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.