So, much to my surprise (insert sarcasm), I logged on to write a blog recapping the weekend, and again, Garth has amazed me with his... “wisdom”. Again, Enroth has seen better days, however goalies are as good as the team in front of them. Regardless of who is starting in net, the team in front of Enroth and Miller is pretty pathetic.
I didn’t get to watch Friday’s game against the Panther’s because I went to the Rochester Amerks vs Albany Devil’s game in Rochester. I was honestly impressed with how Rochester played. Despite all the call-ups, the Amerks are playing great hockey. The best part of it, Rochester’s 3-0 win came at the hands of solid defense. The exact kind of defense that Buffalo needs to start playing in front of Miller and Enroth.
Rochester’s defense played very aggressively, and limited Albany’s shot quality. Now, Albany did have 40 shots at the end of the game, but the shots were desperation shots, that weren’t very good. The shots came from the outside, and the Amerks made sure Drew McIntyre had clear lines of site and kept the shots from the outside.
What impressed me the most, was that the Amerks defense didn’t give the Devils ANY room as they came into the Rochester zone. Even on odd man rushes, the Devils had little to no options with the puck. From my vantage point, one could literally watch the space between the Albany players and the Amerks defense just disappear as the Devils approached the Rochester blue line. By the time the Devils hit the Amerk blue line, they either had to dump the puck into the corners, or throw the puck at McIntyre.
Now, taking away the odd man rushes, when there were numerous Amerks back, the Devil’s had to again, dump the puck into the corners, or they were getting hit. The Amerks defended their end with authority and in turn generated very strong scoring chances for themselves from their defensive play.
On numerous occasions, the Devils played similar to the Sabres, and let the Amerks walk into their end, and set up shop. The Amerks were able to generate very strong scoring opportunities, and also got a few goals from the Devils soft defensive play.
Even though McIntyre had to face 40 shots, they weren’t great shots. I’d rather watch a goalie face 40 weak shots, than watch a team let their opponent take 25 excellent high caliber shots due to weak defense.
Fast forward to the Sabres game last night against the Rangers. Let’s talk about the goalies... And more importantly, the team in front of them.
1-0 Rangers, Hagelin walks into the Buffalo end, on an odd looking 2 on 1. Leopold maintains the distance between him and Hagelin. He doesn’t try to move up and force Hagelin’s hand into taking action sooner than planed despite the fact that Sekera is right behind the 2nd Ranger joining the rush. Hagelin is able to walk into the high face-off dot, and let his shot go.
2-1 Rangers, 2 things on this goal. Callahan is able to walk in, Ehrhoff does a good job of being able to get between Callahan and Enroth. 1. Enrhoff shouldn’t have hesitated, and should have put Callahan on the ice. Play physical, defend your end, and don’t do soft crap. 2. The shot Callahan let go wasn’t a really strong shot. Enroth should have had his pads flush on the ice. Enroth should have had that one... I will give him that much.
3-1 Hagelin again! Brilliant break out for the Rangers... Crisp accurate passes up to Hagelin (It’d be nice to see Buffalo do this on their break out plays). Then, he gets to walk into the Buffalo end, and just let his shot go. Leopold doesn’t try to come and take him off the puck. He immediately gets into the defense position, starts backing up, and allows Hagelin to skate right in on Enroth, pick his spot, and let the shot go.
4-1 Gaborik hammers in the coffin nail. As the Rangers come in on the 3 on 2, what does the Buffalo defense do? Keep backing up and giving up their own defensive end. Gaborik is able to get himself some space, and let solid shot go in off the post.
Buffalo shouldn’t be letting the Rangers, or any team for that matter, just walk in and take these shots. The defense always retreats, and forms up around the goalie. In a way, a lot of the times the Sabres are already creating a screen for their opponents. Plus, opponents are able to skate in, pass the puck with ease, and take shots that Buffalo only dreams about when they are on the attack.
The coaching staff needs to change the way the Sabres play defense, and get them to play more aggressive. If nothing else, don’t give your opponents space as they come in over the blue line. I’m starting to think it doesn’t matter who’s in net because Buffalo immediately surrenders their zone the minute their opponents come up with the puck. Opponents pass the puck with ease, and get shots that shouldn’t even be allowed.
It’s hard to believe that the Amerks are the Sabres farm team... They defend their end with authority, and limit the quality scoring chances for their opponent. Buffalo just lets anyone and everyone walk into their end, and open fire. It’s not the goalies fault that this happens.
The pieces are there in Buffalo for a great team... So why does Buffalo play this pathetic style of defense each and every night?
Coaching? Maybe? I’m starting to run out of reason’s as to why they keep doing this.