Tag Archives: Thomas Vanek

Six moments that defined the Sabres season

Now that the season is over I wanted to take a look back at several of the things that made this season memorable for the Buffalo Sabres. Six moments that defined the Sabres season:

6.  Derek Roy’s injury:

In December the Sabres were reeling with the league’s worst record.  Then on December 23rd their leading scorer went down with an injury that all but ended his season.  Fans wrote the team and season off as an opportunity to try and evaluate some of their young players while deciding which veterans to trade. However, after January 1st the team turned everything around with a 28-11-6 record that propelled them from the league’s worst record to the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference.  There is no way to quantify the loss of Derek Roy, but the only thing you can think of is that Lindy Ruff used this as his motivation to push certain veterans, but also push young players. 

Roy’s injury also came back to bite the team in the playoffs.  As injuries mounted Roy was getting ready to return to the lineup.  Had the Sabres advanced giving Roy several more days of practice he may have returns closer to full speed.  However, injuries to Tim Connolly and Jason Pominville in the Philadelphia Flyers series drove Roy back into the lineup.  He played as well as can be imagined after five months off, however a completely healthy Derek Roy would have helped the team in the game.

5. Development of Darcy’s young players:

Nathan Gerbe, Tyler Ennis, Tyler Myers and Chris Butler all became valuable contributors to this organization throughout the course of the season, most specifically during the team’s second half surge.  The addition of Marc-Andre Gragnani to the postseason lineup provided further evidence that the organization has positioned itself with some aging veterans (Vanek, Pominville, Roy) and with the addition a star top line center and top pairing defensemen the Sabres’ future looks bright. 

Myers shrugged off a tough first half of the season that may be attributed to losing his partner (Henrik Tallinder) and adjusting to his new pairing.  Myer’s play in the second half of the season and postseason showed promise of what Myer can become.  The Sabres appear to have the makings of a Chris Pronger, Zdeno Chara type player who is big, physical and can log 25+ minutes a night. Ennis finished fourth on the team with 49 points, including 20 goals while playing in all 82 games.  Ennis’ skating ability and creativity have Sabres fans excited to watch his continued development.  Gerbe skated in 64 games while registering 31 points during the regular season, but his play in the second half of the season into the playoffs is what has won him over with fans.  Despite his 5’5” frame Gerbe skated hard every minute he was on the ice and made the most of all his ice time.  His spin-o-rama goal in the win against Philadelphia at the end of the year was arguably the goal of the year.  Both Gragnani and Butler provide the Sabres with the opportunity to field a very good second and/or third pairing on the blue line as they continue to mature. Butler struggled slightly against Philadelphia in the playoffs while Gragnani shined.  However, I would expect that as both of these players learn from this season they will continue their growth and development.

4. Jhonas Enroth’s play while Ryan Miller was injured:

Ryan Miller going down in the midst of a playoff chase was every fan’s worst nightmare.  However, the play through the 2010-11 season of Jhonas Enroth provided comfort in knowing that the team can survive without Ryan Miller.  Enroth posted a 9-2-2 record with 2.73 GAA for the season including a stretch when Miller went down that included a shutout win against the Rangers and a 4-0-1 record that helped sustain the playoff rush.

People will read into the goalie situation however they want, but what fans should appreciate is that heading into the 2011-12 season the Sabres have a legitimate backup goaltender who Lindy Ruff has confidence in to play.  This should allow Ryan Miller to get a rest every 5-7 games or however Lindy sees fit.  Miller played in 23 consecutive games at one point this season and minimizing those long stretches should be beneficial to both Miller and the Sabres going forward.

3. Thomas Vanek’s emergence as a leader in the second half:

Forgetting that Thomas Vanek led the team in points (73) and goals (32) this season, the storyline for Thomas Vanek was his ascension to being a leader.  Vanek won the right to wear an ‘A’ on his sweater this year and Vanek would be the likely candidate to wear the ‘C’ in 2011-12 after this season.  There are other potential players that may be able to wear the ‘C’, most notably probably Jason Pominville who is on the ice in all key situations, but this appears to becoming Thomas Vanek’s team.  Lindy Ruff has been particularly hard on Vanek for the past several seasons and demanded more from him which Vanek delivered upon this year.  Vanek improved his two-way play and is still their most effective offensive player.  If the Sabres can find a way to bring in a #1 center to play along Vanek the team would markedly improve.  Who doesn’t want to see a Vanek-Richards/Spezza-Stafford line?

2. The playoff run

A season once thought for dead made a turn around after the New Year to make a run that left the team in the seventh position in the Eastern Conference playoffs.  The team gelled together and a variety of different players carried the team at time from Ryan Miller’s March, Jhonas Enroth’s relief appearance, Drew Stafford’s hot streak and Thomas Vanek’s resurgence.  The 28-11-6 record was the league’s second best record behind Vancouver.  Even as the trade deadline approached the direction the team would take was unsure.  The addition of Brad Boyes at the deadline provided a short term spark that the team carried through until the playoff clinching win against the Flyers.

1. Terry Pegula buys the Buffalo Sabres:

February 22, 2011.  Terry Pegula reignited passion for the Buffalo Sabres.  The team had improved their play and was on the cusp of being a playoff contender, however fans remained cautiously optimistic as to how the team should approach the trade deadline.  Pegula’s purchase of the Sabres is a fan.  He is a passionate fan of the team and isn’t running the team like a business.  He is running it more like a fantasy hockey team assembled to win.  “Winning is not a goal, it is a belief” were the word uttered by Terry Pegula that have been embraced by fans.  “The purpose of the Buffalo Sabres is to win the Stanley Cup”.  Pegula’s passion for the Sabres is well documented and it is that passion that will help fuel his desire to bring a championship to the city of Buffalo. 

Stephen Ross (Miami Dolphins), Paul Allen (Seattle Seahawks) and Mickey Arison (Miami Heat) are the only owners according to Forbes that are wealthier than Terry Pegula.  Pegula is almost twice as wealthy as the next hockey owner (Detroit’s Mike Ilitch).  My point is not to dwell on Pegula’s wealth, but more to reiterate his point that Terry Pegula is not the owner of the Buffalo Sabres to make money.  Terry Pegula is the owner of the Buffalo Sabres because he wants to win the Stanley and he possesses the financial resources necessary to make Buffalo ‘Hockey Heaven’.  With Terry Pegula as owner it opens up a world of free agency that fans in Buffalo were never accustomed to and improvements to amenities that players never expected. 

The 2011-12 will most definitely be defined as the season that the Pegula family bought the Buffalo Sabres.  As much as it appears to be Terry’s team, behind the scenes he and those close to him will let you know that this is a family affair along with his wife and children which he wants to bring that family environment throughout the organization. 

When looking back at this season in five to ten years nothing else may be remembered other than Terry Pegula’s purchase, however the remainder of the emergence of Vanek as a leader and the play of the young players could be what helped build the foundation for this group to reach Pegula’s desire for a Stanley Cup in Buffalo.

Twitter: @brianbund

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Blown chances

The Buffalo Sabres blew an opportunity in Game six to clinch their series with the Philadelphia Flyers in front of their home crowd.  The Sabres lost 5-4 in overtime on Ville Leino’s winner.  The Sabres lost another forward in the mix and head into Game seven back in a hostile Philadelphia atmosphere.  The Sabres flew another two goal lead and the game bounced back and forth leaving fans wondering what if.  Looking forward to Tuesday is going to be great to enjoy a Game seven, but also heart wrenching at the same time.  Here’s some thoughts of the game:

First, to get this out of the way the Mike Richards hit on Tim Connolly is going to have to be looked at hard by the league.  This is his second infraction of the series and has taken Tim Connolly off the ice for at least Game seven.  The league has made a concerted effort to state that they are trying to make hockey a much safer sport.  Hits from behind driving players into the boards are as dangerous as they come and here is a chance to send a message by holding a player out of a do-or-die situation.

I have been critical of Tim Connolly’s performance in this series, but he still remained the Sabres best option as a number 1 center.  Lindy Ruff stated after the game that Derek Roy will return and should ease the loss of Connolly, however it would have been nice for the Sabres to have both healthy to give some more depth at the center position.

Danny Briere is the quintessential goal scorer. His first goal was finding room in front and putting home the loose rebound with no one putting pressure on him.  The second goal was a huge slapper on the power play that tied the game at three.  He’s driving Sabres’ fans nuts, but man is he good at hockey.  He now has 93 points in 92 career playoff games.

The Sabres blew a two goal lead.  Again.

James van Riedsdyk has continued to be a force in this series for the Flyers.  He has drove hard to the net in each game, played well on the forecheck and played a well rounded game in each game.  He’s the player that I notice the most consistent basis for the Flyers.

The Flyers goaltending situation is abysmal, but they are 2-1 in games where they make a goaltender switch and the Sabres haven’t been able to generate sufficient offense after the first period.   Boucher came in and had 24 big saves for the Flyers and held off the Sabres from continuing their first period pace.

Thomas Vanek can be an absolute beast when he’s in front of the net.  His play coupled with the play of Drew Stafford gives the Sabres two power forwards that at times are the only players that can really be a menace to opposing teams in the offensive zone.

The Sabres performed great on faceoffs which is a state I put a lot of value in and glad they won it 44-34, but the Flyers shot advantage took its toll on the Sabres.

At this point it is extremely difficult to not appreciate the type of effort and tenacity that Nathan Gerbe plays with.  His play down the stretch of the regular season as well as this playoffs shows what most fans expected of the Hobey Baker winner.  He is the type of player that fans love to root for.

Tyler Myers plays such a strong game in long stretches of the game.  He had 3 assists, but still finished -1.  I like the edge that he has incorporated into his game and just want to see him truly dominate games for an entire game.

 Three Stars

  1. Ville Leino (1 g, 1a)
  2. Danny Briere (2 g)
  3. Thomas Vanek (2g)

Is there anything better than game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs?  Tuesday night should provide an electric atmosphere and an opportunity for this group of Sabres to really put an exclamation point on this season.  The return of Derek Roy and his effectiveness are going to be the key to the game.  With the loss of Connolly they are going to need to get production from their centermen.  The Flyers are going to continue the same game plan as always and hope their goaltending doesn’t fail them.  The Flyers have played better in almost every game throughout the series, however two of the games the Sabres have had Ryan Miller refuse to let in a goal.  Not that he needs to shut the Flyers out, but I do think he is going to need to play an ‘A’ level game on the road to help his team.  The Sabres are going to need to have Ryan Miller play his best game and hopefully carry this team to the next round.  Nonetheless, Tuesday should be a lot of fun.

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Game 2 Reactions

First and foremost, the Sabres got the split that all fans hope for.  They’re coming back to Buffalo and need to take care of that business and correct some of game 2’s errors.  The tone of the series is set and now its a matter of playing composed solid hockey.  Here are some thoughts on the game:

  • The series is getting a little chippy, huh?
  • The five goals allowed were more a reflection of the defense and not Ryan Miller.  First goal was a beauty by Giroux and terrible defense.  The second goal Sekera was pushed out of position leaving Carcillo all alone to take advantage of.  The third and most questionable goal still dealt with Butler being left behind and essentially a 1-on-1 opportunity for Philly.  Yes Miller could have and maybe should have got it, you expect your Vezina winning goalie to make the play but I’m not going to pile it on him.  The fourth goal was the result of essentially what felt like a 10-minute power play and then the fifth was a fluke off Briere’s skate.  I seem to be justifying Miller, but I’m more point out the collective failure of the team.
  • The 1-0 shutout was more than Miller and the 5-goals allowed were more than Miller
  • There was only a little over 7 minutes of even strength hockey in the second period and it hurt the Sabres a lot, in more ways that the go ahead goal
  • Grier has played a pretty solid two games so far including the diving save that didn’t matter. 

  • Having the PK on the ice that long kept the Sabres best player, Vanek off the ice essentially.  For the second game in a row the penalties didnt allow the Sabres to utilize their lines properly.
  • Vanek=Beast
  • As Nick Mendola from 1230 Weck in Buffalo points out I’m officially not a Danny Briere fan and this series may end up nullifying his acheivements in Buffalo, or at least until the end of career. He’s a chippy little punk that makes it easy to not like him. 
  • Scott Hartnell is quickly becoming my least favorite Flyer
  • I thought Sekera had ups and downs in his first game back and don’t know what if any difference it would have made to scratch him
  • I thought Niedermayer actually had some quality shifts
  • Kaleta had a great game 1, but I thought he was a liability out there like many people thought he might be.  He was off his game and chasing people down to retaliate or hit them.  He and the rest of the Sabres need to play a much smarter game 3.
  • The Sabres played stupid and still had a chance to tie the game.  Stop taking stupid penalties and I like their chances still
  • The beauty of playoff hockey is when you win a game you don’t think you will ever lose again and if you lose you can only hope that you will bounce back.
  • Can someone explain the ‘anthem’ performace of the Flyers?  I love God Bless America more than the anthem, but the dual performance with a dead woman is weird.
  • Paging Tim Connolly, Drew Stafford and anyone else who wants to get paid this offseason….thanks

The Sabres have established their position in this series.  They need to come home and take care of game 3 and play a smarter game.  Keep letting Vanek get his opportunities and hopefully the second line can show up.   They’re playing good hockey, now they just need to be smarter.

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Flyers vs. Sabres primer

Sabres vs. Flyers Breakdown

Goalie:  Miller vs. Bobrovsky.  For the sake of this comparison we will leave Enroth and Boucher out of the conversation although it’s not crazy to think that either may see some time in net at some point.  Looking at the season stats comparing the two it would appear to be pretty close:

  Miller Bobrovsky
Goals Against Avg 2.59 2.59
Save % 91.6% 91.5%
Shutouts 5 0
Wins 34 28
Games played 66 54

 

All things consider when looking at these stats I think you need to take into consideration how these two have played down the stretch.  Miller had a fantastic March and finally seemed to help re-elevate his game back to 2010 form.  Meanwhile Bobrovsky and the entire Flyers’ goalie situation will be under a microscope for the first couple of games.  While the pressure is not square on the rookie’s shoulders, Buffalo would be wise to try and attack early and often to potentially rattle his confidence.  Nonetheless, even with the above mentioned stats you have to give Miller the advantage. Miller has played in 40 career playoff games compared to Bobrovsky’s zero.  In those 40 games Miller has a career 2.39 GAA and 91.7% save percentage and a 22-18 record.  I’ll take his experience and hope the late season Ryan Miller shows up.

Advantage: Sabres

Defense: If Pronger comes back healthy that negates any hope the Sabres may have hoped in having the best defensemen on the ice.  Pronger’s health and effectiveness need to be near 100% in order to get the most out of the Flyers defense.

Buffalo Sabres Philadelphia Flyers
Tyler Myers Chris Pronger
Andrej Sekera Kimmo Timonen
Steve Montador Matt Carle
Chris Butler Andrej Meszaros
Mike Weber Braydon Coburn
Andre-Gragnari/Morrisonn/Leopold Sean O’Donnell

 

The Flyers defense has outscored the Sabres 168-153 (using the top six scoring defense) and are a combined +101 compared to the Sabres +37.  This is the area of the Sabres game that they need to remain sound in game in and game out and not turn the puck over in their own zone and match Philly’s toughness.  If Sekera can come back to be healthy where the top 4 defense can be Myers, Sekera, Butler and (hopefully solid playing) Montador the Sabres can compete.  Myers needs to be a force in every game and will be looked to play a Pronger-esque series.  Needless to say this group has their work cut out for them.

Advantage: Flyers although not nearly as big if Pronger isn’t healthy

Forwards: I break this down looking mostly at quantity vs. quality.  I think many experts around the country will speak to the quality of talent that the Flyers possess and for those of us that have watched this Sabres team play all year know at least to some extent they will rely on at least 3 lines to give them production.  Each team has two 30 goal scorers (Briere and Carter vs. Stafford and Vanek).  Neither team has a player with more than 80 points, but both have 10 players with 30 or more points. The Flyers have four players with 60 or more points, including Briere.  There has to be some belief that Briere is going to enjoy going against the Sabres and there’s reason to believe from our past that he’ll deliver.

Much like on defense where Myers needs to match or exceed Pronger, I believe that Vanek needs to be near the best player on the ice nightly.  If he can continue with his play as he did down the stretch that will be the difference that the Sabres will need.  I personally like how this group of forwards are playing right now for the Sabres although in order for them to have an advantage at these positions in this series they are going to need to get continue production from Gerbe, Ennis and most specifically, number 19 Mr. Connolly.

In all, I think that the Flyers will maintain a slight advantage heading into the series, but production from the Sabres third and fourth lines can help take control of this series.

Advantage: Flyers, Slightly

Special Teams:  The Sabres have the 9th (19.4%) ranked power play compared to the Flyers 19th (16.6%) favors the Sabres significantly, but the greatest concern for fans should be that the Sabres have given up 13 shorthanded goals this year while scoring just two.  Conversely, the Flyers have only allowed 5 shorthanded goals while scoring 13 (Richards and Giroux both have 3).  The Sabres still maintain a slight edge on the man-advantage, but it needs to be astutely away of the Flyers in these situations and Miller is going to need to be a huge part of nullifying these opportunities.

While with the man down the Sabres and Flyers are near equals (13th and 15th) at 83% and 82.7% respectively.  The Sabres have been extremely efficient in killing off their penalties down the stretch and that needs to continue.  I think this is where Tim Connolly will need to make his presence felt on both the PK and PP.  If he can be a difference maker at some point, the Sabres will have the advantage.  Meanwhile, the Flyers will want Giroux and Carter to do the lion’s share of the work scoring while letting Briere and Mike Richards creating.  The Sabres need to not have a repeat of their special teams performance from last year’s series with Boston.  I like the Sabres performance down the stretch, especially on the kill to give them a slight advantage.

Advantage: Sabres

Coaching: Laviolette vs. Ruff.  319 career wins vs. 526 career wins. 34-26 playoff record vs. 54-40 playoff record.  For the sake of brevity, this is a push and as much as it may begrudge me to say if forced to pick I may pick Laviolette on paper, but Ruff is the coach I want.  He’s won 1 Stanley Cup and rode a hot spring to take the Flyers back to the Finals last year. Ruff has 1 Finals lost and 3 other conference finalist appearances.  I still think Ruff is a terrific game to game manager and knows how to push his team, but unlike many where Buffalo would enjoy this as an advantage, this is just too close to call.

Advantage: Push

X-Factor:

Sabres: Tim Connolly is the guy that the Sabres going to need to help elevate them to a team capable of winning multiple playoff series.  He’s on the top line for the Sabres and on both first units of special teams.  The Sabres first line has to at least match their level of play going forward and he needs to be at the top of his game on special teams.  The Sabres need to maximize their PP unlike last year, but I think other players can help there and Connolly’s presence really needs to be on the PK to not let the Flyers PP unit get hot.  Connolly staying healthy and playing well will bode well for the Sabres.

Flyers: Chris Pronger can be everything a Sabres fan dreams of Tyler Myers developing into.  He’ll log 30 minutes in a game if needed and play on both special teams units.  If he can be healthy and produce valuable close to 20 minutes a game for the Flyers it’ll be a tremendous upgrade. 

What it all means: The Sabres are one of the hot upset picks.  Based on their play since the turn of the calendar and the Flyers late season slump it is easy to see why many people like them to win.  It becomes a whole new animal in NHL Playoff hockey and I think most importantly for the Sabres is that players like Gerbe, Ennis and Myers got a taste of it last season, and a taste for losing.  If the Sabres are going to win this series it is going to need its best players to be their best players.  Unsung heroes help you through stretches in the regular season, but in the playoffs it is your best players that need to carry you. That means Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek and Tyler Myers specifically are going to need to help carry the Sabres past the Flyers. It would be nice to see Stafford, Gerbe and Ennis continue their play, but the playoffs are a time where legends manifest themselves and it is the three aforementioned players that are going to drive the Sabres success this spring.  If Pronger’s health remains questionable I like the Sabres in this series because of the Flyers goaltending concerns and the way that the Sabres lines are rolling.  I also think Miller has heard the rumblings and will be at his best in the series.

This postseason feels like it has the potential to be the start of something special for the Sabres based on the youth this team has and the new ownership.  It should be a good one.

Prediction:  Sabres in six

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Where to next?

So I turned on Sportscenter this morning and was watching some of the recap from last nights Eagles’ game and they were interviewing Donovan McNabb.  All I could think of was Marshawn Lynch’s interview last week. McNabb said that as a team, each individual said that they can do better and for the last couple of weeks they have been doing.  It goes along with what I talked about yesterday and veteran leadership.  The Eagles have enough players who know what it takes to win and the Bills didn’t have enough players stand up and say I can do better when things got tough they crumbled.

 

The Sabres and Bills are both at somewhat of the same time in terms of development and age, but the big difference is the young players on the Sabres went to back-to-back conference Finals and had savvy veterans to learn from and hopefully start to carry over for themselves and you’re starting to see Vanek, Roy, Pommer, Gaustad and the rest of the team take that leadership role. I’m just not sure where the Bills are going to look to get it outside of Marshawn Lynch and maybe Donte Whitner.  I really hate Tom Donahue as a person for having back-to-back-to-back TERRIBLE drafts.  It’s beyond annoying that his first day picks have turned into almost nothing and that’s why we’re lacking the veteran leadership.

 

On a side note, Syracuse managed to lose to Cleveland State on prayer.  I’m not even that upset about it because the game shouldn’t have been that close and Syracuse played terrible, but seriously, what a freakin shot.

 

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Sabres @ Devils Reaction

I’ve been doing something a little different which is why this might read a little different.  I’ve been writing notes while watching the game so it’s more of a running recap.  I had a family function last night so I DVRd the game and avoided my phone and all other things until I watched it and luckily don’t have Kramer as a neighbor to walk in and ruin it for me.

 

-That first goal was what I needed to see, just a hard working, full fledged attack that resulted in Vanek putting it in the goal.  People may call those garbage goals, but to me those are the goals that win games and they didn’t get on Friday.  I thought that Pominville should be playing with Vanek and Roy, but I think having Hecht in the center gives them a little more stability.  Even though Roy is a better player I’m really enjoying watching that line play.

 

-A side note on garbage goals, to me those types of goals aren’t garbage.  Bad bouncing pucks are garbage goals. Those are the result of hard work and putting yourself in the right position which is what Vanek does more often than not.

 

-What a great shot by Elias and great play by Gionta for taking two Sabres with him right before then.

 

-Langenbruener totally elbowed Gerbe on that play in the neutral zone right before their second goal.  I can’t stand Bobby Holik, not sure why I just feel like he always kills the Sabres.

 

-I’m glad that Nathan Gerbe finally got on the score sheet.  He’s had a great couple of games and deserved to get there.  What I like about his game right now is he’s just keeping it simple and threw the puck to the net.  Also was very glad to see that Drew Stafford found the wide open net this time.

 

-Mair’s fight with Leach was beautiful.  The thing I like about Mair, Gaustad and Kaleta as opposed to just Peters is that all are ready to throw down, but aren’t total liabilities out there and allow us to roll the four lines we need to.

                                                                                             

-Harry Neale’s color commentary cracks me up.  Example, end of the second where he was ‘fairly certain’ it was too many men on the ice and it was an offsides.  That stuff happens, but just seems to happen to Harry some where between 2 and 1,037 times a game.

 

-Great play by Vanek at the beginning of the third where he back-checked and prevented a point blank opportunity for Gionta.  Just another perfect example of how much better he’s gotten in his own zone

 

-Just when I rip Harry Neale he made a great call on Stafford who played a great game last night and took that penalty that led to Roy’s goal.

 

-After Roy’s goal he made a great play that led to Vanek’s goal. How many multi goal games has Vanek had this year?

-Overall, very solid performance by Lalime also which is what we needed.  Also nice to see them win the second game of a back-to-back and bounce back after Friday’s loss.  As a fan this was the type of game I was hoping for and they provided.  Leading up to Wednesday’s rematch I can still feel good about the way the Sabres have played over the last 5 games and get excited.  But through past experience will definitely not get too excited.

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Toronto @ Buffalo Preview

I’m so excited about tonight’s game.  I love the way the Sabres have played the last 3 games and think that there’s going to be that little extra energy in the building tonight.  I think it’s a big game for the Sabres to continue this ride and get another game over .500 and plus I hate the Leafs.  

 

There’s an article today on Thomas Vanek and it is really more just a numbers piece and not so much an article, but it points out just how valuable Thomas Vanek has been to the Sabres.  He’s scored 28.9% of the our goals, not including anything in shootouts.  That’s absurd.  And where you want to attribute that to the lack of others scoring to support him that’s fine, but this team plays better when Vanek scores and need him to keep doing so tonight in is a pretty big game.  If you really want a good Vanek piece go check out Top Shelf.

 

I’m hoping that Pominville’s three points from the other night carries over.  He quietly had a great game and probably made the play of the game keeping the puck in the zone that led to Vanek’s second goal. 

 

I’m also interested in seeing how Nathan Gerbe does again tonight. I think it’ll be interesting for him in his second home game in a divisional rivalry with a sea of Toronto fans in the 100 level.  I’m not so worried about his goals right now.  I like that he’s skating around hard, finishing checks and creating chances.  I know it’s premature, but watching them play Tampa Bay the other night and Martin St. Louis felt like he could turn into that type of player. I just don’t see how they’re going to send him back to Portland for long, if at all.  

 

Jerry Sullivan wrote one of his quibbling back and forth articles yesterday that wasn’t my favorite but brought up some relevant points.  This team needs Ryan Miller (and Thomas Vanek) to be their best players on a night in and night out basis.  There’s times when that happens and they look unstoppable, but at times they’re beyond frustrating.  I love Ryan Miller, but at times he is a microcosm of this team and city.  He does let in soft goals and get out of position in weird time and needs to elevate his play to a high, consistent level.  I believe he will as this team continues to get of age in front of him.  Vanek has gotten so much better of being that model of consistency. Even in the Penguins game when the announcers were killing him; he was working hard, playing hard and those are things I can live with.

 

The point is that this team needs to find consistency and I think it starts with tonight in a big divisional game.  I just need to see what I’ve seen the last three games.  Good physical play, sound defensive plays, killing penalties, a good forecheck and scoring opportunity goals.  Those things win hockey games and I think this team is finally starting to know that an ugly goal and a pretty goal still put one on scoreboard.

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