As many of my faithful readers know, when it comes to the Buffalo Sabres, I fancy myself a bit of a coach/GM.
So I figured that before the playoffs started, I would put together the line pairings I would use in the first round. This is something I’ve wanted to do all season, and what better time than now?
You’ll notice there are quite a few changes and several names missing, but this is what I think is right for the team.
I’m just hoping somebody within the Sabres’ organization is reading.
Just kidding—but seriously.
Anybody who has been watching the Sabres all season knows there is really no difference between their first and second lines.
The big change here is throwing the youngster Tyler Ennis onto a line that seems to be missing exactly what he can deliver.
A lot of teams will be focusing on Tim Connolly’s puck handling and Jason Pominville’s shooting, leaving Ennis and his quick hands open to cause a lot of problems for opposing teams.
Don’t forget Ennis has five points in five games, too.
Up until about one month ago, I had serious doubts about Tim Kennedy. At one point I even felt he was the Sabres’ weakest offensive player—but he has proven me wrong as of late.
This line seems to be clicking and it would just be stupid to try and fix something that isn’t broken.
While Derek Roy is on fire, it would be nice to see Thomas Vanek start scoring some big goals again.
I miss this line so much. There’s just too much defensive talent between these three players.
Jochen Hecht seems to have found his scoring touch, kind of, with Connolly and Pominville, but he’s a much better defensive forward than he is a scorer.
It’s also obviously not a secret how good the “Goose” and Mike Grier are from a defensive “shutdown” perspective.
Hits, hits, hits.
The Sabres don’t have a lot of size, but at least this line can intimidate some of their opponents.
Raffi Torres has done a pretty nice job since joining the team on March 3 in terms of balancing offensive production with gritty play.
Patrick Kaleta can’t be kept out of the lineup. He draws the most penalties of any player in the league—I just hope he’s healthy for the start of the playoffs.
Defensive Pairing One
Defensive Pairing Two
Toni Lydman’s defensive play has improved dramatically over the course of the past two months; hopefully enough to counteract captain Craig Rivet’s poorly timed pinches and slow skating…and bad turnovers…and blown coverage.
Why is he captain again?
Defensive Pairing Three
Between Chris Butler and Andrej Sekera, I’ll give the nod to Sekera, on the basis that Butler hasn’t proven a single thing to me all season.
Mike Weber is probably the big surprise here. But he is a defensive specialist and leads the Sabres’ AHL affiliate, the Portland Pirates, in plus/minus.
Weber’s defensive play is exactly what Sekera needs to feel confident about joining the rush and scoring like he should be.
The two biggest names missing from this list are Drew Stafford and Steve Montador.
Stafford has been incredibly inconsistent this season, and I’m sick of waiting for him to produce like he can—there’s no room for that on Coach Hogan’s team.
As for Montador, he’s about the worst defenseman I’ve seen in Buffalo in quite a while—with maybe the exception of Dimitri Kalinin.
And in case you couldn’t figure it out, Patrick Lalime won’t be starting in goal.