Sabres far from sharp

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:14 AM ET

Senators 4, Sabres 2

The Senators did not see the real Sabres last night, "embarrassed" captain Daniel Briere said in no uncertain terms.

"I was frustrated with the way we showed up," the Gatineau native fumed --meaning his team didn't show up -- following the 4-2 loss to Ottawa in a first-place showdown which saw the home side hold a 49-22 edge in the shots-on-goal department.

"This was supposed to be one of our biggest games and we had way too many passengers. Sometimes you pick up bad habits when you're on a roll (eight wins in a row) like we were, but when you're outworked like that, it's just plain embarrassing. I can't explain it.

"We know they're the top team in the NHL. For us, it was not so much about winning or losing, but showing that we can play with the best.

"We had no effort from so many guys. So many players were scared to get hit, they'd just throw the puck away. We were not playing like we usually are. The way we played the first 35 or 40 minutes was unacceptable.

"I still believe in our team, but we definitely have some issues to resolve before the playoffs begin."

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff concurred with Briere's sentiments, for the most part.

"It's a pretty common theory ... for 40 minutes, collectively as a group, we had a lot of players that played poorly as a group," said Ruff, who benched winger Thomas Vanek for the entire third period.

"It was a group effort. There wasn't many guys who can stay on the bus. You have to throw them off at different times."

Daniel Alfredsson acknowledged the Sabres have been worse against Ottawa.

"We've beat them 10-4, 5-0, 6-1 ... we know they're a good team, but they still had a chance to tie it at the end," he said. "We were just the hungrier team (last night)."

Except for Briere, who admitted he would have no problem sharing the above comments with his teammates. That means he must have chewed into them pretty good.

Starts and Stops:

Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller had 20 saves in the first period. His left goalie pad must have made 12 of them ... Senators forward Chris Neil tried to goad Sabres goon Andrew Peters into dropping his gloves with eight minutes left in a one-goal game, but Peters wasn't falling for it ... Who else misses Senators tough guy Brian McGrattan? ... Cheapseats star of the game -- Peter Schaefer.

Between Periods:

Following up on the Shaved Stick Scandal that possibly cost the Senators a point in Boston (Antoine Vermette and Jason Spezza were both ruled to have illegal blades, preventing the former from participating in the shootout and forcing the latter to borrow one of Bryan Smolinski's twigs -- only to have the league admit referee Shane Heyer made a mistake the next day), we asked Vermette why he bothers to shave the blade in the first place. Like, he wouldn't be able to lift the puck otherwise? "I know we sound picky, but we feel the difference, obviously," he said. "It's our tool, we play with it every day, we've got a pretty good feel for it, a feel a guy who plays maybe once a week won't get. It makes a difference, the curve, the lie, the length, the material ... there are different components you look for in a stick." I feel the same way about a pen ... Mike Fisher update: "It feels a lot better (yesterday) than it did (Friday)," the injured Senators centre said of his sprained ankle as he limped from the rink following treatment around noon ... Dominik Hasek update: "I feel progress every week, a little today also," he said yesterday. "But I don't feel like I can go on the ice in full equipment in the next few days. I feel much better, but I'm still not close to being back in the game."

Things That Make You Go Hmmm..:

After only about the sixth time he shouted, whistled, slammed his hand on a counter or otherwise displayed his displeasure with the way things were going on the ice below, I glanced at Sabres goalie coach Jim Corsi (a Groucho Marx lookalike) in the Buffalo box behind us. "Watch the game," he spat back, pointing to the ice below. "Watch the game." We're thinking somebody should be switching to decaf for the playoffs ... Corsi's commentary turned X-rated (in at least two languages) during the third. Apparently, he didn't realize the referees four levels below couldn't hear him, but if he was trying to bother the hard-working stiffs within spraying distance who were trying to concentrate on what they were typing, he did a good job.

SOME THINGS WORTH NOTING...

FIRING BLANKS: Maybe the best thing about last night for the Senators was being spared the embarrassment of another shootout. They are currently 0h-fer 13 individually while losing their last four shootouts. "There's no shootouts in playoff hockey so we don't practice them," Jason Spezza theorized yesterday morning. "That's my go-to (explanation)."

BY THE NUMBERS: Senators winger Dany Heatley had five shots on goal in the first period alone. So did the Sabres ... Senators W Chris Kelly (first period) and Sabres centre Derek Roy (third) both dinged posts ... Sabres captain Daniel Briere, who scored his 20th goal, was 15-6 in the faceoff circles.

don.brennan@ott.sunpub.com


Videos

Photos