Saturday, February 28, 2009

Not playing offense in front of Lalime

Buffalo Sabres Patrick Lalime
Patrick Lalime has a disappointing record of 2-8-2, but is actually a far better player than his win loss record indicates. The problem is that whenever Lalime gets in a game the Sabres don't play any good offense in front of him.

Last Thursday he played great against the Hurricanes stopping 31 of 32 shots, but ended up with an shootout loss after the Sabres could only manage one goal themselves and none in the shootout.

In Lalime's last ten games played the Sabres only scored more than two goals in a single one of those games and averaged only 1.9 goals per game. Overall this season the Sabres are averaging 2.82 goals per game. If Buffalo would keep up this scoring pace when Lalime is in net, they would have been able to win a number of those games, especially as many of them were very close.

There is also no reason to see why the change in goaltender would result in any significant change to Buffalo's play. Both Lalime and Miller play a similar style, and neither of them are big puck movers like Turco and Biron are.

Buffalo just needs to player better in front of Lalime, and stop making him look so bad. Buffalo will get a good chance to do so Saturday night when they play the New York Islanders. If there was ever a chance to run up the score on an opponent, this is it.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Sabres only get one

Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres outplayed the Carolina Hurricanes through most of their 2-1 shootout loss, but were unable to take a commanding lead at any time. Buffalo outshot Carolina 37-32 and for most of the night were the all around better team. The Sabres real problem in this game is that they only had one goal to show for it, and ended the night with only one point.

Carolina for their part did just enough to hang on, and for the most part rode their goalie Cam Ward to the victory. Ward had 36 saves, plus he stopped all three shots in the shootout.

The Sabres shootout was in trouble this game, with none of the shooters scoring and even Kotalik not being able to get anything right. Buffalo was without Ryan Miller, who has been among the best goaltenders in the shootout this season, but still got a decent showing from Lalime who stopped two of three and had an all around solid game.

Official Three Stars
  • Cam Ward
  • Anton Babchuk
  • Joni Pitkanen

  • My Three Stars
  • Cam Ward (36 saves, one goal against, three for three in the shootout)
  • Patrick Lalime (31 saves, one goal against)
  • Anton Babchuk (one goal, five shots)

  • Thursday, February 26, 2009

    Another Loss to the Ducks

    Once again the Sabres came out very poorly in a loss to the Anaheim Ducks. Gaustad and Kotalik both scored, but they were the only players who did anything on offense. Both goals came from Kotalik just blasting the puck into the net, and it's something this team has to do more often.

    The Ducks received solid play from Buffalo native Todd Marchant. While getting outshot by the Sabres in the first period, they better took advantage of Buffalo's defensive breakdowns.

    Official Three Stars
  • Jean-Sebastien Giguere
  • Todd Marchant
  • Paul Gaustad

  • My Three Stars
  • Ales Kotalik (one goal, one assist, five shots)
  • Todd Marchant (one goal, one assist, plus two)
  • Teemu Selanne (one goal, plus one, four shots)

  • Tuesday, February 24, 2009

    Life without Ryan Miller

    Buffalo Sabres
    With Ryan Miller's ankle sprain he will be out for some time, and will leave the Sabres without one of the leagues best goaltenders to rely on. From personal experience I know that ankle sprains can mean anything as far as time out goes, but that the absolute worst thing you can do is to come back too early.

    So for the short term that leaves Patrick Lalime and Jhonas Enroth as the Sabres goalies. Enroth is a promising prospect who played very well last season in Sweden and has looked decent so far this year in the AHL. He may well be the future goaltender for this team if something happens to Miller.

    However in the coming days Lalime will be getting the vast majority of the starts. His record this season had not been too good, but more often then not that was the result of the play in front of him, and not Lalime playing poorly. Last season he had a winning record for a non-playoff team in Chicago getting a bunch of starts due to an injury to the starting goaltender there.

    The other option is to trade for a goaltender, but with the trading deadline just over a week away there are only a limited number of options available. There is no obvious team looking to give up a quality goaltender and it is unlikely that the Sabres could pick up someone much better than Lalime. Detroit would probably trade Osgood, but given how he has played this season, the Sabres probably wouldn't want him. A trade for a big name player is more unlikely because Miller should be back in time for the playoffs, so this would be an even shorter term player rental.

    The best option for the Sabres is to hope that their defense stays healthy and the Lalime is good enough to get the job done. He looked good the last two games in which he replaced Miller, lets now see him win some starts.

    Sunday, February 22, 2009

    A Win mitigated by the possibility of injury

    The Buffalo Sabres soundly beat the New York Rangers on Saturday night 4-2. The Sabres may be in trouble as a whole though as Ryan Miller had to leave the game injured. Currently it isn't clear how bad it is, but Buffalo needs its starting goaltender going into the playoffs.

    Buffalo soundly outplayed the Rangers for the first two periods. Then following Miller's injury at the beginning of the third, they started to allow the Rangers to get some shots on net. Still after allowing a powerplay goal right after going in Lalime played well enough to give Buffalo the win.

    Tallinder returned for this game, and the defense was all around better as a result. The Rangers first goal where two players were on the guy with the puck looked like the only real defensive mistake that was made all game, and Buffalo is now doing better as far as injuries go, although having Miller and Vanek out isn't exactly ideal.

    Official Three Stars
  • Derek Roy
  • Daniel Paille
  • Tim Connolly

  • My Three Stars
  • Derek Roy (one goal, two assists, plus two)
  • Daniel Paille (one goalthree shots)
  • Ryan Miller (zero goals against, 20 saves)

  • Friday, February 20, 2009

    No Defense results in a loss

    The Sabres need to step up their defense a bit. Ryan Miller played a great game despite letting four goals in, while there was enough scoring to keep the Sabres in the game. The defense was repeatedly bad. If not for Miller the score would have been far worse. Players were forever uncovered right in front of the net, and the Flyers managed to get a three on two while shorthanded. Spacek scored two goals, and was still bad enough in his own end to finish the game minus one.

    Hopefully Tallinder can get back soon, and the rest of the team can remember how to play both ways. Unless that happens, there is no way that Buffalo will be in the playoffs.

    Official Three Stars
  • Mike Richards
  • Simon Gagne
  • Jaroslav Spacek

  • My Three Stars
  • Mike Richards (two goals, three assists, plus five, five shots)
  • Derek Roy (one goal, one assist)
  • Simon Gagne (two assists, plus two)

  • Wednesday, February 18, 2009

    A Solid Win against the Leafs

    Buffalo Sabres
    The Sabres won a 4-1 game against the Maple Leafs on Tuesday night, but still looked a bit shaky at times.

    While the game was pretty well decided after the Sabres ended the first period with a 3-0 lead, things did not go perfect. Two of the goals were a bit soft and Justin Pogge did not play great in what was only his third NHL start ever. Also the Sabres were outworked in the first ten minutes of the game, and allowed a powerplay goal against, when just a month ago, the penalty kill was a highlight for this team.

    Stafford played well scoring two powerplay goals, while the team also got bailed out by Miller most of the night. Ellis also had a good game filling in the role traditionally done by Gaustad.

    Pominville had one of his goals discounted after it bounced off of his chest. The goal should have been good, but the game was pretty well decided by that point anyhow. Buffalo beat a team that they were supposed to, while Carolina lost giving the Sabres a bit more separation.

    Official Three Stars
  • Ryan Miller
  • Drew Stafford
  • Niklas Hagman

  • My Three Stars
  • Ryan Miller (27 saves, .964SV%)
  • Drew Stafford (two goals)
  • Daniel Paille (one goal, one assist, three shots, plus two)

  • Tuesday, February 17, 2009

    Coming apart against the Hurricanes

    The Sabres did not show up in this game at all. They gave no effort all night and failed to score any goals loosing the game 3-0.

    Lalime was put in net for the final two periods, and while he played very well, the team in front of him was still bad. The one goal that did get past Lalime should never have counted, but given how bad the rest of the team was that is a minor issue.

    The Sabres allowed 47 shots against, allowed an unassisted powerplay goal, and took advantage of none of their own powerplay opportunities.

    Official Three Stars
  • Cam Ward
  • Eric Staal
  • Patrick Lalime

  • My Three Stars
  • Eric Staal (one goal, two assists, seven shots)
  • Cam Ward (shutout, 36 saves)
  • Patrick Lalime (28 saves)

  • Saturday, February 14, 2009

    An eventful game

    Buffalo Sabres
    The Buffalo Sabres beat the San Jose Sharks 6-5 in a shootout, in what may have been the most exciting game of the year. The Sharks came in as the best team in the Western conference, while the Sabres have struggled in their last two games against a poor team in Ottawa.

    However the Sabres came through in this game. Buffalo scored three early goals to take a commanding lead early and looked good throughout. They gave up a goal late in the first period to make the score 3-1, but Buffalo was consistently out skating the Sharks and had more scoring chances then them by far.

    The second period was not as good for Buffalo with San Jose outshooting them 17-8 in the period and closing the score to a 4-3 Buffalo lead. Going into the third things did not look as promising and it was mostly assumed that the Sharks would take the lead in this game. They did, but instead of this turning into a 5-4 San Jose victory the Sabres tied up the game with four seconds left.

    To get the goal at the end of regulation the Sabres had a line of Hecht, Pominville, and Ellis on the ice, none of who have been particularly hot lately. Ellis however won the faceoff, and without Gaustad in the lineup, I guess he must be our top guy.

    Rivet had a good game against his former team, with his shots from the point being tipped in for both the first and final goals of the game. The final shot was tipped in by Jason Pominville who scored in the first time in forever, and then had another goal in the shootout after having an assist earlier in the game. Roy also posted the same stats as a goal, an assist and a shootout goal.

    The shootout got off to a slow start for the Sabres with the regular three shooters of Kotalik, Stafford, and Connolly all failing to score. Kotalik did not even try to go backhand, but did have a decent game for the Sabres as he scored the team's lone goal in the second period. Miller however came through on the shootout and saved four of the five shots against him.

    For a look at this game through the lens of the recent Flight 3407 tragedy, The Gooses Roost has a good look at things.

    Official Three Stars
  • Craig Rivet
  • Joe Thornton
  • Jason Pominville

  • My Three Stars
  • Craig Rivet (three assists)
  • Jason Pominville (one goal, one assist, five shots, a shootout goal)
  • Patrick Marleau (2 goals, a shootout goal)

  • Friday, February 13, 2009

    Unable to beat Ottawa

    For the second straight game in a row, the Buffalo Sabres failed to beat the Ottawa Senators scoring just one goal in the loss.

    Ottawa is on a bit of a rebound now under their new coach, but are still a weak team and one that the Sabres should have beaten. The Penalty Kill was part of the Sabres problem as they allowed two goals against when down a player.

    This team is really missing Gaustad and Vanek. While the two players are very different, they both take the job of standing in front of the net, and it is clear that the rest of this team is not in a position to easily take over that role. However both will still be out for a while.

    Official Three Stars
  • Jason Spezza
  • Ryan Miller
  • Brendan Bell

  • My Three Stars
  • Jason Spezza (one goal, one assist, five shots)
  • Brian Elliott (31 saves, only one goal against)
  • Brendan Bell (2 assists, three shots)

  • Wednesday, February 11, 2009

    AHL in Buffalo

    The Portland Pirates played a game against the Albany River Rats at HSBC arena Tuesday night. Without the game on television I didn't actually see it, but following a large brawl the Pirates lost 5-4 in a shootout.

    The game was pretty well attended, and while the Arena was not full it drew a bigger crowd then most AHL games tend to do. Trying to do this more then once a year would be difficult, but showcasing the farm team once a year is a good move by the Sabres, and should be repeated again.

    When Rochester was the Sabres farm team, they were just a short trip down the road from Buffalo and well within Sabres territory. Now in Portland Maine, things are a bit more distant and the tie between the teams isn't as close. Games like this help restore that connection.

    Also the AHL is currently running five player shootouts like soccer does. I'm still not a huge fan of the shootout, but going for a full five players is a better system then having just three.

    Nathan Gerbe will be playing with the Sabres tonight as they face the Ottawa Senators.

    Monday, February 9, 2009

    A look at the Standings

    While it may not feel like it, the end of the season is approaching fast and the Sabres have little time left to solidify their playoff spot. Fortunetlly things are looking pretty good for them.

    According to Mirtle's simple standard of needing 91 points to make the playoffs, the Sabres need to finish the season with a 14-13-1 record. While that does not make Buffalo's entrance to the post season automatic, it is simple enough that they should have no problem in achieving it.

    According to the Sabres have a 76.5% chance of making the playoffs and can guarantee themselves a spot if they finish with a 20-8 record. Still even if they only have a 16-12 record they would still have a 96.8% chance of making the playoffs.

    Currently the Sabres are seventh in the conference which would give them a playoff spot. However they are third in their conference and while they are right behind Montreal, they are well behind the Bruins and are unlikely to catch them, meaning that Buffalo is unable to get one of the top three seeds.

    The Pittsburgh Penguins are in trouble though. Currently they are in tenth in the East and have already played more games than anyone else. They only have a 29.7% chance of making the playoffs.

    Meanwhile out west, the Dallas Stars who started the season so poorly are now sitting in fifth place with a 72% chance of making the playoffs. Since getting rid of Avery they have really turned things around and are currently second in their division behind only the very good Sharks.

    Sunday, February 8, 2009

    Comeback leads to a shootout loss

    Buffalo Sabres
    After falling behind 2-0 in the second period the Sabres came back in the third to even the score at 2-2. However they failed to capitalize in the shootout, and walked away from the game with only one point.

    Buffalo got outplayed badly in the first two periods, being outshot 30-18 and outscored 2-0. They turned things around in the third with goals from Mair and Stafford.

    In the shootout Kotalik and Connolly scored for Buffalo, while Stafford and Roy missed. Miller allowed three of four to get past him, and probably should have saved two of them, but played well enough in regulation that this loss can not be blamed on him. In the shootout the first seven shots were all backhands, with all three of Buffalo's original shooters going for Kotalik's move.

    Thomas Vanek left the game during the first period after taking a puck to the face. He will be out for a few games as a result. Hopefully it won't be for all that long.

    Official Three Stars
  • Brian Elliott
  • Ryan Miller
  • Daniel Alfredsson

  • My Three Stars
  • Anoine Vermette (one goal, three shots, plus one)
  • Drew Stafford (one goal, three shots)
  • Brian Elliott (28 saves, 0.933SV%)

  • Saturday, February 7, 2009

    A big win over Montreal

    Buffalo Sabres
    The Buffalo Sabres came through and earned a solid 3-2 win over the Montreal Canadians on Friday night.

    For the first time in a long while the Sabres were able to dress a respectable blue line. In his first game back, Spacek scored the first goal of the game. Buffalo then got their second goal from Nathan Paetsch who was bumped up to playing forward in this game. Buffalo's scoring was then finished up by Tim Connolly who scored his ninth goal in the past nine games.

    Montreal got scoring from Saku Koivu and Roman Hamrlik, but it was not enough to come back in this game, as Miller played well, earning the win in a game where the Sabres were outshot 37-22.

    Official Three Stars
  • Ryan Miller
  • Tim Connolly
  • Maxim Lapierre

  • My Three Stars
  • Roman Hamrlik (one goal, three shots, plus one)
  • Ryan Miller (35 saves, 95% saves)
  • Nathan Paetsch (one goal, plus one, two shots)

  • Friday, February 6, 2009

    Buffalo needs to stay strong against Montreal

    Coming into their Friday night game against the Montreal Canadians, there has been a lot of talk lately about the Sabres being a really good team. Still they haven't been any better than .500 as of late, and beating the Maple Leafs isn't the most impressive task that there is.

    Buffalo should be commended for the way that they have dealt with injuries, and for continuing to hold on, but that is all. They need to beat some good teams, and recent games against the Ducks, the Red Wings, and the Blackhawks have all resulted in losses. The Montreal Canadians however are a good team, and if Buffalo can beat them in their game Friday night then the Sabres can start talking about how good they are. Buffalo did beat the Canadians to open the season, and there is no reason why they can't do it again.

    Additionally the rumor is that Spacek should be returning to play for this game, so maybe we can have a respectable lineup on defense after all.

    Thursday, February 5, 2009

    Beating up on the Leafs

    Buffalo Sabres
    The Sabres team has had wild swings between success and failure recently, and solidly destroyed the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-0 Wednesday night. Thomas Vanek lead the way with a natural hat-trick while Tim Connolly scored his fifth goal in the past five games, and Drew Stafford scored another to continue his recent success.

    Ryan Miller, who did not play last game against the Ducks, got his second straight shutout, after facing only 16 shots. Toronto has rookie Justin Pogge in net, but the loss was more of a result of the poor showing by those in front of him.

    Buffalo has been short on defensemen for some time now. They got some help with the return of Numminen in this game, but Rivet still looks as if he is playing hurt, and did limp off to the dressing room at one point last game, before returning and playing for around 18 minutes in the game. At a few times Buffalo used five offensive players on the powerplay, and this was probably so that they could give their depleted defense as much rest as possible.

    Still over the past six games Buffalo has dominated in this 5-0 win over Toronto, a 2-0 win over Phoenix and a 10-2 win over Edmonton, but then struggled in losses to Tampa Bay, Calgary, and Anaheim. It's hard to tell if all of these injuries on defense are actually hurting the team or not.

    In an odd occurrence I agree with the three stars selection for this game. Buffalo next play the Canadians at home on Friday.

    Official Three Stars
  • Thomas Vanek
  • Ryan Miller
  • Drew Stafford

  • My Three Stars
  • Thomas Vanek (three goals, one assist, six shots)
  • Ryan Miller (shutout, 16 saves)
  • Drew Stafford (one goal, one assist, plus three)

  • Tuesday, February 3, 2009

    Defenseless against the Ducks

    The Sabres were the better team in the first period, but allowed 20 shots against in the second, and put together very little offense in the third to lose to the Ducks.

    Lalime was in net, but played very well, and kept the Sabres in the game for far longer than they should have been. Buffalo's main problem was their lack of experienced defensemen. The team was down to just Rivet and Lydman for last night, and Rivet had 12 minutes of penalties so his on ice contributions were even further limited. Until the team can get healthy Buffalo either needs to overpower their opponents with offense or they are going to lose a few games.

    Kaleta had the games first goal, and played really well, in part because Anaheim plays a physical game which is one of Kaleta's strengths. The other goal came from Rivet, off of a rebound from a shot by Gaustad. Paul also had an assist on the earlier goal as well.

    Official Three Stars
  • Chris Kunitz
  • Scott Niedermayer
  • Chris Pronger

  • My Three Stars
  • Chris Pronger (one goal, plus one, five shots)
  • Corey Perry (one goal, five shots)
  • Patrick Kaleta (one goal)

  • Sunday, February 1, 2009

    Slow and Steady wins the game

    Buffalo Sabres
    Buffalo earned a boring but solid 2-0 win over the Phoenix Coyotes Saturday night. The Sabres were in control for most of the night, but were unable to really pull away at any point.

    Kaleta returned to the line up for this game after being gone for some time, while Adam Mair once again sat out with a minor injury. Injuries are still a serious concern on the defense, with things getting worse and Spacek not playing past the first period. We are honestly running out of defensemen and would be greatly benefited from getting one or two back. Pominville may be on defense for next game.

    Tim Connolly scored again in this game, making this his third straight game with a goal. He has played real well as of late. The other goal came from Paille, who hasn't been as reliable in the past month, but who hopefully gets things going again.

    Official Three Stars
  • Ryan Miller
  • Derek Roy
  • Tim Connolly

  • My Three Stars
  • Ryan Miller (shutout, 28 saves)
  • Tim Connolly (one goal, four shots)
  • Daniel Paille (one goal)