I had the perk of sitting in the 200 level on Saturday during the Sabres game, just behind the Sabres goal. As I watched, I noticed that while Buffalo got some very good opportunities throughout the game, Buffalo’s defense needs to stop holding up “Welcome All” as their opponents are on the rush. Plus, I noticed very few odd man rushes for Buffalo, last night, and all season long.
First, Doan’s goal in the first period. He was able to skate in right over the blue line, wind up, and take his shot. It wasn’t an odd man rush, there were 3 Sabres inside the blue line, and they continued to back up while Doan ripped it past Enroth. The 3rd goal by Phoenix came as Buffalo again didn’t stand up in their own end, and eliminate the shooter for the Coyotes.
Buffalo did outshoot Phoenix by a hefty margin. However, Phoenix was being allowed some exemplary opportunities in Buffalo’s own end. Phoenix was allowed to carry the puck over the Sabres blue line, and set up and cycle the puck well. Buffalo defenders would come over to confront the Phoenix forwards along the boards, and no hits would be thrown, just a friendly nudge. Phoenix was allowed to take numerous shots from the high slot on Enroth.
Buffalo needs to start standing up their opponents at their blue line (odd man rushes the exception). This has gone on for long enough this season. Opponents are carrying the puck in over the Sabres blue line, and making their home right that end. It’s no longer the case where Buffalo their quality of shots low. For 60 minutes, Buffalo is at war, defending their own zone from their opponents. If an opponent has the puck up against the boards, check them. Pin them against the board, and make things difficult for them. If an opponent wants to bring the puck in over the blue line, close the gap, give him no room to maneuver, and eventually force him to dump and chase. If an opponent wants to go between you and the boards with the puck, well, that one’s simple enough. HIT HIM.
Teams carry the puck into the Buffalo end because they know they can. It is time for anyone, and EVERYONE to step up and stop playing this weak soft hockey.
Second, Buffalo is starting to take their time coming out of their own end again. Buffalo has a very fast hockey team. It’s time that they start using this. Teams think the Sabres are weak. Start playing physical and moving fast. When Buffalo finally does get possession of the puck in their own end, they take forever moving down the ice. When they do, they are forced to throw the puck into the corner and go after it. Last night, Buffalo did a good job of setting up their attack once they got into the Phoenix end. However, it’s yielded very few goals throughout the season.
If Buffalo wants to start winning games, it’s time to start getting out of their own end, and fast. There shouldn’t be any thought about what to do. It’s clear the puck, and go on the attack immediately. Fast break outs will result in odd man rushes, and eventually more goals. Plus, the reason Buffalo ends up having to dump the puck into the corners in their opponents ends, is that their opposing defenders have time to line up, and defend their blue line. The minute that the puck hits a Buffalo players stick in his own end, the thought should be “time to move” and get the puck towards the other teams cage.
Buffalo may not lose a lot more games if they fail to use their speed, and break out of their own end quicker. However, if they continue to play soft hockey, they will lose a lot more games, because no matter how many shots you get in a game, if you allow your opponent to get excellent shots when they take them, you’re still going to lose. Buffalo needs to tough up, and fast. If Buffalo can force the opposition to play the dump and chase game, Buffalo’s speed will do the rest.
Defend your end, and do it physically. Buffalo needs to let their opposition know, if you want to come over our blue line, you’re going to pay physically, and you’re going to play our game from now on.