The Style So Nice They'll Play It Twice

Tampa Bay captured lightning in a bottle the way they managed to throttle a lightning-quick offensive-schemed Buffalo Sabres team back on Saturday.

Ow. Hold on a minute…that’s the sound of an opening sentence falling down the stairs…

Here's a picture courtesy of Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images to distract you.

Alright. So, the thing with a home-and-home series is that Vinny Lecavalier & company are going to be rolling in to Buffalo tomorrow night for a rematch. The Lightning had a formula that worked in this last meeting, figuring out how to choke down Buffalo’s offensive defensemen and discovering that if you hit Sabres forwards, they tend to dump the puck in without chasing after it. Also Pavel Kubina, Eric Brewer, and the rest of the Lightning defense discovered that you can get in front of and “block” a shot, if you will, which resulted in more blocked shots by the skaters than the goalie (22 blocked shots versus 21 saves by Mathieu Garon).

The Lightning also employed a 1-3-1 back-checking scheme, which clogged up the middle of the ice and prevented Sabres players from effectively stick handling over the blue line at high speeds. Instead the Blue & Gold relied on dumping and chasing, but usually didn’t chase all that well, which is really just called giving the puck away.

By the way, I understand that Jordan Leopold and Christian Ehrhoff aren’t the most defensive-minded defenders. They both score goals and like to carry the puck up the ice. While that’s all well and good, they probably shouldn’t leave that Marty St. Louis guy alone in front of the net again.

If Tampa Bay scores first, Sabres fans can expect to watch the same stifling tactics. Honestly, the Lightning have an incredibly well-built team with the exception of the goaltending, and Garon managed to stand on his head Saturday night. I would be shocked if he didn’t get the nod after the shutout, especially since Dwayne Roloson is about as effective against the Sabres as he was for the Sabres (he’s 0-7-1 against the team that housed him from 1998 to 2000). Between a defense composed of nasty, blocking, hitting, shooting defenders like Marc-Andre Bergeron (2 G, 7 A, 10 blocked shots – AKA the best fantasy defenseman that nobody in your league owns) and some guy named Something Stamkos who is kind of ridiculous, they’re a lot for any team to handle.

What is it with hockey players named Marc-Andre?

So, the keys for the Sabres to pull off a win are pretty simple:

  • Barrage whatever goaltender they face with shots. Both Garon and Roloson are streaky and give up rebounds, so firing away at them will create opportunities. The trick here is getting past the shot blocking, which means taking quick, low wrist shots instead of slap shots, and getting traffic to the net.
  • Ville Leino has been moved to the wing. This has caused many Sabres fans to get angry, as he was signed to be a top center. Those fans would do well to remember, “Oh yeah, he’s a really good wing.” Leino’s had some issues fitting in to the scheme, but he looked great for the first half of last game when playing with Derek Roy and Drew Stafford. One nasty giveaway along the boards, which was linked to above, marred an otherwise solid-but-scoreless game by that line.
  • Mike Weber, maybe? There aren’t any defensemen that I would advocate taking out (no, not even Sekera…I know, I’m shocked too) so maybe Gragnani gets dressed as a forward, what with Ennis out.
  • Oh yeah, that. Tyler Ennis is week-to-week with a high ankle sprain. While that stinks, it allows for some of the more stale lines on the team to be re-tooled, and Ennis does have zero points on the season.
  • The Gaustad/Gerbe/Kaleta line looked awesome when they were hitting everything that moved. I think they’re allowed to do that from the start of the game, rather than midway through…could set the momentum early on.
  • Honestly, Brad Boyes has had some good chances. He hasn’t buried one yet, and with 9 minutes of ice time, including a whopping 22 seconds on the power play, I don’t think he’s going to. I’m not usually a proponent of crying about Lindy Ruff’s coaching decisions, but I really think Boyes has looked like he’s about 2 minutes of ice time from getting into a rhythm and then I never see him again. That being said, it’s ultimately on him to make the most of his time out there.
  • Finally, the power play. I think last game was a fluke, considering how good it had looked up till that point, but hopefully it was addressed at practices. Because it was reminiscent of the doodly-doo circus act seen in 2008 to 2010. Ehrhoff and Leino were brought in to help the man advantage, and thus far it’s looked horrible in the two losses Buffalo’s had.

The Sabres are going to have to change up styles, as well as effort, if they are to find success against a confident Lightning team tomorrow night. Here’s hoping this team’s strength isn’t solely found on the road, because they can’t bring that re-vamped locker room with them.




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Tags: Buffalo Buffalo Sabres Christian Ehrhoff Darcy Regier Derek Roy Drew Stafford Eastern Conference Fansided Hockey Jason Pominville Jhonas Enroth Lightning Lindy Ruff Marc-andre Bergeron Martin St. Louis NHL Northeast Division Patrick Kaleta Robyn Regehr Ryan Miller Sabres Stanley Cup Steven Stamkos Tampa Bay Tampa Bay Lightning Terry Pegula Thomas Vanek Tyler Ennis Tyler Myers Ville Leino Vincent Lecavalier

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