Monday, March 31, 2008

Defense allows Buffalo to hang on

While still in the hunt mathematically, giving another point to Boston is not going to help. Assuming Buffalo wins out the season, they still have only a 16.5% chance of getting into the post season.

The Defense had all of the goals for Buffalo as Lydman scored on the powerplay in the first (from Gaustad), and Sekera got the game winner in overtime. None of the goals in the game were scored five on five, with the Sabres goals coming five on four, and four on four, while Boston got their one goal shorthanded.

The Sabres highlights of the past month are still captain Pominville, and Mike Weber who had an assist on the game winner, and was plus one in this game. After 13 games played this season Weber is plus 14 and behind Pominville is the second highest on the team.

After the dramatic Sabres overtime win, every other team I was rooting for also won in OT. The Chicago Blackhawks won their game in a shootout, and both Boston College and the University of North Dakota won their games within the first overtime period to get to meet each other in the NCAA semi-finals.

Official Three Stars
  • Andrej Sekera
  • Ryan Miller
  • Alex Auld

  • My Three Stars
  • Andrej Sekera (one goal, plus one, lead the team in ice time)
  • Derek Roy (one assist, plus one, 67% on faceoffs, lead Sabres in shots)
  • David Krejci (one goal, plus one in loss)
  • Sunday, March 30, 2008

    Another blown game

    The Sabres once again blew a game after failing to hold onto a two point lead with less then three minutes to go. As a result the Montreal Canadians were able to come back and win the match 4-3 in overtime. While the single point means that the Sabres are still mathematically still in, they have not been getting any help either, and they have zero room for error at this point.

    Official Three Stars
  • Tomas Plekanec
  • Derek Roy
  • Jason Pominville

  • My Three Stars
  • Tomas Plekanec (two goals)
  • Mark Streit (three assists)
  • Drew Stafford (plus one, one goal)
  • Friday, March 28, 2008

    An actual good shootout

    The Buffalo Sabres won their third shootout of the season, to get a 4-3 win over Ottawa. Had the Sabres performed in more shootouts like this, they wouldn't be out of the playoffs.

    Most of the players who did poorly last game came through in game two, including Afinogenov, and Hecht who both scored goals. Max was looking good in this game and really turned it on. His goal was a tremendous effort, and he worked hard all game long. In fact all three of Buffalo's goal scores lead the team in shots, and all had five or more, including Paul Gaustad who had the Sabres final goal and six shots on the night.

    The Sabres took a number of dumb penalties including twice getting called for too many men. Fortunately they managed to kill all of them off. The Sabres powerplay looked ok in this game as well, and was where Hecht picked up his goal.

    It was a very physical game, and the refs let things get out of hand. Neil got away with a number of cheap shots throughout the night, and didn't get anything called on him unless Mair got sent to the penalty box as well. Kaleta was physical as always, and Kotalik and Gaustad lead the team in hits with four and five. The goose got his goal off of some very physical play that found him alone with the puck.

    Come shootout the Sabres did very well. First they didn't allow Vanek to take a shot (although Kotalik is apparently no longer any good). Second Miller was responsible and came very very close to saving all three of the shots against him. Pominville has shown his skill on the shootout recently, and had a shot that was impossible to save. Roy more or less got lucky, but that was all the Sabres needed, besides the Senators had gotten lucky on most of their goals in the game anyhow.

    How exactly did Gerber get into the three stars? He got bailed out by the post far more than his glove, and let in a weak goal to Roy in the shootout. The Sabres have a quick turnaround and play the Canadians Friday night.

    Official Three Stars
  • Mike Fisher
  • Derek Roy
  • Martin Gerber

  • My Three Stars
  • Paul Gaustad (one goal, lead both teams in hits and shots)
  • Mike Fisher (two goals, plus two in the loss)
  • Derek Roy (two assists, shootout goal)
  • Thursday, March 27, 2008

    Looking to next season

    After the last game there isn't too much reason to be looking forwards to the post season. So that leaves looking forward to next year. That begins with looking at the little good that came out of the last game and that is Mike Weber.

    Weber managed to be plus two in a three point loss, and then picked up an assist to help the Sabres when it was looking like they could still win. Two games ago in the comeback win, Weber was an amazing plus five. Short story is that he has looked good in every single game that he has played with Buffalo this year. He has been one of the Sabres most reliable on the back end in his time up recently. He had an awesome blocked shot last game in which he was able to shut down a three on two situation. If we had brought him up all season instead of signing Pratt, we may still be looking at the playoffs right now.

    That said I was pretty high on Paetsch last season, and the beginning of this one, and he hasn't quite been doing as well. While he has been better than Pratt or Funk, he's been rather even with Sekera and not really being as good as I had been hoping he would be. Likewise, this season I was looking forward to seeing how good Stafford would be playing the full season in the pros, and although not horrible, he has been a tad bit flat this year.

    Also in the line up for the future, the Sabres have recently signed two kids out of college. These are defenceman Mike Kostka and forward Derek Whitmore. Whitmore is the more interesting signing as he is from the Rochester area, and can be considered a hometown player for the team. Seeing the Sabres make an effort to sign local talent is a good thing.

    The Sabres play the Senators Thursday night. If the Sabres win out, they still have a chance.

    Wednesday, March 26, 2008

    Once again Ottawa ends our Season

    Technically the Sabres still have a shot at this thing if they win out, but based on their play in the 6-3 loss to the Senators I highly doubt that is going to happen. How the team managed to fall apart so badly is beyond me. Worse yet the breakdown came from some of the teams better players.

    While usually the among the best on the team, Hecht, Lydman, and Tallinder all had a rather poor showing in this game. Our top two defensemen ended the game a combined minus five with three giveaways. The Sabres best two way player (Hecht) finished the game minus three. Even Gaustad had a less then stellar game. If these players don't show up there is no way Buffalo is ever going to win.

    That said, the Sabres were by far the best team in the first two and a half periods of this game. While the score was 1-1 going into the third, the Sabres had far more chances, and were getting stopped by lucky goaltending more than anything else. One huge mental lapse by the Paetsch and Pratt pairing allowed the Senators an easy goal in the first, but for the most part only rookie Lee in his first ever NHL game looked impressive for the Sens.

    Then the Sabres made an even bigger mental mistake, somehow allowing a three on one while being up a player. Shorthanded goals will kill you every time. After that Buffalo never really had any chance.

    A (small) handful of players did play well for Buffalo. These were Derek Roy, Jason Pominville, and Mike Weber. Roy had two of Buffalo's goals, and did so with very little help from Vanek or any of his other line mates this game. Pominville continued to show how good he is as a captain, and played excellently both ways and even scored a goal.

    Weber had an almost perfect game. Despite the three point loss, Weber ended the game plus two, and even earned a primary assist on Roy's second of the night. Even before that going into the second I was starting to fell that he may very well be our third best defenseman. After the third period I'm not even sure that he shouldn't be number one. Another rookie playing well was Brian Lee for the Senators. In his first NHL game, he played very solid and saved a sure goal by kicking the puck out of the net.

    The Sabres play again in a day or so, but for real the season is over now.

    Official Three Stars
  • Daniel Alfredsson
  • Derek Roy
  • Anton Volchenkov

  • My Three Stars
  • Daniel Alfredsson (two goals, three points, plus two)
  • Mike Weber (assist, plus two, had a perfect game)
  • Anton Volchenkov (goal, three points, plus three)
  • Sunday, March 23, 2008

    Happy Easter

    No Sabres games yesterday or today. So for one day just forget about hockey and celebrate the resurrection of Christ.

    Saturday, March 22, 2008

    No Comeback

    The Sabres were not able to make the big comeback that was needed, this time, and lost to the Tornonto Maple Leafs 4-1. The Sabres have gone from scoring 20 goals in their last three games, to scoring 21 goals in their last four. Point is Toronto should have been an easy win, and by not picking up the W Buffalo is making things hard on itself.

    The Sabres did score their one goal on the powerplay, but failed to score on three chances with a two man advantage that combined for a total just shy of three minutes. Toronto was taking tons of penalties, even bad ones like "unsportsmanlike conduct" and "too many men on the ice", but Buffalo failed to take ahold of those oppertunites to win the game.

    Vesa Toskala, who in just the past week let in a shorthanded goal from the far end of the ice, showed up big in this game. Toskala may have been the reason Toronto won, as the Sabres actually finished the game with more shots.

    Official Three Stars
  • Vesa Toskala
  • Matthew Stajan
  • Anton Stralman

  • My Three Stars
  • Vesa Toskala (35 saves, only one goal against)
  • Anton Stralman (goal, two points, plus three)
  • Jason Blake (goal, two points, plus two)
  • Friday, March 21, 2008

    Lots of goals

    The Sabres have scored twenty goals in their last three games. At 3.75 goals per game, they have gotten the lead in goals scored for the second year in a row. If they can keep scoring 6-7 goals every game, they've gotten this season wrapped up.

    The NHLPA is suing the NHL on behalf of Numminen, due to him not getting paid for this season. The Sabres seem to mostly be just letting the NHL deal with it, while Teppo himself seems to be focused on getting back on the ice. A high quality defender like him is the thing we need (sorry Funk).

    Someone has finally come up with a Kaleta Collision t-shirt, and the honestly look pretty awesome. He really needs to sign a sponsorship deal with Carubba.

    The Sabres have a late game against Toronto on Friday night. As good as the team has been, Buffalo still needs to pick up another two points.

    Thursday, March 20, 2008

    Third Period Is good enough for Buffalo

    Well, the Sabres managed to win that one. At the end of two periods Buffalo was down 4-1 and got booed off of the ice. The team had been mostly outplaying Tampa Bay, but had allowed countless wide open shots and other defensive meltdowns to hand over this game to the Lightning. The population of Pominville had ticked up by one, but there was little reason to believe that the Sabres were going to make a serious run at a comeback. Well come back they did, and Buffalo won the game 7-4.

    Jason Pominville was an all-star in this game, and after scoring the only Buffalo goal in the first two periods, scored an early one in the third. Then sixteen seconds later he assisted on Hecht's twentieth goal of the season. Thomas Vanek also had a good game earning himself a natural hat-trick on some rather odd goals, including one where he swatted a puck out of the air from behind the goaltender. All three of those goals were assisted by Derek Roy and Drew Stafford. With the Hecht, Gaustad, Pominville line responsible for the other four goals, not everyone had that great of a game. Maxim Afinogenov, was a team worst minus two, with a penalty, a giveaway, and two shots on net.

    On Defense, Lydman was surprisingly weak, giving up the puck five times, and being on the ice for one goal against. On the other hand Sekera and Weber both played very well and were plus five each, with Weber leading the team with five hits. Funk and Pratt both saw limited ice time, and were a combined minus three in the game.

    Tampa Bay's goals came with no surprises as Lecavalier scored two, with St. Louis picking up another. While the two of them combined for five points on the night, they also had a combined plus minus of negative three.

    Official Three Stars
  • Jason Pominville
  • Derek Roy
  • Paul Gaustad

  • My Three Stars
  • Jason Pominville (two goals, two assists, plus four)
  • Jochen Hecht (seven shots, two goals, one assist, plus four)
  • Thomas Vanek (hat-trick)
  • Wednesday, March 19, 2008

    Numminen and other notes

    Teppo Numminen is back to practicing again and could realistically be back for the playoffs. At the very least the team could use some extra depth on defense as injuries and a trade have left us really lacking there (although Weber has been really good).

    The Sabres didn't get any help last night as the teams that needed to lose all won. At the very least there were not any three point games. Technically the Sabres are now a point behind the Capitals (although Buffalo has an extra game to play).

    The Maple Leafs let in a very bad shot. Honestly the first time I have ever seen anyone score from behind their own goal line (not counting empty net situations). Furthermore it was shorthanded! Has anyone else in the league beaten a goalie from 174 feet? I would have cut the guy mid game. In reality though he actually had a shutout for the final two periods, and Toronto actually managed a 3-1 win.

    Alexander Ovechkin has broken 100 points on the season, and is the first to do so this year. He is also still on track to get over 60 goals. Unfortunately we need his team to lose, so it makes it kindof hard to root for him.

    The Sabres play the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night. This is a team that Buffalo has historically done very well against, and hopefully they can keep things rolling (they don't have much of a choice at this point).

    Tuesday, March 18, 2008

    Three Days Off

    The Sabres are currently in the middle of a three day break from playing hockey. These long breaks can disrupt a teams flow (which sucks since they won the last two by large margins), but can also serve to give a team extra rest (which is awesome because everyone is injured, and Miller has been overworked).

    In the end though, it leaves me with nothing to post about...

    Monday, March 17, 2008

    The tie breaker

    Should the Sabres continue their current push for the playoffs, things will be close and could very well come down to the league's tie breakers. They are as follows...
    1. The fewer number of games played (i.e., superior points percentage).
    2. The greater number of games won.
    3. The greater number of points earned in games between the tied clubs. If two clubs are tied, and have not played an equal number of home games against each other, points earned in the first game played in the city that had the extra game shall not be included. If more than two clubs are tied, the higher percentage of available points earned in games among those clubs, and not including any "odd" games, shall be used to determine the standing.
    4. The greater differential between goals for and against for the entire regular season.
    Every team in the league should finish with the same number of games played, so that shouldn't be an issue. As a result the pivotal rule is the second one. The flat out number of wins, and given the NHL's three point games, this does not help the Sabres.

    The Buffalo Sabres currently less wins then the Bruins, Flyers, Capitals, Hurricanes, and Panthers. With the exception of Florida the Sabres don't have any games in hand to make this difference up. In short the Sabres can't afford to tie.

    Buffalo is mostly split on the third tie breaking criteria, and actually do very well under criteria number four.

    However the current job for Buffalo is to just keep winning. They don't play again, however, until Wednesday. Also, Happy St. Patrick's Day!

    Sunday, March 16, 2008

    The Captains carry

    The Sabres continued their playoff hopes by beating the Maple Leafs 6-2. This win actually looked a lot like the Sabres last.

    Captains Jason Pominville and Jochen Hecht were both plus three with three points. Also Paille continued his current streak and scored yet another goal. Drew Stafford also had a good game, ending plus two with a goal that was set up by Kaleta.

    The Sabres didn't get much help though as the two teams ahead of them ended up with a three point game. However they are now only one point out of eighth place (although they currently don't have the tie breaker).

    Official Three Stars
  • Jason Pominville
  • Jochan Hecht
  • Paul Kubina

  • My Three Stars
  • Jason Pominville (one goal, two assists, plus three)
  • Jochan Hecht (one goal, two assists, plus three)
  • Paul Gaustad (two assists, plus two)
  • Saturday, March 15, 2008

    Finally a win

    The Sabres finally decided to play hard in a game, and as a result came away with a convincing win, beating the Carolina Hurricanes 7-1.

    The Sabres best player was Derek Roy who finished the game with eight shots and two goals. In fact he came very close to getting the hat-trick within the final ten seconds of the game. In fact almost the entire team had a good game, the only real exception being Afinogenov who was minus one and rang one off the post on what should have been an easy wide open goal.

    Daniel Paille played well again, like he did last game and has suddenly become a very real scoring threat. Paille had a goal and an assist in this game to give him three goals, and four points over the last two games after what has been mostly a mediocre season for him. Given the massive number of overlapping penalties it's hard to analyze the teams powerplay effectiveness, but they allowed no powerplay goals against (although allowed one shorthanded), and scored a shorthanded goal themselves on a nice breakaway by Roy and Pominville.

    The Sabres new defensemen played well this game as well. Sekera, Weber, and Funk all played very well in this game. Weber managed to be plus four with only seven and a half minutes of ice time. Funk only ended even in the plus minus column, but looked very solid especially for his first game up in a long while. Kaleta even got a goal.

    Official Three Stars
  • Adam Mair
  • Andrej Sekera
  • Derek Roy

  • My Three Stars
  • Derek Roy (two goals, three points, plus three)
  • Adam Mair (one goal, three points, plus three)
  • Ryan Miller (only one goal against)
  • Friday, March 14, 2008

    What went wrong?

    I guess the question for this season has to be "What went wrong?" and it's not an easy one to answer. The easy way out is to blame it all on losing Drury and Briere, but I've made it clear that I don't buy into that explanation.

    Some have blamed the downfall on the loss of Jiri Novotny. While I have wondered why the Sabres didn't try harder to reacquire him during the offseason, somehow I get the idea that Jiri was the center of the Sabres success. Although it well may have been Marty Biron who was traded on the same day.

    Perhaps first we should look at who's fault it isn't. The problem was not losing Briere. In last years playoffs he probably did more harm than good, and has never really been a solid two way player. The problem is not the loss of Jiri Novotny (see above). The problem is not worse play from Hecht, Gaustad, Spacek or Kaleta all who have been much better this season. The problem is not Tallinder or Lydman who have always been our best defensemen and were actually healthier this season. Ryan Miller has only been slightly above average this season, but thats all he has ever really been.

    Not everyone has played as well as last year though. While Pominville is the teams current captain, and has played great in the past two months, he got off to a very slow start this season. Back in October and November it looked as if he couldn't do anything without Briere and wasn't going to be helping the team all that much. Next is last seasons young superstars. Paetsch, Stafford, and Paille all had their first NHL games last season, and then proved that they belonged in the starting lineup. This season those three haven't looked any better than MacArthur, Ryan or Kaleta and have lacked the spark that was driving this team to greatness. Also what happened to Mair? Last season it looked as if he was almost as good as Gaustad, this year he has been more like Peters. Even Campbell didn't look too good in the last month or so, but that is probably more a result of worrying too much about the contract rather than the hockey.

    While the departure of Drury did hurt the team he was only one player. Our best faceoff guy and a team leader, but now away from Buffalo he seems to be struggling. Perhaps loosing Biron is the deep problem. He didn't play much, but everyone loved him and his two closest friends on the team (Briere and Campbell) are now both gone.

    Now we have a hockey team that likes to just give up. I don't know if all that effort was there last year as a result of Drury or Biron, but the effort shouldn't be due to just a team mate. This current team needs to learn how to give effort without being pushed. In fact they should have learned this a few months ago when it still might have mattered.

    Thursday, March 13, 2008

    Memories of 2006

    All of these injuries to the defense is starting to bring back memories of the Sabres collapse in the 2006 playoffs where Campbell was our one and only healthy defenseman. I'm not talking about the injures to make excuses for the team, but rather because the 7-3 loss to the Penguins was so bad I don't want to talk about it.

    The Sabres flat out played very poorly in the game. Miller didn't mess up huge, but probably could have played better. Adam Mair, Andrej Sekera, and Nolan Pratt were all -3 on the game. Given the insane number of goals given up while shorthanded, that is even worse. Sekera and Pratt have been pretty bad all year and I have no idea why we are giving these two any ice time at all. Both finished the game with more minutes then Tallinder.

    On the other side Mike Webber played very well. He was plus two in the game with a primary assist. If the rest of the defense played that well the Sabres would make the post season no problem. Lydman and Tallinder were also both plus one, but need to put in ten more minutes a game if they really want to help carry this team.

    The other Sabres with respectable stats were the ones known for working hard. Hecht, Roy, Gaustad, and Bernier all had decent or good games, and Paille also picked up two goals for Buffalo. Lindy needs to start adjusting the playing time accordingly.

    Back to the original topic the Sabres are very short on defensemen. Currently they have to do without Paetsch, Kalinin, Spacek, Numminen, and the traded Campbell. That's five defensemen out of our line up. All who came into the season as our top seven. I don't even know who the next defensemen in the system is. Rumour is that it may even be Pominville.

    Official Three Stars
  • Sergei Gonchar
  • Tyler Kennedy
  • Darryl Sydor

  • My Three Stars
  • Tyler Kennedy (one goal, two assists)
  • Kristopher Letang (two points, plus three)
  • Danial Paille (two goals, plus two)
  • Wednesday, March 12, 2008

    Help from the Leafs

    The Leafs are Buffalo's best bet to making the post season. The Sabres still have three more games against this team, which will hopefully supply some much needed easy wins. In fact these are pretty much the only easy games that Buffalo has left on it's schedule.

    Furthermore the Leafs beat Philly last night (although in overtime), and play them again tonight. For the Flyers to keep racking up the losses is just as important for the Sabres to keep winning.

    Buffalo plays tonight against the Penguins. Mike Weber will be in the line up from Rochester, but far more importantly Tallinder will be back. As long as we play Lydman and Tallinder all game long, we can almost guarantee a win.

    Tuesday, March 11, 2008

    Pominville on Fire (but one point is still not enough)

    Jason Pominville had a good game, but the defense was still lacking as the Sabres lost in the shootout to the New York Rangers.

    In addition to Tallinder being out, both Spacek and Kalinin both got injured this game as well. Neither player had been doing well before getting hurt, but this doesn't really help the team. With Campbell traded, Numminen still out for the season and these three injured, and Paetsch, Pratt, and Sekera all playing poorly that leaves only Lydman. To his credit he played good. However he saw only 29:27 of ice time. While that may seem like a lot, Buffalo needs him to be out there for the full sixty minutes or else we don't have a chance. Fortuneatly Tallinder may be back by Wednesday, I'd split the line up and make sure either Lydman or Tallinder are on the ice at all times.

    Like Lydman, Pominville was also carrying his weight. He scored the first goal of the game 16 seconds in, and then had another one of his shots deflected for Buffalo's other goal. Then in the shootout, he scored the only goal for Buffalo on a very nice shot. Derek Roy saw even more ice time than Pominville, and played very well himself.

    The Sabres biggest problem was on the powerplay where they got one goal on seven powerplays. However one of those was a full two minute five on three opportunity, that took the Sabres around 65 seconds to even get a shot on net. The Sabres need to accept the gifts they are given.

    Miller wasn't all that great for Buffalo either. He did ok, but should have had the first one that went by him, and was coming way out of the net again in the shootout.

    Buffalo still has a chance, but needs to get some wins first. Buffalo's next game is against the Penguins.

    Official Three Stars
  • Jason Pominville
  • Brandon Dubinsky
  • Paul Gaustad

  • My Three Stars
  • Jason Pominville (all of Buffalo's scoring)
  • Brendan Shanahan (one assist, plus one)
  • Toni Lydman (all of Buffalo's defense)
  • Monday, March 10, 2008

    One Point is not enough

    The Sabres picked up one point in their 4-3 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. However one point is not enough. The Sabres are now four points back on Philly, and after giving up two straight losses to the best teams in the southeast the Sabres now need to worry about Washington and Carolina stealing their spot to take put two southeast teams in.

    The Sabres looked okay in this game, but needed better play from their defense. The team really misses Tallinder. Paetsch has not been all that good this season, and Pratt and Sekera never really have been. Furthermore the rest of the defense took the game off as well, and a dumb penalty by Spacek lost the Sabres the game in OT. The one exception was Lydman who was reliable in his own end, and even scored a nice looking goal to tie the game.

    Hecht was back, which is a huge relief to the team. However this resulted in Bernier being scratched which was a bit odd. While he hasn't been as good as he was in his first game, Bernier hasn't been playing poorly nor has he been reported as being injured.

    The real star for the Sabres in this game was Ryan Miller. Despite giving up four goal in the game he was playing really really well. He had two saves that were completely unbelievable. He kept Buffalo in this game despite the poor defense in front of him, and the Sabres taking 8 penalties as opposed to the Hurricanes' two.

    Official Three Stars
  • Scott Walker
  • Sergei Samsonov
  • Eric Stall

  • My Three Stars
  • Ryan Miller (kept Buffalo in this game)
  • Sergei Samsonov (one goal, plus two)
  • Derek Roy (one goal, one assist, plus one in the loss)
  • Friday, March 7, 2008

    How Peters helps.

    I've stated before my preference for Peters to be scratched, but perhaps that is ignoring some of the evidence. The Sabres play better when someone on the team picks up a fighting major. The team plays even better still when that someone is Andrew Peters.

    The Sabres are currently 32-27-9 a pace at which they will end the season in ninth place with a 39-33-10 record. However in games in which Buffalo picks up a fighting major the Sabres are winning 59% and have twice as many ins as losses for a record of 10-5-2. The record is even better yet if Peters is the one brawling, as the Sabres are 7-2-1 in those games with a 70% win percentage.

    Assuming the Sabres fought in every game, over the course of a season while keeping up at this pace, the Sabres would end the year 48-24-10 (good for 106 points). If Peters fought every night and Buffalo kept up that pace then Buffalo would finish the year 57-16-9 (good for 123 points). This would translate into the best season ever in the history of the team.

    The problem may be in expecting Peters to be racking up the points. Peters already has his goal for the year, and needs instead to concentrate on dropping the gloves. If he fights out the season the Sabres could finish strong going 10-3-1. That record would give Buffalo a 98.4% chance of making the playoffs. In fact that may be their only chance.

    NOTE:I had formally looked at this earlier in the season.

    Thursday, March 6, 2008

    Sabres don't stop Ovechkin

    The Sabres were unable to stop Alex Ovechkin, and as a result lost the game 3-1. Not having either Tallinder nor Hecht in the lineup may have had something to do with that, but the good news is that Hecht at least is expected to be back by Saturday. The bad news is that the Sabres are running out of time.

    Lydman and Kalinin were both minus three for the game, and probably need to be repaired until Tallinder comes back as that obviously wasn't working. Kotalik had a good game with the Sabres only goal, and none against while he was on the ice.

    The Sabres did score a second goal in the game, but it was discounted for unknown reasons. Still with the sloppy play the Sabres had they didn't deserve to win. Buffalo gave up three breakaways in the first period, while Miller got the first two, thats not the best way to go about winning a game. On the other end of the ice Kolzig played very well for the Capitals, limiting Buffalo's chances (although Pominville looked good).

    If Hecht is given the assistant captain role when he comes back (no reason to think this won't happen) then that should take some of the burden off of Pominville. He's a good player, but I'm not quite sure he is ready to be the teams leader. Afinogenov had the puck alot this game, but didn't do too much with it. After playing so well against the Flyers, Max looked to be trying too much, and not dishing off the opportunities quick enough this game.

    Backstrom looked good for the Capitals, and should give Kane and Toews a run for rookie of the year honours. Buffalo's next game is Saturday against Carolina.

    Official Three Stars
  • Alexander Ovechkin
  • Nicklas Backstrom
  • Maxim Afinogenov

  • My Three Stars
  • Alexander Ovechkin (two goals, plus three)
  • Olaf Kolzig (only one goal against, saved 96% of shots)
  • Nicklas Backstrom (one goal, one assist, plus three)
  • Wednesday, March 5, 2008

    Max is back

    The Buffalo Sabres beat the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 and Maxim Afinogenov showed up for this game and played great. Afinogenov set himself up for a breakaway that resulted in a nice goal, set up Derek Roy for a breakaway that resulted in a goal, and then managed to squeeze a shot through for another goal that Biron looked to have pretty well covered.

    At one point the Sabres were looking as if they were going to blow their lead like they did the last time they played the Flyers, but instead came away with three goals early in the third period to take the win.

    While neither team scored (or even looked good) with the man advantage the game saw a high amount of four on four play, and three goals scored in those situations (two for Buffalo). On Roy's goal the Flyers have claimed the Sabres had five on the ice but I'm not quite buying that, and think they probably should have thought about covering Roy anyhow.

    The game saw a few line changes as Sekera was brought up for Kalinin and Peters for Paille. I still think Paille should be playing ahead of Peters, but perhaps they felt bad benching Peters for two games after he finally scores a goal, or else assumed there would be some more fights against Flyers. Speaking of fights, with a bit of a brawl behind Buffalo's net Marty Biron drifted out to center ice to consider taking part. As much as I like Biron, I don't want to see him fighting against the Sabres. Against other teams I'm all for it, but he is supposed to like Buffalo.

    The big news though is that Tallinder got himself injured. This could be really bad. He (along with the also injured Hecht) is key to the Sabres game, and their best defenceman. While I wasn't worried playing the Capitals before, that was based on the idea that Tallinder and Lydman could double shift to shut down Ovechkin and the rest of the Sabres could outplay the rest of the Capitals. Suddenly this next game isn't looking so good. Also suddenly the absence of Brian Campbell is starting to hurt. Fortunetly Sekera looked good last game.

    Back to Campbell, he had an awesome spin-o-rama goal for San Jose the other night. I've never seen him score off of that before, but then again the goalie probably should have had that. Of course that's Montreal's fault for trading away Huet.

    A few more thoughts on the game. Vanek was the only Sabre to have a minus plus/minus, but didn't play to poorly. Kaleta had zero hits, but probably didn't deserve the ten minute game misconduct he got, and finished the game with only 3 min of ice time. Peters ended with even less ice time and no fights to show for it. Bernier looked good, picking up two assists while picking up two shots and two hits as well. He also looked good in the corners as a Gaustad like scraper.

    Official Three Stars
  • Maxim Afinogenov
  • Jason Pominville
  • Steve Bernier

  • My Three Stars
  • Maxim Afinogenov (two goals, one assist, plus three)
  • Jason Pominville (two goals)
  • Henrik Tallinder (two assists, possibly should have had credit for Pominville's first goal, and in only 7 min of ice time)
  • Tuesday, March 4, 2008

    Pominville takes the Captain's chair

    Jason Pominville has taken over the role of the Sabres captain for the month of March. I had expected that Pominville would have been captain last month before Hecht had been given a second month in that role. Jochen Hecht was a good captain, and the team really needs him back. The Sabres have a 8-23 record in the last 31 games Hecht has been injured, but need to be much better than that to make the playoffs.

    The scoreboards across the league were favorable to the Sabres last night with the Senators, Bruins, and Canadians all losing. The Bruins got blown out by the Capitals 10-2 with Ovechkin getting a hat-trick and five points in the game.

    The Sabres need to win their next game against the Flyers desperatly in order to make the post season. As of late, their odds have not looked too good.

    Monday, March 3, 2008

    Buffalo outplayed again

    The Sabres got outplayed once again, losing to the Red Wings 4-2. The Sabres got an early goal from Kaleta, but were otherwise flat throughout most of the game.

    Vanek and Roy who had been playing well as of late finished the game a combined minus five with zero points. Miller actually played well in this game, and had little to no chance on the ones that did beat him. Both teams were an acceptable (but unspectacular) one for six with the man advantage.

    Kaleta actually had a pretty good game and was plus one with a goal (and three hits) in the loss. The Sabres other goal scorer, Jason Pominville also played well and had eight shots on the night, while the only goal against he was on the ice for came on the penalty kill.

    What the Sabres really need is Jochen Hecht to be healthy again. Maybe by Buffalo's next game on Wednesday against Philadelphia.

    Official Three Stars
  • Niklas Kronvall
  • Johan Franzen
  • Patrick Kaleta

  • My Three Stars
  • Johan Franzen (one goal, one assist, plus one)
  • Niklas Kronvall (two assists, plus three)
  • Valtteri Filppula (one goal, one assist, plus one)
  • Sunday, March 2, 2008

    Tallinder looking after his own neck

    Over the past few games Henrik Tallinder has been wearing a neck guard to further protect himself. I can't find a picture right now, but it appears as if is something relatively small that is built into his underarmour than as a separate piece of equipment. Such things are a required in most european leagues (where Tallinder is from) and are considered to be rather effective.

    However most NHL players don't use them, and considering the rareness of neck injuries in the league most feel perfectly safe not wearing them. However after seeing Zednik's neck get split open in a game a few weeks ago, Tallinder probably decided that a little extra protection would probably be a good thing. Hopefully he stays healthy, because the Sabres need him more than ever on the blue line.

    Saturday, March 1, 2008

    Lack of a penalty kill buries Sabres

    The Montreal Candaians have the best penalty play team in the league, and scored on all three of their chances to beat the Sabres 6-2. The Sabres also managed two powerplay goals (on six oppertunities), but more or less got outplayed all game long.

    The Sabres still need ten more wins to make the post season, and get thier next chance on Sunday against the injured Red Wings.

    Official Three Stars
  • Tomas Plekanec
  • Alex Kovalev
  • Mark Streit

  • My Three Stars
  • Tomas Plekanec (hat-trick and four points)
  • Alex Kovalev (setting up Plekanec, four assists)
  • Thomas Vanek (one goal, played well along with Roy and Bernier)