This is the final group of forwards I will evaluate. This set of grades will actually include reviews of the three players who were traded at the deadline, plus a pair of centers who are still with the team.
Luke Adam – B-
Adam sort of got a raw deal this season. After a scorching hot start, he ended up in the doghouse and eventually was sent down to Rochester after the All-Star break. His demotion was permanent as he is still playing on the farm. I loved his play with Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville and I contend that line should probably have stayed together through the brief slump that eventually led to Adam being sent to Rochester.
Adam did struggle some along the way this year and may have needed more seasoning. However, I think he was handled poorly and I question if his confidence has been shaken by the way Lindy Ruff decided to ship him away.
Paul Szczechura – B
Just one game short of ten, I felt comfortable giving Szczechura a grade for his play. He was called up in the middle of Buffalo’s injury crunch and actually outperformed some regulars. He had a few very nice games at center and proved that he is more than worthy of an early call up in the future. Like Derek Whitmore, Szczechura doesn’t fill a fourth line role all that well but has that offensive touch that makes him intriguing to recall. Again, if the Sabres are in need of a bit more skill, Szczechura is likely to get a call. Continue reading →
It was all too similar of a script. The Sabres opened a 3-0 lead, suffered a defensive breakdown late in the first to make the score 3-1 and it was all downhill from there. It ended with a Philadelphia overtime victory in a game Buffalo should have had well in hand.
The Sabres came out with the vigor they needed to show against a team with significantly more talent and grit than the Sabres lineup for the evening. Buffalo engaged physically and potted three goals before the period was up. Yet, the lead didn’t last and Buffalo was trailing by the end of two periods.
It was yet another defensive embarrassment for the Sabres, from the brutal turnovers on the Talbot and Hartnell goals to the bantam-level pass attempted by Marc-Andre Gragnani in the third period. That particular turnover led to the winning goal. Nathan Gerbe started the turnover party and Tyler Ennis continued it later. Simple plays in zone usually yield the best results. The level of ineptitude shown by this team defensively goes far beyond the five goals scored. It is a top-to-bottom failure that resulted in a 10-3 edge in shots through 15 minutes turn into a 25-18 drubbing. For those playing at home that is a 22-8 turnaround in one period of play.
The Sabres were victimized by some rough bounces. The second Philly goal looked like a pinball and Hartnell’s goal would have been an easy pad stop had it not ramped off Ehrhoff’s stick. Yet, the fourth and fifth goals were rather cut and dry, you need Miller to make a stop there.
Buffalo built a lead with impressive hockey, they sat back on their work thinking one of the most dangerous teams in the NHL wouldn’t manage a response. They paid mightily, they were lucky to steal a point after Drew Stafford played Johnny on the Spot with the goaltender pulled.
At least some of these problems have to be traced back to the core of this team. Many comments on Twitter were in agreement at the lack of mental toughness on the Sabres roster, particularly from the core players. A coaching change might illicit some change, but by and large it will be the same players making the same mistakes.
Ryan Miller had all the makings of a sterling performance going until he took that puck to the melon. You wonder if that had something to do with the floodgates opening up. Miller was facing a firing range for most of the night and was keeping his team around. Yet, allowing five goals is exactly what it sounds like. Five goals. You can’t have that from your franchise goalie at home. He needed one, maybe two more saves – especially on those final two goals.
You could almost see Christian Ehrhoff’s reaction of “did he really just do that?” on Gragnani’s egregious giveaway in overtime. Ehrhoff was slow to respond, not that he would have caught Giroux. Still, for a guy who has been seeing big minutes as of late, tonight was a definite regression from the high level from which he had been performing.
Gragnani belongs in the AHL, there is no getting around it. Were he not concussed, T.J. Brennan would serve in a far better role than Gragnani. Of course, Gragnani won’t be going anywhere, but he certainly deserves a promotion. He has been average to bad all season and has show no signs of improving.
Zack Kassian is showing signs that he may need to stick around for good. Two points and an absolute snipe for his third goal in six games. He is putting on quite a show.
Corey Tropp threw some absolute bombs on Zac Rinaldo. Suffice it to say Rinaldo may have bitten off more than he could chew.
Ville Leino scored, that makes four points in his last three and five-in-five. He has started to bloom skating with Adam and Kassian. He will also likely sit for a few after that blatant elbow in the third.
Between the two games Leino will likely get and Gerbe’s apparent concussion, the Sabres may need to call up one forward from Rochester. Twitter indicates Stuart or Whitmore.
Thomas Vanek got back in the goal column. A big step as he had cooled. Shocking that his goal totals dropped when Lindy Ruff put Hecht at center on that line. Coincidence?