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The Sabres: Defense Wins Games

It’s only a week into the 2009-2010 NHL regular season, and there are some obvious strong points for this Sabres roster who was, as usual, unsurprisingly quiet in making moves this off-season. 

I hate to be hasty, but here’s what I like and don’t like about the team so far:

Pros:

Who the heck is this Tyler Myers?  He’s only 19, but in the first three games of the season, he’s been a defensive leader for the Sabres.  Against Montreal, he battled hard in the corners, made impressive moves with the puck, and fired excellent breakout passes that led to important scoring opportunities for the team.  It’s those little things that aren’t the most obvious keys to victory, but without them, teams can lose a game.  He’s even been jumping up into the rush, getting a few shots on goal.  What forward can knock him down?  He’s +1 through three games, not bad for a team that’s only scored 4 goals so far.  He can play six games before he’s required to be on the roster, if he gets sent down to the minors, it will be a huge surprise.  This kid could be a Calder Trophy candidate.

Tim Kennedy reminds me of Danny Briere; he’s small and quick, has great hands, and seems to emulate Briere’s “get my nose dirty” affinity for driving hard to the net, with no fear of paying the price.  Three games in, and already I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen him mixed up in scrums around the net after a play.  He’s hungry, and seems to be completely unaware that he’s only 5’10”, 175 lbs.

Ryan Miller has looked very strong between the pipes.  If the D continues to clear out pucks and keep the play along the boards, his job will be very easy, especially when you consider that they’ve managed to limit opposing shots to around 20 a game.  Despite that, opponents have gotten some bounces, including two fluke goals (one being a game winner) against Montreal and scoring chances with a late-game breakaway against Nashville.

Cons:

In the coming games, let’s hope the forwards manage to produce better they have been.  Offensive production has been pretty ugly.  With Thomas Vanek, Tim Connolly, Jason Pominville, Derek Roy, and Drew Stafford healthy, it’s pretty strange that only two of the above players (Vanek and Connolly) are the only ones with goals, and Stafford and Pominville don’t even have a point.  Stafford has been playing very good hockey, managing 12 shots on goal and winning battles in the corner.  Here’s to hoping the scoring touch will come to him.

The power play needs a big improvement.  At only 11%, that number could use a real boost, and would be a fine compliment to the penalty kill which currently stands at an impressive 90% kill rate.

It’s early, but it’s never a bad time to address your strengths and improve your weaknesses.

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