When the Ottawa Senators were ahead of the Buffalo Sabres going into the Olympic break, everyone was very upset. After two straight losses to Pittsburgh and Washington along with a somewhat, disappointing trade deadline people started to panic. Questions like, “Is Raffi Torres enough for what this team needs? Is the defense falling apart? Are Pominville and Roy still on this team?” were starting to be asked.
In a matter of days the Sabres woke up and since they played the Flyers on that Friday night when Timmy Connolly scored in overtime, this team has been very good. We are not only on pace to win the NORTHEAST division, but on pace to finish in second place in the Eastern Conference! But why did the fortunes of this team change back to how things were early in the year?
The Answer: For one Derek Roy and Jason Pominville have been outstanding and as they usually do later in the year, they make up for their first-half play. The defense of the Sabres also looks to be back on track, as Lindy has found a game-to-game rotation between Butler and Sekera that seems to work out nice. Myers and Tallinder are playing as good as ever. Toni Lydman has been a rock and rarely makes mistakes now. Even Rivet and Monty look to be bouncing back nicely at the right time as well. Another plus of late has been the play of Patty Lalime. A nice couple of games against Atlanta and Tampa will help the Sabres feel more confident about each game no matter who is in net.
Now in my opinion, I truly believe that you need a spark, an extra energy to keep a team going through the gruesome season. THE REASON THE BUFFALO SABRES DIDN’T MAKE THE PLAYOFFS LAST YEAR AND PERHAPS THE REASON THE SABRES DIDN’T WIN THE CUP IN 05-06, IS A BLESSING TO THIS YEARS TEAM. Injuries, injuries, and more injuries to Torres, Vanek, Connolly, and Kaleta have opened the door to Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe. I truly hoped that Ennis would get his shot again this season because I always felt he could be valuable this year come playoff time. In order to make a long run like the Sabres did in 05-06, you must fill your veterans in with some young blood. Just like Derek Roy and Jason Pominville did back then, guys like Kennedy, Ennis, and Gerbe can do now. To me this was a missing part of the Sabres offense for most of this year. SO IN THE END, THE INJURIES TO SOME OF ARE BEST PLAYERS, MAY HELP US AFTER ALL! I really hope Tyler Ennis stays with this team and with the way Gerbe has played this year, he could help as well. It’s starting to feel like the days when you actually looked forward to deciding who to play and who to sit. We are full of forwards now and it is coming together at the right time of the year. Just as the 2005-06 team got hot in their final games of the regular season, this team is doing the same. Get hot now and carry on through the Eastern Conference baby!
I, personally find myself constantly comparing this team to the 05-06 team. You look at how no one expected much out of this team at the beginning of the year. You look at how we got rid of players that might have held this team back, in guys like Spacek (think Zhitnik), Max (think Satan), Paille and MacArthur. You look at how they got off to a great start, struggled, and then came back around. You look at how Brian Campbell became a number one d-man, just like Tyler Myers has this year. You think of how we had a goaltender that elevated his play to the next level, just as Ryan Miller continues to go to higher levels this year. You think of all the youngsters chipping in, whether it was Derek Roy on the wing instead of his natural center position or Pominville on the fourth line. This could be what Ennis, Kennedy, and Gerbe do this year. These guys all had heart. This team has heart. So as we get to the core, many people will say that this current team lacks a Drury or a Briere. Well I beg to differ and here is why. Guys like Paul Gausted, Jochen Hecht, and Mike Grier all bring what Drury brought to this team and instead of getting everything in one; this team has more balance now. Tim Connolly and Derek Roy have taken over for Briere and can be just as electric at times. The only thing that held that team back was the injuries late in the playoffs. Let’s avoid those injuries later this year and I believe that this team could win the cup. I believed back in 05-06, I believe in 09-10, DO YOU BELIEVE???
Here is my playoff lineup and a comparison to the beloved 05-06 team after:
Ennis Gausted Grier
Hecht Connolly Pominville
Kennedy Roy Vanek
Torres Mair Kaleta
Extra: Stafford, Ellis, and Gerbe
Now let’s compare,
Roy Drury Grier
Hecht Briere Dumont
Kotalik Connolly Max
Pyatt Gausted Pommer
This year’s version might not be as flashy, but the guys have matured into roles their elders once held. I think with the above lineup and depth, that we are just as good this year. GO SABRES!