Watching the Sabres this year has been akin to having a 3 hour root canal on most nights, especially in the first few games when coach Rolston's 'system' of choice was to sit back and hope nothing would go wrong rather than being proactive and trying to make something go right.
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There seem to be two styles of play employed league wide, and I would always rather the attacking, trying to produce good rather than sitting back in attempt to hope nothing bad happens.
Recently, the team has been more forceful both sending in players to forecheck and having their D engage attacking players sooner in an attempt to take away their time and space, specifically Ehrhoff and Ristolainen. The risk in that strategy is it's easier to be burned with a very young team, but teaching them to play aggressive hockey now while taking their lumps is far better than teaching them to sit back for entire games and trying to change how they play when that style is already engrained in them.
For the first 5 minutes of last night's game, it seemed like the players almost had a bet to see how many shots they could allow Vancouver to take before it became ridiculous. To that effort, job well done.
The Sabres played as if the neutral zone were quicksand, the offensive zone was Mount Kilimanjaro (too steep to be assaulted), and the puck was a hot potato.
They were a half second to a full second slower, in every aspect, to the Canucks, which lead to endless passes being broken up due to the delay in thought process.rnrnYou could count on one hand the players that were dangerous with the puck, meaning they were at least trying to make some kind of play and not just get rid of it at the first possible chance (Ennis, Myers, Foligno, and gasp, even Stafford).
Everybody else, for the most part, was swimming on ice without a life preserver.
For the 2nd straight game, the Foligno, Ennis, Stafford line was the teams best on the ice. Foligno, in particular, has done a solid job as a center. He has been a force in the offensive zone, done a solid job marking the other team's top players, and you can see how the opposing teams D wants no part of him on the forecheck.
As mentioned previously, both Ehrhoff and Ristolainen were very aggressive when the Vancouver forwards came into the zone, choosing to engage them quickly, instead of skating backwards, and it paid off multiple times. Yes, mistakes will happen when the D play that way, but backing off, playing positional hockey only delays the inevitable. Myers was also aggressive any chance he got, taking the puck and not just getting rid of it, but skating it out of the zone himself a few times, while also making a strong first pass many times as well. That is clearly his best attribute, and the strength of his game.
Aside from the constant of Miller playing well, that is about it in terms of The Good from last night.
Now, to The Bad : Mikhail Grigorenko. He is only in this category due to his linemates as there is absolutely no way to tell how well he did or did not play when being saddled with the likes of John Scott and Cody McCormick. Grigorenko is better off in the press box then being played with those two, and I fully understand that Porter is Rolston's pet as a player, but reality should smash Rolston in the face, and fast, that Porter is not the teams future while Grigorenko potentially could be, and he should be put with at least serviceable players.
That leads to The Ugly, and that is Henrik Tallinder, John Scott, and Cody McCormick. Tallinder looked like he was setting a new mark for incredibly bad decisions last night with the multiple giveaways, bad rink-arounds, and terrible passes that went nowhere, not to mention the bad reads he made. He is barely an NHL level defenseman at this point in his career, and it shows. As for Scott and McCormick, they set new levels of ineptitude last night. They no more resemble hockey players than a tree resembles being a jumbo jet. They could barely handle a simple pass from the D, before coughing it up readily, many times inexplicably. McCormick did his best to be a force on the ice...for the Canucks.
Finally, a couple of items of note on the Canucks after watching the game.
1. A stiff breeze seems to knock down many of the Vancouver players, like the Sedins, Kesler, and even Bieksa on the Foligno devastating crosscheck that wouldn't have knocked down the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree, let alone a grown man.
2. The Sedins play hockey like soccer, going backwards as much as they go forwards. Yes, it is devastatingly effective, but it is also maddening to watch, and rather dull, as it becomes a game of keep away.
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