Sword Play: Strong Start for the Buffalo Sabres

Kevin Hoffman – US PRESSWIRE

After a long wait, Buffalo Sabres fans have to be pleased with what they see in the standings right now.

After starting 2-0 for the second time in two seasons, the Sabres have shown a lot with their past two wins. The 5-2 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers showed exactly how good this team can be, with the Flyers simply being overmatched with solid defense and a ferocious attack. Yesterday’s 2-1 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs showcased the team’s road capabilities and ability to win the close game.

Regardless of what can be nitpicked, the bottom line is that the Sabres are now 2-0-0 and sit with the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators at four points ahead of a – get ready to hear this a lot – crucial weekend with three games and six points at stake.

So, what were the highs and lows of the long weekend for the Sabres?

Highs

The Thomas VanekCody HodgsonJason Pominville Line

While it may make some nervous that it looks like the start to last year, this line has been on fire. Vanek leads the league with six points, with two goals and four assists. Pominville is right behind him with five points. Hodgson has two goals but looks dominant, especially in the neutral and offensive zones.

Long story short, if this line keeps producing at even a fraction of this level, the Sabres will be a tough team to beat.

Steve Ott

This guy has come in and almost singlehandedly made this Sabres team tougher to play against. In two games, Ott has 12 hits, including seven last night against Toronto, and has averaged over 15 minutes of ice time. His goal was a welcome addition to his game, but Ott has played his part perfectly in his first two games as a Sabre.

Ryan Miller

Miller has been the version Sabres fans saw at the end of last season. His 34 save performance last night was a perfect example of why he has a chance to win his second Vezina if he stays healthy this year. His 1.50 goals against average and .953 save percentage are both good for third in the league.

Mikhail Grigorenko

No, he has not scored, but that’s not what everyone should be paying attention to right now. The offense is what comes naturally to him. Defense on the other hand does not. That’s why his solid defensive play has to be noticed and commended. Coach Lindy Ruff will not harp on him for not lighting up the scoreboard immediately, but he will expect a lot in the defensive zone, and he’s getting it from Grigorenko. It’s still too early to say for sure, but it looks like No. 25 will be sticking with the big club.

Lows

Andrej Sekera

Sekera has looked lost at times and has easily been the Sabres’ worst defenseman to open the season. While Tyler Myers and Christian Ehrhoff have not been great, they have been solid in the defensive zone. Sekera has made numerous bad plays with the puck in the defensive zone and refuses to close a gap on the rush. His soft play in front of the net almost allowed Joffrey Lupul to tie the game last night, with the refs saving Sekera by waiving the punched goal off.

His leash has been longer than most with Ruff in years past, but with TJ Brennan and Mike Weber in the pressbox, one would think Sekera wouldn’t have much more to work with.

The Start of the Second Period

In both games, the Sabres struggled out of the gate in the second period, with the Flyers scoring two goals in the first five minutes of the period, and the Leafs keeping sustained pressure in the Sabres’ zone for the same time period yesterday. The team will need to start dictating the play at the start of every period if they do not want their fast starts to go to waste as they did against Philly and almost did in Toronto.

Follow me on Twitter for NHL and Sabres news all season: @SwordPlay18

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