Friday, October 31, 2008

Another 5-2 loss

Buffalo Sabres
The Buffalo Sabres lost 5-2 for the second straight game. This game was all around really bad. Buffalo was outshot 40-31. Miller probably should have had a few of them, but often the goals were due to players being out of position.

MacArthur, Sekera, and Weber were the only players who looked good for Buffalo in this game. Clarke MacArthur got the first goal for Buffalo, while Sekera's shot was tipped in by Vanek for the second Buffalo goal in the game. Spacek also got assists on both of the goals, while Paille finished the game plus one with an assist.

Tampa Bay is mostly a one dimensional team, and Kolzig is no longer that great of a goalie, so Buffalo has no excuse for losing this one. This is the third straight game the Sabres have lost, and they really need to turn things around now, or they will end up falling short just like they did last season.

Paul Gaustad was finally back in the lineup for this game, leaving Matt Ellis scratched. Gaustad only received limited minutes in the game though. Henrik Tallinder was also back, with Paetsch sitting out the game rather than sending Weber back to Portland.

Rookie Steven Stamkos had a great game with an assist, and the first two goals of his NHL career. If he can continue playing like he did in this game he will be able to win the Calder trophy by season's end.

Official Three Stars
  • Steven Stamkos
  • Vincent Lecavalier
  • Paul Ranger

  • My Three Stars
  • Steven Stamkos (two goals, one assist)
  • Vincent Lecavalier (two assists, plus one)
  • Clarke MacArthur (one goal)
  • Thursday, October 30, 2008

    Early Calder Favorites

    Drew Doughty
    It's a bit early in the season to be talking about the NHL's end of the year awards, but there are already a few favorites to claim the title of "Rookie of the Year".

    As the first pick in last years draft, Steve Stamkos was the preseason favorite to win the Calder this year. Last year it was won by the drafts top pick, Patrick Kane. Playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Stamkos has gotten off to a poor start this season. After eight games he has zero goals and only on assist. He has had earned a negative three plus/minus rating while only having limited ice time.

    Fabian Brunnström did not play in the first two games for Dallas, but when he did get in he scored a hat-trick. Over the next six games he earned two more goals and an assist. However he also has a plus/minus rating of negative six and leads the league in goals against per sixty minutes. While his offense has been impressive, he has proven to be a liability in his own end.

    The Los Angeles Kings' Drew Doughty has been very solid for them as a rookie defenseman this season. After eight games he has an impressive plus/minus of positive eight, and has been trusted with significant ice time. Against Colorado he even scored a goal, but as a defenseman is not likely to put up big enough offensive numbers to be picked as the Calder winner.

    After three solid seasons at the University of North Dakota TJ Oshie is playing as a rookie for the St Louis Blues this season. After eight games he only has three points (two goals and one assist). Still he has been a better two way player than Stamkos or Brunnström, and as such is more likely to be trusted with more playing time throughout the season.

    Still it is early to try and figure out who the Calder favorite is. It could still go to a player like Toronto defenseman Luke Schenn who has been playing decently. It could even go to a player like Buffalo's Nathan Gerbe who has plenty of potential, but has yet to even play in a single NHL game.

    Wednesday, October 29, 2008

    On Buffalo, Logos, World Juniors, and Bettman

    On Monday before the miserable loss to the Senators, the formal announcement of the world juniors took place. This was a big time media event with Golisano and Bettman both in town for the announcement. The event itself provided little information that hadn't already been leaked, expect for the greatly exaggerated numbers on the economic boost it would give the city.

    Buffalo Sabres
    Still look at the logo in the image of the the announcement. The Sabres have been avoiding the slug logo on almost everything for a while now. After putting the classic logo on the ice, I think it is safe to say that we won't see anymore of the slug after this season.

    League commissioner Gary Bettman who was in town for the announcement then spent some time on the Sabres intermission show, resulting in a very awkward interview. Much of the discussion was about Golisano's purchase of the team, which happened six season ago now. Bettman then spent the rest of the interview sucking up to Golisano for really unknown reasons. Technically Golisano and the other thirty team owners give Bettman his job, but he came across and extremely desperate and childish in doing so.

    Tuesday, October 28, 2008

    No comeback against Ottawa

    Buffalo Sabres
    The Sabres failed in their comeback against Ottawa losing the game 5-2 for their first regulation loss of the season.

    Buffalo outplayed the Senators for most of the first period, but both Alex Auld and Patrick Lalime did a good job of keeping the pucks out of their nets. Ottawa eventually scored one on a powerplay with less then two minutes to go in the period.

    In the second period the Sabres began to fall apart allowing Heatley to score a powerplay goal, just 19 seconds in. Ottawa also got two goals from Spezza in the second as well. Buffalo went down 5-0 early in the third, before finally scoring on the powerplay when MacArthur tipped in a nice shot by Afinogenov. Teppo Numminen then scored another goal in the game's final minute to make the score 5-2.

    Despite the lopsided score Buffalo didn't actually play too poorly in this game. While their powerplay didn't score until late, they had been generating chances all along. Also the refs didn't help much calling a number of penalties against the Sabres without any real good reason at all, especially a very poor one on Afinogenov just before the end of the first.

    Patrick Lalime looked very shaky in net after letting in the second goal. He had played very well in the first period, but was giving up too many rebounds for the rest of the game, and should have covered some of the ones that did end up going in. Hopefully this is just a bit of a fluke game for him and not the beginning of a downward spiral.

    Mike Weber looked good in his first game with Buffalo this season and had three blocked shots. Afinogenov meanwhile still hasn't scored a goal this year, but did have the assist on both of the goals that Buffalo did score.

    Official Three Stars
  • Jason Spezza
  • Dany Heatley
  • Antoine Vermette

  • My Three Stars
  • Alex Auld (25 saves)
  • Jason Spezza (two goals)
  • Dany Heatley (one goal, one assist, plus two)
  • Monday, October 27, 2008

    Pre-Ottawa focus on Defense

    According to James Mirtle, the Sabres have the oldest defense in the league, with 32.1 being the average age. Granted Numminen throws off these numbers significantly. Still I don't feel as if this is a bad thing, having a more veteran presence on defense like Buffalo has this year with Teppo and Rivet has so far looked to be a good thing.

    Unfortunately Rivet is out with an injury, and Henrik Tallinder might be as well. Tallinder's injury does not appear to be serious, but leaves the possibility that he might not play against Ottawa.

    If Henrik is out then Mike Weber would be called up from the Portland Pirates to take his place. Arguably he is even better the Paetsch who was put in as a replacement for Rivet. Weber played real well with Sekera at the end of last season, so expect those two to be paired up together again.

    Injuries to Buffalo's defense look to hurt the team more than any injuries to their forwards would. Still Weber has shown himself to be a dependable player and I doubt Tallinder will be out for too long.

    Buffalo's monday night opponent, the Ottawa Senators, have gotten off to a very poor start at 2-5-1. A fall was expected from Ottawa, but they still have a number of very good players and can not be taken lightly by Buffalo. Even the season the Sabres won the president's trophy they lost half of their games against Ottawa.

    Sunday, October 26, 2008

    Shootout loss in Colorado

    The Sabres got in their tight low scoring game that we expected against Minnesota, against the Colorado Avalanche instead. This was supposed to be an easy opponent, but given the way Buffalo played they were lucky to earn the one point on the night.

    Buffalo looked out of position and confused for most of the game, and then in the third period and in overtime they looked flat out bad. The one goal Buffalo scored was a bit of a fluke as well.

    In the shootout, both Kotalik and Roy had very nice goals, but Stafford who was very good coming into this game failed to score. On the other end Miller was too far out of his net again, and only stopped two of five shots against.

    This was Buffalo's second loss of the season, but they got a point for the tie. Due to Montreal's loss to the Ducks, Buffalo still has the best record in the Eastern Conference.

    Official Three Stars
  • Ryan Smyth
  • Peter Budaj
  • Ryan Miller

  • My Three Stars
  • Peter Budaj (only one goal against, shootout win)
  • Ryan Smyth (an assist, shootout goal)
  • Toni Lydman (an assist, plus one)
  • Saturday, October 25, 2008

    Buffalo Wins! (the world under-20 championships)

    Buffalo has been rewarded with the World U-20 championship tournament, (better known as the World Juniors). Buffalo was first selected as one of three finalists a little over a month ago. The official announcement about this will be made on Monday.

    This is just the latest in a long line of hockey announcements that have leaked ahead of time. The whole world knew about the ice bowl, months before it was announced. Both the recent third jersey, and the slug logo were both leaked well ahead of time as well.

    Still this is great news for the City of Buffalo. The Sabres play against the Colorado Avalanche tonight. Colorado has not gotten off to a good start this season, but this shouldn't be an easy win either. All thirty NHL teams are playing tonight (the only time that happens all season), and then nobody plays at all tomorrow for unknown reasons.

    Friday, October 24, 2008

    A Victory of Errors

    So much for the goaltender showdown this game was supposed to be. After a disastrous second period Buffalo came back to somehow win the game in overtime.

    Coming into the game both of the starting goaltenders had excellent starts to their season and were each undefeated with a 4-0-0 record. Tonight however, both teams allowed more goals against then they have the entire season, and let in a number of soft goals.

    Buffalo got out to a quick start with a goal by Drew Stafford, that came on a backhand following a series of good passes. This is the second straight game Stafford has had, and is starting to finally get into a groove this season. At this point you would have to assume that he will have a better year then he did last season.

    In the second period Buffalo began to fall apart. They only got outshot by a little bit, but Miller let in two soft goals. In the third period, Miller shot the puck into his own net during Minnesota's powerplay to give them a 3-1 lead.

    For the third straight game however, Buffalo closed a two point deficit. This is the type of thing that they did all the time in the two season following the lockout, but were missing last year. Things got rolling when Mair tipped in a shot by Nathan Paetsch. Paetsch was playing in his first game this season to fill in for the injured Craig Rivet, and played well this game.

    Thomas Vanek then tied up the game late in the third on a bit of a weak shot to send the game into overtime. 44 seconds in, Derek Roy scored to give Buffalo the win.

    The Vanek-Roy-Stafford line had three goals and three assists between them, and carried the team offensively in this game. It would have been easy to give up going down by two early in the third on an own goal, but the Sabres should be commended for not allowing it to happen.

    Also Doug Johnson is an idiot. The job of picking the game's three stars fell to this man and for star number one he picked the goalie that despite winning let in two soft goals and then shot the puck into his own net. That was not a anywhere near an award winning performance. His Johnson's choice for the third star was Antti Miettinen who finished the game with no points and a game low minus three rating. I usually disagree somewhat with the three star selection, but I have never seen it this poorly done.

    Official Three Stars
  • Ryan Miller
  • Brent Burns
  • Antti Miettine

  • My Three Stars
  • Drew Stafford (one goal, one assist)
  • Thomas Vanek (one goal, one assist, game leading plus three)
  • Derek Roy (game winning goal, one assist, plus two)
  • Thursday, October 23, 2008

    Knee Surgery

    Sabres captain Craig Rivet had knee surgery on Wednesday morning and as a result will be out for a few weeks. Obviously not good news for Buffalo, as Rivet had been playing well and even set up one of the goals in the game against Boston.

    Gaustad, Hecht and Connolly are also out for the Sabres, but this is the first injury they will have to deal with on the defensive side of things. Nathan Paetsch who has been a healthy scratch so far this season should take his spot. Paetsch's play was questionable at times last season, but he has also proven that he can be good as well.

    Buffalo has been very good defensively this year, not giving up more than two goals to anyone. They will have to do even better against their Thursday night opponent, the Minnesota Wild.

    The Wild are undefeated at 4-0-0 and have a very solid backend. Last week's NHL first star Thomas Vanek was followed closely by second star Niklas Backstrom. He has a 1.72 goals against average, so besides putting up points, Buffalo will also have to their best to limit any against. It should be a good game, against a team that we do not see too often.

    Wednesday, October 22, 2008

    Buffalo comes back against Boston

    Buffalo Sabres
    For the second straight game Buffalo started out slow and did poorly in the first period. Buffalo was outshot 16-6 in the first period and outscored 1-0. Then Boston came out as the stronger team at the beginning of the second and the Sabres allowed their first power play goal of the year against to go down 2-0. Soon after they scored their first of the game when MacArthur tipped in a blast from Rivet on the powerplay. Buffalo then kept the pressure on and tied the game up on a beautiful goal by Stafford. Buffalo went on to win in the game after a five round shootout.

    Both of the Bruin's goals came on relatively weak shots. However Miller more than made up for that with many fantastic saves. Ryan finished the game with 29 saves and another four stops in the shootout.

    Thomas Vanek did not score a goal in the game for the first time this season, but actually had the game winner in the shootout with a very impressive fake and shot combination. Kotalik's unstoppable backhander was actually stopped in the shootout, but Stafford managed to score on the move from farther out. Manny Fernandez looked rather nervous during the shootout and almost allowed goals by Roy and Pominville to trickle in.

    Boston's goals came from Wideman and Kessel with their lone shootout goal coming from Krejci. The Bruins looked good at times, but never as if they were playing the type of dominating game that suggested that Buffalo could not come back.

    Official Three Stars
  • Ryan Miller
  • Derek Roy
  • Thomas Vanek

  • My Three Stars
  • Drew Stafford (a goal, a shootout goal, second in game in shots)
  • Ryan Miller (kept the team in the game, then saved four of five in the shootout)
  • Dennis Wideman (one goal)
  • Tuesday, October 21, 2008

    Random pre-Boston updates

    According to ESPN, the Sabres are 12-0-2 against Boston whenever Vanek scores at least one point. Given how the Austrian's play has been recently I'm feeling pretty good about that.

    Nathan Gerbe has been playing well in Portland where he had two assists in his first game, and then scored two goals in a 3-2 win in game number two. The pirates are currently 2-1 on the year.

    The Boston Bruins are 2-1-2 this season, so another trip to the shootout many be in the works. Goalie Tim Thomas has always been good against Buffalo, but Manny Fernandez is expected to start instead. Buffalo has not had to face him since before the lockout.

    The last time Buffalo played the Bruins was the final game of last season, where Numminen finally came back, Vanek scored a hat-trick, and Jocelyn Thibault got a shutout to end his time as a Sabre.

    Monday, October 20, 2008

    Vanek named the NHL's top star for the week

    Buffalo Sabres Thomas Vanek
    Thomas Vanek was named the top star in the NHL for the past week. Considering the numbers he has put up this shouldn't surprise anyone. In the four games in the past week Vanek has six goals and two assists including two shorthanded goals, while the Sabres put up a 3-0-1 record. Vanek has at least one goal in every game so far this year, and even had a natural hat-trick in the final game for Buffalo last season. The question is if he can keep this up, but there is really no reason to expect this offensive production to slow down any either. Buffalo will only get better as Hecht and Gaustad return from their injuries.

    Sunday, October 19, 2008

    A shootout loss to the Thrashers

    The Buffalo Sabres had their first loss of the season to the Atlanta Thrashers in a shootout. Patrick Lalime was in goal for Buffalo, who feel behind early, but played better in the later periods to tie the game up.

    Thomas Vanek had yet another goal, to give him his seventh of the season just five games in. Buffalo remained strong on special teams as Vanek's goal came five on three, while Buffalo continued to be able to kill off all their penalties.

    In the shootout Kotalik didn't go with his normal backhander and failed to score. Stafford did and Vanek continued to do poorly in the shootout like he has for his whole career. Ilya Kovalchuk and Vyacheslav Kozlov scored in the shootout for Atlanta.

    Official Three Stars
  • Kari Lehtonen
  • Patrick Lalime
  • Ilya Kovalchuk

  • My Three Stars
  • Ilya Kovalchuk (one goal, plus another in the shootout)
  • Todd White (two assists, plus two)
  • Jason Pominville (one goal, one assist)
  • Saturday, October 18, 2008

    Still Undefeated

    Buffalo Sabres
    Buffalo keeps on winning on the strength of their special teams. The Sabres have still allowed no goals against while on the penalty kill, and added two more powerplay goals in the first period to give themselves the early lead.

    Clarke MacArthur got another goal, Ales Kotalik scored his fourth, and Vanek incredibly scored his sixth of the season already. Afinogenov has looked good, and Spacek put together a solid game, scoring the first goal, and getting three shots on net. Ryan Miller looked a bit shaky, as he probably should have had both of the shots that he let by him.

    Buffalo was very disciplined not taking any penalties until the end of the first, and the only bad one, was the diving call on Kaleta. Still Buffalo allowed two goals against, the second to former Sabre Steve Bernier. MacArthur was on the ice for every single goal in the game, for and against. Vancouver sat Roberto Luongo, their captain and all star, but given how dominant Buffalo was it would have been unlikely to have made a difference.

    Official Three Stars
  • Thomas Vanek
  • Ales Kotalik
  • Jaroslav Spacek

  • My Three Stars
  • Thomas Vanek (one goal, two assists, seven shots on net)
  • Ales Kotalik (two goals)
  • Jaroslav Spacek (one goal, one assist, plus two)
  • Friday, October 17, 2008

    Early Statistics

    The Season is still early (Buffalo has only played three games), but they have done very well in those three outings, and are now the only undefeated team in the eastern conference. So far Buffalo is leading the league in average goal differential, thanks in a large part to their 7-1 win over the New York Islanders.

    The teams 1.00 Goals against per game average is the best in the league, ties with San Jose, while their offensive output of 3.67 goals per game is second best in the league, behind only Minnesota and Vancouver. This puts them on pace to be one goal ahead of the 305 they scored last season.

    The offensive statistics are of course being held up be Thomas Vanek who has five goals already. If he keeps up his current pace he will end the season with 137 goals of which 55 will be shorthanded.

    Pulling out the statistics at this point has the Sabres lined up to go 82-0 this season, and with Connolly being injured every game. Well the later may very well happen, all the Sabres need to do is play well enough to make the playoffs, and the way their powerplay has been they will. Currently on track for zero powerplay goals against, 137 powerplay goals for, and 55 shorthanded tallies. That would guarantee a playoff spot.

    Currently the Sabres have a 65.5% chance of making the playoffs, a number that can be brought up to 100% with just 47 more wins. The Sabres can get their next win tonight against the Vancouver Canucks.

    Thursday, October 16, 2008

    Sabres triumph over the Rangers

    Buffalo Sabres
    The Buffalo Sabres beat one of the best teams of this early hockey season, giving the New York Rangers their first lost of the season. The Sabres did so in a way that was very rare for this team last year, with the man advantage. Buffalo scored both of their first two goals with the man advantage, and then got their third goal shorthanded.

    The shorthanded goal was Vanek's second in two games, and the shows much potential for the penalty killing that Buffalo has this year. Both Paille and Vanek flew down the ice to create a beautiful play for that goal. Furthermore the Sabres have yet to allow a goal against this season while on the penalty kill, and have overall been very good at keeping the puck out of their own net, not giving up more than a single goal in any of their games so far.

    Matt Ellis got in his first game as a Buffalo Sabre, but had limited ice time in the game. Clarke MacArthur however has been showing that he deserves to be on the team. After only being on the opening night line up due to Connolly being injured, he has now scored two goals in the season's first three games and has overall looked to be a very good player.

    Official Three Stars
  • Thomas Vanek
  • Ryan Miller
  • Ales Kotalik

  • My Three Stars
  • Thomas Vanek (two goals)
  • Clarke MacArthur (the other goal)
  • Ryan Miller (only one goal against)
  • Wednesday, October 15, 2008

    Lindy Ruff gets career win number 400

    Buffalo Sabres
    Wednesday night's victory over the Rangers is the 400th win in Lindy Ruff's career as head coach. He is now in his eleventh season with the Sabres and has an overall record of 400-320-103.

    Tuesday, October 14, 2008

    The Rangers start the season well, while Chicago falls apart

    After starting the season with two wins over Tampa Bay in Prague, the New York Rangers have just kept on winning. The team has improved it's record to an impressive 5-0 start in a league with amazing parity. The only other undefeated team in the Eastern conference are the Buffalo Sabres who are 2-0 on the year. The two teams will play against each other in their next games on Wenesday night. Still the Rangers are a bit of a surprise to be doing so well. This past offseason the team lost some of its offense with the departures of Shanahan and Avery.

    A team who has not been doing so well are the Chicago Blackhawks. Well being highly touted in the offseason, so far the team has not lived up to its reputation. The team finally got its first point in a shootout loss to Nashville, but has looked lack luster so far this season. They have been playing well early in the game, but at the first sign of adversity have been completly falling apart are losing themsleves the games. They also have a bit of a goalie problem as Huet has not played nearly as well as they would have liked him to. He failed to save either of the two shots against him in the shootout and has let in a number of soft goals already this year.

    Monday, October 13, 2008

    Buffalo beats down on the Islanders

    Buffalo beat down on the Islanders by a score of 7-1. New York played its second straight game without all-star goalie Rick DiPietro who has been having knee problems. Buffalo however also played their back up goaltender Patrick Lalime for his first game in Buffalo.

    The game had 150 minutes worth of penalties with Rivet and Kaleta each getting two game misconducts and Bergenheim, Witt and Thompson earning game misconducts for the Islanders.

    Buffalo looked good on the powerplay this game, scoring three times with the man advantage. The penalty kill allowed one goal against, but also scored a shorthander.

    Hecht left the game early with an injury and will likely be out for a couple of games. Staffard also was limping a bit towards the end of the game, while Connolly was still out. The scoring in the game was fairly evenly distributed, but Vanek scored two putting him on pace for 123 for the season. At the very least he should not have the slow start that he had last season. Both Kotalik and Pominville had a goal and two assists.

    Official Three Stars
  • Thomas Vanek
  • Jason Pominville
  • Ales Kotalik

  • My Three Stars
  • Thomas Vanek (two goals)
  • Ales Kotalik (a goal and two assists)
  • Patrick LaLime (only one goal against)
  • Sunday, October 12, 2008

    Northeast Division

    The northeast has been one of the toughest divisions since the lockout, but the competition is beginning to level out. Neither Ottawa nor Buffalo are as dominate as they used to be, and Montreal and Boston have improved into playoff contenders.

    #1 Montreal Canadians
    They took second in the division last year, and have mostly brought back the same team. Their most notable addition is Robert Lang who they picked up from Chicago, and will give them some additional offense. The main downside for this team is that Price is still rather unproven in goal, and could go either way.

    #2 Buffalo Sabres
    Buffalo missed the playoffs last year, but should make it this season. Their main weakness was on defense, but they have shored up that position with the addition of Rivet and the return of Numminen. Buffalo also has the division's best goaltender in Ryan Miller.

    #3 Ottawa Senators
    Ottawa won the division last year, but fell apart at the end of the season and then got swept out of the playoffs in the first round. The team has some talent, but there is no reason to think that they will recover from their collapse and are unlikely to make the postseason.

    #4 Boston Bruins
    Boston is a bit of a question mark as they have the possibility of easily making the playoffs, and also finish near dead last. The team has some big name players, but lacks the depth to be a top of the league team. Goaltending is also a huge question mark for this team as it could end up being anywhere from amazing to awful.

    #5 Toronto Maple Leafs
    Toronto has been having a very tough time getting things together since the lockout and this season doesn't look any more promising for them. They have no consistent scoring, and only mediocre defense. They surprisingly upset the defending champion Detroit Red Wings in their season opener, but that is not how the entire season is going to go for this team.

    Saturday, October 11, 2008

    Sabres start season with a shootout win

    The Buffalo Sabres got their 2008-2009 season off to a much better start then last year. Not only was it a win, but a win over one of the teams that is expected to end the season at the top of the eastern conference. Montreal played well, but Buffalo was the better team throughout the game, and deserved to win after earning more scoring opportunities then the Canadians did.

    Buffalo's lone goal came from Thomas Vanek on a bit of a delayed shot. Vanek lead both teams with eight shots in the game. The Canadian's goal came from Robert Lang in his first regular season game with Montreal.

    In the shootout Buffalo looked much better then they did last year. Kotalik started things off with his unstoppable backhand. Stafford then pulled the exact same move as Kotalik and also scored. If these two can score every shootout then the Sabres will be in a good position. Miller stopped both of the shots on his end, although Koivu never really got his shot off.

    Still despite the win Buffalo still looked a bit sloppy with their passes at times, and definitely have plenty to improve on. The powerplay was awful. Tim Connolly was out of the game with an injury, but that's not really even news anymore. Buffalo's next game is Monday against the Islanders.

    Official Three Stars
  • Thomas Vanek
  • Ryan Miller
  • Carey Price

  • My Three Stars
  • Ryan Miller (only one goal against, perfect in the shootout)
  • Thomas Vanek (eight shots and one goal)
  • Robert Lang (scored the only goal for Montreal)
  • Friday, October 10, 2008

    Ranking the top 27 Buffalo Sabres

    Last season I listed the "top 26 Sabres" before the season began. With a new season starting tonight a new ranking is in order. These are based upon the importance each player brings to the team for the coming season. As a result long term potential for anything beyond this season is not counted, also these are not strictly based on the talent each player has, but also his importance to the team. As such the goalies are not really comparable, but thrown in regardless because I did so last time.

    The last list was fairly accurate, but overestimated Connolly's ability to stay healthy and did not give enough respect to Spacek. This year's list is as follows...
    1. #1 Jason Pominville - Although ultimately not named captain, he will still be looked to lead this team. How his stats end up is highly dependent on who he plays with, but he will need to be counted on to play a full game every day of the season.
    2. #2 Derek Roy - Number one last year, the Sabres need to count on Roy again this season. As the center for Buffalo's top line, he is likely to touch the puck more than anyone else on the team.
    3. #3 Craig Rivet - New to town Rivet will be expected to take care of things on defense. This is where Buffalo needs help, and if Rivet can perform then things will go much better for Buffalo this year. Earning himself the role of captain only heightens his expectations.
    4. #4 Ryan Miller - As the goalie he is obviously the most important player on the team, and will need to be solid in net for the Sabres to have any chance. If he can get good in the shootout again, that would earn another three of four wins that the team missed out on last season.
    5. #5 Thomas Vanek - Buffalo's scoring machine had a disappointing season last year. While he still scored alot of goals, he was not playing both ways as much as he needed to, and went from leading the league in plus minus to ending the year minus four
    6. #6 Henrik Tallinder - Will be relieved with the addition of Rivet and Numminen, but will still need to be the team's shut down defender.
    7. #7 Toni Lydman - Same story as Tallinder. These two need to guarantee no goals against.
    8. #8 Jochen Hecht - A captain for most of last season and an alternate this year, Hecht will be counted on to continue leading this team. While he doesn't have the biggest offensive numbers he is a very solid two way player.
    9. #9 Teppo Numminen - Just like last year's list defense is extremely important. Numminen is a very consistent and reliable defender for the team. His only limiting factor is he is not likely to get lots of ice time, and isn't a huge help when it comes to scoring.
    10. #10 Paul Gaustad - Out for the start of the season he is still one of the hardest working players on the team. Also has a history of coming back early from injuries so may not be out all that long.
    11. #11 Jaroslav Spacek - Proved last season that he actually can play. If his pairing with Rivet works well, he could see alot of ice time and have a very good year.
    12. #12 Patrick Lalime - Last season nobody had any confidence in the backup goaltender forcing Miller to be overworked. Last season Lalime earned himself a winning record as the backup for a team that failed to make the playoffs. If he can be a reliable backup once again, then Miller should be able to be better off when he does play.
    13. #13 Patrick Kaleta - Should see more games this year even if playing time is still limited. He is a real difference maker on the team, and is defensively responsible enough to be counted on.
    14. #14 Maxim Afinogenov - May very well prove that last year was a fluke. Has the ability to play very well, and if he gets in sync with Roy and Vanek has the possibility to have a great year. Also is in danger of getting traded mid-season though.
    15. #15 Ales Kotalik - He hasn't always been providing the offense needed, and needs to return to his backhand in the shootouts. If he can keep scoring there, that will give Buffalo some free points in the standings.
    16. #16 Tim Connolly - Will probably miss a large number of games due to injury, but is still a great talent when he is on the ice. If he can stay healthy it would give Buffalo a huge advantage up the middle.
    17. #17 Andrej Sekera - Looked very good at the end of last season but will have to continue to play well to prevent losing his job to Paetsch or Weber. Is likely to be part of the third defensive pairing with Numminen.
    18. #18 Adam Mair - The bedrock of the fourth line will continue in that role. He sees limited ice time, but is usually pretty good when he is out there.
    19. #19 Daniel Paille - Paille is a player that has the potential to be good, but still has yet to really prove it. He still needs to find his spot on the team.
    20. #20 Drew Stafford - Like Afinogenov he needs to prove that last season was a fluke. He showed much promise in his rookie year, but fell off from that somewhat. If he can get scoring again, it would be a huge asset to the team, and if he plays on a line with Roy and Vanek he better be able to contribute heavily.
    21. #21 Nathan Gerbe - starting the season on the minors, Gerbe should figure to be the first call up, and be an excellent player for Buffalo. He won the NCAA frozen four last year with Boston, and has proven himself to be able to play very good hockey. If Buffalo has any long term injuries, Gerbe will be needed to contribute.
    22. #22 Clarke MacArthur - With some NHL experience he may get a call up before Gerbe does. While he has some very good games last season he needs to do so more consistently if he wants to make the NHL full time.
    23. #23 Mike Weber - He will start the season in the AHL, but proved to be good when paired with Sekera at the end of the last season. Despite being more talented will probably be behind Paetsch in the depth chart.
    24. #24 Nathan Paetsch - Currently the seventh defenseman he will need to rebound from last season which was a bit of a disappointment for him. Still it is highly unlikely that the team will go all year without any injuries so he should see some playing time.
    25. #25 Tim Kennedy - Fresh out of college he will not see much time in the NHL this season, but looks to be a very good player down the road. If he does get called up count on him to look impressive.
    26. #26 Andrew Peters - Will have a hard time justifying his roster spot with so much talent in the team's prospects. Furthermore with Kaleta playing a more prominent (and well rounded) role Peters may no longer really have a spot on the team. In fact new Sabre and captain Craig Rivet is probably even a better fighter than Peters is.
    27. #27 Matt Ellis - not really sure why he is on the team. If he couldn't make the cut with the Las Angles Kings there is no reason to believe that he deserves to be here.

    Thursday, October 9, 2008

    The season begins

    After four games were played in Europe last weekend, the NHL season gets underway for real tonight with four games being played. Buffalo gets in their first game of the season tomorrow against the Montreal Canadians. Despite all the talk about the Sabres wanting to get off to a good start this season, the Canadians are a tough opponent, and will be good this year.

    Weber was recently sent to Portland, to get Buffalo under the roster limit. Matt Ellis is remaining with the club, but it is still not cler if he will actually play in the game or not. Paetsche has been kept with Buffalo as well, but is expected to be a healthy scratch.

    Chicago got a free conditional draft pick, by claiming former Sabre Doug Janik from waivers and then immediatly trading him back.

    Wednesday, October 8, 2008

    Captain Rivet?

    Buffalo Sabres
    Today Lindy Ruff named Craig Rivet as captain of the Buffalo Sabres. For the Sabre I know the least about to be named captain is a move that nobody expected, including Rivet himself. The selection was the result of the players choice, which early last season resulted in Hecht being captain in October.

    Rivet is a bit of a surprise as he has never played for Buffalo before, but did well in the preseason, and was given the captains role from time to time there as well.

    The Sabres also named four alternative captains, which will rotate on a home and away basis. They are Jason Pominville, Teppo Numminen, Jaroslav Spacek, and Jochen Hecht. None of whose selection is surprising, except for the fact that there are so many of them.

    This also results in a shift towards the defense as three of the five captains are defensemen, which is not only odd because the role of captain usually goes to an offensive player, but also because a typical roster has twice as many offensive players to begin with.

    Monday, October 6, 2008

    Buffalo finishes the preseason in Detroit

    Buffalo Sabres
    Buffalo finished its preseason schedule with a 3-0 loss to the Red Wings. The game was much closer then the score indicates though, as the final goal was an empty netter, and Roy put one in the net, that didn't count only because the NHL doesn't use replay in the preseason. And seeing as how it doesn't really count there is no reason that they should.

    Andrej Sekera got alot of playing time (lead the team) and looked good. He was only a minus one in the game for being on the ice for the empty netter. In less play time Sabres newcomer Craig Rivet also looked good, but was on the ice for all three goals against.

    Buffalo's powerplay was also very poor in this game going zero for eleven. Sometimes the couldn't even get the puck in the zone, other times Ty Conklin played well, and earned himself the shutout.

    Sunday, October 5, 2008

    NHL season starts in Europe

    With games in Prague, and Stockholm the NHL season got underway yesterday as the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Rangers beat the Ottawa Senators and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Once again starting the regular season in Europe as they did last season in England. Two more games will be played in Europe today, and then the regular season in North America finally gets started later this week.

    The Sabres have another preseason game late this afternoon, at the same time as the Bills game ensuring that nobody will be watching it. Then Buffalo gets its first real game of the season in on Friday.

    Saturday, October 4, 2008

    Gerbe and Kennedy sent to the minors

    With one more preseason game coming up, the Sabres have come close to finalizing their roster, sending a number of players to their AHL team in Portland. Included among the players sent down are Nathan Gerbe and Tim Kennedy, both college standouts who had hoped to make the team out of camp.

    The team also sent down defensem3n Michael Funk, and Chris Butler who is also just out of the NCAA. A number of AHL veterans were also sent down including Marek Zagrapan, Dylan Hunter, and Mark Mancari, Mathieu Darche who will have to clear waivers.

    Weber, Sekera, and Paetsch were all kept on defense, with Weber likely to be sent down before the season starts. On offense newcomer Matt Ellis was kept on the club as well as Clarke MacArthur, and Peters. Any of these players would have to clear waivers to be sent down to the AHL, and all signs point to the weakest player of these three (Peters) being a safe bet to stay at the NHL level. I think the team would be more willing to risk Ellis on waivers as opposed to a player that has been in their system for a long time now.

    Real NHL action begins today as two games get started in Europe. With the Rangers and Lightning playing in Prague, and Pittsburgh and Ottawa playing in Stockholm. The Sabres still have one more preseason game on Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings.

    Friday, October 3, 2008

    Sabres win preseason game against Columbus

    The Sabres won their preseason game Thursday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, one night after losing a close game to Minnesota. Buffalo blew Columbus out in last nights game though. After Columbus got the first goal of the night from former Sabre Jiri Novotny, Buffalo came back strong and scored the next five straight goals before giving up a late one to Rick Nash. Teppo Numminen scored a goal in the game which is the first time he has done that in well over a year. Nathan Gerbe also scored an unassisted goal in the third quarter, giving him two for the preseason. Gerbe has been playing well, and lead the Sabres in shots on goal this game with four.

    The game also had a number of penalties, with Peters, Rivet, and Stafford all getting fighting majors, and Weber earning a misconduct. Rivet has already gotten into a number of fights this preseason, so hopefully he can take on that role, allowing us to replace Peters.

    Thursday, October 2, 2008

    Sabres add Matt Ellis

    Apparently the Sabres need even more depth on offense and have claimed left winger Matt Ellis off of waivers. Last season in 54 NHL games he scored three goals, and five assists. As such I am really hoping that Buffalo is not planing on playing him above MacArthur, Kaleta, or Gerbe. To be completely honest, if he can't make the team in Los Angeles, there is no way he deserves to make the team in Buffalo. Yet if he gets sent down to Portland, he would have to clear waivers again, and hope that the Kings (or someone else) don't claim him off of waivers again. Perhaps this is just a long shot to try and add even more depth to Portland, as nothing is lost for trying, or even to hope that he is claimed off of waivers instead of MacArthur. Still this move is a bit curious.

    Wednesday, October 1, 2008

    Luongo to be the first goalie captain

    Roberto Luongo
    The Vancouver Canucks have named goalie Roberto Luongo as the teams captain. Traditionally goalies have not been allowed to be captains. In fact the NHL even has a rule that states that "No goalkeeper shall be permitted to act as Captain or Alternate Captain". Somehow I think that Luongo is going to remain as a goalie this season (he is the seventh best in the league).

    So does this blatant disrespect for the rules mean that Ryan Miller has a possibility of taking on the role of captain for the Sabres this season? Last year he acted, and was viewed as, the de facto captain and may do so again this year. However will Ruff (himself a former assistant captain) go against years of tradition and allow Miller to wear a letter. Furthermore what happens when the backup plays a game? Does the team just have their captain sit on the bench for the entire game? I don't think that it will happen in Buffalo, at least not with the number of qualified leaders that the team already has.

    On a completely unrelated note, the Buffalo Sabres have signed a five year deal with Coca Cola. This will give Coke "exclusive pouring rights within HSBC Arena", in short you will have to buy your Pepsi elsewhere.