Friday, February 29, 2008

Further scoop on Bernier

New Sabre Steve Bernier is currently on pace to score 36 goals and 18 assists for Buffalo by the end of the season. While we doubt that will actually happen, he had a very solid first game in Buffalo, and managed to win over the fans.

With a few years of NHL experience all with the Sharks, Bernier is still very young, and was a first round draft pick in 2003. He is a big player, and seems to be aggressive enough to use that size to his advantage.

On the downside the word is he is known to have off days (as if the Sabres were not already a streaky team), however I think that will be less of a problem for him in Buffalo for a few reasons. First Lindy Ruff is still one of the best coaches in the league. Bernier didn't exactly get along too well with the coach in San Jose, and if anyone knows how to help along young players Lindy can. Furthermore the Sabres have a rather young locker room overall and it looks as if at least him and Roy are getting along pretty well.

Also he is from Canada (Montreal) and is happy to be closer to home. Furthermore he is apparently happy to be in a town that enjoys hockey. Perhaps this will help him get motivated to play a little harder day in and day out, and will help convince him to be willing to stay in Buffalo when it comes to it.

That said it may still be a bit early to really want him back, but so far so good. Honestly imagine what a line with Bernier, Kaleta and Gaustad could do. They would honestly just run people over. Maybe they can do that Friday night against Montreal, the Sabres need this win because they didn't get too much help Thursday night.

Also apparently Bernier is very cute, or at least thats what they tell me.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Bernier starts strong

In his first game with the Buffalo Sabres Steve Bernier showed that he was a decent player, scoring the first two goals of the game against the Nashville Predators. Besides the goals he also finished the game plus three with an assist. Furthermore his chemistry with Vanek and Roy looked good (although almost everyone looks good with those two), and he appeared to be rather solid (and responsible) defensively and wasn't on the ice for any goals against.

The Sabres won the game 8-4. The main reason was that Nashville's goaltending was bad, so bad in fact that Andrew Peters scored a goal. Kaleta nicely set up the play for Peters first goal of the season, and fourth of his career. Furthermore it actually came at a critical time when the Predators were starting to make a bit of a comeback. Other Sabres goals came from Paille, Connolly, and Kotalik, while the population of Pominville went up by one as well.

Ryan Miller got hit in the mask, and was bleeding, which as a result gave up the first goal of the game. Thibault had to come in for a little while and didn't look too good giving up two goals in a little over eight minutes of ice time.

Later in the game things turned a little violent as these two teams who barely play each other apparently are not the best of friends. I do recall someone from Nashville sucker punching Spacek from behind when these two teams met last season though. Anyhow there were a number of fights including Roy who seemed a bit more aggressive this game and Bernier who proved himself ready to drop the gloves. Furthermore Peters must have been feeling good off of his goal and actually took a swing in his fight (and landed it), although Mair got absolutely destroyed.

Official Three Stars
  • Stever Bernier
  • Derek Roy
  • Andrew Peters

  • My Three Stars
  • Steve Bernier (Two goals to lead off a Gordie Howe hat-trick)
  • Toni Lydman (four assists, plus three)
  • Derek Roy (on goal, one assist, plus four)
  • Wednesday, February 27, 2008

    Soupy traded out

    The Buffalo Sabres did what everyone was expecting them to do, and traded away Brian Campbell. While in the long term this is good for the team, it hurts them for this season.

    Apparently Campbell had rejected a three year, $17.25 million dollar contract and to be honest even that was significantly more than he is worth (although not more than he will get). As a result there was no way he was going to sign, and so in the long term it was worth giving him up in exchange for a first round draft pick (especially as Buffalo traded away their last first rounder for a center that only stuck with the team for three months). As such this deal really isn't that bad as a long term strategy.

    Additionally in the deal the Sabres picked up forward Steve Bernier (whose contract is only through the end of this season) and a also gave up a seventh round draft pick. Now a seventh round draft pick usually doesn't amount to much a getting a player like Gaustad in the seventh round is more the exception then the rule. As for Bernier, I don't really know much about him (apparently he has a fun accent) the Sabres currently are a tad bit injured up front, and he looks to be an improvement over Peters or Gragani.

    However a little extra depth on offense, fails to make up for the sudden loss of depth on the backend. While I don't mind seeing Paetsch get more minutes on defense, I'm still not sold on Pratt (or Spacek for that matter) and realize that neither Weber nor Sekera come close to Campbell's skill level. While out top two are still intact seeing who Spacek ends up paired with will be interesting. Short term I think this puts us a step back as far as this seasons playoffs go. In their next step to those ends Buffalo faces off against the Predators and former Sabre JP Dumont tonight. Also I'm fairly certain that Paetsch has picked up the spin move, so that shouldn't be totally gone from the lineup.

    A bunch of other trades yesterday as well. Notably, the Capitals picked up goalie Huet from the Canadians, and the Penguins sent Colby Armstrong and a few other multiple year contract players to Atlanta in exchange for Hossa. This helps the capitals alot as it greatly improves their goal tending, not 100% sure why Montreal thought this was a good idea, but they shouldn't be too hurt by this. The bigger question is why the Penguins would give up close to everything they have besides Crosby and Malkin for Marion Hossa. Colby Armstrong is a really good player and by himself may be better than Hossa, never mind that he still his a few years on his contract while Hossa will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Atlanta benefits nicely as they will actually have a core to work with next season, and may even be able to bring Hossa back. Also alot of pointless deals as well (two evenly matched midline players with expiring contracts) and a fourth line rental to a non playoff team, from a non playoff team, in exchange for a late round draft pick. Why everyone things deadline deals are a good thing is beyond me.

    Tuesday, February 26, 2008

    Still Failing in the Shootout

    The Sabres blew an early three goal lead to lose 4-3 in the shootout. Coming into this game the Sabres' opponent the Philadelphia Flyers had the worst shootout record in the league. Yet once again one the shootout started the Sabres were unable to score.

    Kotalik continued to be the best for Buffalo in the skills competition and scored on his chance, however Connolly fumbled the puck straight into Biron's stick, and Roy just completely failed to hit the puck on his shot. You can swing the stick all you want, but it's got to come into contact with the puck at some point. Miller was ok on the other end, but really shouldn't have let Briere score on him. Also, where was Henrick Tallinder?

    Once again alot of the goals against came from mental breakdowns in a game that the Sabres really needed to win. Only seconds after getting their third goal, the Sabres gave up a breakaway to Jeff Carter who scored on a nice shot to the top corner.

    The Sabres first two goals in the game did look pretty, with Roy proving that good things happen when you throw the puck at the net, and MacArthur getting set up real nicely from Connolly and Pominville just eleven seconds later. Paille ended the game minus one, but looked to be one of the better Sabres players on the night. Rookie Gragani once again only got around six minutes of ice time during the game, but seemed to get half of it during overtime and twice almost prevented the shootout from ever happening.

    The officiating in this game was really bad. There were calls all over the place that really left everyone on the ice wondering what was going on. It didn't really have anything to do with why the Sabres lost, but it made the game really hard to watch.

    Official Three Stars
  • Jason Pominville
  • Scott Hartnell
  • Jaroslav Spacek

  • My Three Stars
  • Jeff Carter (one goal, six shots, and a goal in the shootout)
  • Jason Pominville (one goal, one assist, plus three)
  • Mike Knuble (two assists)
  • Monday, February 25, 2008

    Sabres need to give Ruff something to smile about

    Although a great coach, Lindy Ruff never seems to have anything to smile about. Even last season when the Sabres were playing far better hockey than anyone else he never really quite looked happy. Even if the Sabres win, we would see him lifting the cup with a grim look on his face.

    A few weeks ago the Buffalo News quoted a little kid asking Ruff why he never smiles. Coming after that really bad loss to the Bruins Lindy replied “Did you watch the game last night? Would you smile after that?” Of course I don't think Lindy was smiling after the teams 10-1 win over Atlanta either.

    The Sabres can work on getting Ruff to smile by beating the Flyers in Buffalo tonight. The Sabres won their first two games against Marty and Briere this season, and need every win they can get at this point. Hecht is expected to be back in the line up for this game, but even if he isn't the Sabres injury problems wouldn't be a bad as Philly's. The Flyers have lost Gagne for the rest of the season, and will now be missing Mike Richards who leads the team in goals, assists, and plus/minus. A win probably wouldn't do much to make Ruff smile, but it might help the team make the playoffs.

    Sunday, February 24, 2008

    Mistakes may keep Sabres out of the playoffs

    The Buffalo Sabres lost to the New York Rangers 4-3 in a game that was filled with mistakes. Turnovers and bad goaltending plagued the Sabres all game long in a game that was very important in the standings.

    Miller played poorly all game long, giving up really bad rebounds, and then being way out of position on two of the goals against the team. However he really wasn't getting much help from the defense either. Still if you let Avery score on you, you're playing pretty bad.

    The Sabres brought up Marc-Andre Gragani for his first ever NHL game. He was out for the opening faceoff, but only ended up seeing 6:28 in ice time during the game. He played alright but took two penalties.

    The Sabres killed off all three of their shorthanded situations, but were unable to score when they were up a man, although the Sabres powerplay actually looked pretty good this game.

    The Sabres though are going to have to play much better than this, and they are going to have to beat the teams like the Rangers who are competing for the same spot in the playoffs. Once you get in anything can happen, but you need to win a few to get in first.

    Official Three Stars
  • Sean Avery
  • Derek Roy
  • Michal Rozsival

  • My Three Stars
  • Ales Kotalik (two goals, plus one in the loss)
  • Sean Avery (one goal, one assist)
  • Brandon Dubinsky (one goal, one assist)
  • Friday, February 22, 2008

    Blowing away the Leafs

    Why does everyone always use a metaphor in their headlines about Leafs games? Regardless the Leafs did get blown away by the Sabres as they picked up their second straight win 5-1. The short version is that the Sabres outplayed the Leafs in every aspect of the game, (although Toronto did outshoot the Sabres 35-23).

    The most impressive part of this win has to be the fact that the Sabres actually played decent on the powerplay. The Sabres haven't had much of an advantage being a man up this season, but earned themselves two goals on six chances. While the one goal the Sabres did allow was on a Toronto powerplay, it was more the result of a major mental mistake, then a result of being a man down. Still they killed off the rest of their shorthanded situations well, and came away with the win.

    Tim Connolly didn't play in the game which is a bit worrisome, and was replaced by defenceman Nathan Paetsch who played up front the whole game. He was a respectable plus one, but only got 1:40 of ice time.

    Official Three Stars
  • Thomas Vanek
  • Ryan Miller
  • Brian Campbell

  • My Three Stars
  • Thomas Vanek (one goal, two assists, three points)
  • Ales Kotalik (two goals)
  • Adam Mair (one assist, plus one, 6-0 on faceoffs)
  • Thursday, February 21, 2008


    Remember last season, when no matter how many goals the Sabres were down you could count on them to still win the game late in the third period? Well for one night at least the Sabres have gotten that attitude back. The Sabres were down 3-1 with under three minutes left in the game, but managed to get a 4-3 overtime win.

    To be honest the Sabres gave up some pretty bad goals to go down in the game in the first place. Over the course of the game the Sabres outshot the Lightning 46-25 so it wasn't like they were really playing that bad, but more like their goalie was good (stopped the first 31 shots), and that massive mistakes were being made in our own end.

    The worst was Nolan Pratt who gave up a two or three really bad turnovers that resulted in scoring chances for Tampa Bay. Miller bailed him out each time (although Miller slipped up on two of those goals himself), but there is no reason to have Pratt in the lineup with play like that. We have a very capable Nathan Paetsch sitting around doing nothing, and still have Weber and Sekera if we need more depth. As I've said since before he was even signed we need to do better than having Pratt on the ice.

    Vanek got his second hat-trick of the season getting credit for all three of the goals in the final three minutes plus overtime of the game. However Tim Connolly had the primary assist on all three of those goals (despite what the official score sheet says), and was primarily responsible for two of them. Although Vanek has improved lately, and is no longer missing the open nets, and got a powerplay goal for the third or fourth time in a week.

    The Sabres play the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight, and who knows, the Sabres may even show up for the first 57 minutes of the game. (Although may I ask the NHL to schedule around Lost for the rest of the season?)

    Official Three Stars
  • Thomas Vanek
  • Tim Connolly
  • Jaroslav Spacek

  • My Three Stars
  • Tim Connolly (three assists to set up the win)
  • Thomas Vanek (hat-trick for the final three goals)
  • Derek Roy (one goal, one assist, plus one)
  • Tuesday, February 19, 2008

    Needing more Tallinder

    The Buffalo Sabres could use more players like Henrik Tallinder on their team. So far this season he is the most defensive defenceman in the NHL. His linemate Toni Lydman came in ninth on the list.

    These two were Buffalo's key to victory last season, and they appear to be helpful this year as well. Keeping Tallinder healthy has been critical for the Sabres success in the past two seasons, and haven't had the offense this year to hide it. Too often the Campbell and Spacek line has been, but out for the games most critical points, when perhaps the Tallinder Lydman line should be used instead.

    In a similar comparison of forwards, Jason Pominville was the only Sabre to make the top 20 at number eight in the league. Personally I would have expected his linemate Hecht to be the top shutdown man up front for the Sabres. After a slow start to the season, Pominville is showing how good he really is.

    Monday, February 18, 2008

    Another disappointing game

    The Sabres once again this weekend played poorly, and lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1. Once again this was a game that the Sabres really needed to win. Games in hand are no good unless you can win them.

    Official Three Stars
  • Ty Conkilin
  • Evgeni Malkin
  • Petr Sykora

  • My Three Stars
  • Evgeni Malkin (one goal, two points)
  • Petr Sykora (one goal, two points)
  • Ryan Malone (two assists)
  • Sunday, February 17, 2008

    Miller stops next to nothing

    Ryan Miller had been stopping everything lately, but was not nearly as good in the opening minutes of Saturday's afternoon game against the Rangers. In the opening twelve and half minutes of the game, Miller let four goals past him. He only let in four goals in the last three games combined. Regardless the Sabres were unable to come back from that defecit and lost the game 5-1.

    Official Three Stars
  • Brandon Dubinsky
  • Sean Avery
  • Jaromir Jagr

  • My Three Stars
  • Sean Avery (two goals)
  • Brandon Dubinsky (three points, one goal, plus three)
  • Jaromir Jagr (two assists, plue three)
  • Friday, February 15, 2008

    Pushing for the playoofs

    The Sabres have gone an impressive 8-0-2 in their last ten games and are making a serious push to get into the post season. Things are complicated by the fact that the Southeast division is guaranteed at least one team, so beating the Capitals isn't going to make much of a difference. The one team they do have to beat is the New York Rangers.

    Currently the Sabres are expected to have a 71.8% chance of making the playoffs, with a minimum of 14 wins needed to be expected to be given a spot in the postseason. This is the best the Sabres odds have been all season, but they need keep winning in order to keep it up.

    The Rangers sit just one point behind Buffalo, and are the Sabres opponents Saturday afternoon. However with three games still to go against this team in what little is left of the season, these could potentially be big games.

    If Miller can keep playing like he has, the Sabres should have no problem. They just have to hope the Drury keeps the half-hearted, low scoring mentality that he has had all season, and that he doesn't suddenly become the clutch player he was last season against the Rangers in the playoffs, because we all know that there is no stopping that.

    Thursday, February 14, 2008

    Sabres win goaltending battle

    The Buffalo Sabres beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 1-0 in a game where the two goaltenders had far more impact on the game than the position players on the ice did.
    For the games 51 first minutes neither team was able to score. Both sides were getting a good share of chances, but both Ryan Miller and Vesa Toskala came up big for their teams and didn't let anything by. Toskala ended the game with 19 saves (.950 SV%) while Miller saved all 35 shots that came his way.

    The game's lone goal finally came when Danial Paille made a few cut backs behind the net, before finding Paul Gaustad wide open at the side of the net. Gaustad then knocked the puck off the side of the goalie and in.

    The Sabres actually got outshot, and owe alot of this win the Miller. Ryan has been playing great in goal all month, and has only allowed more than two goals once, since January 19th.

    For some reason, they only picked two stars for this game instead of the usual three, while not even going for obvious picks such as the games only goal scorer, or the second really really good goalie in this game. The Sabres have off until an afternoon game against the Rangers on Saturday.

    Official Three Stars
  • Ryan Miller
  • Daniel Paille

  • My Three Stars
  • Ryan Miller (for the shutout)
  • Paul Gaustad (the game's only goal)
  • Vesa Toskala (only let one past him)
  • Wednesday, February 13, 2008

    Vanek nets three against the Sens

    Thomas Vanek got his first career hat-trick in a 5-1 win over Ottawa. The Sabres outplayed the Senators all game, and outshot them by a wide margin in the first two periods.

    Vanek's first career hat-trick was boosted by two goals of of the powerplay. After having a poor powerplay all season the Sabres scored two against Ottawa, and were three for four last game against the Florida Panthers. Apparently having Connolly back in the line really is helping things out.

    As for the Spezza-Heatley-Alfredsson line as good as they were expected to be, they were completly blanked. It was awesome to see this "big three" get outscored by Clarke MacArthur.

    The Sabres have been on a bit of a hot streak lately, but need to keep winning to secure their spot in the playoffs. They face the Maple Leafs at home on Wednesday night, but have not fared too well against the struggling leafs so far this season.

    Official Three Stars
  • Thomas Vanek
  • Brian Campbell
  • Clarke MacArthur

  • My Three Stars
  • Thomas Vanek (first career hat-trick)
  • Ryan Miller (only let one past him)
  • Jason Pominville (two points, one goal, plus two)
  • Tuesday, February 12, 2008

    The new look of the Senators

    The Ottawa Senators will have quite a different looking line up when they face off against the Buffalo Sabres tonight. For only the second game in quite a while the line of Spezza Heatley and Alfredsson will be intact as they are all healthy, plus the Sens have picked up Mike Commodore and Cory Stillman in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes.

    The Sabres haven't done to well historically against the Senators big three. The main task for Buffalo will be to shut down the Spezza-Heatley-Alfredsson line, and work on the assumption that the Sabres are in good position to outplay the Senators on the other shifts.

    The other changes in the Senators line up are due to a trade with Carolina. In the deal the Senators sent defenceman Joe Corvo and forward Patrick Eaves to the Hurricanes in exchange for defenceman Mike Commodore and forward Cory Stillman. In the short term (of this season) Ottawa comes out way ahead as a result of this deal. While expiring contracts made this deal worth doing for Carolina, the Senators have improved themselves for this season. Commodore is a real good player and should make a difference for the Sens. Lets just hope that they are still too unadjusted to the team to be any good tonight.

    The other (possible) change for the Senators is in net, where Martin Gerber and Ray Emery have been trading starts all season. Neither is the clear number one, but Emery is expected to get the start for his second straight game.

    As a follow up, things are continuing to look positive for Richard Zednik after he had his jugular slashed open last game. Last word is that he is still in stable condition, and is expected to be moved out of ICU soon.

    Monday, February 11, 2008

    Sabres win game tainted by serious injury

    The Sabres beat the Florida Panthers 5-3 to continue their push towards the playoffs. The Sabres came through despite some big mistakes, and saw the first NHL goal for Patrick Kaleta. However in the end the game was largely overshadowed by a skate blade cutting Richard Zednik across the neck.

    Midway through the third period, Jokinen fell after being checked in the corner, and had his skates fly up and hit Zednik. Zednik skated himself over to the bench immediately, while leaving a huge trail of blood across the ice. Reports from Buffalo General Hospital indicate that he is doing ok. However this was a very serious injury, that is very rare in sports. After the incident, there was some question over if the game would be resumed or not, although after a long delay it eventually was.

    As for the game itself, things went pretty good for the Sabres. The Sabres were shockingly 3 for 4 on the powerplay (with thanks to Roy who got two). The Sabres were the better team all night long, but were not always rewarded for their chances as they finished the first down, 1-0 and saw too many posts, while they had fluke goals being scored against them.

    Buffalo got its first point of the game early in the second on the first ever NHL goal for Patrick Kaleta. Glad to see him get rewarded like that, and continue to prove that he deserves a spot ahead of Peters. Peters interestingly enough had an assist on that goal, which was his first point this season. Kaleta also has an AHL point this year, and had five goals in the AHL last season.

    In the final minute of the second and the first minute of the third the Sabres gave up two goals to blow their 3-1 lead, and began to scare fans as things started to look like last weeks meltdown against the Bruins. However the nights second Roy powerplay goal regave the Sabres the lead, which the held onto and then added to later.

    Official Three Stars
  • Derek Roy
  • Jason Pominville
  • Patrick Kaleta

  • My Three Stars
  • Derek Roy (two powerplay goals)
  • Brian Campbell (three assists)
  • Patrick Kaleta (first NHL point)
  • Sunday, February 10, 2008

    Welcoming back Tim Connolly

    Tim Connolly is expected to be back in the lineup tonight against the Florida Panthers. While the Sabres have been able to bring up players from Rochester, having Timmy back into the line up should really help this team. Kaleta and MacArthur have both played well in their time up, but the Sabres don't really have any replacements to play center.

    Max Afinogenov is still on the injured list despite being close to coming back early last week. Drew Stafford is also out with an ankle problem for the next few games.

    Saturday, February 9, 2008

    Buffalo blows game with the Bruins

    Despite entering the third period with a solid 2-0 lead the Sabres lost to the Boston Bruins in a shootout. The Sabres, backed by Ryan Miller played very good in the first two periods, but were dreadful in the third, overtime, and the shootout. For the most part Miller played ok, but let in a very easy one in the skills competition.

    The Sabres played very poorly in four of their five powerplays, even getting outshot and outworked on a powerplay in the third, but did have one that went really well at the end of the first. The Sabres had good puck control almost the entire time, and got in a number of quality chances, then with almost no time left in the period Jaro Spacek knocked one into the top corner to give the Sabres the early lead. Vanek got the Sabres other goal at the end of the second.

    Come third period though, the team just fell apart, allowed the Bruins to get the first fourteen shots on net in the third. The Sabres allowed a goal to Chara early on, and then following a huge defensive mistake by Campbell gave up a second to allow the Bruins to tie up the game. Unfortunately they never came back.

    Patrick Kaleta wasn't as noticeable in this game, and seemingly was hardly on the ice in the third when his aggressiveness was most needed. Stafford left the game injured in the third with what looked like to be a sprained right ankle. Assuming he is reinjuring that from earlier this year, he should probably only miss around three games or so.

    Official Three Stars
  • Phil Kessel
  • Thomas Vanek
  • Marco Sturm

  • My Three Stars
  • Zedeno Chara (scored a goal)
  • Marc Savard (an assist)
  • Ales Kotalik (despite the loss)
  • Friday, February 8, 2008

    Ovechkin on track for a MVP worthy season

    Alexander Ovechkin is routinely booed whenever the Washington Capitals come to Buffalo, but there is no denying that he is one of the leagues best players. At this point Ovechkin has to be the favorite for regular season MVP and has a decent sized lead in the scoring race this season. After he (and his team) got off to a slow start, Ovechkin is currently on track for the first 60+ goal season in over 12 years and isn't that far off the mark for reaching 70 goals either. He is also doing this on a fairly weak team (although since the southeast gets to send someone it looks as if the Capitals will make it into the playoffs).

    Don't think I'm giving up my support for the Sabres, but there are alot of reasons to like Ovechkin. First he has show some team loyalty by signing quite the long term agreement with the Capitals. He is getting paid very well to do so, but not unreasonably well, and it's not as if the Capitals are a star studded powerhouse team either. He has more fun than most while playing the game, and was one of the few to really enjoy himself at the all-star game (but he has fun every night he plays). Apparently he has plenty of fun away from the ice as well.

    The Sabres play the Bruins tonight, and a win for Buffalo would tie the two teams in the standings. Buffalo's recent run has helped them alot, and the team is currently on track to get one of the final two playoff spots. They are estimated to have a 55% chance of making the playoffs and are almost guaranteed a spot if they can win 60% of their remaining games.

    Thursday, February 7, 2008

    Shootout Success

    The Buffalo Sabres have finally turned the corner on the shootout, beating the New Jersey Devils 3-2 after going 2-0 in the skills competition.

    The game was exciting and close, but the real excitement was in the shootout. All four games against the Devils went to the shootout this year, but New Jersey managed to win the first three. Buffalo finally decided to follow my advice on the shootout to give themselves their first SO win that didn't come against the worst shootout team in the league (yes, Philly's shootout performances have been worse).

    First on the defensive side, Ryan Miller stayed back in his net, and kept away from the poke check, that wasn't working for him all season. Neither of the Devil's shots were particularly good, but the fact the Ryan Miller was able to stop both of them was critical.

    On the other side Stafford just got a really, really good shot off, which Brodeur had no chance to save. Ruff did not include Vanek in his top three, and Kotalik was supposed to go third so there was no way to know how he would have done. The big surprise of course was Tallinder. It's rather rare to see a defenceman taking a shootout, and I don't think I've ever seen Tallinder on a breakaway before. After the game Ruff said that Tallinder had been a forward at some point back in Europe, but he seemed to be the only one remotely aware of that fact. Tallinder thought made Brodeur just look silly. Brodeur tried to run over the defenceman, but was easily side stepped and then helplessly watched as Tallinder shot the puck into the open net.

    As to the actual game the Hecht, Pominville, Paille line got yet another goal, and Tallinder continued to have a great game, as he got an assist on the game first goal when Ryan tipped his shot into the net. In the regular game thanks also has to go to Kaleta who lead the team with five hits for the second night in a row, and Paul Gaustad who had four hits of his own, and won ten out of twelve faceoffs. For other top performers see my three starts of the game.

    Official Three Stars
  • Ryan Miller
  • John Madden
  • Henrik Tallinder

  • My Three Stars
  • Henrik Tallinder (an assist, and a shootout goal)
  • Adam Mair (plus one, an assist, and won 67% of faceoffs)
  • John Madden (two assist, and plus two in the loss)
  • Wednesday, February 6, 2008

    Sabres beat the Bruins

    Led once again by the line of Paille, Pominville and the returning captain Hecht, the Sabres beat their divisional opponent the Boston Bruins 4-2.

    This was a game that the team really needed, and they play Boston once again later in the week, to really get a good shot at moving up the standings. Buffalo is in about eight to ninth place in the east, but too many of the teams that they are ahead of are in the southeast. Buffalo needs to keep moving up and getting wins against the Northeast and Atlantic teams, such as when they play the New Jersey Devils tonight.

    Pominville, Paille and Hecht set Buffalo up for an early lead in this game, only to see it get tied up before the end of the first period. Vanek then got an easy goal at the beginning of the second off of great passes from Stafford, and Campbell. The Sabres carried their one nothing lead into the third period.

    In the final period of play, the line of Paille, Hecht, and Pominville managed to score another goal to secure the win. Soon after on the powerplay, Lydman rocketed in a shoot from the blue line to go up 4-1. The Sabres then held onto that lead before giving up a meaningless goal with under a second left in the game.

    Patrick Kaleta had a very noticeable presence in the first two periods, picking up five hits in the game, and even drawing some retaliatory penalties. While Kaleta is always known for his big hits, they really stood out early in this game.

    Official Three Stars
  • Ryan Miller
  • Daniel Paille
  • Jochen Hecht

  • My Three Stars
  • Daniel Paille (two goals)
  • Jochen Hecht (set up Paille's two goals)
  • Per Johan Axelsson (scored the Bruin's meaningful goal, had an assist on the other)
  • Tuesday, February 5, 2008

    Hecht is captain again

    Jochen Hecht is once again the Captain of the Buffalo Sabres for the month of February. While I have been of the opinion that Hecht has deserved to be the full time captain, it is good to see him starting to get into that role. After Spacek was chosen as captain for the month of February, I assumed that the job would keep on rotating for the rest of the season, and that Jason Pominville was next in line for the job.

    However, Jochen has earned this honour, and the last time the Sabres had rotating captains Drury was the first to get a second month in March, from which he finished out the season as captain before sharing the job with Briere full time after the lockout. Come playoffs, and the next four seasons I fully expect Hecht to be the teams go to leader.

    The Sabres play tonight against division rival Boston. Despite what I said yesterday, more recent reports reveal that Afinogenov still is not quite ready to return, and will sit out this game.

    Monday, February 4, 2008

    Injury Update

    The Buffalo Sabres have had some large injury problems lately, but are looking to get healthier. Neither Miller nor Stafford are hurt as badly as once thought, and Afinogenov should finally be returning.

    After Ryan Miller was unable to play the third period in Buffalo's overtime loss to the Thrashers things were not looking good. The Sabres absolutely need Miller if they want to make the playoffs. The good news is that Miller shouldn't even be missing a game, and is expected to start against the Bruins on Tuesday. Miller has played great in the last few games, getting a shutout in four of the last five periods that he has played.

    Stafford's ankle injury isn't as bad as it looked, and while he won't be immediately returning to the line up, he shouldn't be out that long. Maxim Afinogenov hasn't been in a game in a long time, but should finally be ready to get going once again come Tuesday.

    The addition of Afinogenov to the line up puts Buffalo in violation of the leagues roster rules, and would require the Sabres to either send Kaleta back to Rochester or to place Connolly on injured reserve. Connolly is no longer expected to have to sit out the entire season, but it is still expected to be a while until his hip problem is expected to be resolved enough to allow him to continue to play.

    Still no word on who the Sabres captain of the month is, although my money would still be on Pominville.

    Saturday, February 2, 2008

    Sabres get a new rival

    I don't recall the Sabres ever having a rivalry with the Atlanta Thrashers, but after an overtime loss there appears to be one now. As Paille said during intermission, these two teams did not like each other. The previous games against Atlanta this season resulted in 6-0 and 10-1 wins for the Sabres along with a 4-2 loss. However still bitter from the crushing that was handed to them in the last meeting the Thrashers clawed their way back into this game to get the last minute victory.

    The Sabres actually played really well this game, but could have done better in the first, and had the refs against them all game long. The Sabres are also in deeper trouble with injuries. Goalie Ryan Miller didn't return for the third period, and without Biron as a backup this could really hurt the Sabres if he can't return soon. Also Adam Mair got an injury, while Afinogenov failed to return to the lineup as was expected.

    The Sabres played great in the OT killing off around three minutes of penalties. In the shootout Thibault held his own, only allowing one goal on four chances. However the problem was with Buffalo's shooters who all failed to score. Why they are still trying Vanek (even as a fourth) is beyond me.

    Official Three Stars
  • Tobias Enstrom
  • Marian Hossa
  • Robert Holik

  • My Three Stars
  • Tobias Enstrom (actually shot the puck)
  • Derek Roy (almost good enough to win the game by himself)
  • Robert Holik (one goal, one assist)
  • Friday, February 1, 2008

    Why Buffalo is the most hockey friendly city in the US

    Following the Ice Bowl a lot of thought was given to where the hockey had the most support in the United States based on the television viewership numbers for the event. This analysis was disputed, as there were a few oddities in the list, and considerations that had to be made for competing football games and such. The game got the best ratings in Buffalo, although it would be a mistake to look into that too much, as the event was huge in the area, and the second highest city was Pittsburgh, home of the competing penguins.

    A more neutral location, not competing against any other big time sporting events is needed to make more accurate comparisons. Such as the all-star game, which has gotten higher viewership numbers in Buffalo than anywhere else in the country for two straight years. While this would have been expected last season when the Sabres had a very good team, three players starting, a coach behind the bench, and another player in the young stars game, that doesn't explain the events popularity in Buffalo this season.

    This year Buffalo only sent a single defenseman in a game noted for it's lack of defense, and yet with a 3.3 rating, the Buffalo market was the strongest in the US. There is no disputing or writing off those numbers. With no reason to watch, Buffalo has proven itself to be the best hockey city in the country.

    The Sabres play tonights game against the Atlanta Thrashers without recently injured forward Drew Stafford, but should get Max Afinogenov returning to take his place. Otherwise Paetsch is likely to be brought in as a forward. The Thrashers are in worse position without their leader and primary goal scorer Ilya Kovalchuk for the game.

    Buffalo has not yet announced who will be captain for the month of February, but I would guess that Pominville gets it, while Hecht and Campbell stay on as alternates.