Apr 22, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres left wing Marcus Foligno (82) during the game against the Winnipeg Jets at the First Niagara Center. The Jets beat the Sabres 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly: Buffalo Sabres Preseason

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This past preseason we saw the Buffalo Sabres finish at 4-2-1, a pretty impressive finish for a team that many have counted out of any sort of contention whatsoever. While there are some things that still need work, the performance of the team was fairly impressive overall.

The Good:

The team showed that, although they’re young, they’re still able to perform under the very young-mindset that Ron Rolston has.

September 27, 2013; Raleigh, NC, USA; Buffalo Sabres coach Ron Rolston looks on during the game against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Center. The Hurricanes defeated the Sabres 1-0. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Rolston uses their youth to outperform teams, leading Buffalo to becoming a late-game team, as we saw for most games.

Rolston seemed to have found a solution and boost to Mikhail Grigorenko, who will most likely lead this team in the future. That solution goes by the name of Zemgus Girgensons. Since they began to play together, Grigo has seemed to find his form while giving Girgensons an easy transition

The team, as well as being aggressive in the last period, also come out of the gate with a consistent effort, showing that they refuse to get behind and if they do, make sure that they try to even the score, literally. The offense digs more into the corners and behind the net, and FINALLY we have people who will hang out in the slot and offer some middle threat that we lacked severely for most of last season.

The defense has really stepped up in most games, playing deep in their zone, aggressively covering their man and cutting off shots. Along with working hard, they seem to compliment each other, with guys finding a niche within their line-mates, the same can be said for the whole team as well.

The team has depth in a ton of positions, each position is able to fill many of the spots with both people on the lines and with a pool of prospects in the juniors and AHL who will grow with the team and soon get their chance to prove themselves in real games should they be called off.

The goaltenders. What more needs to be said? Ryan Miller will have the starting spot, and it looks like he won’t let up that spot without a fight, and with Jhonas Enroth knocking on the door, I’d say that both goalies will push each other to raise their level of play up a notch. On that note, Ryan Miller seems to be playing to a more elite style than his previous few seasons, and with the US hockey camps and him facing top-grade players, it’s no wonder he seems on his game. Enroth is coming off winning gold with the Swedish national team. Two goalies, two national teams, under the FNC roof. It’s about to be a great year of goaltending in the Buffalo Sabres locker room.

September 27, 2013; Raleigh, NC, USA; Buffalo Sabres forward Thomas Vanek (26) skates before the start of the game against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Center. The Hurricanes defeated the Sabres 1-0. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Coaching and leadership took a huge step forward this offseason. Rolston brought in Joe Sacco, who is a young player minded coach, exactly what we need along with Rolston. On the player side, this team has a great mix of veterans and rookies all who can lead each other or step up to a leading role. Captains, yet to be resolved, are going to have a great team to lead, whether that role lands in Thomas Vanek’s lap or go to someone like Steve Ott or Cody Hodgson, it’s just a letter, and they all know that, but the Sabres have a great pool to take from.

The Bad:

The defense, although praised up above, is still very young, with the average age of the blue-line at 25. Two, Mark Pysyk and Rasmus Ristolainen have never played a full season in the NHL. The defense still allows for many shots to reach the goal. If they tighten the blue-line up, less shots reach the goaltenders, which can also increase the save-percentage of whoever is in net.

The offense still seems to disappear in some games, much like the preseason finale against Carolina. That cannot happen more than 15% of the season or we are going to have problem. Understandably, you can’t expect a team to bring their A-game every single game, that is just unheard of. Things happen, thats what you get with an 82-game season. But with a two-week hiatus for the Olympics, hopefully if we stay consistent, losing a few here and there, rest up over the break (even though some will still play) and focus on the stretch afterwards, there’s no telling what could happen.

Confidence. Tyler Myers lost it last season and the fans let him know about it. With a young team like Buffalo is putting out, it will be

hard to keep their confidence if anything goes wrong.

The Ugly:

Injuries. Oh the injuries. Buffalo has had it’s taste of injuries with Corey Tropp (broken jaw) and Joel Armia (broken hand) out indefinitely and will miss multiple weeks. Marcus Foligno is day-to-day with an upper body injury. Rolston has already commented that Foligno will likely miss the opener on Wednesday, and is unsure of when he will return. Should the Sabres keep a healthy roster, they should be able to do considerable damage to any opponent.

Excited about hockey being just within reach? Tweet me @seanmcgrath44 with questions/comments/concerns and comment below!

 

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