Defense the Story As Buffalo Sabres End Washington's Streak with Shutout

Eric LaForgeCorrespondent IDecember 10, 2009

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 09: Brendan Morrison #9 of the Washington Capitals has his back hand shot stopped by Ryan Miller #30 of the Buffalo Sabres  at HSBC Arena on December 9, 2009 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Whenever you shut out one of the best offenses in the league, you know you’ve done a good job on defense. And if you do that while allowing 35 shots, then you have to give some credit to the goalie.

Washington has gotten into the habit of pummeling every team they play with shot after shot. That’s how they win most of their games, they just keep pouring on the offensive pressure until they get a goal, and then they do it again.

However, it’s games like this that prove my theory that a solid goalie will beat any offense. That’s exactly how Buffalo shut out the Caps 3-0.

I would be a little more skeptical about the defense, except that this has been the story all year. Buffalo has continually run one of the best defensive systems in the NHL. Right now, they are ranked third in goals against per game behind New Jersey and Chicago.

A lot of that has to do with the solid goaltending of Ryan Miller, and a lot of it has to do with a solid defensive effort from the defenders themselves (and a little bit has to do with luck).

What we saw during the game against the Caps was a very simple strategy. We saw the Sabres run the same defensive system they’ve run the entire season. More importantly, we saw Ryan Miller at his best. This was one of those games where he showed why he’s one of the best goalies in the league.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

However, there’s one other thing that the Sabres did. They scored goals. Their strategy was very simple. They tried to play defensively, keep the puck out of their own net, and only attack the Caps when the Capitals’ defense made a mistake.

Even when the Sabres were in the attacking zone, you could see that they still had three players in the high part of the zone. That way, they limited the effects of a turnover. They used the two players deep in the zone to create traffic in front of the net. That’s how they scored their first goal.

The second goal was scored off an even bigger defensive mistake. They left Nathan Gerbe unguarded next to the net. There wasn’t a single Caps player that could stop him. It was a power play goal, so the Sabres were playing a little bit more aggressively, and the Caps weren’t able to stop it.

The third goal was a mistake by Theodore. He wasn’t able to control the rebound that came back to Tallinder.

These three goals were more than enough to secure the game. However, you can never give enough credit to Miller for the way he played in this one.

Every time I see this team play, I’m amazed at how conservative their style is. They only take what’s given to them, and make sure they don’t give anything to the other team. They knew coming in to this game that they couldn’t give the Caps any opportunities.

For the most part, Buffalo did a great job of limiting the quality scoring chances, keeping the puck to the outside of the defending zone, and taking advantage of the Caps’ defensive mistakes. There were a few times where the Caps could have converted, but the Sabres were bailed out by Miller every time.

Once again, you can never give Miller enough credit for the way he played in this game, and you can never underestimate how much the Sabres rely on their defense.

Originally posted at Tips for Hockey

slash iconYour sports. Delivered.

Enjoy our content? Join our newsletter to get the latest in sports news delivered straight to your inbox!