Four games in, and the Sabres have three wins to show for it. Not too shabby. Buffalo’s best players are heavily involved, with Vanek leading the way with 7 points (3G 4A), and youngster Luke Adam making his case to stay up all season with 6 points (3+3). I love that Lindy has committed to Enroth playing a lot:
“We plan on using Jhonas a fair amount. In back-to-back situations, we’re definitely going to use him. The overall plan for him is to get him in every three or four games.”
This is music to my ears, and probably a load off Ryan Miller’s shoulders. Jhonas battled for the win in the back half of this weekend’s back to back games against the Crosby and Malkin-less Pens. Every weekend in November involves back to back games, so if you aren’t familiar with Enroth, you will be soon enough. It’ll be interesting to see if he gets in on any games in the next two weeks first though, as there are 3 games each week with a day in between.
Check out the ice time from that game, by the way, could we be back to the post-lockout ‘roll four lines’ Sabres? Would love it.
The Sabres are hot right now, gaining 7 of their last 8 points available including 2 shutouts, but the hottest team around is in the building tonight as Sidney Crosby’s Penguins come to visit. The Pens have won 11 in a row, and all the ‘kid’ has done during that time has put himself at the top of the list for goals and points. And that’s without (for all or part of that time) Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal.
On the positive side for the Sabres, they usually do well shutting down or at least curbing the production of top players. They’ve frustated Alex Ovechkin, and caused Dany Heatley’s line to be -9 the other night with no goals. If the secondary scoring that occurred last game can take the heat of Vanek a bit, these guys will be back in a playoff spot in no time. Let’s break the Penguins’ streak TONIGHT.
The NHL gives away it’s major awards tonight in Las Vegas, and I thought I’d toss up some notes in case you are the sort that ignores the off-season until training camp.
The first name you need to listen for is Ryan Miller. He is a Vezina finalist, against Brodeur and Bryzgalov. He has a great look at winning this, especially with the crest of popularity he has from the Olympics here in the US. Miller is also a top contender for the Messier Leadership award, where he’s up against Sidney Crosby and Shane Doan.
Miller is also up for the NHL Foundation Award, which, well:
is awarded annually to the National Hockey League (NHL) player “who applies the core values of (ice) hockey—commitment, perseverance and teamwork—to enrich the lives of people in his community”.
That’s definitely our man, what with his creation of the Steadfast Foundation and work with other charities. Mike Green and Dustin Brown are also candidates.
Perhaps the most interesting award for Sabres fans this year is the Calder trophy, with Tyler Myers up against Matt Duchene of the Avs and Jimmy Howard of the Red Wings. There are good arguments for all of them, and I’m not honestly sure I could be unbiased about this one. I think Tyler Myers did more for his team this year, as he basically allowed Buffalo to play the game differently, he came up huge offensively, was huge (heh) in his own zone as well, and soaked up a ton of minutes. Jimmy Howard could steal this, though, with the ‘goalie is a harder position’ argument.
As usually happens, as soon as the cup was awarded, you started seeing odds for who was going to win next season getting thrown around. So I took a look to see where Buffalo ranks, and they (as of this morning) sat at 18/1. Not in the top tier, with teams like Chicago, Pittsburgh, or San Jose (ha), but solidly in the second tier. Where they should be, most likely, based on the talent we think will return.
What I want to know is, will the Sabres be considered a true threat next season? Buffalo was a division leader, had a respectable if not spectacular scoring differential, and has Ryan Miller. But you KNOW that the top ‘Cup Contenders’ everyone will mention in the East are Pittsburgh and Washington, with yet more obsessive coverage of Crosby and Ovechkin. Olympian Miller might get Buffalo some more pub and national notice, but I think our guys will have to seriously outperform WAS/PIT for a long stretch to get put in their category. And, you know, get back on NBC.
Whatever else happens this offseason, I am expecting this team to be the division winner again. Let’s see if anyone outside of Western New York has any opinions, or if the extent of it will be “oh hey, yeah, the Sabres, they’ll be OK, I guess…”.