Since he came to the Buffalo Sabres, Connor Clifton has been a disappointment. But he’s looked like a different player in the previous two games.
Remember when Jordan Greenway first came to the Buffalo Sabres via a trade that involved a second-round pick? During his initial 17 games of his stint in the City of Good Neighbors, Greenway struggled, scoring just four points (all goals) in 17 games, and logging a Corsi and Fenwick For of 45.7 percent at 5-on-5.
However, after he had some time to get acclimated into head coach Don Granato’s system, Greenway has become one of the Sabres best defensive forwards, and he’s been particularly brilliant on the penalty kill. It’s clear Greenway has turned a corner, and now, defenseman Connor Clifton could be heading in that same direction.
During his limited sample size in the preseason and throughout most of his 25 games with the Sabres, Clifton struggled. But his previous two performances, with one coming against his old team, the Boston Bruins, have been another story.
Buffalo Sabres defenseman Connor Clifton may finally be catching on
In the past two contests, Clifton has two points, a plus-2 rating, two shots on goal, and six blocked shots. He’s often a physical player, but Clifton logged just one hit in the past two games. His assist last night was huge, as not only did he create the turnover; he also set the stage for Kyle Okposo’s 600th career point for what was a game-tying goal.
If Clifton can continue what he’s built over the previous two contests, it will bolster a Buffalo Sabres defensive rotation that includes a brilliant top-four in Rasmus Dahlin, Mattias Samuelsson, Owen Power, and Henri Jokiharju, along with a solid rookie in Ryan Johnson. Clifton would be the sixth piece and the oldest, but the 28-year-old would finally be making a positive impact.
The next few games will decide whether Clifton has been catching on, or if he just enjoyed a pair of outlying performances. But if the Buffalo Sabres newcomer is turning the corner, then expect this team to keep playing more games defensively the way they did last night as opposed to what we were seeing earlier in the year, when Clifton was often caught out of position.
Source: Observations: Sabres’ power-play struggles loom large after shootout loss by Lance Lysowski, Buffalo News
(Statistics provided by Hockey-Reference)