Like most of you, I can’t believe it’s Christmas already and that we’re almost to the midpoint of the season. Yes, 35 games in the books and the Sabres are still for real.
deserves all the praise that he is receiving, but he is right in crediting the men in front of him. The Sabres are playing the system Lindy Ruff has incorporated and that has also led to the team’s success and the Northeast Division lead.
What’s most impressive to me is the balanced scoring. Only three regulars have yet to score this season; Chris Butler, Craig Rivet, and Adam Mair for those wondering. It’s actually surprising writing those names, but it’s not like they haven’t been on the score sheet. Rivet has nine assists, Butler has eight, and Mair has one helper while playing an energy line role.
But back to the balanced scoring because that’s the real story - 10 players have scored five or more goals. That may not seem impressive when you consider the Sabres are 22nd in the League in the 'goals for' category with 92 (Washington leads with 127), but pair that with Buffalo’s third ranking in 'goals against' with 75 and it works well.
The Sabres are one of three teams that have allowed fewer than 80 goals on the season; the Blackhawks have allowed a league low 68 and the Devils 74. New Jersey comes as no surprise, and there shouldn’t be a shock with Chicago either, considering the Blackhawks are second in the League in shots differential because they always have possession of the puck (the Sabres rank 11th).
I could keep listing stats and rankings, but let me get to my point. The Sabres aren’t near the leaders in scoring, as in the past two non-playoff years (4th in 07-08, 12th in 08-09) and that may be a good thing.
Lindy Ruff recognized the wide-open style was no longer the winning recipe and the players have bought in. So keep the goals coming from everywhere and anywhere in the lineup, because it’s working.
♦ I really struggled on whether not to write this next sentence when it comes to Patrick Lalime, but I’m going to because of the sheer volume of comments and questions: I told you so. 1-0-1 in his last two starts, a win against Chicago and a shootout loss to Pittsburgh. Those two games should end all of the pre-game chat questions to Mike Robitaille and me about whether or not Lalime is the right back up for Ryan Miller
. And for those that wanted a trade for a certain goaltender, check his stats. He’s a great guy and capable of much better play, but his numbers are not very good this season (2-10-1 with a 3.30 GAA and .897 sv%).
♦ Mike Grier is just a solid pro. Brilliant move bringing him back this year. Tim Kennedy and Tyler Myers
have probably learned a ton from him on how he carries out day to day. The example he sets can transcend hockey too. He lost his mother to illness a few weeks ago, took time to be with his family, and returned a week later with the same drive. His play wasn’t where it needed to be at first, but he made no excuses when he had plenty of them. It was touching to see him gesture to heavens (I am assuming here) after he scored against Toronto.
♦ I hope you all get to see the piece I did with Drew Stafford
on the holidays. It will run during the first intermission of the Washington game and will likely be here at Sabres.com afterwards.
♦ And there are two groups of people I want to wish a special Happy Holidays to, those that are battling illness and the men and women serving our country. In most cases for both groups, they’re unable to be home for the holidays and that has to be painful. On occasion I get to meet fans that are in either of those battles, and I always come away impressed by their courage. Keep up the good fight and Happy Holidays!