October 29, 2011

Re-Learning Defensive Play - Buffalo Sabres Under the Gun Tonight

The Buffalo Sabres look to be able to keep on winning tonight as they face off against the Florida Panthers on home ice. They've had a great season so far: a record of 6-3 puts them in 4th place in the Eastern Conference. But in those 9 games, the Sabres have been out-shot 6 times by their opponents. That's 2/3 of their games so far.

Normally, a team being out-shot that often would be pretty low in the standings. But the Sabres have managed to pull out wins where most teams would have endless difficulties: 5 of those 6 games in which they were out-shot, they emerged victorious. That statistic leads the league.

But how much longer can the team coast on abilities of their goaltenders and their forwards? The defense needs to wake up and play stronger. Often times this season we've seen defenders jump up and join the rush, without anyone covering for them so that when the save is made Ryan Miller (or Jhonas Enroth) sees a 3-on-1 headed back in his direction.

I know that this is a part of hockey, but so is good communication between players. Talk to each other so we don't see odd man rushes headed back our way with nobody having any intention of getting back to help.

Andrej Sekera has been especially at fault in this area. He looks like he belongs one of the wings instead of the blue line, with the way he gets involved when he sees a rush develop. While I love having him on the team because we can switch him to play a forward line if necessary, right now that's not where our issues lie.

We have a goal differential of +8; goals aren't hard to come by this year. What we need is a defensive defenseman. Not an offensive defenseman. Give Mike Weber a chance this year, preferably sooner rather than later. Maybe that's the change that will keep another team from duplicating the Blue Jackets' results: getting 43 shots in one game against Buffalo.

Less shots on goal means less pucks finding the back of the net. It's a pretty simple formula, Buffalo, so use it to your advantage.

~Adam Singh

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