Stafford and Roy might be the Key to Big Numbers in the Win Column


Once upon a time there was a team in the NHL that teams couldn’t quite figure out how to defend against.  There was no hope in line matching because their fourth line was putting up just as many points as their second, and it made for some fantastic hockey.  This team was the Buffalo Sabres the first two years after the lock out.  For the first time since Buffalo lost a good amount of that team, the Sabres have a chance to have four lines that can play against any team in the league.

Sure, the Sabres have had success since those years, but after two playoff runs that were one and done, the team is on the cusp of something great.  Captain Jason Pominville and team leading scorer Thomas Vanek are putting up big points at absolutely clutch times, and its time for the rest of the team to fall in line.  The defensive unit in Buffalo has been getting used to each other, but on the whole is doing better then past years, but the offense is what looks to need some work.

It is frustrating to watch Buffalo on the power play, because there is so much great talent on the ice that you feel like there should be a goal every time they are on the man advantage.  Unfortunately,  the Sabres power play has been one of their biggest flaws this season and it comes down to setting up the play.  Buffalo looks like they forgot how to put the puck on their teammates stick when they are passing, aren’t looking up when they are leaving drop passes, and are simply getting outworked in the neutral zone. 

What is interesting is that Buffalo looks stronger when they are five on five, and no lines has stood out more to me then Stafford, Roy and Leino.  While it is obvious that the first line is doing what they should be, putting up team leading points, Buffalo’s second line always seems to be right on the brink of something great.  Both Stafford and Roy are prone to being pretty streaky, and Leino, well he still got a lot to prove to the people of Buffalo for the amount he is getting paid.  But the second line is developing chances all the time, they seem to be working hard and are just waiting for that final “click” of when the pucks starting going in the net. 

The Sabres have consistently been losing by about one to two goals when they do lose, which is just the amount you would expect from your second line.  There is no question when Stafford and Roy finally get their rhythm and start finding each other on the ice, the results are going to shift. 

This is not to say that they are the only ones who aren’t putting up numbers, but it is encouraging to see Buffalo’s hard hitting Pat Kaletta with a goal, and Brad Boyes finally putting some points on the board.  If the Sabre's can keep getting contributions from all four lines, things will eventually even out and fans should start seeing some more wins on home ice.

The player most fans have been dying to see return from the injured list is Tyler Ennis.  Having never spoken with coach Ruff personally, it is anybody’s guess which line Ennis will end up on, but there is a hole on that second line that he would fill nicely.  That holes name is Ville Leino.  Yes, he has a multiple year deal here in Buffalo, but it just seems like Sabres management couldn’t help themselves by getting Leino here.  How much better can it get, to sign the player that ruined your playoff run the year before?  Right now it seems like that is all Leino is good for, one goal.  Let’s just hope he saves it for another clutch playoff moment, this time for the good guys!

With two games coming up this weekend, it should be a good opportunity for the Sabres to step their game up against a weaker opponent in the Flames, Friday night at home where the team has struggled.  On Saturday, the blue and gold face off against the Senators in Ottawa which is a very winnable game, as the team is much better on the road so far this season.

Let’s Go BUFF-A-LO!





Matt Cefalu's picture

And low and behold, Leino notches an assist on Buffalo's first goal vs the Sens. He still has a long way to go before he really settles in, but it's going to happen sooner or later for sure. Sabres didn't look too looked exposed on quite a few shifts where Sens were able to catch them off their guard. Too many breakaway opportunities. Eh, it's still early and until Miller comes out of his funk, Enroth can hold down the fort.