On paper, the Vancouver Canucks should be better than the Buffalo Sabres.
Hell, considering that Buffalo has the NHL’s smallest payroll, most teams should be better than the Sabres.
Well, most teams are better than the 24th-ranked Sabres...but the 30th-place Canucks are not one of those teams.
VANCOUVER CANUCKS (4-9-3) @ BUFFALO SABRES (7-8-0)
KEY BANK CENTRE, BUFFALO, NY. 4:00 PM PST
TV: SN PACIFIC /// RADIO: SN650
OPPOSITION BLOG: DIE BY THE BLADE
As this season continues to circle the toilet drain, the Canucks will once again try to right the ship against the Sabres, who have lost five in a row.
In fairness to the Sabres, they really had only one stinker of a loss during their losing streak. That was a 4-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes.
The other teams they lost to on this winless streak? The Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, Vegas Golden Knights and Boston Bruins.
Against all odds, the Sabres are superior to these cringy Canucks. Here’s why.
1. They can roll four lines
The Sabres are spreading out their ice time as much as any team around the NHL. Their leading minute-muncher at forward, Alex Tuch, averages 18:02 per game. The low man, Peyton Krebs, is only six minutes behind at 11:58.
Compare that to the Canucks, where JT Miller leads Canucks forwards skating 21:05 per game. Bo Horvat and Elias Pettersson are also up over 20 minutes. The low man in ice time, Dakota Joshua, has played 9:37. The Canucks also have five other forwards (Jack Studnicka, Sheldon Dries, Nils Aman, Curtis Lazar, Nils Hoglander) who have an average ice time lower than the Sabers least played forward.
2. Sabres are playing loose
Craig Anderson had a quote to reporters after the Sabres beat the Canucks along the lines of, “we’re playing a bit naive because we’re so young.”
Well, naivety for young guys playing professional sports often equals fun, and it looks like the Sabres are having fun playing hockey right now.
The Canucks, on the other hand, entered the season with expectations and more pressure than anyone on the Sabres.
While the Canucks might be playing loose defensively, they’re not playing “loose” like they did last year under Boudreau when there was really nothing left to play for.
3. Sabres (yes, the Sabres) are playing with structure
This is pretty much the opposite of my last point, but hear me out.
The Sabres have actually done a half-decent job of defending at even strength this season. They’ve allowed the fifth-fewest shot attempts against at 5-on-5, and the 12th-fewest scoring chances against.
Only four of their 22 skaters to play this season have a Corsi below 50%. In particular, Rasmus Dahlin and Owen Power, who are playing a TON because of injuries to Mattias Samuelsson and Henri Jokiharju, are driving possession for the Sabres despite facing tough matchups.
Based on the eye test, the main thing that the Sabres do better than the Canucks is that they support each other in both the offensive and defensive zone. That leads to my last point...
4. The Sabres play for each other
Too often for the Canucks this season, we see players in board battles where they don’t have support from their teammates. Defensively, the backchecking is also lackadaisical.
This is Hockey 101, but the Canucks are failing at it this season.
JT Miller, Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat are skilled, but they need to try and stop doing it by themselves when the Canucks are trying to pressure. It’s not just these three, but the whole team needs to do a better job of supporting one another on breakouts, in the defensive zone, and in the offensive zone.
Honestly, I couldn’t tell you what the Canucks are going to do with their lineup today.
Does it even matter?
Sabres reporters did confirm that Spencer Martin was the first goalie off the ice this morning, meaning he will start against Buffalo.
Jack Studnicka was also placed on injured reserve and Will Lockwood was recalled. That means Andrei Kuzmenko should draw back into the lineup.
Lines:— Joe Yerdon (@JoeYerdon) November 15, 2022
Anderson is in the starters net FWIW
GAME DAY BATTLE HYMN
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, it’s
mini Zeppelin Greta Van Fleet with a beauty for today’s battle hymn.
Enjoy the game folks.