The Sabres strength this season was supposed to be their surplus of NHL-caliber defensemen, but as we cross the halfway point of this shortened season, that strength has become the team's weakness due to extremely sub-par play by most everyone on the blue line.
Thanks to an Andrej Sekera injury, the Sabres have recalled rookie Mark Pysyk for the past two games, and all hyperbole aside, he's looked like the Sabres best defender over the past two contests.
Pysyk's strength as a defenseman is supposed to be his great hockey intelligence, positioning, and calm demeanor, all of which have been on display this week. He's had a nice chemistry with Jordan Leopold, and though the two have been the Sabres third pairing, they've operated well together, and Pysyk has shown good instincts in breaking up rushes, getting to loose pucks, and getting the puck out of the Sabres zone with the simple play.
Pysyk's play was enough for Sabres host Brian Duff to call him "ultra-calm" when interviewing Leopold after the first period in last night's game. The veteran defenseman described his partner thusly: "He's done a good job. He's stepped in, he's moved the puck, he's kept it simple, and that's the name of the game."
The young defenseman has been playing well in Rochester, leading the team with a +8 rating to go along with four goals and fourteen assists.
Sabres fans have been waiting to see what Pysyk could do in the big leagues ever since his impressive showing in his WJC appearance and impressive junior campaign. The sample size is very small, but for a franchise desperate for good news, it's a welcome relief to see one of their top prospects performing well.