(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Much of the credit for the Buffalo Sabres seven game point streak can be attributed to timely goals by guys like Drew Stafford and Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek's emergence as the team's best set-up man, and Ryan Miller's stand-up play in goal.
But something that gets overlooked is how much the members of the Sabres defensive corps have stepped up their games in both the offensive and defensive zones.
If you've watched the past five games, then I don't have to tell you that Andrej Sekera has been playing like a man possessed by Bobby Orr's ghost, but I will anyway because I love hearing it. Sekera's offensive explosion of 10 points in his last five games has led to his being named the NHL's second star of the week, a week that included two highlight-reel goals amongst eight assists.
Thanks to the investigative work of fellow reader Krenn, we also know that a defenseman getting two points in five straight games has only happened three times in the NHL since 1995. You may have heard of the other two guys -- Mike Green and Nicklas Lidstrom. Not bad company for the young Slovak.
Sekera's offensive outburst has not come at the expense of his defensive responsibilities either; in his past ten games he's second amongst Sabres blueliners in +/- at plus seven, only surpassed by his on-again-off-again partner Steve Montador at plus nine.
Speaking of #4, Montador now leads the Sabres in +/-, thanks to being plus 13 in his last seven games, and is now sitting high atop his plus 20 rating for the season, which is good for 11th in the entire NHL. The Full Monty has also chipped in offensively with six points in his past six games.
Tyler Myers was a popular whipping boy earlier in the season, starting the season -13 in his first 13 games and looking nothing like the Calder trophy winning rookie from 2010. Since then he's only managed to raise his +/- back up to -8, which is still not great, and his 28 points is a long way from his 48 from last year. though he does already have 11 goals.
Where Myers has greatly improved in the second half of the season is that he's starting to develop a real nasty streak on the ice, much like Chris Pronger and Zdeno Chara, guys we hopefully compare Myers' future to. He's been hitting more this season and putting out Carubba Collision-worthy hits on a more regular basis. The big Texan has not only been throwing his weight around, but has also gotten more comfortable with using his large frame to shield opposing forwards from the puck. Finally, he's cut down on the terrible passing giveaways and falling down behind the net giveaways while becoming more confident bringing the puck through the neutral zone -- he looks "buttery" once more, as Harry Neale so awkwardly described him last season.
Myers' partner earlier in the season was the also-much-maligned Shaone Morrisonn. Morrisonn was advertised as a stay-at-home defenseman but began the season -12 before he earned his first plus game. Since then he's found a home being paired with Mike Weber, sitting currently at -1 and being the reliable defensive presence we thought he could be. Now he's just gotta work on sliding while defending 2-on-1's.
Speaking of Mr. Weber, he was a breath of fresh, gritty air when he was called up from Portland this year and continued to play well until a mildly-questionable benching two games ago. I say mildly questionable because his two -1 performances against Carolina and New York were his first minus outings in 15 games - yeah, he hadn't been in the red since January 21.
Weber is sitting at plus 10 for the year and his physical presence on the ice brings an element some would say the Sabres are lacking. Let's hope he returns to the ice soon (I'm looking at you, Chris Butler.)
While Andrej Sekera is getting his much-deserved praise, don't forget about the other guys back on that blue line; after all, it's not just Ryan Miller's pads that are suddenly keeping more goals out of the net.