Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Sabres are Good

First thing I'm taking away from this weekend is that the Chicago Blackhawks are a really good hockey team. I realized they had a lot of offensive talent, but they're well-balanced on defense too. I think that makes them superior to every team in the Eastern Conference except maybe Pittsburgh who I haven't really gotten a good look at yet this season. I've heard all the scuttlebutt about Chicago needing to win this year before they lose a bunch of important role players, but I admit, I thought they weren't ready to go that far yet. I was wrong. They look very, very good.

Second thing I'm taking from this weekend? As good as the Blackhawks are, the Sabres beat them. Minus Ryan Miller, Paul Gaustad, and Mike Grier, all important to the team in different ways. In fact, the Sabres have now beaten two of the top three teams in the Western Conference. I think it might be time to admit that these Buffalo Sabres are you know, good. Fans and media keep pointing to a big game and crying, "This is a measuring stick game!" and then backing off that and finding something to complain about when the Sabres actually win those games.

I think the last couple of games showed that the defense hasn't just been Ryan Miller. It really has been a team effort and it held up even when he wasn't in net. During the Caps post-game, the broadcast showed a really lovely package of strong defensive plays and it featured a lot of different players, both d-men and forwards, and not just the players who we think of as being defensively responsible. I wish it was available online somewhere because it was really eye-opening. Alexander Ovechkin was never in the game and that was largely because the Sabres never let him get in the game and that's been the case with a few stars on a few different teams.

Most of us have been concerned about the Sabres not scoring a lot of goals. Because that's how the most recent successful Sabres teams have won games, that's what we've gotten used to seeing work. But this Sabres team is winning in a different way and I wonder if that's just throwing us all off. I would certainly like more production from our top six, and a genuine, dyed-in-the wool, number one center would be a thing of beauty, but I don't know, can you argue with the stats? We're 30 games into our season. The Sabres are leading the division. They have 9 points on the 9th place team in the conference. They have games in hand on every team ahead of them, enough to theoretically be tied with or ahead of everyone but New Jersey. They've played strong games against a few of the best teams in the West. That's... good. The Sabres are good. Room for improvement in certain areas? Yes, always. But they're good.

Deal with it.


Vanek's Hair said...

I totally agree that this is a team playing like one that can contend deep into the playoffs. They also have games in hand in the 8th through 10th place teams. They are (granted it isn't even Christmas) on solid footing moving forward.

I still have concerns about the top forwards. The optimist that I am, I like to think guys like Vanek, Roy, Pominville and Connolly are collectively in a rut and will work out them. That would make this a very formidable team. My concern is that this is too deep in the season to be considered a rut, and that these are four players severly hampered by Lindy Ruff's overly defensive, and offensively restricting "system."

Coming out of the lockout, I really was complimentary of Ruff for adapting to the NHL up tempo style. Ruff was a restrictive defensive system coach pre-lockout, and he took what he had, young, fast and skilled and let them be what they are. I think there is some sort of middle ground where he can allow Roy, Vanek, Connolly and Pominville to play a little more freely and still have a solid defense.

I am confident in this group. I always have been. I was one of the few among local fans and media that thought the moving out of guys like Briere and Drury and was the right thing because those guys were on the wrong side of 30. The core is now hitting their collective prime. It just took a few years.

Katebits said...

But they're good.

Deal with it.

I'm not sure I can deal. :P


Heather B. said...

Vanek's Hair, Mark and I were just discussing yesterday whether The System, as successful as it's been overall, has been squelching Derek Roy in particular this season. He's definitely been more responsible, but he hasn't been as creative and sparkplug-y. It's an interesting question and maybe more of a middle ground would be good.

I am confident in this group. I always have been.

I was mostly with you. I admit, I was starting to wonder though.

joe said...

This was a great post..I may steal it..J/K...this team reminds me of a lot of the late 90's Sabres. I know you didn't follow them at that time, but they had great goaltending, showed good grit, and had streaky scoring...

Another part of the negativity is how the Sabres top six, have been the same players for the last 4 plus seasons. Fans have gotten bored with them. I bet if we had a bunch of kids from Portland or Grit players on the first 2 lines, People would be happier.

The biggest thing to me is what's going to happen in March, because unlike the last two playoff teams, where they really didn't have to make a trade, this time around, they need some scoring.

I think it's important for them to make a statement to the fans, that it's not the same old Sabres who lose Free agents and don't make deals..

Heather said...

I'm not sure I can deal. :P

You laugh, but you know Buffalo. Some of these people can't deal. It's no fun unless there's something to complain about. :P

Joe, I agree that if things are still going well in March and the powers that be are serious about making a real run, they'll have to make a move. Unless Gerbe and/or Ennis REALLY make an impression between now and then. I vote for Ilya Kovalchuk.

PKB said...

I am not only drinking the Kool-Aid but bathing in it. Though the suspicions I still have with this team makes it all feel a little dirty.

BTW, Vanek's Hair, I motion for a change to Kennedy's Hair so long as you want to maintain a screen name dedicated to hockey mops. But seriously, have you people noticed Timbits hair length? As one of my friends pointed out, it's definitely at maintenance level. He can not longer walk out of the house without some quality mirror time. What a homo. (Just kidding of course. I used to have mop that length and my hair is Pam Anderson blond.)