We've already seen one full-blown hit piece on the Buffalo Sabres at this site, so please believe me when I say I'm not trying to take another run at hockey's worst team. (Although it's tough to avoid taking shots at this club. I imagine that Swedish cleaning lady that stole a passenger train and crashed it into an apartment building looking at the Sabres and thinking, now that's a train wreck.)
Instead, I want to offer a helpful piece of advice to Pat LaFontaine and Ted Nolan, the two men either confident or foolish enough to stake their front-office reputations on somehow turning this franchise around. Want to win more games? I know you do. Here's the trick: start better.
The Sabres dropped the second half of their home-and-home with the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday, although they were never in it. After James Van Riemsdyk scored twice in the first period, the game was all but over.
"The first period, we were terrible," Sabres forward John Scott said after the fact. "We were flat. We didn't have any energy. Ted [Nolan] came in and told us and said, 'You guys are garbage.' "
Nolan was right to be so direct. The Buffalo Sabres would be wise to learn from JVR, whose two-goal first left him one shy of the Sabres' first-period scoring for the entire season.
They've scored just three first-period goals this season, four fewer than the second-worst team in the category, the Florida Panthers.
They've also surrendered 29 first-period goals, the most of any team in hockey, and not once this year have they gone into the first intermission with a lead. Even Carrie thinks Buffalo's first period is traumatizing.
As one Redditor points out, "after the first period the Sabres have just a -1 goal differential, but it rarely matters since the game is often out of reach by then."
It's true. In the second and third periods, the Sabres' goal-scoring is relatively middle of the pack. They're 14th in second-period scoring and 20th in third-period scoring. Granted, even these numbers are likely inflated by score effects, as the team is pressing for offense in an attempt to tie the game (the Sabres have trailed to open the second period 18 times this season). But the fact remains that if the Sabres could survive the first period a little more often, they might have more than five wins.
Or maybe not, since they're only 1-2-1 in games where they've escaped the first period without falling behind. But that might just be a small sample size issue. Work on your sample size, Buffalo, and we'll talk.
The other solution, I guess, would be to skip the first period and start all Buffalo games in the second. But in a way, that's sort of what Buffalo already does -- it doesn't work unless the other team agrees to it too.