When you’re a Buffalo sports fan, you learn to never have unbridled optimism. It’ll only make you seem stupid and set you up to get hurt.
So when the Sabres showed life this week, I was cautious. Yeah, they beat Montreal and the Islanders but they needed a last-second Thomas Vanek goal to do the former and an unreal effort from Ryan Miller to do the latter. Not to mention that, despite losing 2-0 to Ottawa, the team looked better than it had in awhile, posting a season-high 41 shots.
The thing that left me most excited (as we’ll cover below) is that someone other than Jason Pominville/Vanek/Cody Hodgson has finally emerged for the team: (Tyler) Ennis the Menace.
The Vanek goal at the end aside, the moment of the Montreal game that really got the fans going was this unexpected lowering of the boom by Ennis on Josh Gorges:
[youtube_sc url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJKu3UkIog8" title="Tyler%20Ennis%20Hit%20on%20Josh%20Gorges" width="600" height="400"]
That leads me into…
Aside from the continued strong play of the HPV line (yeah, I’m callin’ it that), which aside from Miller carried the Sabres to an undeserved win on Long Island saturday, the emergence of Ennis has been nice. With five points in his last five games, he’s coming on as a secondary scorer. Which is nice since no one else is.
Did you know that Alexander Sulzer is fifth on the team in goals behind the four names mentioned above? Good for Suzler but there is no way he should be scoring at a better clip than Marcus Foligno, Drew Stafford (I automatically hiss when I say or hear his name), or half the team.
Ennis is doing what he does best: using his skating and silky moves to get himself free. Not only that, he’s finding a knack for becoming invisible and finding the open space, putting himself in a great position to score.
Another positive from the last week probably wouldn’t be for most teams. Lindy Ruff FINALLY sat the absolutely atrocious Tyler Myers. Myers, the former Calder Trophy winner, has been so horrendous this year that some fans are openly pining for his trade.
I understand that young defensemen take longer to develop so I’m not totally on board with the idea but his play has been so bad, I wonder how he’s going to dig himself out. He’s too “patient” with the puck, holding onto it to the point where he turns it over and causes issues in his own end. His total lack of aggression is troubling considering his size gives him an advantage that, if combined with a mean streak, could make him one of the more devastating defenders in the game.
Whatever it is, it was time for him to sit and understand that he can’t play this way. He responded last night, his first back in the lineup since Thursday’s tilt with Montreal, with arguably his best game of the season. Hopefully this is the kick in the ass he needs.
And last, but not least, Ryan Miller. After being merely “okay” against Montreal, he stole the show on Long Island (the Sabres were outshot 43-15) and had a very good effort against Boston the next day. He just looks like he’s back to his dominant self so hopefully he can shake off the bipolar act from the start of the season.
It’s good to see him finally show some consistency because if the Sabres hope to salvage this season, it’s going to be on him.
Hey, Teppo Numinen. Are you teaching this team how to play defense the way you did in your final two seasons in Buffalo? Because you can go ahead and stop that right now.
What in the hell has happened to this defense over the last year? Giving up 43 shots to the Islanders? Miller has had to be fantastic for them to remain MEDIOCRE. Myers got the press box seat he deserved and Jordan Leopold should be next. He was their best defenseman last year and now, it seems, he’s forgotten how to do his job.
Thankfully, he’s in the final year of his deal, so the team isn’t locked into him in the future. This will probably be his last year in Buffalo, making way for either TJ Brennan or Brayden McNabb. Brennan might be as bad defensively as Leopold has been this year but at least he’s got an offensive kick to his game.
Jhonas Enroth. How bad is he? So bad that Lindy may not start him again this season. Honestly, it depends on just how far out of the race Buffalo falls. If they are totally out by about game 30-35, he’ll get in simply because it makes no sense to wear down Miller for nothing. But where did the guy from last year go? He’s 0-2 with a 4.75GAA and an .847 save percentage. There was a time last year when a small section of the fans were pining to trade Miller and give the reigns to Enroth. GOOD GRAVY.
The offensive effort outside of the top line and Ennis has been positively abysmal. Where the hell are Foligno and Stafford? I know Jochen Hecht doesn’t contribute anything but “solid defense” to the team (and he somehow gets more ice time per game than Vanek which makes my ears and eyes bleed). Steve Ott has never been a big offense guy but two goals to this point?
Someone needs to emerge and take the pressure off or this team will continue to struggle. There are very few options on the farm (Luke Adam? Yikes) and the HPV line can only do so much.
Join me next week when the Sabres reach Bills territory: we hit the 1/3rd mark of the season and I already want it to be over.
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