NEW YORK — It’s interesting listening to scouts and media members in the press box who are seeing the Sabres play for the first time. They’ve seen the dismal record and know Buffalo isn’t good, but as their comments show, they’re never quite prepared for how bad the Sabres really are.
Belittling remarks and flabbergasted glances were plentiful Thursday night in Madison Square Garden. First, they came from observers. Then, even more harshly, the contempt came from the players themselves, who seem to have finally realized they are in a terrible, terrible place.
The Sabres extended their disturbing trend of looking like a peewee team, and only the goaltending of Ryan Miller prevented a 2-0 loss to the New York Rangers from being much worse. The Rangers opened with a 31-10 shot advantage, and the combination of New York taking its foot off the gas and Buffalo trying harder led to a 46-29 finish.
The Sabres closed the opening month of the season at 2-12-1.
“When everyone wants this to stop, it’ll stop,” Miller said. “We seem to be making more situations for ourselves than even the other team can create. It’s on us to dig out of it and start having the right attitude and right approach. It’s been a lot of games searching, trying to figure it out. Enough’s enough.”
The Sabres had a long closed-door meeting following the game. It featured the same old sayings about compete level and intensity, but this time it had an edge.
“It’s just everyone looking in the mirror and understanding how deep of a ---- we are in right now,” rookie left wing Zemgus Girgensons said, using an expletive. “It’s just getting that fire back and trusting the guys next to you. You have to help the other guys work their way up, and if we keep playing like this, not helping each other, we’re going to die individually. We’re going to stop being hockey players. No one will want players like that.”
The questions now are: Did management assemble a group of players who lack drive? Is the coaching staff unable to stir the passion needed? Are the players failing to prepare themselves properly?
When those are questions after 15 games, it’s no surprise the team has the worst record in the NHL.
“No, I’m not surprised honestly because you get yourself in this situation, it’s hard to get out,” Miller said. “If you don’t play the right kind of hockey in this league, you get beat. We haven’t played the right kind of hockey, so I’m not really surprised.”
The lack of fire was evident after the first couple of shifts. Miller made 18 saves in each of the first two periods as the Rangers tilted the ice, peppered him with shots and embarrassed Buffalo on the shot counter.
The Rangers had the following shot advantages:
• 10-3 with 7:25 gone.
• 16-5 with 13 minutes played, including a power-play goal by Derick Brassard.
• 19-6 after one period.
• 24-9 with 26 minutes off the clock.
• 31-10 when Chris Kreider made it 2-0 with 31:21 elapsed.
“We don’t compete enough,” forward Ville Leino said. “Part of being a professional is to do that. It’s been going for a long time, and it’s going to have to stop one way or another.”
Coach Ron Rolston said lineup changes will be made Saturday when the Sabres host the Anaheim Ducks. He’ll figure out today at practice who goes where.
Not much can be fixed in a day. Girgensons said too many players drag previous losses and slow starts into the next game.
“You just have to go out there every game with a brand new start,” Girgensons said. “I’ve never been part of this much losing games so far. It’s just tough on the mind. It’s just a game – you lose, you win – but you have to just seriously chop it off, drop the record. … Go out there and start a new season.”