If you are upset about the Sabres’ fortunes, take solace in the fact that the Montreal Canadiens are having a similar go off it this year. Both teams started off very fast and have struggled as of late. That means two very angry teams playing determined hockey tonight.
One of the big reasons the Sabres have looked so good recently has been the play of Mark Mancari. I will be the first to say I was completely wrong about bringing him up to the big show, and he’s played his heart out since putting on the blue and gold. My main concern with his game was that he wouldn’t be able to keep up.
Chris and I both saw the Amerks play last year and were blown away by the things he was doing down there. He was outplaying everyone on the ice, and looked ready to make the leap to the NHL and be a solid performer. Yet when he got his chance he looked… slow.
Mike Weber was another one like that. His first time up he looked tentative and nervous, but he was playing great hockey when I saw him in Hamilton a month later. Some players just can’t adjust to the pro speed quick enough, and it takes a few cracks at a roster to make it. There are a few players like that, they show all the talent in the world but the whispers of “he’s not going to make it” make the rounds and you worry.
Those were the kind of worries I had about Mancari, and they are all but gone now. He plays every shift with a desperation rarely seen in the other players on this roster, and his defensive responsibility has been there to boot. No dumb penalties, no tentative shifts, and great forechecking. He has been one of the best Sabres on the ice in every game he’s played, and I’m excited to see what he can do if he gets the chance to stay up.
So there, I was wrong, but like I said before I hoped I would be. This team needed a boost and Mark has stepped in and played the part perfectly. Being physical may not be his game, but he’s shown he’s willing to do whatever it takes to stay in this league. That’s the kind of player you want on your team, and we need more guys to play like that if we want to see hockey this spring.
Looks like the same lineup is going tonight. I’d be satisfied with the same result.