Great effort from the Sabres tonight. Little late. Here are a few things that might make you bristle after Buffalo’s 3-0 win over Boston to close the season:
• Thomas Vanek’s hat trick was nice, but superficial. Vanek did not have a $10 million season, no matter what a closing-day hat trick says. He was OK, and caught fire in February, so the stats look decent. Vanek lost far too many one-on-ones to be considered an elite player. Daniel Briere was little, but constantly came up with the puck on the half-wall last year. And if he didn’t, you could see it in his eyes when he back-checked (which wasn’t often, unless it was his turnover). A friend tonight suggested it would have been a great gesture if Vanek would have passed it back to Roy. Good point.
• Also, it’s hard not to get sucked into the Jocelyn Thibault debate. Is this a shining example of why he should have been used more? Or is it a case of a Boston team that plays so boring that it put itself to sleep? I’m not ready to answer. I will say this — at some point, Lindy has to give a backup some work. He didn’t do it as a front-runner, and he certainly didn’t do it with a team fighting for its playoff lives. Ty Conklin isn’t the best goalie in the league, but I’d say he proved worthy of a few more starts last season. Lindy’s quick to trust young forwards, slower to trust incoming defensemen, and hardly ever trusts backup goalies. I understand the importance he’s placing on the position, but he’s got to be realistic at some point.
• Who’s the biggest disappointment this season? This was a hot topic for debate at Gordon’s on Delaware, maybe my favorite place to watch a game. Some argued Drew Stafford, and to be honest, while I think he’ll be a decent pro, I understand the argument. He did little, and the team was counting heavily on him. Sorry, but my vote goes to Toni Lydman, who consistently gave the puck away despite being the team’s “second-best” defender. He was nowhere close to that. In fact, I’d rank him fourth right now, behind Tallinder, Sekera (who would have ever thunk it?), and Spacek. That’s really incredible, if you think about that with some perspective.
• Paul Gaustad won 11 of 18 face-offs. Jochen Hecht won one of eight. Interesting.