Thursday, March 8, 2012

Sabres' "top-line" lauded for their performance vs. Carolina

Center Derek Roy was reunited with wingers Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville nine games ago when Pittsburgh came to town. They came out smokin' but then fell into a bit of a funk.

In that first game,  6-2 Sabres win, the line combined for 2 goals and 3 assists five-on-five. Add in Roy's short-handed tally, assisted by Pominville, and the complete stat-line for the game is 3 goals, 4 assists and an astounding plus-10 by that line.

After that, the bottom fell out. The next seven games they combined for 2g, 6a and a minus-11: 
  • Roy--1g (powerplay,) 3a, minus-4
  • Vanek--1g, 1a, minus-3
  • Pominville--0g, 2a, minus-4
Oddly enough, Head Coach Lindy "the Tinkerer" Ruff, a coach noted for changing lines constantly, has kept these three together.

After last night's 3-2 OT win versus Carolina, you would think that the line had a dominating performance. The Buffalo News had this as one of it's headlines, Sabres' first line rewards Ruff's patience.

Paul Hamilton really liked the "top-line." On WGR's Howard Simon Show this morning, he said, "They spent most of the time in the offensive zone. It was like night and day, [Thomas] Vanek got himself moving, he was skating, he was active and I think it really helped the line do what they're supposed to do, and that's score goals."

Actually, that line didn't score goals. Both Vanek and Pominville lit the lamp on the powerplay, both finished with a goal and an assist each while linemate Roy went pointless (although he banged a couple off of the post.)

Vanek and Pominville have been doing this all season no matter who's centering that line going back to rookie Luke Adam who started the year there and had 10g/10a before slumping.

Through the 2011 portion of the season both Vanek and Pominville were at a point-per-game pace. Vanek is mired in a 2012 calender-year slump while Pominville was Mr. Steady up until those seven games between Pittsburgh and Carolina.

Ruff had himself a difficult decision to make. Yesterday before the Carolina game, Ruff mentioned that this was the toughest stretch that Pominville's gone through all season (see above stats.) And what does he do?

Ruff goes to Roy and asks him if he should keep the line together.

The same Derek Roy who's been centering a line that was invisible for the better part of the last seven games.

The same Derek Roy who's having the worst statistical season since his rookie year.

The same Derek Roy who from the Milan Lucic hit on November 14 through the end of the teams' record-setting road losing streak of 12 games on January 24 had 4 goals, 9 assists and was a minus-11. In the 31 games he played in during that stretch, the team went from the top-half of the Eastern Conference to the bottom with a 10-17-4 record.

The same Derek Roy who had this to say in the middle of the above mentioned malaise, “We had high expectations at the start of the year. We knew that,” he said, who has only eight goals and 24 points (as of the Jan. 9 writing.) “Going forward now there’s low expectations. So now it’s easier to play. We just play loose, play fun. Go out there and play hard."

You've got to be kidding, Lindy, right?

Oh yeah, I forgot, Roy's like a son to you (11:50-mark.) You end up throwing your leading goal scorer (five years running) under the bus in that same interview.

That interview was on February 21st which, coincidentally, is the same time that the "top-line" started tanking. A quick reminder, from that night vs. the NY Islanders through the Winnipeg loss this past Monday--a span of seven games. Thomas Vanek had 1 goal (that very same night @ the Islanders,) 1a and was a minus-3. Pominville went on his worst scoring drought of the year, 0g, 2a, minus-4 and Lindy's son had 1g, 3a and was a minus-4.

Getting back to Ruff's question to Roy, if you are Derek Roy and you're having the type of season he's having, and you get the opportunity to remain with the teams' top scorers and use them as a life preserver, what the hell else would you say other than, "yes, keep the line together."

Another reminder, both goals by Vanek and Pominville were on the powerplay last night and Roy did not factor in either.

Therefore the "top-line," five-on-five at least is still in a funk.


Ryan Miller has been on a tear: 4-1-0, 1.61gaa and a .953 sv.% in his last five games. Over the last 10 he's 7-1-2 with a 1.80 gaa and a .942 sv. %. He's not allowed more than three goals in any of the contests and had back-to-back shutouts on the road.

He was the NHL first star of the week last week.

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