Sabres Thoughts

Gotta get a few things out there.  First, I don’t care if your coach is an asshole.  He shouldn’t have to hold your hand or give you a pat on the back for your effort.  You left that behind when your mom was no longer waiting off the field or ice surface with orange slices and a bottle of water.  Second, he might be yelling because you are MAKING THE SAME MISTAKE OVER AND OVER AGAIN.  If we as fans are throwing our hands up in the air and shouting obscenities at you as you weakly pass across in front of your own net YET AGAIN, I can only imagine what Ruff is thinking.

Look, I realize that emotions and personality play a part in all aspects of life, and for a hockey player, that includes hockey.  I’ve had bosses I didn’t like, but I kept working hard because I prided myself on it.  Didn’t mean I was happy with it, but I like working and money.  The stakes are a lot higher for these guys, but so is the compensation (and it’s guaranteed money).  Should you look for another job?  Okay, I can see that.  Don’t want to re-sign here?  Sure, maybe that’s the case.  But I think Mike Grier showed that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the hill.

I am a generally positive guy.  I like this team, and most of the players and coaches.  When I say I want to see the Sabres win the Cup, it’s these guys I’m talking about.  I realize that players and coaches come and go (some cities have that a lot more than others) but on the whole, I’d like success for the home-grown talent and not free agent mercenaries.  With all that said, if Terry Pegula/Ted Black/Darcy (or a new GM) decide these guys need to go, let’s do it.  Now is the time, while the long term contract guys are still young.

Okay, NOW you won’t hear from me much more after this.

Miller, Gerbe, Kaleta and Grier

…and throw in Connolly and Gaustad too.  These guys came up huge for Buffalo tonight.  The scoring forwards were quiet, but the tough guys and agitators did their work (though with a few too many penalties).  However, they were also instrumental in killing those penalties, and when the shot got through, Miller was dynamite.  A road win in a tough building against the 2 seed.  Not pretty, but it still puts them up one game to none.  James Van Riemsdyk was a beast for the Flyers, but the top line players on both sides couldn’t get much traction.  Mike Grier may be glacier-slow, but he still hits like a ton of bricks, and he had some solid shots.  Love that the boys stood in against the Flyers in that regard and gave some back.

Steve Montador, now there’s a problem.  He took some bad penalties and at times was not in the right place.  Sekera should be back soon, but that still leaves Morrisonn in there, who is pretty unnecessary with Weber playing decent.  Still, it’s hard to fault the D too much when you win 1-0.  The PK was superb, pressuring the guy with the puck and forcing the pass, but not getting too far out of position to do so.  I can’t wait for game 2.  SATURDAY WHERE ARE YOU?  (yes, I know it’s after Friday before you say anything)

Should the Sabres play for next year?

No, this is not a panic button post, but more the other team in town getting me thinking:  Should Buffalo target next year as the year to make a cup run?  There are some good reasons why they should:

  • Connolly, Niedermayer, Grier, and McCormick off the books – should open some top 6 minutes for Gerbe and Ennis, and possibly an FA center who is more consistent.
  • Next year could mean Luke Adam or Zack Kassian (or both) making the team, upping the size and tenacity of the team.
  • Seriously, read this about Kassian (h/t to Sabres Prospects):

At the Memorial Cup (in Brandon), neither one of the western teams wanted any part of him. They wouldn’t look him in the eyes.

  • I can’t imagine Jhonas Enroth not being the backup here next year.  Either that or trade the guy.  Tomorrow’s game might be a big factor in that.  If he starts again, I’m seeing the writing on the wall for Lalime, no matter how much Miller and the rest of the guys love him.
  • The biggest question for me is what to do with the defense.  Hopefully a partner for Myers is settled by the end of the year, so whoever that is has to be kept (if it’s not Morrisonn).  Montador and Rivet are UFAs, while Weber, Sekera and Butler are all RFAs.  Someone (or preferably two of them) need to take the next step this year.

So there you have it.  What does that change about this year?  I’d be hesitant to trade for a ‘rental’ player at the deadline, especially if there is a prospect moving out.  I like our prospects a lot more than I do most of the guys Darcy has brought in at the deadline recently (though a lot of that is hindsight).  I might change my view on that as the season wears on, though.  I do think this team can still make the playoffs, but I can’t imagine a true cup run.

Sabres Overrun the Thrashers 4-1

The hockey gods lobbed a hanging curveball over the Buffalo Sabres’ plate (if you’ll pardon the mixed sports metaphors) and they made solid contact, winning 4-1 in a mostly-empty Phillips Arena.  Atlanta was returning from a west coast trip, missing several key players (such as Bogosian and Pavelec) and Buffalo took advantage.  Tyler Ennis opened the scoring by getting behind the D and sniped one in off the post.  Great play by Montador on the outlet pass.  Ennis very nearly scored again after the faceoff at center ice, and was definitely working well with Rob Niedermayer and Mike Grier.  You got a little worried as the period went on, as the Sabres continued to pour on the shots but didn’t get any more goals.

That changed in the second period, though.  Just one minute in, Tyler Myers gets his first of the year while on the power play, as he took a one-time shot off a Chris Butler pass and buried it.  Thomas Vanek was in his office providing the screen.  Butler had a great game to my eyes, including some solid defensive plays where he didn’t get panicky.  Cody McCormick got his second goal of the year soon after, cleaning up a rebound, of which there were many.

The shutout was not to be, however, as Tobias Enstrom got one past Miller on the power play early in the third.  There was a screen in front, couldn’t make out who it was, but not a bad goal to allow.  By the way, love the Thrashers’ broadcasters getting excited for Ron Hainsey (6’3″, 210lbs) knocking someone down, when it was Tyler Ennis (5’9″, 163lbs)…yeah, he should be able to do that.  Thomas Vanek got it back, though, blistering one home after he got behind the Atlanta defense.

The theme throughout the night was shots – Buffalo had a ton, didn’t give up many, and the guys that NEEDED to shoot did (Myers, Vanek).  There was very little to complain about.  Let’s see, though, if they keep it up back at home.  Friday, Ottawa, be there.

Congratulations to Ryan Miller and Tyler Myers!

The title says it all, congratulations to Ryan Miller for winning his first Vezina trophy, along with the NHL Foundation award for his charity work.  Both well-deserved honors, and I’m very happy for him.  I’m also happy that some of the out-of-town media got to hear him give a speech, as he got a lot of praise for being thoughtful and articulate.  It’s cool that we get to hear him all the time.

Tyler Myers took home some hardware of his own, taking the Calder trophy in a landslide.  He had 94 first place votes, and the next closest was Jimmy Howard with 24.  I’ve been banging the Tyler Myers for Calder drum since he made the team, so it’s pretty satisfying to see him up there towering over everyone with the trophy.  Sweet.

One thing that’s always interesting is to check the voting numbers for the various awards, which you can see here.  Of note:

  • Miller was 4th for the Hart, with 13 1st place votes.
  • Tyler Myers got 6 5th place votes for the Norris trophy.
  • Jochen Hecht had a 3rd place vote and 4 5th place votes for the Selke.  Grier, Connolly and Gaustad also got votes.
  • Lindy Ruff had 2 2nd place and 7 3rd place votes for the Jack Adams.

All in all, an impressive showing for our boys, and you can’t help but feel the future is bright for this team.  Here’s hoping for more Calder candidates, and oh yeah, a Stanley Cup in there somewhere would work.

Sabres Special Teams

As promised, a rambling exploration of the Sabres’ performance in special teams situations.

PP:  Ranked 17th, 17.6%.  The Sabres scored 55 total goals in man advantage situations (49 5 on 4, 3 at 5 on 3, 3 at 4 on 3).  It’s interesting to note that at home, they were quite good (21.2%, 34G), but horrific on the road (13.7%, wow).

It was no secret throughout the year that the power play was struggling, which carried over into their dismal performance in the playoffs.  When you consider that Vanek (10 PPG) and Hecht (3 PPG) missed most or all of the Boston series, it was that much worse.  At various points, they had issues getting pucks in deep and getting established positions, which is why the elusive ‘puck moving/power play quarterback type defenseman’ was a deadline target, and probably remains one this offseason.  On the positive side, Tyler Myers was a solid addition on the power play, with his willingness to shoot early and often helping things quite a bit.  Several of his goals were just ‘screw it, I’m shooting’ plays that found their way through.

PK:  Ranked 2nd, 86.6%.  For the record, Buffalo took 333 minors (less than 20 other teams), 28 majors, 6 misconducts, 3 game misconducts.  There were 8 bench minors.  They were tops in the league at home, killing 89.8% there, while clicking along at 84% on the road (still a solid 6th place).  Total allowed power play goals was 38, one more than Boston, the best team in that regard.

Night and day difference, eh?  Tyler Myers and Henrik Tallinder lead from the rear here, average just over 3 minutes of short-handed time per game, with Jochen Hecht (that name again) and Mike Grier taking charge from a forward perspective.  I have no complaints here, the team was great at keeping opponents around the edges and clearing the puck, for the most part.