Buffalo Sabres 5 Stars of the Week: April 1–7
The Week That Was April 1–7
Welcome to the inaugural “Buffalo Sabres’ 5 Stars of the Week” column where we honor the top five players from the previous week of play (I know, it’s a lot to take in). They don’t necessarily have to be the highest point scorers as much of the game does in fact require defense (although don’t tell that to the Sabres).
The Sabres had a tumultuous first week of April. First they traded veteran defenseman Robyn Regehr only to follow that move up with a trade of ex-captain and longtime Sabre Jason Pominville. Those who thought they would see a dip in play by the Sabres because of all the trades were pleasantly surprised. The Sabres ended the Pittsburgh Penguins' winning streak with a resounding 4-1 victory in Pominville’s last game as a Sabre. The team then beat the Ottawa Senators 4-2 before finishing the week on a high note with a 3-2 shootout win over the New Jersey Devils. It appears the only people who have not counted the Sabres out of the playoffs are in fact the players on the team. Coming off of a horrible four-game skid, the Sabres rallied back to come within four points of the final playoff spots.
With such roster upheaval, the Sabres needed to players to step up and new players to contribute. It is not as if the team received any NHL-ready players in any of their major trades, so every replacement has come in house, whether from the AHL or on the Sabres roster.
Here are your five stars of the week.
1) Ryan Miller
The shooting disparity in favor of opposing teams continued this week, but Ryan Miller was up to the task. Miller stopped 19 of 20 shots against the Penguins in what was a game devoid of offensive volume, at least in terms of shots. He followed up that performance with a stellar game against the Senators, making 35 saves on 37 shots. Finally, Miller may have had his best performance of the week against the Devils. He was peppered with 39 shots and stopped 37 of them and most impressively, he produced a shutout in the shootout that allowed the Sabres to get the extra point. Miller’s play has been off and on this season and his name was bandied about in trade rumors, but he is proving to the current staff that he is still interested in being the Sabres goalie.
2) Steve Ott
Steve Ott really picked up his production this week, almost doubling his goal total from the year. Before April, Ott had a measly five goals, but he scored three last week, one in each game. Ott was also named an assistant captain after Pominville was traded and he seems to be using the confidence boost to inspire his recent performances. Most importantly, however, is that Ott only accrued two penalty minutes despite playing a total of around 60 minutes, averaging about 20 minutes per game. Ott needs to continue to stay out of the penalty box if the Sabres have a shot at making it to the playoffs.
3) Kevin Porter
While Kevin Porter has played in 22 games this season, he hadn’t done much of anything offensively until the past week. Porter scored two goals and added one assist to more than triple his point total before April. Porter also ended the week with a +4, which isn’t too shabby for a checking line grinder. Porter’s two goals both came in the win against the Penguins.
4) Adam Pardy
Adam Pardy has really taken the opportunity that Regehr’s and Jordan Leopold’s departures have afforded him. Since being recalled on April 1, he has three assists and a +4. His ice time has also increased from around 12 minutes in the first two games of the week to 18 in the game against New Jersey. Pardy isn’t anything special, but he has certainly come to play now that he’s back in the NHL.
5) Jochen Hecht
Just when you thought he was out, he pulled himself back in. Jochen Hecht is indicative of what some of the Sabres’ problems this year. Hecht looked like he was done with the Sabres, and possibly the NHL, until he was re-signed. His season has been typical; not too much offensive production, but above-average two-way play. Hecht, however, helped spur the Sabres to victory in the game against the Senators by scoring a goal and assisting on another. Hecht totaled his assist tally to two against New Jersey and finished the week with a +3.