Buffalo - November 6, 2014 - Following every Sabres game, we’ll be taking a little look at the previous night’s action with a little segment called “good, bad and ugly”. Expect a loooooooot of ugly.
The announce team really sold it during the shootout, but Zemgus Girgensons is quietly turning into the star of the Sabres. Of course, that’s not really saying much right now, but his all-around game now is actually quite impressive. Not only that, but he’s played himself into position with the other young stud prospects as an untouchable come trading season.
He might be the only player on the roster right now that’s totally, completely safe. In the middle of a rebuild, that’s saying something.
Aside from the number comparisons, he reminds me of all the good traits of Paul Gaustad but with actual hands and scoring ability. He wins faceoffs, he plays physical, he’s clearly asserting himself as a leader in the dressing room and, oh yeah, he’s capable of burying the puck with regularity. When he gets better linemates in the near future, it’ll become apparent to everyone else just how good he is.
Secondary good yet again goes to the goaltending. Michal Neuvirth was outstanding, turning aside 31 of 32 shots on the night and losing in the shootout to a perfectly-placed shot by P.A. Parenteau. After letting that shot in, he was visibly bothered by it. It just crushed him to come that far and lose, which is nice to see out of the guys on this team when things are so obviously bad.
This is going to be stating the obvious, but the offense just isn’t there. Sure, the Sabres created 32 shots on net and that feels like a whole dump-truck full these days, but very few of them felt like real chances. Dustin Tokarski didn’t have to stand on his head to make those 31 saves and few moments felt like real pressure was being created.
Part of this is going to be a talent issue, obviously. You just can’t create consistent pressure without the right type of players in the lineup. But the question that constantly rings for me in situations like this is how much of it is scheme based? Like the issues with puck possession, the Sabres theoretically could be much better than they are through hard work and grit, but it doesn’t seem to matter how hard they try. They’re outclassed all over the place and look like a team of mites playing against pros. Maybe this will all go away when the talent arrives, but it’s something to consider.
This also relates to the offense. While it’s good to see Drew Stafford awaken from his slumber to score (on the power play, no less), are there no other players on this team that can score? Like, ever? It’s basically been he, Girgensons and Tyler Ennis this year and that’s it.
No wonder this team is as hideous as it is: when three guys are the only ones scoring and you’re more than two games into a season, it’s going to spell disaster all day long. The only saving grace for all of this is the obvious light at the end of the tunnel (Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel). It’s just that this tunnel is super-duper long right now.
Follow me on Twitter: @TwoPadStackRW