Sabres Report Card- 3rd Quarter Grades

Well…here we are. The season is 61 games old and Buffalo has 21 games remaining in their season. It’s time for the 3rd quarter grades to be handed out.

Here are last quarter’s grades if want to take a look. http://bsabrestalk.wordpress.com/2012/01/08/sabres-report-card-2nd-quarter-grades/

 

Forwards:

Jason Pominville (A+): You can’t ask for much more out of a player. Pominville’s consistency in not only the offensive side of the game, but in every other facet of it is something every person in the league should strive for. The Sabres captain is leading the team in just about every offensive category. There’s not a chance in hell that the team would have a chance at a playoff spot right now if it weren’t for his play.

 

Thomas Vanek (B): Vanek’s been battling through injuries and still been putting out a pretty good effort. The reason for the  lower grade is that not only has the scoring dried up for him a bit, but he’s been taking a lot of dumb penalties in the offensive zone that have hurt the team. Still, he’s looked more like himself in these last few games, which tells me that he should be putting more pucks in the net down the stretch.

 

Derek Roy (B): Over these last 18 games, Roy has started to look like the player who was putting up a point per game before his knee injury. The production didn’t show up right away, but you can tell that he was different player. His hard work has resulted in an explosion of points in Buffalo’s past four games. Roy had seven points (two goals, five assists) in those games. He’ll most likely still be a Sabre come Monday at 3 PM, but whether he’s playing for Buffalo or another team, I think his team is going to be the beneficiary of some serious offense.

 

Drew Stafford (D): The lack of goal scoring is still there, but Stafford didn’t flunk this quarter because he’s actually been putting some effort. Sure, there’s still been games where he just floats around, but at least he hasn’t made me want to throw something at my TV every game. Regardless of that, there’s nothing exceptional about Stafford’s game other than his goal-scoring ability, so when he’s not scoring, he’s a borderline plug. I’m hoping he gets moved either at the deadline or during the offseason

 

Ville Leino (B-): Leino’s played well with Roy and Pominville as his linemates and he’s also looked good with Ennis and Stafford. In the games he’s played with guys like Gaustad and Kaleta, he hasn’t been good. Big surprise, right? My point is that unlike the majority of the year where Leino has struggled, no matter who he’s played with, he’s finally starting to look like he’s gelling with the offensive players on the team. Let’s just hope Lindy doesn’t get any urges to play him with Matt Ellis (no offense Matt).

 

Luke Adam (F): Rough beat Luke. You just weren’t cutting up here with the big club. It would have been one thing if you were just snakebitten, but still putting in the work in the offensive end, but that hasn’t been the case. Adam’s offensive game was non-existent and he was awful in his own end. I realize that Adam was playing with guys like Ellis and McCormick, but even when he got the chance to play with Roy and Stafford, he still looked the same. Hopefully, he gets his game back on track in Rochester. I still think he’ll be a good NHL player though.

 

Tyler Ennis (B+): It’s still very early in the game, but Ennis has looked pretty damn good playing center. He’s looked much better having the puck on his stick more often. Besides generating plenty of offense, Ennis has been surprisingly decent on faceoffs and hasn’t looked half-bad in his end of the ice most nights. His development is something every fan should be interested in watching, regardless of how good or bad the Sabres play down the stretch.

 

Paul Gaustad (A): Talk about a major improvement. Gaustad has been a disappointment to me for a good chunk of the season, but he’s really done a 180 in recent games. He’s hitting, he’s skating hard, and he’s actually chipping in a bit offensively to go along with his face-off prowess. Perhaps the most important improvement though has been his ability to help shut down the other team’s top offensive players. I would still like to see him moved at the deadline though and then try to re-sign him over the summer. Gaustad’s a pretty valuable trade chip at the moment.

 

Brad Boyes (F): Having recently met Boyes in person, I feel bad that he’s still doing nothing. He seems like a genuinely guy. Regardless of all that, Boyes is supposed to be a goal-scorer and when he’s not doing that, he’s all but useless on the ice. His spot can be filled with cheaper, more effective players. Since he is apparently injured, I have a feeling that we saw his last game as a Buffalo Sabre against the Islanders. Hopefully, he can find his game with another team.

 

Nathan Gerbe (C): Much like the last quarter, Gerbe’s effectiveness on the ice has been hit-or-miss. I’ve liked him in recent games after he was reunited with Gaustad and Kaleta. He also looked good in his brief stint with Ennis and Stafford. Nate’s main problems in his bad games have been sloppy play in both ends of the ice and a lack of scoring. Since the last quarter, Gerbe has only scored one goal. The effort’s still be there for the most part though, so hopefully the kinks in his game can sort themselves out.

 

Pat Kaleta (B): Pat’s really picked up his game. He’s finding ways to contribute shift-to-shift at even-strength in the defensive part of the game. Kaleta has just kind of been “there” when he hasn’t been killing penalties, so it’s definitely good to see him come around in this past string of games. This uptick in play has earned more confidence from Lindy, as evidenced by his ice time in most of the games in this quarter. I’m looking forward to watching him play with Gerbe and Gaustad during this last part of the season.

 

Cody McCormick (A): Unfortunately for Cody, he’s still hurt, so he hasn’t played in nearly as many games as the other Sabres players. In the games he’s played in, he’s played his role well. I don’t recall McCormick being a liability on the ice and he had a few scraps as well. That’s all I’m really looking for from him.

 

Matt Ellis (A): Similarly to McCormick, I only expect so much from Matt Ellis. Specifically, I only expect him to skate his rear-end off and not kill the team defensively. Ellis can usually be depended on to do those two things and he did not disappoint during this quarter.

 

Zack Kassian (C-): Kassian’s still learning the game, so I’m not going to get too mad about him not making an impact in his recent games up here. There have been shifts where he’s shown glimpses of becoming a good power forward in the league though. That’s something fans can hang their hats on for now. I’m confident that he’ll come around over time.

 

Defensemen:

Christian Ehrhoff (A): Coming into this season, Ehrhoff was never really known as a solid defender in his own end of the ice. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with his defensive play all year, but he has really upped the ante this quarter in that regard. Ehrhoff has also made some really nice stretch passes that have resulted in scoring chances and goals. You’d like to see him have a few more goals, but I can live with that given the big minutes he plays and the quality of the rest of his game. Darcy gets full marks for bringing him in this summer.

 

Andrej Sekera (A): Other than Regehr, I think Sekera has been the most consistent defenseman on the team. It’s only fitting that they have been playing together again. What I really like about his game though is his elusiveness. You rarely see that guy get pressured into making any kind of mistake in his end of the ice. As much as people want to label him as Dmitri Kalinin-incarnate, he’s been pretty much the exact opposite. He had a monster game against Boston tonight to cap off the 3rd quarter.

Tyler Myers (B+): Myers is really starting to pick things up and build on his finish from last season. Fans have got to be loving the contributions on offense of late and his defensive game has been decent. Myers is also playing big minutes and is currently 2nd on the team in total ice time per game. With that being said, I still think he has some work to do in his own end. He’s been prone to turnovers on occasion, which is why he doesn’t get an “A” from me. It’s scary that he can be playing so well, yet have plenty of room for improvement.

 

Jordan Leopold (B): I haven’t noticed too much change from Leopold’s defensive game since last quarter, which is good. It was in pretty good order and it’s remained that way. You still get some gaffs from time to time in the corners, but he’s been solid at moving the puck out of the zone. The reason I’m slightly knocking him down is that I expected a little more from him on offense. Still, he’s been playing big minutes and has been a very positive difference-maker for the team.

 

Robyn Regehr (A): Is he hitting and punishing attacking players? Check. Is he blocking plenty of shots? Check. Is he shutting down top forwards? Check. Regehr’s got one job and that’s defense. He’s done a damn good job at it as always. I hope he can keep playing at this level for at least another couple of years.

 

Mike Weber (C): The lack of consistency is still plaguing Weber. You can see that there’s a good, Jay McKee-type defenseman in there, but sometimes he gets overshadowed by Mr. Handgrenade. The phrase “Keep It Simple Stupid” is something Weber should live his life by on the ice. When he does that, he’s an excellent defensive-defenseman who can provide physical play and shot-blocking. His highs aren’t on the same level of Regehr of course, but he’s still got some growing to do yet.

 

Marc-Andre Gragnani (F): Thankfully, the defense has been healthy for the most part because that has kept Grags off the ice for the most part. He still got to play in a handful of games during this quarter though. As usual, he was a catastrophe. Fortunately, his mistakes somehow did not manage to hurt the team.

 

Goaltenders:

Ryan Miller (A):  The resurgence of Ryan Miller has been most welcome. He has looked every bit like the Vezina trophy winner for awhile now. Ever since his shutout, shootout loss against the Rangers, Miller has sported a stingy 1.91 GAA. You’re going to be in every game with goaltending like that at the very least. Him and Pominville have been this team’s MVPs in this push to get back into the playoffs.

 

Jhonas Enroth (C): Enroth hasn’t started in many games during this quarter because the Sabres have been desperately trying to get back into the playoff race. In the games Enroth did start, he didn’t exactly put up good numbers. I’m not really going to hold that against him though, given the teams the Sabres played (@NYI, @DET, @CHI, @PHI) and the way the team in front of him was playing. It’s doubtful that Enroth will see many starts down the stretch, but hopefully, he won’t be too rusty and the team in front of him helps him out.

 

Overall: 

Despite the improvement in the standings, I’m only giving this bunch a “C.” Buffalo has been good of late, but there was also a very ugly stretch of play on the road that took place during this quarter and a four-game skid that preceded the three-game winning streak that they’re currently on.

It’s still a long road ahead, but if Miller keeps playing like this and has a reasonably healthy defense along with more consistent offensive output, this team will win plenty of games and should be able to get into the playoffs. I don’t have much faith in the teams in front the Sabres running away from them.

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