Memorial Archives

Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory - Sabres 5, Senators 4 (OT)
posted Apr 5, 2006 at 11:00PM

A chaotic game by the sounds of it. On one hand it looked like we were going to steal a game we had no business winning, and in the end let it slip away anyways.

One can be comforted by the fact that we were missing our top four defencemen, and that certainly was a huge factor. Still we did have a full complement of forwards. One would have thought that we would start seeing some of the lines that one could expect to be in use come play-off time. Let us hope these are not the ones we are going with.

For whatever reason Murray refuses to put the Big Line back together. Tonight it was Vermette who got to play the third wheel with Spezza and Heatley. This is just as stupid as putting Kelly or Eaves up there. There is only one player who should be up there, and that is Alfredson. Anybody else and the line devolves into the Spezza/Heatley show with a third guy just fluttering about. They don't play as a line.

During the pregame show they said that this was Murray's way of "rewarding" Vermette. But a real reward would be putting him with two forwards who he could reasonably expect to play with on at least a semi-permanent basis. Putting him on the top line is a temporary affair and everyone knows it.

What gets to me is that there doesn't seem to be any observations of who plays well with who and who doesn't. Alfredson does not play that well when with Arnason. Vermette and Heatley do not play well together. Alfredson plays his best when with Spezza and Heatley. Vermette is another, better, player when he has played with Arnason and at other times with Fisher.

Just flipping those two positions, putting the Big Line together and putting Arnason between Fisher and Vermette would have changed the texture of this game. But this is not a line I see come play-off time either. I cannot imagine Fisher not being at center, if not on our second line, then for sure our third line.

With the forwards available tonight we could have had the following combinations

Heatley - Spezza -Alfredson
Smolinski - Fisher - Neil
Schaefer - Arnason - Varada
Vermette - Kelly - Eaves

Smolinski and Schaefer are interchangeable depending on which of them is slated to play with Arnason and Havlat.

When you look at the first, second and fourth lines they all group players who have demonstrated "chemistry" when playing together throughout this season.

The point being is that this line up more closely resembles what one would expect to see, come play-off time. Might as well get them playing together now.

I have no doubt that if these lines were used tonight in Buffalo, that the whole nature of the game would have swung back in our favour.

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