I’m not a cranky old man, really I’m not.
Yes, the Buffalo Sabres put forth a workmanlike effort in last night’s 3-2 loss to division foe Toronto Maple Leafs. They finished all their checks, hustled after loose pucks, forechecked the Leafs like mad, and put 42 shots on Toronto goalie Justin Reimer.
You know what makes me angry at this hockey team? Where the hell was that effort the last two months?
Sixteen-million dollar man Drew Stafford hit everything in site (well, except the back of the net), and was grinding and riffing up and down the ice against Toronto. He looked like the confident Stafford from last season: a beast of a puckhandler, who’s speed terrifies opposing defenders. Why now, all of the sudden, does this guy decide it’s time to play?
Derek Roy will always be Derek Roy, to me. I dislike him very much as a hockey player, even though he scored a goal, had 6 shots, and played a team-high 23:26 Thursday night. What aggravates me about Roy (besides his tendency to over handle the puck before trying some ridiculous pass that even Adam Oates wouldn’t have attempted) is that he does not drive to the net, even though he has opportunities to do so. There was a play that stood out, in the third period of last night’s game, where Roy had the puck driving to the right of Reimer’s goal. He thought about taking it to the net, but flinched noticeably when he saw a Leafs’ defenseman ready to cut him off, and veered away from the goal, and the scoring chance. Roy jumped, like my eleven-year old son walking through a “haunted house” at Halloween. Roy may have been on those Sabres teams that went to the conference finals, but he had a supporting cast around him, and he didn’t have to be “the man”. You know what? Derek Roy, until he proves me wrong, is not built for the Stanley Cup playoffs, and the Sabres will not win anything with this man as our number one center. He is not gritty enough, nowhere near fearless enough (if at all), and is soft on the puck.
Heh. No wonder GM Darcy Regier can’t unload this guy. Who the hell would want him at the price Regier would ask?
There were many positives to take away from the game against Toronto, including the fiesty play of Derek Whitmore. The Rochester native had three hits (I counted at least a couple more), and carried over his strong play from his NHL debut against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday. He plays hard, and has speed to burn.
If Regier cannot find permanent roster spots for rookies Brayden McNabb and Zack Kassian, if and when the team is healthy again, I fear there may be a riot downtown.
McNabb had yet another fine showing in T-O, clearing goalie Ryan Miller‘s crease with ease, while displaying his talents for hitting (which will keep him in the NHL). In eleven games, “McNasty” already has 25 hits, which would put him on pace for around 75 if he had played in all 34 games with the big club, and leave him second on the Sabres behind Robyn Regehr‘s 86.
Kassian looks like a man among men out there, even at age 20. The 6’3″ lumberjack protects the puck as well as anyone in the league, has a soft touch with the puck, and displays some slick playmaking skills that belie his “power forward” reputation. When this kid gets even more confidence, and really starts hammering people, we are going to have a hybrid of Todd Bertuzzi and (a much less skilled) Jaromir Jagr, style-wise. (I said style-wise, people, not statistically speaking, so settle down).
There weren’t many passengers, if any, last night in Toronto. It was a total team effort, even in a loss, and the Sabres deserved better. Unfortunately, a loss is a loss. The maddening part, for me, is if the Sabres had shown the heart and intestinal fortitude the last 20-plus games as the team showed us last night, we’d all be singing a different tune. Four or five more wins at home, and we’re looking at a top-five spot in the conference right now.
It still wouldn’t be enough to warrant keeping Derek Roy a minute longer, though.
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