you have to sit and ask yourself just what needs to be done to get this offense rolling and see some production from the players.
Michael Straw has covered the Buffalo Sabres for the past three seasons, and his work has been featured on WGR550-Buffalo and PuckDaddy. For Sabres and more NHL news, following Michael on Twitter@TheMikeStraw.
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