Monday, December 31, 2007

Final Preperations for the Ice Bowl underway

Ralph Wilson Stadium is all set up and ready to go for the Ice Bowl tomorrow. Players for both teams will be skating on the ice this afternoon. Even the players are beginning to see this as a big event. A few highlights, criticisms and observations about the event.

  • Tarps will be covering some lowerbowl seats. While they may not have a good (or any) view of the field, those without a ticket would be more than willing to pay five to ten bucks just be a part of the event.

  • They have made a fake pond on the side of the rink. Kindof cool, but also kindof pointless.

  • Night images of the rink under the lights look pretty cool. A night game may be worth considering for next year

  • The event will still be best known as the ice bowl. Despite the official word of the NHL the name stuck. Why do I feel that whoever choose "Winter Classic" over "The Ice Bowl" is the same person who picked out the Slug...

  • The NHL really underestimated the Buffalo fans. There is an interview with the NHL's VP of marketing or something in which he states that he "didn't think it would sell out". That took like twenty minutes to sell out? They could have sold out a rink twice as big in a single day

  • The same video highlights the NHL's plan for some official tailgating thing on the assumption that fans won't think of that due to new years. If Buffalo can do anything right it's food. In fact the ability to tailgate at a Sabres game is half of the allure of this event.

  • When does the tailgating start? Pulling up after dinner tonight and celebrating new years in the parking lot sounds like a ton of fun...

  • The weather is still looking to be ideal for hockey
  • Sunday, December 30, 2007

    Sabres fail to score against the Penguins

    While the Sabres only scored on goal against Brodour last night, you would think they could do better against Ty Conklin. In fact they did worse. Conkiln, who was Ryan Miller's backup last season, got the shutout as the Penguins won the game 2-0.

    The Sabres actually played well throughout the game and even outshot Pittsburgh, but failed to score any goals. They replay the Penguins next Tuesday in the Ice Bowl.

    Official Three Stars
  • Ty Conklin
  • Colby Armstrong
  • Sidney Crosby

  • My Three Stars
  • Colby Armstrong (scored the only goal)
  • Ty Conklin (earned a shutout)
  • Sidney Crosby (two assists)
  • Saturday, December 29, 2007

    Goaltender battle

    Following a one all tie, the Devils beat the Sabres in the shootout. In a game with two of the leagues best goal tenders, the scoring was kept low as each team only managed one goal, and only one player scored in the shootout afterwards.

    Miller had a really good game, bailing the Sabres out time after time. In the first period the Sabres were outshot 13-2 and Miller was able to stop everything including a penalty shot.

    The game started with a very slow first period in which neither team could score. Buffalo only managed two shots in the first including only one on their powerplay. However from the drop of the puck in the second the Sabres pushed forward with their attack. The first five minutes of the second were dominated by Buffalo, and saw them score a goal when Kotalik put one off the post and into the net. The rest of the second was more evenly fought, but saw both teams continue to play aggressively.

    This game was the first against Zubrus since he was on the Sabres for the end of last season. Mostly he was seen as a hired gun and was not expected to be back, but would have been a good player for the Sabres to have tried to keep. Zubrus has been playing ok for the Devils this year...

    Official Three Stars
  • Ryan Miller
  • Martin Brodeur
  • Mike Mottau

  • My Three Stars
  • Ryan Miller (bailed out the Sabres time and time again)
  • Martin Brodeur (only allowed one goal)
  • Daniel Paille (one goal, plus one)

  • Ice Bowl is quickly coming as work on the rink continues...

    Friday, December 28, 2007

    Hecht is the new Drury

    The Buffalo Sabres got off to a slow start this season. This was the first season in a while in which Chris Drury wasn't there to be the leader for the team. However with a little more than half the season left to go the Sabres have found their new leader. That man is the German Jochan Hecht.

    The past two season Hecht wasn't ever really noticed all that much. Jochan was a winger who while not playing poorly failed to match the point totals of others like Jason Pominville. Even his defensive abilities went largely unnoticed as he was outshinned by Drury and Gaustad in regards to two way play. This year all of that is beginning to change.

    At the start of the season Hecht was named captain of the month. At the time the move was a tad bit surprising, but since then has proven to be more than justified. Hecht began to take Drury's role of the lead by example solid two way player. Even after he passed on the captaincy after the end of the month, he has stayed on as an alternate for every month since then. Additionally Hecht has already almost reached his goal total from last season.

    Besides the solid two way hockey play Hecht has picked up another one of Drury's attributes, he has become a clutch player. He has twice as many game winning goals as he had last season, and is equal to Drury in that regard for the current year. Last weekend in the first game against Philly, Hecht scored the game winning goal in what was a come from behind one point victory for the Sabres. Then the very next night Vanek tied the game with just eight seconds to go, but got the goal by deflecting a shot from Jochan Hecht.

    The Winter Classic is fast approaching and the Sabres will be naming a new team captain at that time. I think I know who it might be...

    Thursday, December 27, 2007

    Sabres fall to Ottawa

    The Ottawa Senators defeated the Sabres 5-3. Ottawa had a big second period that saw them take a 3-1 lead that was quickly padded to 4-1 in the first. Buffalo started making a comeback, but gave up an empty netter to lose the game.

    Miller did not have a good game, and probably should have been able to stop a few of the shots that he let in this game. That said the rest of the team had to play better as well.

    Peters seemed to get alot of ice time this game, and was always half a second from being in a fight, although no one took up that challange tonight...

    Official Three Stars
  • Wade Redden
  • Mike Fisher
  • Tim Connolly

  • My Three Stars
  • Danny Heatley (two assists and an empty netter)
  • Wade Redden (one goal, one assist)
  • Jochan Hecht (played well as always)
  • Wednesday, December 26, 2007

    Ice Bowl is fast approaching

    With the Ice Bowl fast approaching, work on the ice rink has already begun. Bad weather has caused a few delays, but the project still is on schedule. That said, expected rain on Friday could begin to make things difficult again. The weather for new years day is more promising as it looks to be around 34 degrees, which is almost exactly what the NHL wanted...

    The Sabres play the hated Ottawa Senators tonight, as they look to extend their current six game win streak. Two close wins this past weekend against rival number two should have the Sabres fired up and ready for their most disliked opponent.

    The Buffalo News had an article on Sabres and Bills merchandise including that the Sabres had more "brand awareness" then all other NHL clubs, all baseball and basketball teams and all but two NFL clubs, (the exceptions being the Colts and the Steelers).

    In other news Satan now has 666 career NHL points... Also the World Juniors started today in Canada. The tournament runs through January 5th. (The United States beat Kazakhstan 5-1 to open the tournament)...

    Sunday, December 23, 2007

    Sabres Beat Flyers Again

    Buffalo once again beat Briere's Flyers, but this time in more dramatic fashion as the Sabres won the game 6-5 in a shootout. The Sabres scored the game tying goal with only seven seconds left in regulation, then killed of three minutes of penalties in overtime to get the win in the shootout.

    After a close first period in which the teams exchanged goals, Buffalo took a solid 3-1 lead early in the second. This was followed by a series of powerplay opportunities that backfired, as Buffalo allowed two quick shorthanded goals to let the Flyers back into the game. Buffalo scored on a five on three quickly afterwards to retake the lead, but then Philly got a five on three goal of their own at the end of a penalty prone second period (combined twenty min of penalties, all minors).

    In the third period the Flyers got out to an early one point lead, and stayed there until Thomas Vanek deflected a shot from Jochen Hecht past Marty Biron to tie the game. After a scoreless overtime, Kotalik got a goal for the Sabres beating Biron with a wrist shot to his glove side. On the other end of the ice Ryan Miller stopped all three of Philly's shots to secure the victory for Buffalo.

    The Sabres have now won a season high six straight games. Next game is on Boxing Day against the Ottawa Senators.

    Official Three Stars
  • Mike Richards
  • Jeff Carter
  • Jason Pominville

  • My Three Stars
  • Jason Pominville (four points on the night)
  • Ales Kotalik (one goal, one assist, plus one, and the shootout win)
  • Mike Richards (three points including two goals)
  • Saturday, December 22, 2007

    Sabres Beat Flyers

    The Buffalo Sabres defeated the Flyers 3-2. Former Sabre Daniel Briere was minus two in the game and held without any points. Buffalo was lead by the increasingly dependable Jochan Hecht who scored the game winning goal with only 2:51 remaining in the game. The other Sabres goal were by Drew Stafford and Ales Kotalik. Both Miller and former Sabres Marty Biron played well throughout the game.

    Rematch Saturday night back down in Philly...

    Official Three Stars
  • Jaroslav Spacek
  • Brian Campbell
  • Daniel Paille

  • My Three Stars
  • Jochan Hecht (game winning goal)
  • Jaroslav Spacek (two assists and a big hit on Briere)
  • Jeff Carter (plus one with a goal in the loss)
  • Friday, December 21, 2007

    Over 100

    The Sabres have reached the 100 goal mark for the season. They are the ninth team to do so this season. This is indicative of their inability to keep up with the ridiculous pace of last season's 305 goals.

    Still it is very good, and considering that Buffalo's defense is better than last year, indicates that they are better than their record shows them to be. As far as the standings go the two games against Philly this weekend can go a long way to moving them up in the standings (for now at least).

    Thursday, December 20, 2007

    Sabres outlast the Islanders

    The Buffalo Sabres beat the New York Islanders 2-1 in a very close game. Derek Roy and Max Afinogenov scored for the Sabres while Brendan Witt scored for the for the Islanders.

    Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller had an excellent game stopping 42 of 43 shots. He really carried the win for his team as the Sabres only managed 17 shots on the goal on the other side.

    The Sabres came into the game healthier than ever, but loss both Derek Roy and Tim Connolly to injury by the time the game was over. No word yet on how serious the injuries are. If they are unable to play expect Ryan and MacArthur to take their place...

    Hecht played well as ever, and actually had a goal discredited for kicking it into the net... next two games are against Marty Biron and the Fliers on Friday and Saturday...

    Official Three Stars
  • Ryan Miller
  • Max Afinogenov
  • Brandon Witt

  • My Three Stars
  • Ryan Miller (97.7 save percentage)
  • Max Afinogenov (game winning goal)
  • Derek Roy (great game before getting hurt)
  • Wednesday, December 19, 2007

    Defence is healthy

    The Sabres defence is finally healthy. Tallinder was able to finally comeback last weekend, and Kalinin is expected to play tonight against the Islanders. Nolan Pratt will be a healthy scratch and Sekera will be sent back to the Amerks.

    Even Teppo Numminen is getting healthy. After needing heart surgery to start the season, he has been practicing with the team, and even went with them on their recent trip. In fact the Sabres are actually healthier now then they were at the start of the season...

    Monday, December 17, 2007

    Preferring Paille Plays Prior Peters

    The question still exists as to if Peters is really helping the team all that much. To most perspectives the Sabres would be better off if they brought up somebody else instead.

    Peters has been in the lineup for five straight games now, but has only been playing around 2-3 minutes each night. In fact the most ice time he has had in a single game in that stretch is 3:37, and hasn't played for more than 6:33 all year.

    Yet besides Peters the rest of his line including Mair is given more ice time than that, and when Peters is scratched in favour of Paille or Ryan then the fourth line gets around the same amount of time as the third. Now that the Sabres are healthy there is no reason for him to be in the lineup, as I would rather see MacArthur or Kaleta be brought up, let alone not needing to have either Ryan or Paille as a healthy scratch.

    On the defensive side of things I think it was the right move to keep Sekera up and to scratch Pratt. Sekera has played very well in the last few games and will be sent to the AHL soon enough with Kalinin due to return soon...

    Sunday, December 16, 2007

    Sabres welcome Kane home, then beat his team

    The Sabres beat the blackhawks 3-1 in what was Patrick Kane's first game in Buffalo.

    To start off the game the ceremonial puck drop was performed by the grandfathers of Patrick Kane, and Sabres captain of the month Brian Campbell. Alot of attention has been given to the homecoming of Pat Kane in the last few days and with good reason, as he has been the best rookie of the season so far. Kane started out the game real well, and scored a goal within the first three minutes on a nice shot. However after that the game was all Sabres.

    Roy and Vanek looked like they did last year, putting together a solid game and each getting two points on the night, mostly from hard work. Two players who haven't scored in a while (Stafford and Pominville) both hit the back of the net tonight, to earn the win for Buffalo.

    After playing four games in the past six days the Sabres get some time off, and don't play until next Wednesday.

    Official Three Stars
  • Ryan Miller
  • Thomas Vanek
  • Patrick Kane

  • My Three Stars
  • Thomas Vanek (two points including a goal)
  • Derek Roy (two assists)
  • Ryan Miller (only let one past him)
  • Saturday, December 15, 2007

    Roy and Connolly lead the Sabres to Victory

    Late in the first period Derek Roy picked up a puck and scored an easy shorthanded goal, which is always a good way to guarantee yourself the win. Buffalo would eventually win the game 5-3, showing that they can consistantly beat the worst teams in the league.

    Connolly took a puck to the face in the second, but came back to get the game winner on a rebound in the third period. The Sabres play at home on Saturday night against Patrick Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks...

    Official Three Stars
  • Tim Connolly
  • Max Afinogenov
  • Nicklas Backstrom

  • My Three Stars
  • Derek Roy (short handed goal)
  • Jason Pominville (plus two, two points)
  • Max Afinogenov (another goal)
  • Friday, December 14, 2007

    Numminen back to practice

    The Buffalo News has reported that Teppo Numminen has been practicing with the Buffalo Sabres now for the first time since his heart surgery in October. It looks as if Teppo will be coming back for sure now, and that he will be in game shape around the end of January.

    Tallinder has also been getting healthier and is expected to play tonight against the Washington Capitals. Additionally Kalinin looks as if he will be back by next week as well. This will most likely take Sekera and Nolan out of the line up, as the Sabres defense is suddenly getting healthier in a rush. Having Sekera and MacArthur as the teams number one call up guys puts the Sabres in a comfortable condition to be in.

    Thursday, December 13, 2007

    Sabres back to winning

    The Sabres put together a solid effort (on offence) to beat the New York Islanders 5-3. Lead by Jason Pominville, and Derek Roy, the Sabres gave a huge offensive push that made up for their errors on defence. Buffalo outshot the Islanders 41-31 on the game and 34-26 in the first two periods.

    Given the high number of shots, and excellent opportunities for each team, both of the goalies (Ryan Miller and Rick DiPietro) both played pretty well, despite giving up eight goals between them.

    Buffalo dominated the faceoff circle this game, winning 58%. This was despite going up against the normally excellent Sillinger, who was only at 47% for the game. The Sabres were lead by Gaustad and Connolly who were at 67 and 64 percent.

    As well as Buffalo did on faceoffs, they did even worse on give aways. The Sabres had sixteen giveaways compared to the Islanders two. The refs meanwhile were rather whistle happy this game, as both teams ended up scoring a goal with a two man advantage, and the game was being played at four on three for over a minute at one point. The refs weren't favoring one team over the other, but it was starting to get to the point where it was ruining the flow of the game.

    Official Three Stars
  • Jason Pominville
  • Ales Kotalik
  • Derek Roy

  • My Three Stars
  • Jason Pominville (three assists on a night he just couldn't score)
  • Derek Roy (a goal, and on ice for three goals for and none against)
  • Ales Kotalik (one goal, plus two)
  • Tuesday, December 11, 2007

    Bruins Steal one from the Sabres

    The Sabres came out and played well against the Boston Bruins. Buffalo was able to outshoot their opponents 45-21, yet still managed to lose 4-1. Boston even had Alex Auld in goal, yet he played really well.

    This is the second game that the Bruins have won against Buffalo dispite getting massivly outshot. Milan Lucic lead Boston in shots with four, yet six different Sabres (one third of the team) had four or more shots on net in the game, and Pominville even had eight, yet not a single one went in. Without Tim Thomas in net, the Bruins goaltending was not supposed to be this good.

    Granted the Sabres made some pretty big mistakes to allow some of those goals, yet there is no reason to lose, when you have more than twice as many shots on net as the other team.

    For the second straight game, Peters has been in the lineup instaed of Paille. While I can understand playing Ryan or even MacArthur in favour of Paille, Peters hasn't really been doing all that much. Peters was only on the ice for 1:32 all game on just two shifts. Against San Jose, he played for only 1:31 in the game. Last year the Sabres strength came in playing all four lines, that hasn't been happening lately.

    Official Three Stars
  • Alex Auld
  • Marc Savard
  • Paul Gaustad

  • My Three Stars
  • Alex Auld (.978 save percenage)
  • Marc Savard (one goal, one assist)
  • Milan Lucic (two points, plus two)
  • Sunday, December 9, 2007

    Buffalo picks up a win in California

    After playing poorly for their first two games out in California, the Sabres looked good from the moment they took the ice against San Jose. Although they went down a goal mid way through the first period, they came back big in the second and third to win the game 7-1.

    Unlike the past two games the Sabres played well from the start. Their passing was good and, they created plenty of chances, being kept off the scoreboard only by some solid goaltending by Nabokov. The Sharks only goal was even a bit of a fluke, as a shot that was going way wide, took a bounce of Nolan Pratt's leg, and went into the net. While it would be hard to blame Pratt for that goal, he did not have a good game besides that. He was one of only three players to be minus for the team, and failed to finish most of his checks and to have solid puck control, when he did have the puck. Meanwhile teammate, Andrej Sekera played really well. Sekera was plus two, and although he only registered one official shot, did a good job getting the puck to the front of the net all game long.

    The best goal of the night was Connolly's, which came short handed as San Jose, gave up the puck at their own blue line. The San Jose player was coming out of the zone, when he suddenly lost his balance, and started crashing to the ice. He lost control of the puck, and managed to take out his only other teammate that was back on the play. Tim Connolly was able then to simply pick up the puck, put a move on the goal tender, and put it in the back of the net, to go up 2-1 in what would eventually be the game winning goal.

    Official Three Stars
  • Derek Roy
  • Paul Gaustad
  • Tim Connolly

  • My Three Stars
  • Paul Gaustad (two goals)
  • Derek Roy (two points, plus three)
  • Andrej Sekera (quietly had a really good game)
  • Friday, December 7, 2007

    Kings beat the Sabres

    I don't want to talk about it...

    Official Three Stars
  • Anze Kopitar
  • Dustin Brown
  • Tom Preissing

  • My Three Stars
  • Jonathan Quick (first NHL game in goal)
  • Anze Kopitar (four points)
  • Dustin Brown (three points, plus four)
  • Thursday, December 6, 2007

    Buffalo wins the brawl, loses the game

    The Sabres lost a fight filled game to the Ducks 4-1. The Sabres didn't play well at all in the second period and managed only three shots in those twenty minutes. The powerplay for Buffalo wasn't good at all, as the team was almost scared to shoot the puck, failing to do so at even the most obvious of opportunities.

    The Sabres did much better with their gloves off. Peters fought Parros twice, coming even in the first match, and decisively winning the second, even taking an opportunity to mock Parros' ridiculous eighties style mustache. Gaustad took an opportunity to beat on Bertuzzi. There was plenty more hostility between the teams, but nothing that was a clear fight, although three penalties were assessed after the end of the third including a ten minute game misconduct to Pronger.

    Hecht played well as always, scoring the lone goal for the Sabres, marking the 8th straight game that the Sabres scored first after failing to do so for 13 straight.

    Also, Ryan Miller played against his brother Drew for the first time in the NHL, but I can expect the Buffalo News to run with that story, so I'll let you all read about it there...

    Official Three Stars
  • Todd Bertuzzi
  • Andy McDonald
  • Chris Pronger

  • My Three Stars
  • Andy McDonald (one goal, one assist, plus two)
  • Jean-Sebastien Giguere (played well in net)
  • Paul Gaustad (beating up Todd Bertuzzi is always good)
  • Wednesday, December 5, 2007

    Long Odds

    Just because something is unlikely, does not mean that it won't happen...

    Mark Recchi has long been one of the NHL's best players and is 23rd on the all time points list, yet that was not enough to prevent him from being placed on waivers by the Penguins yesterday. Furthermore he actually cleared waivers without any team signing him. Most of the reason for the lack of interest is due to his high salary, but why no team is interested in him is beyond me. Although is getting older, it appears as if the Penguins' decision to cut him was more due to his salary and disagreements with the coach. There will be an opportunity for a team to claim him for half his salary should Pittsburgh decide to recall him, and for only half of the salary it would be hard for many teams not to sign him. For the Sabres, being a team the emphasizes speed, and has Clarke MacArthur waiting in Rochester the Recchi would not be all that helpful to the club. Had this happened back at the beginning of the season you could argue that the Sabres needed the veteran leadership, but given how well Hecht and Campbell have been doing at that, I don't think that is no longer an issue that needs to be addressed.

    The Rochester Americans and the Buffalo Sabres have the oldest relationship in the league with an AHL club, and are conveniently located an hour away from each other, but that doesn't mean that it will last. It is looking more and more unlikely that this relationship will still be in effect come next season, and that's quite a disappointment. More on this in a few days...

    Jonathan Toews has been named an alternate captain by the Blackhawks, just three months into his rookie year. Toews may note even be the best rookie on the team with his teammate, and Buffalo native Patrick Kane also having a very good season. For Chicago to have two rookies that are so good, is such a large boost to this team...

    The top team in the East, the Ottawa Senators, have now lost seven straight games. Even Buffalo hasn't had a stretch that bad in the team's slow start this year. And while some of the losses have come in overtime, many of the losses have not come to good teams. They play the 12-14-1 Panthers tonight, lets hope they lose again...

    Buffalo also plays (late) tonight against the Ducks out on the west coast. This will only be the second time these two teams have played since the lockout, and the first time the Sabres have played anywhere in California since the lockout...

    Monday, December 3, 2007

    Falling apart in Ottawa

    The Senators got off to a great start this season winning 13 of their first 14 games. Since then things have begun to fall apart. When Buffalo played the Senators on November 21, Ottawa was still dominating and was 16-3. The Sabres won that game and Ottawa has not won since. The Senators have now dropped 6 straight games to allow Buffalo and some of the other teams to begin catching up. Ottawa's next two games are against relatively easy opponents in Tampa Bay and Florida.

    Since that game against Ottawa the Sabres are 5-1. Buffalo is set to take a trip out to California to play all three of the teams in that state over the next week starting with the Ducks on Wednesday.

    Sunday, December 2, 2007

    Eight is (more than) enough

    The Buffalo Sabres embarrassed the Carolina Hurricanes, beating them 8-1 in a game that wasn't even close. Buffalo ran away with this one, only allowing a late power play goal with less than two minutes left in the game.

    Kotalik had two goals in the game including the first one at just 1:32 into the first. The Sabres have now scored the first goal of the game in seven straight games after failing to do so the 13 games preceding that.

    Mair got a goal in his first game back since the fifth of November. It was a nice goal right of the faceoff where he was feed the puck from Gaustad to pick up the easy goal.

    Practically everyone on the Sabres had a good game. Afinogenov played great and was on the ice for half of the Sabres goals for the night. Max had an awesome shot go in, as did many other of the Sabres in this blow out win.

    Miller played well, but seems completely unable to get a shutout. No matter how well he plays he has a tendency to blow his shutout bids on easy shots late in the third. Miller has played much better for a few seasons now then his shutout count would seem to indicate.

    Official Three Stars
  • Maxim Afinogenov
  • Ales Kotalik
  • Ryan Miller

  • My Three Stars
  • Derek Roy (plus three points, one goal, and one assist)
  • Maxim Afinogenov (on ice for four goals including one of his own)
  • Jaroslav Spacek (plus three, three points)
  • Ales Kotalik (two goals, this was a four star game)
  • Saturday, December 1, 2007

    Captain Campbell

    Brian Campbell is the Buffalo Sabres captain for the month of December. Continuing the teams emphasis on defense this season he is the second straight defensemen to take on the role of captain, and his linemate Jaro Spacek is one of the alternative captains for the month as well.

    Campbell has been one of the Sabres best defensemen, and a leader on the team for some time now. He was an alternate captain last month as well. Come January Connolly is likely to be captain, most likely with Campbell and Hecht as the alternatives. Hopefully the Sabres can do the same thing they did with Hecht and extend Campbell's contract while he is captain.

    Speaking of Hecht, he is an alternative captain again this month. Hecht has now been either the captain or the alternate every month so far this year. It would be hard to see him not named full time captain at the start of next year, or even come playoffs...