Thank you hockey gods for putting to sleep the goal-review guys in Toronto! They clearly missed this San Jose Sharks OT goal tonight, allowing the Buffalo Sabres to win their 3rd game of the season in a shootout, 5-4.
November 5, 2013
Thank you hockey gods for putting to sleep the goal-review guys in Toronto! They clearly missed this San Jose Sharks OT goal tonight, allowing the Buffalo Sabres to win their 3rd game of the season in a shootout, 5-4.
November 4, 2011
Lots of great stuff to share with you all out there in internet land. First of all, it’s November and that means Movember has arrived! What is Movember? In a sentence, it’s a worldwide charity movement to raise awareness on men’s health by sporting a well-manicured mustache throughout the month. Some people also join a team to help raise money for prostate cancer research, and men’s health research in general. All proceeds go directly to the cause, and for more info on Movember, go here.
I have joined such a team, “The Ministry of Mustache Growth & Management,” which is made up of various comic book industry professionals throughout the country. Our goal is to raise $10,000 this year, and with 26 days to go, we’re already almost at $1800! If you have anything you can donate, even if it’s just $1, click the link below to help to our team and change the face of men’s health:
Thanks for your support! I’ll be updating that page throughout the month, showing off my killer ‘stache. Here I am all clean shaven on November 1st:
Speaking of comics, there are some cool new articles posted on ComicAttack.net. Check’em out:
Lastly, I’ve written a few more posts on TheHockeyWriters.com about the best hockey team in the NHL, the Buffalo Sabres! Ok, so at 6-5 they’re maybe not the best, but they’re definitely the most likeable. Am I right?
Check back soon for some new Movember pictures and other coolness!
October 12, 2011
I have a cool new blogging gig covering the Buffalo Sabres over at TheHockeyWriters.com!
Here are links to the first two posts:
Be sure to visit the archive above frequently for more regular columns of Sabre Tactics, featuring exclusive photos by my friend, Micheline of SynergyMax!
April 10, 2009
Despite clobbering the despised Carolina Hurricanes 5-1 at the RBC Center last night, the Sabres will not be playing hockey after this Saturday. By defeating the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 in regulation, the New York Rangers have claimed the 8th and final Eastern Conference playoff spot. If Buffalo hoped to stay alive, they had to win in Carolina and the Rangers had to lose in regulation, but ironically, two assists from ex-Sabre Chris Drury and ex-Sabre Martin Biron’s goal tending ended a tumultuous season for the Sabres. With the decisive win over Carolina, Buffalo’s record improves to 40-32-9.
A little over 5 minutes into the opening frame, Jason Pominville got the Sabres on the board first. Tim Connolly found him on a 2 on 1 break and Pominville sniped the puck over the shoulder of Hurricanes goalie, Cam Ward for his 19th goal of the year. Ward got lucky a few minutes later as the puck almost slid in on a deflection, nearly doubling Buffalo’s lead.
Sabres goalie Ryan Miller had to made some acrobatic saves that bordered on ridiculous as the Hurricanes peppered him with shots early on in the second period. When it seemed as though Carolina had seized the momentum, Matt Ellis scored (his 6th) on a wrap around shot that deflected off of Rod Brind’Amour’s skate 3:15 into the period. 3:01 later, a hard working Danielle Paille set up Jochen Hecht in front of the net, and Hecht batted it in without hesitation (his 12th), putting Buffalo up by 3. Then with 10:13 gone by in the period, Tim Connolly barrelled through his opponent on the face-off and dished the puck over to Pominville who picked the pocket of Ward, getting his second of the night and his 20th goal of the season. Cam Ward, who entered this game with a 1.28 GAA, was pulled after the goal and Michael Leighton came in as his relief.
Buffalo started the third period on the power play, but the next goal would come 9:39 into the period via a penalty shot. Derek Roy was awarded the rare opportunity after being hooked on a breakaway. Roy faked like he was going backhand and easily got the puck past Leighton for his 28th of the season, making the score 5-0 Buffalo. Ryan Miller’s shutout bid was ruined by Eric Staal who beat the goalie with 27.1 seconds left to play.
Miller made 26 saves while Ward made 9 and Leighton 11. The Sabres were 0 for 5 on the power play while the Hurricanes went 1 for 2.
Dominic Moore is a guy the Sabres should re-sign during the off season. He’s aggressive, gritty, creates chances, and isn’t afraid to drop the gloves in defence of a teammate. Here’s to hoping he doesn’t go the way of Dainius Zubrus and Steve Bernier.
While playing a solid game, Miller made some bizzare looking plays during the contest; flying into the boards on his back, playing way out of the crease, and being easily baited over to one side while leaving the rest of the net wide open. The Hurricanes couldn’t capitalize until the game was almost over though, ruining Millers shutout. With 5 already this year, it seemed like Miller had overcome his previous M.O. of losing a shutout within the final minute of a game. Oops.
Andrej Sekera was on the ice for the first three sabre goals. Good for him. Especially considering his confidence melt down a week ago.
Henrik Tallinder stepped up his game last night, using his size to his advantage by playing physical. He denied Ray Whitney early in the game on a 2 on 1 break and ripped a puck off the pipes late in the third period. Maybe he read the MintConditionPublishing.com post about his performance in Sunday’s Detroit game?
-After playing in the Eastern Conference finals in 2006 and 2007, the Buffalo Sabres have missed the post season two years in a row.
Even though Buffalo is eliminated from playoff contention due to the Rangers’ victory over the Flyers, the Sabres managed to bring the rival Hurricanes back down to Earth. Coming into the game Carolina was one of the hottest teams in the NHL, winning 9 in a row (which tied a franchise record) and picking up points in their last 15 of 16 games. They had also won 12 straight at the RBC Center. Sabres nation should rejoice about sticking it to the ‘Canes one last time in the 2008-2009 season, and if anything, maybe this game has shaken the confidence of the Hurricanes heading into the playoffs. Only time will tell. Here are the teams that earned a post season berth from the Eastern Conference:
The Sabres take on the 1st place Boston Bruins at the HSBC Arena on Saturday to close out the season. Hopefully they can muster up a solid performance as one last hurrah for their fans in Buffalo.
April 9, 2009
The Buffalo Sabres live to fight another day as they defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs last night 3-1 at the Air Canada Centre. Ryan Miller stood tall in the win and Thomas Vanek scored the game winner as Buffalo prepares to face off against the Carolina Hurricanes tonight in Raleigh. While they still need the stars to align to obtain a post season birth, the win improves Buffalo’s season record to 39-32-9.
Long time veteran Curtis Joseph was given the start in net for Toronto. This was a surprising move considering the last time Joseph faced Buffalo he let in 4 goals on 9 shots. To boot, Toronto’s other goalie, Martin Gerber is 4-0-2 in his last 6 starts against the Sabres. Regardless, Joseph got the nod and looked good to begin the game as he held Buffalo scoreless throughout the first period. The same can’t be said for Sabres goalie, Ryan Miller, who was the victim of his teams inability to clear the puck out of their own end as Jeff Finger got Toronto on the board first, 1-0.
Tim Connolly got the Sabres off to a hot start to open the second period with two great chances, but was denied by Joseph. Then the Sabres went on the power play and Jason Pominville found the back of the net (his 18th) while Joseph was being screened by Paul Gaustad.
The Sabres would continue their scoring ways with 11:52 to play in the third period as Thomas Vanek netted his 38th of the year, freezing Joseph and sliding the puck in behind him. 26 seconds later, Gaustad made a nifty move to give the Sabres insurance on their lead (his 12th), making the final score 3-1 Buffalo.
Ryan Miller needs to be credited for keeping his team in this game. Both the Sabres and the Leafs were waiting for the other club to take control, as neither went on a consistent attack during the contest. This was frustrating from the viewpoint of a Sabres fan, considering the Loafs had played the night before in New Jersey. Reminiscent of how the Sabres failed to take advantage of this against Detroit, the post game discussion would have been different if not for Miller’s strong play between the pipes.
Thomas Vanek had a breakaway chance about half way through the second period, but he failed to pull the trigger and got checked. He seems to do this a lot. Just shoot the puck Vanek!
The match up marked ex-Buffalo Sabre turned Maple Loaf, Brad May‘s 1,000th career NHL game. Before the game, a drawn out ceremony was held in his honor and to be blunt, it was really weird. To begin the ceremony, a video was played of May’s first game as a Sabre. Then Buffalo color guy, Rick Jeanerette’s voice boomed throughout the Air Canada Centre as a video clip was shown of the famous ‘May Day!’ goal. This was followed by a video of him hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007. The weirdness continued as Rob Ray walked onto the ice and presented his former teammate with a framed photo of the ‘May Day’ goal, wearing an expression that screamed “I don’t want to be doing this right now.” Considering the fact that this whole thing went down in Toronto, and May has played 425 games with the Sabres and only 37 with the Loafs, made the entire ceremony seem out of place and lacking energy. How excited can Loaf fans get for a guy who hasn’t played half a season with Toronto and spent most of his career with the enemy? Anyway, May becomes the 21st Toronto Maple Loaf to play in 1,000 games. Good for Brad May… the turncoat.
Another Toronto player reached an NHL milestone last night, as Curtis Joseph tied Gump Worsley for the most losses in NHL history with 352. Said Joseph after the game, “I’ve got lots of memories. Playoffs mostly. Playoffs are the ultimate. That’s where everything is on the line. A lot of playoff games with the Maple Leafs. A lot of chances and a lot of almosts.” To be fair, he is also fourth on the NHL all time victory list with 454. In the end though, Joseph is just one big loser.
-The Sabres have outscored the Loafs 21-6 in 6 games this season. Buffalo has racked up 5 straight wins against the Loafs, since dropping their first contest of the year against them on December 12. Buffalo has also won 10 of their last 12 games at the Air Canada Centre. Take that Toronto.
-Ryan Miller is 5-1-0 with a 1.40 GAA and a shutout against Toronto this year.
-Curtis Joseph is 16-8-4 against Buffalo in his career.
-Against the Loafs this season, Jason Pominville has 9 points, Drew Stafford has 8, and Thomas Vanek has 4 goals and 3 assists.
-The last Buffalo Sabre to play in 1,000 games was James Patrick. He is only the 9th player to do so in a Buffalo sweater.
-This game was the 2nd in 15 where Buffalo allowed fewer than 3 goals.
The Final Word
Is it impossible? No, but Buffalo doesn’t control their own destiny and that is one of the worst feelings in professional sports. Here is how the Eastern Conference standings currently look:
The Sabres take on the red hot Carolina Hurricanes tonight who have won 9 in a row. The game is in Raleigh at the RBC Center where Buffalo has a history of being treated as less than welcomed guests. Despite losing Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals there in 2006, the RBC staff is known for playing mind games with the Sabres; showing footage of Buffalo Bills great, Jim Kelly saying “Let’s go Canes” even though he is referencing his alma mater, the Miami Hurricanes, and flashing such things across the jumbo-tron that read, “As part of President Obama’s stimulus plan, America has offered Buffalo to Canada. Canada politely refused,” according to The Buffalo News.
Here’s to hoping the Sabres can stick it to the Hurricanes one last time in the 2008-2009 season!
April 7, 2009
After defeating the 2nd seeded Washington Capitals 5-4 in overtime, and then losing to the 3rd place New Jersey Devils 3-2 at home, the Buffalo Sabres left themselves no margin for error when they took on the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Detroit Red Wings last night. The Sabres however, decided to become musicians, writing the first verse of their 2008-2009 swan song, losing 4-1. The loss has put Buffalo’s post season hopes in serious jeopardy as they slip to 38-32-9 on the year.
The Sabres hoped that playing a “must win” game in front of their home fans would give them an extra jump in their step against Detroit, and for the first 13 minutes of play it did. Buffalo pelted Red Wing’s goalie Chris Osgood with 13 shots compared to the 5 Ryan Miller turned away in the same time span. Then, the Sabres went on the power play and stopped skating, opting to glide around a very patient Detroit club. Not surprisingly, Buffalo failed to capitalize and at the end of one, the score remained 0-0.
With 5 minutes gone by in the second period, the Sabres began to lose their patience as Detroit’s strong defensive play began to give them momentum. With 1:19 remaining in the frame, Brad Stuart scored with the man advantage to get the Red Wings on the board first. Seconds later, the Sabres were granted a power play of their own, but Tim Connolly stupidly chopped a Red Wing’s stick, breaking it in half and getting a penalty himself to force 4 on 4 hockey for 1:58. The penalty bled into the beginning of the final frame…
36 seconds into the third period, Marian Hossa cashed in on Connolly’s idiotic play, scoring to put Detroit up 2-0. 9 minutes later, Hossa got his second of the night, freezing Buffalo defenceman Henrik Tallinder and getting the puck past Ryan Miller. Paul Gaustad, one of the few Sabres still playing with heart, got Buffalo on the board 38 seconds later (his 11th on the year and a career high), finding the puck in a scramble in front of the net. In the end though, it didn’t matter as Nicklas Lidstrom scored an empty netter, making the final score 4-1, Red Wings.
Ryan Miller faced 31 shots while Osgood was blasted with 33. The Sabres were 0 for 4 on the man advantage while the Red Wings were 1 for 2. The desperate Sabres only managed to score once on a Detroit team who played the night before against the Minnesota Wild. Pathetic.
-Chris Osgood is that good. His victory last night was the 389th of his career, which ties Dominik Hasek for 10th on the NHL all time wins list. Buffalo was the town that groomed Hasek and Detroit was the town where he won a Stanley Cup (which he failed to do in Buffalo). Osgood said after the win, “I don’t know a lot of things, but I knew that today I could tie Dom here, so that’s pretty cool. It’s a great honor for me to be mentioned with a goalie of his stature. To do it here [in Buffalo] is a little more special.” This should make any Sabres fan’s ears bleed.
-Both Buffalo and Detroit have a few things in common: they both have horrendous football teams (the Bills and the Lions are the two clubs with the longest playoff droughts in the NFL), they both have dying economies and freezing cold winters, and they both share the shores of Lake Erie. However, Detroit has one thing over Buffalo; their hockey club is superior. Since 1996 the Red Wings are 15-1-2 against the Sabres and embody everything that Sabres fans hope to see in their club in the near future.
-Right now it’s tough not to hate on Henrik Tallinder and Tim Connolly. Perhaps these thoughts come from an angry place, but the Sabres should have traded Connolly and kept Kotalik. At least Kotalik could score in a shootout. To pick on Tallinder, he needs to be more physical in the crease. His injury history has caught up with him and he’s turned into a sissy. That’s right, it’s time to call out this ‘veteran’ with his -5 rating and 1 goal and 11 assists in 63 games.
-The thought that numerous sportscasters commented on how Ryan Miller’s mind would be on his alma mater’s performance in the NCAA Championship Game is ridiculous. Miller should have been focused on stopping pucks from the Detroit Red Wings. Period. If he really was thinking about that college basketball game, his new contract deal should be re-evaluated.
-Where the hell has Thomas Vanek been? Wasn’t he supposed to be our offensive savior since returning from his jaw injury?
-Ryan Miller is 2nd in the NHL for total wins (32) and shutouts (5) this season.
-Useless stat of the day: The Sabres are 11-4 in their third jersey’s this season.
-When entering the third period down at least a goal, the Sabres have only won 7 games this year. Also, in 4 on 4 situations this year, Buffalo has managed to score only 5 goals.
-The Sabres are 4-5-1 in their last 10.
-Sabres/Washington Capitals stats: Miller is 9-3-0 against Washington in his career. Since the 2002- 2003 season, Washington has defeated Buffalo only twice, and both victories came this season on Dec. 26th and Dec. 30.
-Sabres/New Jersey Devils stats: the game was Jason Pominville’s 300th of his career.
It’s not over until the fat lady sings, but it’s practically impossible for the Sabres to make the playoffs. “It’s tough. Until you are mathematically out of it, you can’t quit. Even if you are, you can’t quit. We put ourselves in a tough spot,” said Ryan Miller after the Detroit loss. According to sportsclubstats.com, the Sabres have a 1.8% chance of making it to the post season and need the following things to happen: 2 losses out of 3 games by the Florida Panthers, 2 losses out of 3 games by the New York Rangers, and the Sabres need to win out their final 3 games. Here is how the Eastern Conference standings look today:
In their final three must win contests, the Sabres face the Toronto Maple Loafs and the Carolina Hurricanes on the road, and close out the year against the Boston Bruins at home in Buffalo. Anything can happen, but things aren’t looking good…
April 2, 2009
The Buffalo Sabres entered Wednesday night’s contest against the Atlanta Thrashers in desperate need of two points. The Sabres left the Philips Arena with only one however, keeping their already slim playoff hopes barely alive. Buffalo dropped a 1-0 lead, losing 3-2 with only seconds left in overtime. The loss marked a season sweep of the Sabres by the Thrashers, as Buffalo drops to 37-30-9 on the year.
Seven minutes in Buffalo scored first on a power play goal from Thomas Vanek (his 36th of the year) against an Atlanta club that has already been eliminated from playoff contention. The Thrashers responded a minute and a half later when Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller went down early and Zach Bogosian caught him out of position to tie the game at 1. Ex-Sabre Vyacheslav Kozlov gave Atlanta the lead 10:26 into the second period; Ryan Miller made a phenomenal save with his stick, but Dominic Moore was unable to clear the puck out of the crease and Kozlov was there to knock it in. Shortly thereafter, Vanek netted his second of the night (his 37th) when the Sabres were on a 5 on 3 man advantage, tying the game at 2. Notice how loudly the crowd cheers after Vanek scores when Atlanta is supposed to be the home team! With just over two minutes remaining in the third period, Buffalo’s shootout hero in Montreal, defenceman Toni Lydman, took a stupid hooking call to put the Thrashers on the power play for the final ticks of the game. Buffalo survived though, sending the contest into overtime, and as expected it was fast paced end-to-end hockey. While Vanek and Miller were responsible for keeping Buffalo in the game, the two leaders ultimately dropped the ball for their team as Ilya Kovalchuk robbed the club of a much needed point. With only 30 seconds remaining in OT, Vanek tried to send a pass over to Jaroslav Spacek, but the puck hit Kovalchuk’s skate giving him a breakaway and he beat Miller five-hole. The score alloted Atlanta a 3-2 victory over a desperate Buffalo club.
Ryan Miller faced 30 shots while Atlanta goaltender, Johan Hedberg was hit with 32. The Thrashers were 0 for 3 on the power play while the Sabres went 2 for 6.
Buffalo didn’t look lazy in this game but they couldn’t close the door on most of their chances. Thomas Vanek felt terrible about his game-ending giveaway stating, “I gave their best player a breakaway to lose the game for us. It’s disappointing. It’s tough when you let your teammates down like that…. It was a stupid play.” It really is too bad that Vanek had to be the scapegoat for this loss considering he was the only Sabre who managed to score in the contest. Had the Sabres won, he and Miller would have been the heroes of the night. Said Miller of Kovalchuk’s goal, “I tried to cheat the five-hole. He got it up over my stick and hit me straight in the pad right above where the knee break is and powered it through.” Poor guys.
It was easy to tell that there were a lot of Sabres fans in attendance. The arena looked to be a little over half full, and as a result the “Lets Go Buffalo!” chant could be heard loud and clear throughout the game. Funny how the Atlanta commentators never mentioned it during the broadcast.
The loss means that the Thrashers have swept the Sabres this season, going 4-0. Buffalo dropped 2 games in OT and 2 games in a shootout against Atlanta, and the Philadelphia Flyers are the only other club the Sabres were winless against in the Eastern Conference this year.
-Buffalo’s second string goalie, Patrick Lalime was scratched in this game due to an injured hip. As a result, Mikael Tellqvist played the role of backup. Maxim Afinogenov, Andrej Sekera, Nathan Paetsch, Andrew Peters, and Matt Ellis were also scratched. Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff stated that he thought Afinogenov has been taking shifts that last too long and has reverted to his old ways of turning the puck over. Young defenceman Andrej Sekera sat the game out due to his admission to Ruff earlier in the week that he has lost his confidence. Sekera has only 3 goals in 63 games and a -16 rating.
-The loss snapped a 3 game win streak for the Sabres, and they are 4-4-2 in their last 10.
-Ilya Kovalchuk has 20 goals in his last 21 games for Atlanta.
-Thomas Vanek has 19 power play goals this season. He is tied for 1st in the league in that category alongside Calgary’s Mike Cammalleri. Vanek has scored 64 ppg in his young career.
-Ryan Miller is 8-3-2 in his last 13 games with a 2.52 GAA and 2 shutouts.
Next up the Sabres go on the road to face the Washington Capitals. Then they take on the New Jersey Devils and the Detroit Red Wings at the HSBC Arena. The regular NHL season has only 11 days remaining, and the Sabres have 6 chances to gain ground in the standings. If Buffalo hopes to play hockey beyond April 11th, they’ll need the teams in front of them to lose a few games in addition to their need to probably win out the remainder of the season… Yikes.
March 29, 2009
In his debut since injuring his ankle on February 21, starting goalie Ryan Miller sparkled in the Buffalo Sabres 5-3 victory over the hot Toronto Maple Leafs, and stood tall in the 4-3 shootout win against the teetering Montreal Canadiens on Friday and Saturday night. Both games were exciting, intense, and gritty, complete with a pseudo playoff atmosphere. The victories keep Buffalo’s playoff hopes alive, and improve their season record to 37-30-8.
Maple Leafs vs. Sabres 3/27/09
This match-up at the HSBC Arena marked trade deadline acquisition, Dominic Moore’s first game against his former team. Normally, Martin Gerber would have started in net for the Loafs. However, due to his childish actions of shoving referee Mike Leggo and shooting a puck in his direction in Toronto’s 3-2 shootout win against the Capitals, Gerber has been suspended for 3 games. While serving the first game of his sentence, long time veteran Curtis Joseph started in his stead. Thankfully, he was horrendous. Only 37 seconds in, Jochen Hecht scored glove side for his 10th of the season, giving Buffalo an early 1-0 lead. 9 minutes later Tim Connolly came charging in on a 2 on 1 rush with Clarke MacArthur. Connolly scored his 15th of the year as he ripped it off the post and the puck bounced off of Joseph’s back leg for the score. Despite being out-shot 14-4 in the period, the Sabres found themselves up 2-0 at it’s conclusion.
Just over 3 minutes into the second period, Danielle Paille scored top shelf (his 11th) to put Buffalo up 3-0. Paille earned the goal on what is quickly becoming his signature move: skate down the left side, wait for the opening, and snipe a wrist shot past the goaltender. Dominic Moore assisted on the goal, giving him his 100th career point. Seconds later, Connolly got his second past Joseph (his 16th) who was screened by Sabres defenceman, Chris Butler. As a result of letting in two goals in 21 seconds, Joseph was replaced by rookie Justin Pogge, who put in a decent relief performance. With the Sabres on the power play, Boyd Devereaux scored shorthanded on a nifty move to get the Loafs on the board, 4-1. The goal was Boyd’s first of the year.
Sabres nation nearly hit the panic button when it looked like the Sabres would suffer another 3rd period meltdown. Matt Stajan scored almost 8 minutes into the period, bringing the Loafs within two on a fluky deflection that rolled down Miller’s back and into the net. Nikolai Kulemin made it 4-3 on the power play 43 seconds later, lifting the puck over a sprawling Miller who had previously stopped a barrage of Toronto shots. Karma came full circle though, as Paul Gaustad scored a similar goal (his 10th) with Pogge on the ground at the half way mark of the final frame. Jochen Hecht began the successful play by snapping off a quick shot at Pogge, and Goose was there to snatch up the rebound. The insurance goal was all Buffalo would need as they went on to win, 5-3.
The final shots in this game were 35 to 24 in favor of Toronto. Buffalo went 0 for 2 on the power play, while Toronto went 1 for 5.
After a lengthy, grueling, and unnecessary pre game ceremony at the Bell Centre, the Montreal Canadiens got off to a fast start against the Buffalo Sabres. At the outset, the Canadiens were playing tougher hockey than Buffalo, completing their checks and getting quality chances on net. Ryan Miller, however, bought his team time, keeping the Canadiens off the board until they could settle into the game. They did with 2 and a half minutes remaining in the opening frame, as Jochen Hecht’s shot was tipped in by Adam Mair (his 8th on the year) to put the Sabres on the board first, 1-0.
On the power play with 2:36 gone by in the second period, Tim Connolly scored his 17th of the season, getting the puck past Montreal goalie Carey Price. The Canadiens, however, would go on to score three in a row over a 7:16 span. Christopher Higgins got Montreal on the board, and Alexei Kovalev tied the game at 2 with 7:47 remaining in the second. Kovalev scored minutes later on a 5 on 3 situation, to put the Canadiens up 3-2 at the end of two.
Clarke MacArthur scored his 15th of the year 3:58 into the third period, tying the game at 3 (which may have saved the Sabres season). The Sabres swarmed the Canadiens in the final frame, out-shooting them 16-7, but neither team managed to score, sending the game into overtime. Buffalo had the better opportunities in the intense end to end OT, but again, neither team scored, which resulted in a shootout. This shootout was Miller’s first since returning from injury, and to be blunt, he kicked ass, stopping all 6 Montreal shooters. Buffalo defenceman Toni Lydman was the hero of the night, scoring the only goal in the shootout, winning the game for the Sabres. His teammates Tim Connolly, Drew Stafford, Jason Pominville, Derek Roy, and Thomas Vanek all failed to score in the shootout.
The Sabres out-shot the Canadiens 37-35 and were 1 for 3 on the power play, while Montreal was 1 for 4.
These two games may have been Jochen Hecht’s best two all season. He scored the first goal against Toronto and Montreal, as well as set up the insurance goal by Gaustad in the Loafs game. Hecht is still taking some silly penalties, but his hard work at driving to the net isn’t going unnoticed. Props also need to be given to rookie defenceman, Chris Butler. Butler is a quiet difference maker for the Sabres, as he leads the team in plus(-) rating with +8; he is +15 at home -7 on the road.
Against Montreal, Pat Kaleta was boared by the cowardly Maxim Lapierre. Reports were claiming that Kaleta suffered a mild concussion on the hit.
Sabres fans can’t help but wonder where Thomas Vanek been these last two games. 8 regulation goals were scored and Vanek had 0 points and a -1 rating in the two contests. That needs to change if the Sabres hope to continue their winning ways.
-Ryan Miller is 31-16-5 this year with a , 2.52 GAA, and a .918 save %.
-Loafs backup goalie, Justin Pogge, is 0-3-0 against Buffalo this season with a 4.5 GAA.
-The Sabres have outscored the Loafs 9-0 in the 1st period this season.
-So far this year Buffalo has outscored Toronto 19 to 7 and is 4-1 on the season series.
-The Sabres have outscored the Canadiens 19-14 and are 4-1-1 on the season series.
-Against Montreal, Maxim Afinogenov was scratched in favor of Adam Mair.
-The Sabres are 26-2-1 when scoring 4 or more goals this season.
-The Sabres have had 5 shorthanded goals scored against them this year.
These two wins and 4 points were season savers for Buffalo. While the Sabres still sit in 10th place, they are now only 4 points away from the final playoff spot. Here is how the Eastern Conference standings currently look:
The remaining playoff positions are still up for grabs, and anything can happen in the home stretch of the regular season. The Sabres have 7 games remaining, for a total of 14 available points. In their last 7 games, the Carolina Hurricanes have managed to go from barely holding onto 8th place, to being firmly seated in 5th. The point: anything can happen if the Sabres can muster up a serious win streak.
Now that the team has found some consistency in winning 3 straight, the Sabres desperately need to improve the play in their own end and hold onto leads. Both of these tasks won’t be easy as Buffalo’s next three opponents are the Atlanta Thrashers, the Washington Capitals, and the New Jersey Devils.
March 26, 2009
Both the Buffalo Sabres and the Florida Panthers entered the HSBC Arena last night ice cold and desperately in need of two points to stay in the tightly contested Eastern Conference playoff race. To start the third period, the Sabres found themselves down 3-1, but managed 3 goals in a 2:07 span, rallying to defeat Florida by a final score of 5-3. “We had to be desperate. This is that time of year,” said Buffalo Sabre, Jason Pominville.
After being booed by their fans throughout the first two periods, the Sabres desperate play was eerily reminiscent to the comeback Buffalo made against the Tampa Bay Lightning just over a year ago. Check out these freaky comparisons:
Before the game, Panthers right winger, Radek Dvorak was quoted as saying, “I have a good feeling that good things are going to happen.”
Trade deadline acquisition, goalie Mikael Tellqvist, made his first home start for the Sabres stopping 30 shots in the win. Opposing goaltender, Tomas Vokoun made 40 saves for the Panthers. On only their third shot of the game, Florida went up 1-0 by an ugly goal from Brett McLean. In his 799th career game, Sabres Captain, Craig Rivet scored on the power play with 15 seconds remaining in the opening frame for his 2nd of the season. Richard Zednik (the guy who had his throat slit open at HSBC Arena a little over a year ago) scored the go ahead goal for Florida with just over five minutes to play in the second. Michael Frolik scored on a trickling puck to put the Panthers up 3-1 early in the third period. Then came the 2 minute onslaught by the Sabres. The comeback began as Jason Pominville responded to Frolik’s goal, scoring his 16th of the year and putting Buffalo within one. Clarke MacArthur tied it up on a slap shot and then Tim Connolly scored the game winner on the power play, making the score 4-3. The goals were MacArthur’s and Connolly’s 14th of the season. Maxim Afinogenov scored the empty netter (his 5th), making the final 5-3 Buffalo. Max’s goal triggered a bum rush from Nathan Horton and company, going after Max in a childish fit of frustration.
-The Sabres had only 1 power play goal in their previous 6 games, going 1 for 26. Last night they were 2 for 5. The Panthers were 0 for 2.
-Florida didn’t get their first shot on goal until 7 minutes into the game. The Sabres had already tallied 4.
-Before last night, the Panthers were 21-9-4 when they scored first. The Sabres have won 3 straight and 5 of the last 6 against them.
-Drew Stafford is in the midst of a really bad slump, scoring only 2 goals and 2 assists in his last 14 games.
-Although Afinogenov scored the empty netter and put out some tough shifts alongside Danielle Paille and Dominic Moore, the forward seemed to revert to his old ways (of turning the puck over) a handful of times last night. At one point, Max was out for a lengthy 2:04 shift. Upon returning to the bench, head coach Lindy Ruff chewed him out for the move.
-Buffalo color guy, Harry Neale had the quote of the season when he said that Buffalo was trapped in their own end “like pregnant foxes in a forest fire.” I’m not sure if that’s hilarious, ridiculous, or terrible… probably all of the above.
With the win, the Sabres improve to 35-30-8 on the year, but continue to be locked in 10th place. Here is how the Eastern Conference is looking:
It’s easy to see that the final five spots are still up for grabs. Any team can begin to slump while another goes on a playoff propelling win streak. Hopefully, the latter is the route the Sabres can take as they are expecting starting goaltender Ryan Miller to return for Friday’s match-up against the Maple Loafs at home. Miller has stated that his ankle is, “as good as it’s going to get.” Buffalo has gone 4-7-2 without him between the pipes, and with only 9 games remaining in the season, they can’t afford another losing streak. After Toronto, Buffalo takes on the Montreal Canadiens and the Atlanta Thrashers on the road.
One year ago, the Sabres mounted an electrifying comeback against the Tampa Bay Lightning to keep their playoff hopes alive. After that victory, however, the Sabres dropped 2 straight, and went 4-3-1 to close out the season. They missed the playoffs by 4 points, finishing in 10th place.
Hopefully, history won’t be repeating itself.
March 23, 2009
Last week the Buffalo Sabres dropped games to the Philadelphia Flyers (6-4) and the New York Rangers (5-3). The losses prevent Buffalo from covering some much needed ground in the standings, as they remain locked in 10th place with a 34-30-8 record on the season.
Flyers @ Sabres 3/20/09
-The Philadelphia Flyers have swept the Sabres 4-0 this year. The Flyers haven’t done this since the 2000-2001 season. In the four wins, Philly has outscored Buffalo 20-9.
-The Flyers scored first on the power play via Michael Richards. Dominic Moore finally scored his first goal as a Sabre (his 13th on the year) and it took 7 games to do so, putting the Sabres up 2-1. Moore’s tally followed the game tying goal by Thomas Vanek (his 35th) in the second period. Simone Gagne tied it up again for Philly, but Derek Roy would score (his 26th) shortly thereafter to put the Sabres up 3-2. Ex-Sabre Daniel Briere then scored short handed to tie the contest, and just 1:05 later he beat Lalime again for the go ahead goal. Briere’s second goal came with only 35 seconds remaining in the frame. With the Flyers up 4-3 in the third period, Mike Knuble and Jeff Carter scored for Philly. However, Sabres defenceman Chris Butler earned his first career goal with only 1.2 seconds remaining, making the final score 6-4.
-Former Sabre Martin Biron stopped 39 shots compared to Patrick Lalime’s 25 saves. Biron has a 1.677 GAA against Buffalo this season.
-Said Briere of his goals, “On the first one, a lot of weight came off my shoulders. The second one I got to enjoy a little more.”
-The loss prevented Buffalo from sweeping the Rangers this season, going 3-1 on the series.
-Markus Nasland opened the game’s scoring about half way through the first period, and former Sabre Chris Drury scored on the power play to put the Rangers up 2-0 in the second. Danielle Paille scored his 10th of the season to cut the lead in half, but only minutes later Ryan Callahan gave the Rangers their two goal cushion back. Nikolai Zherdev finished out a 3 goal second period for the Rangers, to make the score 4-1. To start the third period, Sabre head coach Lindy Ruff pulled Patrick Lalime from goal, putting in Mikael Tellqvist. 18 seconds into the period Clarke MacArthur broke a 21 game scoring drought, scoring his 13th on the year, cutting the New York lead in half once again. With just over a minute remaining in the game, Toni Lydman netted his 3rd of the season to bring Buffalo within one goal. Ryan Callahan would score his second of the night on an empty netter though, making the final 5-3 Rangers.
-Patrick Lalime made only 15 saves in two periods, while Tellqvist stopped all 11 shots flung his way in the third. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 37 shots for the win.
-Sean Avery, newly returned to the Rangers after spending some time in the minors, was allowed to do whatever he wanted in this game. He tugged on Vanek’s face mask that is protecting his fractured jaw, and as expected, didn’t stop running his mouth for 60 minutes. Pat Kaleta had enough of Avery at one point, and shut his mouth.
-Buffalo was 0-5 with the man advantage, while the Rangers were 1-2 on the power play.
-Between these two games, Patrick Lalime stopped two penalty shots, but has given up 10 goals on 50 shots.
-Since Miller went down, Buffalo has amassed a 3-7-2 record and are allowing an average of 3.33 goals per game. Buffalo is averaging 4.11 goals per game when they have lost during that span.
-Eastern Conference standings:
-Buffalo’s next three games are against the Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Loafs, and the Montreal Canadiens.
Special thanks to NHL.com and wgr550.com for some stats.
March 18, 2009
The Buffalo Sabres were once again defeated by a team ranked well below them in the standings, and this time it was the Ottawa Senators. Buffalo lost to their division rivals at Scotiabank Place Tuesday night by a score of 4-2. The Sabres amassed a mere 13 shots on goal the entire game. That’s not a joke; 13 shots on goal through 60 minutes of play were all the Buffalo Sabres could accomplish offensively. This mark nearly ties the franchise record of 11 shots on goal, set in 1981 against the Boston Bruins. With the loss, Buffalo falls to 34-28-8 and further decreases their playoff chances.
Mikael Tellqvist started his first game in net as a Buffalo Sabre, and it was anything but a memorable occasion for the third string goaltender. Tellqvist stood tall, facing 36 shots in the game, compared to Brian Elliot who was only hit with 13. Two of those shots went in for the Sabres, and both goals came in the first period. Defenceman Toni Lydman scored his 2nd of the year on a delayed penalty call to put the Sabres up 1-0. Jason Pominville added another tally (his 15th), shoveling in a return pass from Thomas Vanek, giving the Sabres a 2-0 lead at the end of the opening period.
Once the second period began, however, it was like watching a completely different game as it was all Ottawa. The Senators got on the board about a minute and a half in when Dany Heatley picked Tellqvist’s pocket, as poor coverage by Jaroslav Spacek left him untouched in front of the net. A little over 4 minutes later, Brendan Bell tied the game while Henrik Tallinder was serving an interference penalty. Early in the third period, Drew Stafford was in the box for elbowing when Daniel Alfredsson scored the go ahead goal. He received a pass from Jason Spezza in a 2 on 1 situation, and a poor read by Buffalo defenceman Andrej Sekera made Alfredsson’s job easy as he caught Tellqvist out of position (at no fault of his own), putting his team up 3-2. As if to punctuate Ottawa’s dominance of the Sabres this season, with 8:34 left to play, Brendan Bell got his second of the night with the man advantage, making the final score 4-2.
There so many atrocities to point out in this game from the viewpoint of a Sabres fan, that it’s tough to only pick a few. Actually, only a few will be pointed out as hopefully this game can quickly become a distant memory. To begin, the Sabres amassed 9 penalties in the game for a total of 18 short handed minutes. Three of those penalties went to Henrik Tallinder for two hooking calls and an interference call. At one point, the Sabres had 7 straight penalties before they’d get a power play chance of their own. Some people blame biased refs, when they should really blame lazy hockey players.
Despite the poor play and sloppy penalties, the biggest frustration of the night is how the Sabres didn’t fight for their new goalie, Mikael Tellqvist. Imagine how he feels, being the new guy on the team, wanting to make a statement and help the club advance in the standings. Tellqvist makes 32 saves, keeping his team in the game while his fellows managed to only put 13 shots on the the opponent’s goalie. The Sabres should have just spat in Tellqvist’s face as it would’ve been equally insulting to their teammate as their performance last night. The effort put forth in this game proves the theory that the Sabres don’t show up when Ryan Miller isn’t in net. Save a few plays here and there,other backup goalie, Patrick Lalime, has been solid in his nine outings in place of Ryan Miller. All he has to show for it though, is a 3-4-2 record. Without speaking any words, the Sabres have repeatedly shown if anyone besides Ryan Miller isn’t stopping pucks, than they don’t feel like playing hockey.
The rest of the world be damned.
To frustrate Sabres fans even further, Ottawa is 5-1 against Buffalo on the year and has owned the Sabres since being knocked out of the 2005-2006 post season by Buffalo. Add this to the fact that Ottawa is ranked 24th in the league, and it becomes clear that the Sabres can’t win close games against good teams, and can’t win period against bad teams. Buffalo’s chances for a post season birth aren’t over numerically, but after watching this club play last night, the realization that no lead is safe forces fans to accept the fact that this team isn’t very good.
-Buffalo failed to score on 4 power play opportunities compared to Ottawa’s 3 scores on 9 chances.
-The Sabres had 1 shot on goal in the entire second period. The Senators had 13.
-In their last 7 losses, the Sabres have totaled 13 goals.
-The Sabres are 3-5-2 in their last 10 games, losing to the Senators (twice), Atlanta Thrashers, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, and the Anaheim Ducks. Only two of those teams are higher than Buffalo in the standings. The three victories were against the Phoenix Coyotes, Florida Panthers, and the Montreal Canadiens, of which only the Coyotes are below them in the standings.
-The Sabres started the season 6-0-1, but since then they’ve gone 28-28-7.
-Jason Pominville is a -6 in his last 8 games.
It may be too early to panic about missing the post season as the Sabres are only 3 points out of 8th place, but they keep making it harder on themselves and for their fans to keep the faith. Here is how the Eastern Conference looks:
Something this team needs to do within the span of their final 12 games is to develop an identity, hold onto leads, and find consistency in their play. All of these elements are lacking right now, and it has turned them into a group of losers. After the game against the Senators, Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff said:
I’m very embarrassed. Embarrassed for our fans, embarrassed for how we played the last forty minutes. It’s not acceptable this time of year.
Lindy, 13 shots on goal and 9 dumb penalties are not acceptable any time of the year. On Friday the Sabres take on the Philadelphia Flyers at the HSBC Arena. Anything other than a win in this game and Buffalo’s playoff hopes become nothing more than a hope and a prayer.
March 15, 2009
The Sabres lost to the Atlanta Thrashers at the HSBC Arena Friday night, 4-3 in a shootout. Despite a 3 goal second period, the Sabres couldn’t hold on for a much needed extra point, losing to a club who is out of the playoff race.
Despite some great shifts from the Mair/Moore/Afinogenov line, the Thrashers got on the board first while on the power play. Vyacheslav Kozlov got the puck past Buffalo goalie Patrick Lalime with 25 seconds to go in the opening period. The score would remain 1-0 until a little under seven minutes left in the second when the Sabres would score 3 goals in 5:05. Danielle Paille got the Sabres on the board with his 9th of the year (and his second in the last two games) by driving hard to the net. About three minutes later, a buzzing Derek Roy netted his 25th of the season, and Maxim Afinogenov capped the scoring for the Sabres (his 4th) with a minute and a half to play in the period. Afinogenov was in the right place at the right time, finishing a perfect feed from Thomas Vanek, putting the Sabres up 3-1.
The third period would begin with Eric Perrin charging Tim Connolly for no apparent reason. Perrin went mugged Connolly immediately after the puck was dropped, and his actions earned him 10 minutes in the box and a Buffalo power play. The Sabres couldn’t capitalize though, and while they had some chances in the period, it would be the Thrashers who scored the next two goals. Buffalo had the man advantage when Jaroslav Spacek’s shot from the point was blocked, sending the puck to Colin Stuart for a 2 on 1 situation. Stuart was trailed by Marty Reasoner, and when Lalime made the initial save on him, Reasoner was there to punch in the rebound, scoring short handed, making the score 3-2. Thomas Vanek nearly scored with 5:37 to play, but Kari Lehtonen made a highlight worthy acrobatic save to keep his team down by 1. Buffalo’s bad luck continued when with only 3.5 seconds remaining in the game, Todd White knocked one in to force OT. The puck sat behind Lalime for a few beats, and as he went to cover it with his glove, White batted it in for the goal.
An exciting overtime saw some spectacular saves from the goaltenders but no goals, sending the contest to a shootout. For the first time since the trade deadline, the Sabres missed shootout go-to-guy Ales Kotalik as Roy, Connolly, Drew Stafford, and Vanek all failed to get the puck past Lehtonen. Brett Sterling, who was called up from the minor leagues to play in the game, scored the winning goal in his first shootout attempt; Lalime should have poked checked him.
The Sabres have played badly against bad teams this season, and except for the 6 minute onslaught in the second period, the trend continued last night. When the team doesn’t skate hard, they usually end up of losing as their speed and agility are their assets. The longer it takes for this to sink into the heads of the Sabres, the longer it will take for them to go on a successful run.
As annoying as he has been in the past, Maxim Afinogenov has upped his game significantly since returning from a groin (and neck) injury. He has scored 2 goals in 5 games and is constantly creating chances for the Sabres. He’s gotten smarter with the puck and appears to be back to his shifty self from a few seasons ago. The same can be said about new Sabre Dominic Moore who has been great on the penalty kill and isn’t afraid to hit people. Sabres fans are still awaiting his first goal in a blue and gold sweater…
Defenceman Toni Lydman is the unsung hero of this team (when he isn’t turning the puck over), and has come into his own this season. Lydman used to be a wishy-washy d-man, but this year he has stepped up his play by putting shots on net, making hits, and displaying solid leadership for his teammates. Head Coach Lindy Ruff appears to agree as Lydman logged 25:16 minutes of ice time in last night’s game, the most by any Sabre.
-Patrick Lalime made 29 saves for the Sabres, compared to 34 saves by Kari Lehtonen.
-The Thrashers were 1-6 on the power play and the Sabres were 0-3.
-Pat Kaleta has 114 hits on the season and Derek Roy has 15 multi-point games.
-The players with the worst plus(-) rating for the Sabres are Jochen Hecht (-12), Jason Pominville (-11), Andrej Sekera (-11), and Maxim Afinogenov (-10). These four guys combined have 30 goals on the year. The Sabres with the best plus(-) rating are Drew Stafford (+7), Matt Ellis, Patrick Kaleta, Chris Butler, and Nathan Gerbe who are all tied with +3. These five guys combined have 28 goals.
-In unrelated news, the New Jersey Devils defeated the Montreal Canadiens, tying Devils goalie Martin Brodeur with Patrick Roy for the most career wins in the NHL. Both players have 551.
Considering the Florida Panthers, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Carolina Hurricanes also lost in a shootout last night, the Sabres only close the gap on the Montreal Canadiens and the New York Rangers who lost in regulation. As a result, not much changed in the Eastern Conference standings:
The Sabres are obviously far from out of it, but this is the time of year where every point could mean a post season appearance or a final game in April. While the Sabres managed a point last night, they continue to back themselves into a corner. Lalime has now started 9 straight games and he is beginning to look tired. A huge demand was placed on him when Miller went down and he has risen to the challenge, playing very well as a stand in. Unfortunately, the rest of the Sabres are still struggling with consistency problems. Buffalo has been playing .500 hockey for the past month, and if they hope to cover ground in the standings they need to get into a rhythm.
The team will have that opportunity Tuesday night when they travel to Ottawa to take on the Senators, who rank 25th in the league. Like the Thrashers, however, the Sens have owned the Sabres this year as Buffalo has gone 1-3-1 against them. The Sabres cannot afford a loss as their following three games are against the Flyers, Rangers, and Panthers.
March 13, 2009
Patrick Lalime put forth another solid effort in net for the Sabres Thursday night, and his team responded as Buffalo defeated the Florida Panthers 3-1 at the HSBC Arena. With the win, the Sabres cover some lost ground in the points race to the playoffs as they are now only 3 away from the coveted 8th seed in the Eastern Conference standings. The victory improves the Sabres record to 34-27-7 on the season.
Similar to the last game in Philadelphia, Buffalo got off to a hot start as Jaroslav Spacek scored his 8th of the year just over 3 minutes into the game. Michael Repik would tie it up for Florida 7 minutes later, scoring glove side on a lightning quick goal that Lalime had no chance on. With barely under 3 minutes to go in the first, Danielle Paille gets his 8th of the year, catching a pass from Andrej Sekera along the boards and taking a picture perfect shot that went in stick side, putting the Sabres up 2-1. Both teams skated hard through a scoreless second period, but it looked as if Thomas Vanek had scored as Thomas Vokoun made a glove save that appeared to be behind the goal line. Vanek shot his arms up in celebration, but the ref waved it off. No review was made of the play and the score remained 2-1 at the end of two. Unlike the last game in Philly, the Sabres kept their skating legs in the third period and the effort paid off. Jason Pominville prevented a Panther breakaway by tripping up skater and taking a penalty. Then, Henrik Tallinder took a silly penalty to put the Sabres down two men, giving Florida a 5 on 3 situation for what felt like an eternal 1:06. For the penalty kill, Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff put out Tim Connolly, Jaroslav Spacek, and Toni Lydman. Those guys stood their ground by not allowing Florida to score, and a fresh squad replaced them for the 5 on 4 situation. Patrick Lalime stopped 6 shots in the near 3 minutes of penalties as the Sabres held onto their one goal lead. With under 3 minutes left to play, Thomas Vanek scored the insurance goal for Buffalo (his first tally since returning from a fractured jaw injury) on the power play. Vanek caught Vokoun out of position, easily scoring his 34th of the year and his 17th power play goal.
When the Sabres actually show up to play the team is one to be reckoned with, as they swarm the opponent and are relentless with their attacks. The problem with the Sabres is that they have been unable to find any consistency since the beginning of the year, and that has resulted in their recent slide in the standings. Team captain Craig Rivet couldn’t have put it better, “It was the biggest game of the year. We needed this game to get us back in it. We still have a ways to go but we’re going to keep punching.” That’s what the Sabres need to do; Keep punching. Far too often this club gets down on themselves, figure skating across the ice, expecting things to happen with the flip of a switch. That strategy worked when Daniel Briere and Chris Drury were on the team, but not anymore.
The line of new Sabre Dominic Moore, Maxim Afinogenov, and Adam Mair produced some of Buffalo’s better opportunities, despite being pointless on the night. The line has played well together the last few games, and if they can finish their chances, it would help the Buffalo scoreboard. Who isn’t eagerly awaiting Moore’s first goal as a Sabre? It was a smart move by Ruff to put Moore on the penalty kill as he isn’t afraid to hit guys, taking them off the puck. On a similar note, it’s easy to get pumped about Buffalo native Pat Kaleta. The guy is mean and tough and doesn’t take anything from opposing players. If it weren’t for Kaleta’s size, he could be the teams main enforcer instead of Andrew Peters, as he’s a better fighter and actually scores goals once in awhile.
-Panther goalie Thomas Vokoun made 20 saves on the night, compared to Patrick Lalime’s 30 saves. The first period of this hockey game was penalty free.
-Lalime has started 8 games in a row in place of the injured Ryan Miller who is out indefinitely with a high ankle sprain. In that span he has gone 3-4-1.
-The blooper reel highlight of the night was when Hank Tallinder was leaving the penalty box, taking a pass along the boards for a potential break away. Instead of taking a shot on net, however, Tallinder lost his balance and fell down, losing the puck. This had to be hilarious to anyone who isn’t a Buffalo fan.
-The Sabres are 21-6-3 this season when leading after the first period, and have only given up 3 goals this year when facing a 5 on 3 situation.
-Sabre defencemen have amassed a total of 120 points so far this year.
-The Sabres have won 3 straight home games.
-This game marked Panther player Richard Zednik’s first in Buffalo since getting his throat slit open by teammate Olli Jokinen’s skate 13 months prior. When the Panthers took to the ice for their morning skate yesterday, the first thing Zednik did was go to the spot where his life nearly ended. He didn’t make a big deal about the action, stating, “I was trying to not think about it, it’s just like any other game as it’s a big game for us.”
-Whenever the Minnesota Wild score, the song that plays at the Xcel Energy Center was the same one that played when Danielle Paille scored in the first period. It felt odd and out of place hearing that tune played after a Sabre goal in the HSBC Arena.
The Final Word
This was a huge win for the Sabres as they now find themselves three points out of the final playoff spot, and still in the thick of the race to the post season. Here is how the Eastern Conference standings currently look:
On Saturday night the Atlanta Thrashers come to the HSBC Arena. This is the perfect opportunity for Buffalo to gain some momentum going into the home stretch as Atlanta is 28th in the league with only 60 points. A loss however, would be a severe blow to the team’s morale, further hindering their chances of catching up to the teams in front of them. Here’s to hoping for the former.
March 11, 2009
For a team who is fighting for their post season lives, the Buffalo Sabres looked completely uninterested in a playoff spot, losing to the surging Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 Tuesday night at the Wachovia Center. The game was tied at 1 going into the 3rd period and it looked as if Buffalo would at least gain a point on the night. However, the Sabres lost their edge, allowing 3 goals in 6 minutes and falling to 33-27-7 on the year.
The Sabres got off to a good start, scoring less than 2 minutes in as Maxim Afinogenov netted his 3rd goal of the year while parked in front of goaltender and ex-Sabre Martin Biron. Biron has been solid against his former team, going 3-0 against the Sabres this year. With just 13.6 seconds left to go in the opening period, the notoriously ugly Scott Hartnell would tie things up on the power play getting the puck past Buffalo net minder, Patrick Lalime. This was Lalime’s 7th straight start in place of the injured Ryan Miller who is out indefinitely with a high ankle sprain. The second period would remain scoreless, as both teams alternated between skating and figure skating. Then came a monumental 3rd period collapse by the Sabres. A mere 27 seconds in, the Flyers took the lead as Jeff Carter, standing all alone up front, got one over the pads of Lalime to go up 2-1. An unchallenged Mike Richards would make the score 3-1 when he deflected a sniper shot past Lalime. Minutes later, Carter would score his second of the night to put the Flyers up 4-1, prompting a Buffalo goal change. Replacing Lalime in net was the new trade deadline acquisition, Mikael Tellqvist. Tellqvist looked decent in his first appearance in a Sabre sweater, only letting in a fluke goal that shouldn’t have counted. Hartnell bumped the puck in off of his chest for his second of the night, putting the Flyers up 5-1 with five minutes remaining. It was odd that the goal counted considering a similar goal was disallowed by Sabre Jason Pominville in a previous game this season. The goal wouldn’t matter though, as the Sabres only other tally came with 1:22 left to play. Jochen Hecht scored the meaningless goal to give the Sabres a pair on the night.
To be blunt, this game sucked for Buffalo. Once again the Sabres were soft in their own end, sticking it to their goalie by allowing Flyers to crowd around the net. While this game counts as a loss for Lalime, it is yet another example of him fulfilling his duty as a backup goalie, while the rest of his team took the night off. Lalime has shown that he can weather the storm in place of Miller, provided the other Sabres give him support up front and on the scoreboard. Low scoring drawn out mental contests are not Lalime’s forte, and it goes to show how losing Ryan Miller was such a serious blow to this team. The problem with the Sabres is that they aren’t aggressive enough throughout 60 minutes. This has been said of them for the past two seasons, as they are a team who chases sticks rather than bodies. More aggressive play in their own end could have prevented a number of goals in this game, and the confidence meltdown by Lalime.
Props to new Sabre Dominic Moore, who seemed to be the only Buffalo player who was physical and actually skating with some purpose. Moore took some silly penalties, but he did come from the Maple Loafs so that has to be expected. The only 3rd period highlight for Buffalo was by Patrick Kaleta who beat the crap out of Arron Asham with 3 minutes left to play. The fight was one for the highlight reel as both players exchanged savage blows.
I feel the need to mention that the Versus coverage of this game was horrendous. Who gives a crap if Scott Hartnell hasn’t cut his hair in a year and a half. Seriously? This is a relevant point to make when the clubs are tied at 1 in the thick of a game with playoff inclinations? Lame.
-Biron made 27 saves while Lalime made 25 and Tellqvist 3.
-The Flyers have outscored the Sabres 9-1 this year in the 3rd period.
-Against the Sabres this season, Biron has a 3.19 GAA and one shutout. His career record against his former team is 4-2-1. This stat confuses me : shouldn’t the Sabres know all of Biron’s tricks and ‘isms’? Shouldn’t they be able to lace this guy with goals? After all, he was drafted by Buffalo in 1995 and didn’t leave the club until 2007. It’s just another frustrating example of the Sabres inability to make things happen.
-The Sabres have 15 power play goals in their last 11 games. The club is 5th in the league in power play conversions, scoring 22.5% of the time with the man advantage. That’s great and all, but Buffalo was 0-3 on the power play in this contest.
-Before this game, the Sabres penalty kill had allowed only 2 goals in the last 32 chances. They allowed back to back power play goals against the Flyers.
Before this game, Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff stated “That the pressure has definitely come up. We’re playing .500 hockey… and this time of year we have to play better than .500 hockey.” No kidding coach.
Buffalo has 15 games remaining this season (9 of which are against teams with higher seedings), so it’s tough to not feel like a broken record when every game has a ‘MUST WIN’ label attached to it. However, the Sabres have cornered themselves in the standings, and if they want to play hockey in May, every game from here on out is a must win. On a night where the Sabres failed to pick up a point, their rivals in the playoff picture all gained ground on Buffalo: The Montreal Canadiens won and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Florida Panthers in a shootout, giving each team at least a point. Here is how the standings look in the Eastern Conference:
In the hunt: New York Rangers (76), Buffalo Sabres (73), Toronto Maple Loafs (67)
It’s tough to see teams like the Penguins and Hurricanes pass the Sabres in the standings as Buffalo was, at one time, in control of their own destiny. Tomorrow night the Sabres square off against the Panthers in a crucial game that may lay waste to post season hopes in Buffalo.
March 5, 2009
The 2009 NHL trading deadline has come and gone and the Buffalo Sabres have made some moves. The most significant of which was keeping glass man, Tim Connolly in Buffalo. Connolly signed a two year contract extension worth $9 million with the club, while Ales Kotalik was shown the door. The right winger has been traded to the Edmonton Oilers, and his replacement comes from the Toronto Maple Leafs in centre Dominic Moore. The Sabres also signed goalie Mikael Tellqvist from the Phoenix Coyotes. While Buffalo didn’t make any dramatic moves by the deadline, they did come out a slightly better club at the end of the night as they went on to defeat division rival, the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 5-1. The victory improved Buffalo’s record to 32-25-7, moving them up into 9th place and one spot out of the playoffs.
Let’s take a closer look at the events of the day:
Goalie Mikael Tellqvist comes to Buffalo: The Sabres sent a 4th round pick to the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for Swedish goaltender, Mikael Tellqvist. Tellqvist, the former backup in Phoenix, has started 13 games this season, going 7-5-1. He has a 2.86 GAA and a .907% save percentage for a total of 38 goals scored against him on the year. Compare these stats to current Sabres backup goalie, Patrick Lalime who has started 14 games this year, going 3-9-2. His GAA is 2.78 with a .909% save percentage and 42 goals let in. In Lalime’s defense, his team looks like a totally different club with starting goalie Ryan Miller in-between the pipes. In front of Lalime the Sabres have been sluggish with a horrendous offensive output, averaging a mere 2.4 goals per game. 7 of those goals came on his first start of the year when Buffalo beat the New York Islanders 7-1, and another 5 goals came last night with the victory against the Habs. Take those 12 goals away on the bookend games, and the Sabres average a despicable 1.75 goals in 12 games with Lalime as a starter. It’s tough to blame those losses on the backup. That being said, since Miller went down with a high ankle sprain on February 21st, Patrick has carried the team, allowing only 7 goals in his 4 straight starts, stopping an average of 32 shots a game. Lalime became a liability when he came down with the flu and head coach Lindy Ruff was almost forced to bench him in favor of AHL goalie, Jhonas Enroth. Enroth’s game has slipped as of late, with the goalie playing .500 hockey. Wanting more experience in net in-case Lalime goes down and Miller stays injured, Ruff went with Tellqvist who with 7 years in the league has amassed a career record of 43-40-8, with 2 ties and 6 shutouts. The last player Buffalo acquired from Phoenix was Daniel Briere, which turned out to be the trade of the decade for the Sabres. Lalime has faced 461 shots this year, compared to Tellqvist’s 408.
Tim Connolly signs 2 year $9 million deal: In his last three seasons with Buffalo Tim Connolly has missed 149 games, playing in only 79 contests. Assuming Connolly misses more time, this signing may turn out to be a waste of money for the Sabres. No Sabre is more injury prone than Connolly, as he’s never been the same after suffering a concussion in the 2005-2006 playoffs against the Ottawa Senators. If Connolly goes down again, this deal could be considered a missed opportunity for the Sabres to trade him for a more reliable player down the stretch. His stock is currently the highest it’s been since the 2005-2006 season, and now that he’s staying put, Sabres fans hope Connolly’s value continues to climb. Tim’s new contract is a 50% pay increase from his previous deal, and as long as he stays healthy, he is worth the money. Says Connolly of the signing, “Glad that I was able to stay in Buffalo, great hockey town, great place to play, great group of guys. I’m just looking forward to the rest of the season, and doing what we can do to make the playoffs.” The Syracuse native has 11 goals and 16 assists (27 points) in 30 games played this year. He has a +1 rating with 2 power play goals, 1 short handed goal, and 3 game winning goals. Connolly was traded to Buffalo (along with Taylor Pyatt) from the New York Islanders in 2001 for local favorite Michael Peca.
Sabres trade for Dominic Moore and let go of Ales Kotalik: The Sabres picked up centre Dominic Moore from division rival, the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for a second round pick. Hours later the Sabres recovered ground in the draft as Ales Kotalik was dealt to the Edmonton Oilers also for a second round draft pick. At first glance, it appears that the Sabres over payed for Moore, a 28 year old journeyman, but upon closer inspection it turns out that he was essentially traded for Kotalik. Moore, who is two years younger than Kotalik, has found most of his success this season parked in front of the net, scoring 12 goals on the year and 29 assists (41 points). Moore also has a -1 rating, with 4 power play goals, 1 short handed goal, and 1 game winning goal. Ales Kotalik has spent his entire career in Buffalo, and has been one of teams better players as of late scoring 13 goals and 19 assists (32 points) this season. He has a -7 rating with 8 power play goals and 1 game winning goal. Kotalik also holds the NHL record in career game winning shoot-out goals with 10. Moore, an Ontario native, does fill a hole with the Sabres as he’s a big guy who plays hard and can score. The question is though, will he stick around past this season? He becomes a free agent at the end of the year and may go the way of former Sabre rent-a-players Dainius Zubrus and Steve Bernier. While Sabre fans will miss Kotalik’s hard slap shot and reliability in shootouts, his lazy skating, weak checking, and unnecessary penalties won’t be missed. Kotalik’s dealing came as somewhat of a surprise as Jochen Hecht and Maxim Afinogenov seemed to be more valuable trade bait.
The Final Word: By the end of he day, the Sabres did make improvements to the team, but the next two months will prove whether they were enough to propel the club into the post season. Buffalo looked like the team they hope to be Wednesday night at HSBC Arena, as they defeated the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 5-1. Buffalo got a pair of goals from Derek Roy (24 on the year) and Paul Gaustad (9). Roy scored first in the game on the power play, and again in the second period. Gaustad’s goals both came in the third, one on the power play and the other on a breakaway while the Sabres were short handed. Jaroslav Spacek (7) scored the other Sabre goal halfway through the second period. A la Ryan Miller, Patrick Lalime had his shutout attempt spoiled by Tomas Plekanec with 1:06 left to play in the game. With the win, the Sabres move to one point out of 8th place, the final playoff spot. While the Pittsburgh Penguins occupy that coveted spot in the rankings, the Sabres have a game in hand on them, so a win would put them back in playoff contention. Here’s how the Eastern Conference standings look:
In the hunt: Buffalo Sabres (71), Carolina Hurricanes (71), Toronto Maple Leafs (63)
Happily, the Sabres hold the tie breaker over the Rangers, and have a game in hand on the Hurricanes. If forced into a tie with Carolina, however, the Sabres lose the edge as the Hurricanes have the tie breaker. With Thomas Vanek back in the line up, Tim Connolly signed semi-long term, and the additions of Tellqvist and Moore, the Sabres have a shot at making a playoff run. Ryan Miller is the teams sole injury and is out indefinitely. His return would be ideal, but as long as Lalime keeps up his strong play and Tellqvist serves his duty as a backup to the backup, it’s the offense that will dictate where this team is headed. Players like Jason Pominville, Jochen Hecht, Henrik Tallinder, and Maxim Afenogneov have been cold all season and need to step it for their team. Thomas Vanek also needs to be the player he was before he fractured his jaw. Most importantly, the Buffalo Sabres need to put together a win streak and obtain some consistency, something they’ve been lacking since losing Daniel Briere and Chris Drury two seasons ago…
Lets go Buffalo!