Lots of great stuff to share with you all out there in internet land. First of all, it’s November and that means Movember has arrived! What is Movember? In a sentence, it’s a worldwide charity movement to raise awareness on men’s health by sporting a well-manicured mustache throughout the month. Some people also join a team to help raise money for prostate cancer research, and men’s health research in general. All proceeds go directly to the cause, and for more info on Movember, go here.
I have joined such a team, “The Ministry of Mustache Growth & Management,” which is made up of various comic book industry professionals throughout the country. Our goal is to raise $10,000 this year, and with 26 days to go, we’re already almost at $1800! If you have anything you can donate, even if it’s just $1, click the link below to help to our team and change the face of men’s health:
Lastly, I’ve written a few more posts on TheHockeyWriters.com about the best hockey team in the NHL, the Buffalo Sabres! Ok, so at 6-5 they’re maybe not the best, but they’re definitely the most likeable. Am I right?
The Buffalo Sabres are officially eliminated from playoff contention.
Despite clobbering the despised Carolina Hurricanes 5-1 at the RBC Center last night, the Sabres will not be playing hockey after this Saturday. By defeating the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 in regulation, the New York Rangers have claimed the 8th and final Eastern Conference playoff spot. If Buffalo hoped to stay alive, they had to win in Carolina and the Rangers had to lose in regulation, but ironically, two assists from ex-Sabre Chris Drury and ex-Sabre Martin Biron’s goal tending ended a tumultuous season for the Sabres. With the decisive win over Carolina, Buffalo’s record improves to 40-32-9.
A little over 5 minutes into the opening frame, Jason Pominville got the Sabres on the board first. Tim Connolly found him on a 2 on 1 break and Pominville sniped the puck over the shoulder of Hurricanes goalie, Cam Ward for his 19th goal of the year. Ward got lucky a few minutes later as the puck almost slid in on a deflection, nearly doubling Buffalo’s lead.
Sabres goalie Ryan Miller had to made some acrobatic saves that bordered on ridiculous as the Hurricanes peppered him with shots early on in the second period. When it seemed as though Carolina had seized the momentum, Matt Ellis scored (his 6th) on a wrap around shot that deflected off of Rod Brind’Amour’s skate 3:15 into the period. 3:01 later, a hard working Danielle Paille set up Jochen Hecht in front of the net, and Hecht batted it in without hesitation (his 12th), putting Buffalo up by 3. Then with 10:13 gone by in the period, Tim Connolly barrelled through his opponent on the face-off and dished the puck over to Pominville who picked the pocket of Ward, getting his second of the night and his 20th goal of the season. Cam Ward, who entered this game with a 1.28 GAA, was pulled after the goal and Michael Leighton came in as his relief.
Buffalo started the third period on the power play, but the next goal would come 9:39 into the period via a penalty shot. Derek Roy was awarded the rare opportunity after being hooked on a breakaway. Roy faked like he was going backhand and easily got the puck past Leighton for his 28th of the season, making the score 5-0 Buffalo. Ryan Miller’s shutout bid was ruined by Eric Staal who beat the goalie with 27.1 seconds left to play.
Miller made 26 saves while Ward made 9 and Leighton 11. The Sabres were 0 for 5 on the power play while the Hurricanes went 1 for 2.
Dominic Moore is a guy the Sabres should re-sign during the off season. He’s aggressive, gritty, creates chances, and isn’t afraid to drop the gloves in defence of a teammate. Here’s to hoping he doesn’t go the way of Dainius Zubrus and Steve Bernier.
While playing a solid game, Miller made some bizzare looking plays during the contest; flying into the boards on his back, playing way out of the crease, and being easily baited over to one side while leaving the rest of the net wide open. The Hurricanes couldn’t capitalize until the game was almost over though, ruining Millers shutout. With 5 already this year, it seemed like Miller had overcome his previous M.O. of losing a shutout within the final minute of a game. Oops.
Andrej Sekera was on the ice for the first three sabre goals. Good for him. Especially considering his confidence melt down a week ago.
Henrik Tallinder stepped up his game last night, using his size to his advantage by playing physical. He denied Ray Whitney early in the game on a 2 on 1 break and ripped a puck off the pipes late in the third period. Maybe he read the MintConditionPublishing.com post about his performance in Sunday’s Detroit game?
-After playing in the Eastern Conference finals in 2006 and 2007, the Buffalo Sabres have missed the post season two years in a row.
The Final Word
Even though Buffalo is eliminated from playoff contention due to the Rangers’ victory over the Flyers, the Sabres managed to bring the rival Hurricanes back down to Earth. Coming into the game Carolina was one of the hottest teams in the NHL, winning 9 in a row (which tied a franchise record) and picking up points in their last 15 of 16 games. They had also won 12 straight at the RBC Center. Sabres nation should rejoice about sticking it to the ‘Canes one last time in the 2008-2009 season, and if anything, maybe this game has shaken the confidence of the Hurricanes heading into the playoffs. Only time will tell. Here are the teams that earned a post season berth from the Eastern Conference:
Boston Bruins (114 points)
Washington Capitals (108)
New Jersey Devils (104)
Philadelphia Flyers (97)
Carolina Hurricanes (97)
Pittsburgh Penguins (97)
New York Rangers (93)
Montreal Canadiens (93)
The Sabres take on the 1st place Boston Bruins at the HSBC Arena on Saturday to close out the season. Hopefully they can muster up a solid performance as one last hurrah for their fans in Buffalo.
The Buffalo Sabres live to fight another day as they defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs last night 3-1 at the Air Canada Centre. Ryan Miller stood tall in the win and Thomas Vanek scored the game winner as Buffalo prepares to face off against the Carolina Hurricanes tonight in Raleigh. While they still need the stars to align to obtain a post season birth, the win improves Buffalo’s season record to 39-32-9.
Long time veteran Curtis Joseph was given the start in net for Toronto. This was a surprising move considering the last time Joseph faced Buffalo he let in 4 goals on 9 shots. To boot, Toronto’s other goalie, Martin Gerber is 4-0-2 in his last 6 starts against the Sabres. Regardless, Joseph got the nod and looked good to begin the game as he held Buffalo scoreless throughout the first period. The same can’t be said for Sabres goalie, Ryan Miller, who was the victim of his teams inability to clear the puck out of their own end as Jeff Finger got Toronto on the board first, 1-0.
Tim Connolly got the Sabres off to a hot start to open the second period with two great chances, but was denied by Joseph. Then the Sabres went on the power play and Jason Pominville found the back of the net (his 18th) while Joseph was being screened by Paul Gaustad.
Ryan Miller made 32 saves while Joseph made only 26. Buffalo went 1 for 2 on the power play, while the Maple Loafs went 0 for 6.
Ryan Miller needs to be credited for keeping his team in this game. Both the Sabres and the Leafs were waiting for the other club to take control, as neither went on a consistent attack during the contest. This was frustrating from the viewpoint of a Sabres fan, considering the Loafs had played the night before in New Jersey. Reminiscent of how the Sabres failed to take advantage of this against Detroit, the post game discussion would have been different if not for Miller’s strong play between the pipes.
Thomas Vanek had a breakaway chance about half way through the second period, but he failed to pull the trigger and got checked. He seems to do this a lot. Just shoot the puck Vanek!
The match up marked ex-Buffalo Sabre turned Maple Loaf, Brad May‘s 1,000th career NHL game. Before the game, a drawn out ceremony was held in his honor and to be blunt, it was really weird. To begin the ceremony, a video was played of May’s first game as a Sabre. Then Buffalo color guy, Rick Jeanerette’s voice boomed throughout the Air Canada Centre as a video clip was shown of the famous ‘May Day!’ goal. This was followed by a video of him hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007. The weirdness continued as Rob Ray walked onto the ice and presented his former teammate with a framed photo of the ‘May Day’ goal, wearing an expression that screamed “I don’t want to be doing this right now.” Considering the fact that this whole thing went down in Toronto, and May has played 425 games with the Sabres and only 37 with the Loafs, made the entire ceremony seem out of place and lacking energy. How excited can Loaf fans get for a guy who hasn’t played half a season with Toronto and spent most of his career with the enemy? Anyway, May becomes the 21st Toronto Maple Loaf to play in 1,000 games. Good for Brad May… the turncoat.
Another Toronto player reached an NHL milestone last night, as Curtis Joseph tied Gump Worsley for the most losses in NHL history with 352. Said Joseph after the game, “I’ve got lots of memories. Playoffs mostly. Playoffs are the ultimate. That’s where everything is on the line. A lot of playoff games with the Maple Leafs. A lot of chances and a lot of almosts.” To be fair, he is also fourth on the NHL all time victory list with 454. In the end though, Joseph is just one big loser.
-The Sabres have outscored the Loafs 21-6 in 6 games this season. Buffalo has racked up 5 straight wins against the Loafs, since dropping their first contest of the year against them on December 12. Buffalo has also won 10 of their last 12 games at the Air Canada Centre. Take that Toronto.
-Ryan Miller is 5-1-0 with a 1.40 GAA and a shutout against Toronto this year.
-Curtis Joseph is 16-8-4 against Buffalo in his career.
-Against the Loafs this season, Jason Pominville has 9 points, Drew Stafford has 8, and Thomas Vanek has 4 goals and 3 assists.
-The last Buffalo Sabre to play in 1,000 games was James Patrick. He is only the 9th player to do so in a Buffalo sweater.
-This game was the 2nd in 15 where Buffalo allowed fewer than 3 goals.
The Final Word
While the Sabres aren’t out of the playoff race, their post season dreams hang by a thread. Here is what needs to happen if Buffalo hopes to play hockey beyond this week:
Win their remaining two games (against Carolina and Boston).
The New York Rangers need to lose their remaining two games in regulation (both against Philadelphia).
The Florida Panthers need to lose one of their remaining two games in regulation (against Atlanta and Washington).
Is it impossible? No, but Buffalo doesn’t control their own destiny and that is one of the worst feelings in professional sports. Here is how the Eastern Conference standings currently look:
Boston Bruins (112 points/3 games remaining/clinched the Conference)
Washington Capitals (106/2/clinched division)
New Jersey Devils (102/2/clinched playoff spot)
Philadelphia Flyers (97/3/clinched playoff spot)
Carolina Hurricanes (97/2/clinched playoff spot)
Pittsburgh Penguins (95/2/clinched playoff spot)
Montreal Canadiens (92/2)
New York Rangers (91/2)
In the Hunt: Florida Panthers (89/2), Buffalo Sabres (87/2)
The Sabres take on the red hot Carolina Hurricanes tonight who have won 9 in a row. The game is in Raleigh at the RBC Center where Buffalo has a history of being treated as less than welcomed guests. Despite losing Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals there in 2006, the RBC staff is known for playing mind games with the Sabres; showing footage of Buffalo Bills great, Jim Kelly saying “Let’s go Canes” even though he is referencing his alma mater, the Miami Hurricanes, and flashing such things across the jumbo-tron that read, “As part of President Obama’s stimulus plan, America has offered Buffalo to Canada. Canada politely refused,” according to The Buffalo News.
Here’s to hoping the Sabres can stick it to the Hurricanes one last time in the 2008-2009 season!
After defeating the 2nd seeded Washington Capitals 5-4 in overtime, and then losing to the 3rd place New Jersey Devils 3-2 at home, the Buffalo Sabres left themselves no margin for error when they took on the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Detroit Red Wings last night. The Sabres however, decided to become musicians, writing the first verse of their 2008-2009 swan song, losing 4-1. The loss has put Buffalo’s post season hopes in serious jeopardy as they slip to 38-32-9 on the year.
The Sabres hoped that playing a “must win” game in front of their home fans would give them an extra jump in their step against Detroit, and for the first 13 minutes of play it did. Buffalo pelted Red Wing’s goalie Chris Osgood with 13 shots compared to the 5 Ryan Miller turned away in the same time span. Then, the Sabres went on the power play and stopped skating, opting to glide around a very patient Detroit club. Not surprisingly, Buffalo failed to capitalize and at the end of one, the score remained 0-0.
With 5 minutes gone by in the second period, the Sabres began to lose their patience as Detroit’s strong defensive play began to give them momentum. With 1:19 remaining in the frame, Brad Stuart scored with the man advantage to get the Red Wings on the board first. Seconds later, the Sabres were granted a power play of their own, but Tim Connolly stupidly chopped a Red Wing’s stick, breaking it in half and getting a penalty himself to force 4 on 4 hockey for 1:58. The penalty bled into the beginning of the final frame…
Ryan Miller faced 31 shots while Osgood was blasted with 33. The Sabres were 0 for 4 on the man advantage while the Red Wings were 1 for 2. The desperate Sabres only managed to score once on a Detroit team who played the night before against the Minnesota Wild. Pathetic.
-Chris Osgood is that good. His victory last night was the 389th of his career, which ties Dominik Hasek for 10th on the NHL all time wins list. Buffalo was the town that groomed Hasek and Detroit was the town where he won a Stanley Cup (which he failed to do in Buffalo). Osgood said after the win, “I don’t know a lot of things, but I knew that today I could tie Dom here, so that’s pretty cool. It’s a great honor for me to be mentioned with a goalie of his stature. To do it here [in Buffalo] is a little more special.” This should make any Sabres fan’s ears bleed.
-Both Buffalo and Detroit have a few things in common: they both have horrendous football teams (the Bills and the Lions are the two clubs with the longest playoff droughts in the NFL), they both have dying economies and freezing cold winters, and they both share the shores of Lake Erie. However, Detroit has one thing over Buffalo; their hockey club is superior. Since 1996 the Red Wings are 15-1-2 against the Sabres and embody everything that Sabres fans hope to see in their club in the near future.
-Right now it’s tough not to hate on Henrik Tallinder and Tim Connolly. Perhaps these thoughts come from an angry place, but the Sabres should have traded Connolly and kept Kotalik. At least Kotalik could score in a shootout. To pick on Tallinder, he needs to be more physical in the crease. His injury history has caught up with him and he’s turned into a sissy. That’s right, it’s time to call out this ‘veteran’ with his -5 rating and 1 goal and 11 assists in 63 games.
-The thought that numerous sportscasters commented on how Ryan Miller’s mind would be on his alma mater’s performance in the NCAA Championship Game is ridiculous. Miller should have been focused on stopping pucks from the Detroit Red Wings. Period. If he really was thinking about that college basketball game, his new contract deal should be re-evaluated.
-Where the hell has Thomas Vanek been? Wasn’t he supposed to be our offensive savior since returning from his jaw injury?
-Ryan Miller is 2nd in the NHL for total wins (32) and shutouts (5) this season.
-When entering the third period down at least a goal, the Sabres have only won 7 games this year. Also, in 4 on 4 situations this year, Buffalo has managed to score only 5 goals.
-The Sabres are 4-5-1 in their last 10.
-Sabres/Washington Capitals stats: Miller is 9-3-0 against Washington in his career. Since the 2002- 2003 season, Washington has defeated Buffalo only twice, and both victories came this season on Dec. 26th and Dec. 30.
-Sabres/New Jersey Devils stats: the game was Jason Pominville’s 300th of his career.
The Final Word
It’s not over until the fat lady sings, but it’s practically impossible for the Sabres to make the playoffs. ”It’s tough. Until you are mathematically out of it, you can’t quit. Even if you are, you can’t quit. We put ourselves in a tough spot,” said Ryan Miller after the Detroit loss. According to sportsclubstats.com, the Sabres have a 1.8% chance of making it to the post season and need the following things to happen: 2 losses out of 3 games by the Florida Panthers, 2 losses out of 3 games by the New York Rangers, and the Sabres need to win out their final 3 games. Here is how the Eastern Conference standings look today:
Boston Bruins (112 points/4 games remaining/clinched conference)
Washington Capitals (104/3/clinched division)
New Jersey Devils (102/3/clinched playoff spot)
Philadelphia Flyers (95/4)
Carolina Hurricanes (95/3/clinched playoff spot)
Pittsburgh Penguins (93/3)
Montreal Canadiens (92/3)
New York Rangers (89/3)
In the Hunt: Florida Panthers (89/3), Buffalo Sabres (85/3)
In their final three must win contests, the Sabres face the Toronto Maple Loafs and the Carolina Hurricanes on the road, and close out the year against the Boston Bruins at home in Buffalo. Anything can happen, but things aren’t looking good…
The Buffalo Sabres entered Wednesday night’s contest against the Atlanta Thrashers in desperate need of two points. The Sabres left the Philips Arena with only one however, keeping their already slim playoff hopes barely alive. Buffalo dropped a 1-0 lead, losing 3-2 with only seconds left in overtime. The loss marked a season sweep of the Sabres by the Thrashers, as Buffalo drops to 37-30-9 on the year.
Seven minutes in Buffalo scored first on a power play goal from Thomas Vanek (his 36th of the year) against an Atlanta club that has already been eliminated from playoff contention. The Thrashers responded a minute and a half later when Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller went down early and Zach Bogosian caught him out of position to tie the game at 1. Ex-Sabre Vyacheslav Kozlov gave Atlanta the lead 10:26 into the second period; Ryan Miller made a phenomenal save with his stick, but Dominic Moore was unable to clear the puck out of the crease and Kozlov was there to knock it in. Shortly thereafter, Vanek netted his second of the night (his 37th) when the Sabres were on a 5 on 3 man advantage, tying the game at 2. Notice how loudly the crowd cheers after Vanek scores when Atlanta is supposed to be the home team! With just over two minutes remaining in the third period, Buffalo’s shootout hero in Montreal, defenceman Toni Lydman, took a stupid hooking call to put the Thrashers on the power play for the final ticks of the game. Buffalo survived though, sending the contest into overtime, and as expected it was fast paced end-to-end hockey. While Vanek and Miller were responsible for keeping Buffalo in the game, the two leaders ultimately dropped the ball for their team as Ilya Kovalchuk robbed the club of a much needed point. With only 30 seconds remaining in OT, Vanek tried to send a pass over to Jaroslav Spacek, but the puck hit Kovalchuk’s skate giving him a breakaway and he beat Miller five-hole. The score alloted Atlanta a 3-2 victory over a desperate Buffalo club.
Ryan Miller faced 30 shots while Atlanta goaltender, Johan Hedberg was hit with 32. The Thrashers were 0 for 3 on the power play while the Sabres went 2 for 6.
Buffalo didn’t look lazy in this game but they couldn’t close the door on most of their chances. Thomas Vanek felt terrible about his game-ending giveaway stating, “I gave their best player a breakaway to lose the game for us. It’s disappointing. It’s tough when you let your teammates down like that…. It was a stupid play.” It really is too bad that Vanek had to be the scapegoat for this loss considering he was the only Sabre who managed to score in the contest. Had the Sabres won, he and Miller would have been the heroes of the night. Said Miller of Kovalchuk’s goal, “I tried to cheat the five-hole. He got it up over my stick and hit me straight in the pad right above where the knee break is and powered it through.” Poor guys.
It was easy to tell that there were a lot of Sabres fans in attendance. The arena looked to be a little over half full, and as a result the “Lets Go Buffalo!” chant could be heard loud and clear throughout the game. Funny how the Atlanta commentators never mentioned it during the broadcast.
The loss means that the Thrashers have swept the Sabres this season, going 4-0. Buffalo dropped 2 games in OT and 2 games in a shootout against Atlanta, and the Philadelphia Flyers are the only other club the Sabres were winless against in the Eastern Conference this year.
-The Thrashers have beaten the Sabres 10 times out of their last 13 meetings at the Philips Arena, and are 12-3-3 against Buffalo at home.
-Buffalo’s second string goalie, Patrick Lalime was scratched in this game due to an injured hip. As a result, Mikael Tellqvist played the role of backup. Maxim Afinogenov, Andrej Sekera, Nathan Paetsch, Andrew Peters, and Matt Ellis were also scratched. Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff stated that he thought Afinogenov has been taking shifts that last too long and has reverted to his old ways of turning the puck over. Young defenceman Andrej Sekera sat the game out due to his admission to Ruff earlier in the week that he has lost his confidence. Sekera has only 3 goals in 63 games and a -16 rating.
-The loss snapped a 3 game win streak for the Sabres, and they are 4-4-2 in their last 10.
-In the previous game against the Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo native and Sabres tough guy, Patrick Kaleta suffered a minor concussion when he was boarded by Maxim Lapierre. He was cleared to play against the Thrashers.
-Ilya Kovalchuk has 20 goals in his last 21 games for Atlanta.
-Thomas Vanek has 19 power play goals this season. He is tied for 1st in the league in that category alongside Calgary’s Mike Cammalleri. Vanek has scored 64 ppg in his young career.
-Ryan Miller is 8-3-2 in his last 13 games with a 2.52 GAA and 2 shutouts.
The Final Word
While the Sabres still have a shot to make the post season, this loss has made it a bleak shot at best. Buffalo is still ranked 10th in the East, and the fact that they couldn’t defeat the 13th ranked Thrashers isn’t a good sign. The Sabres remaining opponents rank 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 6th, and 11th in the East and 2nd in the West. Needless to say, it’s an uphill climb for Buffalo to usurp the coveted 8th seeding. Here is how the Eastern Conference standings currently look:
Boston Bruins (108 points/6 games remaining/clinched division)
Washington Capitals (101/5/clinched playoff spot)
New Jersey Devils (98/5/clinched playoff spot)
Philadelphia Flyers (92/6)
Pittsburgh Penguins (92/5)
Carolina Hurricanes (91/5)
New York Rangers (89/5)
Montreal Canadiens (88/6)
In the Hunt: Florida Panther (87/5), Buffalo Sabres (83/6)
Next up the Sabres go on the road to face the Washington Capitals. Then they take on the New Jersey Devils and the Detroit Red Wings at the HSBC Arena. The regular NHL season has only 11 days remaining, and the Sabres have 6 chances to gain ground in the standings. If Buffalo hopes to play hockey beyond April 11th, they’ll need the teams in front of them to lose a few games in addition to their need to probably win out the remainder of the season… Yikes.
In his debut since injuring his ankle on February 21, starting goalie Ryan Miller sparkled in the Buffalo Sabres 5-3 victory over the hot Toronto Maple Leafs, and stood tall in the 4-3 shootout win against the teetering Montreal Canadiens on Friday and Saturday night. Both games were exciting, intense, and gritty, complete with a pseudo playoff atmosphere. The victories keep Buffalo’s playoff hopes alive, and improve their season record to 37-30-8.
Maple Leafs vs. Sabres 3/27/09
This match-up at the HSBC Arena marked trade deadline acquisition, Dominic Moore’s first game against his former team. Normally, Martin Gerber would have started in net for the Loafs. However, due to his childish actions of shoving referee Mike Leggo and shooting a puck in his direction in Toronto’s 3-2 shootout win against the Capitals, Gerber has been suspended for 3 games. While serving the first game of his sentence, long time veteran Curtis Joseph started in his stead. Thankfully, he was horrendous. Only 37 seconds in, Jochen Hecht scored glove side for his 10th of the season, giving Buffalo an early 1-0 lead. 9 minutes later Tim Connolly came charging in on a 2 on 1 rush with Clarke MacArthur. Connolly scored his 15th of the year as he ripped it off the post and the puck bounced off of Joseph’s back leg for the score. Despite being out-shot 14-4 in the period, the Sabres found themselves up 2-0 at it’s conclusion.
Just over 3 minutes into the second period, Danielle Paille scored top shelf (his 11th) to put Buffalo up 3-0. Paille earned the goal on what is quickly becoming his signature move: skate down the left side, wait for the opening, and snipe a wrist shot past the goaltender. Dominic Moore assisted on the goal, giving him his 100th career point. Seconds later, Connolly got his second past Joseph (his 16th) who was screened by Sabres defenceman, Chris Butler. As a result of letting in two goals in 21 seconds, Joseph was replaced by rookie Justin Pogge, who put in a decent relief performance. With the Sabres on the power play, Boyd Devereaux scored shorthanded on a nifty move to get the Loafs on the board, 4-1. The goal was Boyd’s first of the year.
Sabres nation nearly hit the panic button when it looked like the Sabres would suffer another 3rd period meltdown. Matt Stajan scored almost 8 minutes into the period, bringing the Loafs within two on a fluky deflection that rolled down Miller’s back and into the net. Nikolai Kulemin made it 4-3 on the power play 43 seconds later, lifting the puck over a sprawling Miller who had previously stopped a barrage of Toronto shots. Karma came full circle though, as Paul Gaustad scored a similar goal (his 10th) with Pogge on the ground at the half way mark of the final frame. Jochen Hecht began the successful play by snapping off a quick shot at Pogge, and Goose was there to snatch up the rebound. The insurance goal was all Buffalo would need as they went on to win, 5-3.
The final shots in this game were 35 to 24 in favor of Toronto. Buffalo went 0 for 2 on the power play, while Toronto went 1 for 5.
Sabres vs. Canadiens 3/28/09
After a lengthy, grueling, and unnecessary pre game ceremony at the Bell Centre, the Montreal Canadiens got off to a fast start against the Buffalo Sabres. At the outset, the Canadiens were playing tougher hockey than Buffalo, completing their checks and getting quality chances on net. Ryan Miller, however, bought his team time, keeping the Canadiens off the board until they could settle into the game. They did with 2 and a half minutes remaining in the opening frame, as Jochen Hecht’s shot was tipped in by Adam Mair (his 8th on the year) to put the Sabres on the board first, 1-0.
On the power play with 2:36 gone by in the second period, Tim Connolly scored his 17th of the season, getting the puck past Montreal goalie Carey Price. The Canadiens, however, would go on to score three in a row over a 7:16 span. Christopher Higgins got Montreal on the board, and Alexei Kovalev tied the game at 2 with 7:47 remaining in the second. Kovalev scored minutes later on a 5 on 3 situation, to put the Canadiens up 3-2 at the end of two.
Clarke MacArthur scored his 15th of the year 3:58 into the third period, tying the game at 3 (which may have saved the Sabres season). The Sabres swarmed the Canadiens in the final frame, out-shooting them 16-7, but neither team managed to score, sending the game into overtime. Buffalo had the better opportunities in the intense end to end OT, but again, neither team scored, which resulted in a shootout. This shootout was Miller’s first since returning from injury, and to be blunt, he kicked ass, stopping all 6 Montreal shooters. Buffalo defenceman Toni Lydman was the hero of the night, scoring the only goal in the shootout, winning the game for the Sabres. His teammates Tim Connolly, Drew Stafford, Jason Pominville, Derek Roy, and Thomas Vanek all failed to score in the shootout.
The Sabres out-shot the Canadiens 37-35 and were 1 for 3 on the power play, while Montreal was 1 for 4.
Paul Gaustad and Pat Kaleta led the physical charge for the Sabres in both games. They were very aggressive; hitting guys, and protecting Ryan Miller at all costs as he was being bumped by both teams (who even went as low as to blast snow in the goaltenders face). Led by Gaustad and Kaleta, the Sabres players didn’t take any garbage, and their eagerness to defend Miller was admirable as their previous unwillingness to come to his aid resulted in Miller’s ankle injury and a fall in the standings. Former Sabre gone Maple Loaf, Brady May, was trying to pressure Kaleta into dropping his gloves all night long, but Kaleta proved to be the mature one and never took the bait. Still, there were a handful of brawls in the Toronto contest in which Gaustad, Kaleta, and Moore were involved in, and team Captain, Craig Rivet dropped the gloves in Montreal. None of the Sabres players lost their fights as Maple Loafs or Canadiens hit the ice first.
These two games may have been Jochen Hecht’s best two all season. He scored the first goal against Toronto and Montreal, as well as set up the insurance goal by Gaustad in the Loafs game. Hecht is still taking some silly penalties, but his hard work at driving to the net isn’t going unnoticed. Props also need to be given to rookie defenceman, Chris Butler. Butler is a quiet difference maker for the Sabres, as he leads the team in plus(-) rating with +8; he is +15 at home -7 on the road.
Against Montreal, Pat Kaleta was boared by the cowardly Maxim Lapierre. Reports were claiming that Kaleta suffered a mild concussion on the hit.
Sabres fans can’t help but wonder where Thomas Vanek been these last two games. 8 regulation goals were scored and Vanek had 0 points and a -1 rating in the two contests. That needs to change if the Sabres hope to continue their winning ways.
-Ryan Miller is 31-16-5 this year with a , 2.52 GAA, and a .918 save %.
-Toronto goalie, Curtis Joseph, let in 4 goals on 9 shots against the Sabres.
-Loafs backup goalie, Justin Pogge, is 0-3-0 against Buffalo this season with a 4.5 GAA.
-The Sabres have outscored the Loafs 9-0 in the 1st period this season.
-Before coming into the HSBC Arena Friday night, the Loafs had won 10 of their last 15 games.
-So far this year Buffalo has outscored Toronto 19 to 7 and is 4-1 on the season series.
-The Sabres have outscored the Canadiens 19-14 and are 4-1-1 on the season series.
-Against Montreal, Maxim Afinogenov was scratched in favor of Adam Mair.
-Buffalo won 57% of the face-offs against the Canadiens.
-The Sabres are 26-2-1 when scoring 4 or more goals this season.
-The Sabres have had 5 shorthanded goals scored against them this year.
-Buffalo is 8-5 in shootouts this season.
-In their last 7 games, the Sabres have allowed 27 goals and have scored 26.
The Final Word
These two wins and 4 points were season savers for Buffalo. While the Sabres still sit in 10th place, they are now only 4 points away from the final playoff spot. Here is how the Eastern Conference standings currently look:
Boston Bruins (104 points/74 games played/clinched their division)
Washington Capitals (99/76/clinched playoff spot)
New Jersey Devils (98/75/clinched playoff spot)
Philadelphia Flyers (92/74)
Carolina Hurricanes (91/77)
Pittsburgh Penguins (90/76)
New York Rangers (87/76)
Montreal Canadiens (86/75)
In the Hunt: Florida Panthers (85/76), Buffalo Sabres (82/75), Toronto Maple Loafs (75/76), Ottawa Senators (74/74)
The remaining playoff positions are still up for grabs, and anything can happen in the home stretch of the regular season. The Sabres have 7 games remaining, for a total of 14 available points. In their last 7 games, the Carolina Hurricanes have managed to go from barely holding onto 8th place, to being firmly seated in 5th. The point: anything can happen if the Sabres can muster up a serious win streak.
Now that the team has found some consistency in winning 3 straight, the Sabres desperately need to improve the play in their own end and hold onto leads. Both of these tasks won’t be easy as Buffalo’s next three opponents are the Atlanta Thrashers, the Washington Capitals, and the New Jersey Devils.
Both the Buffalo Sabres and the Florida Panthers entered the HSBC Arena last night ice cold and desperately in need of two points to stay in the tightly contested Eastern Conference playoff race. To start the third period, the Sabres found themselves down 3-1, but managed 3 goals in a 2:07 span, rallying to defeat Florida by a final score of 5-3. “We had to be desperate. This is that time of year,” said Buffalo Sabre, Jason Pominville.
On March 19, 2008 at the HSBC Arena, the Sabres were down 4-1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. With 15 minutes to play in the third period, Buffalo rallied to defeat Tampa 7-4. On March 25, 2009 at the HSBC Arena, the Sabres were down 3-1 against the Florida Panthers. With just under 14 minutes to play in the third period, Buffalo rallied to defeat Florida 5-3.
These victories are just over 1 year apart.
Both rallies came within 1 minute of each other in game time.
In both games, the Sabres needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Jason Pominville set up both comebacks, scoring twice in the Tampa game, and once with two assists in the Florida game.
Both contests were at the HSBC Arena and against teams from the state of Florida.
In both games the fans booed the Sabres off the ice.
In the third period Buffalo out shot Tampa 16-4, and Florida 21-9.
The win against Tampa put Buffalo in 9th place with 81 points. With the win against Florida, Buffalo remains in 10th place with 78 points.
At the time in 2008, the Toronto Maple Loafs were 5 points behind the Sabres. Currently, the Loafs are only 3 points behind Buffalo.
Before the game, Panthers right winger, Radek Dvorak was quoted as saying, ”I have a good feeling that good things are going to happen.”
Trade deadline acquisition, goalie Mikael Tellqvist, made his first home start for the Sabres stopping 30 shots in the win. Opposing goaltender, Tomas Vokoun made 40 saves for the Panthers. On only their third shot of the game, Florida went up 1-0 by an ugly goal from Brett McLean. In his 799th career game, Sabres Captain, Craig Rivet scored on the power play with 15 seconds remaining in the opening frame for his 2nd of the season. Richard Zednik (the guy who had his throat slit open at HSBC Arena a little over a year ago) scored the go ahead goal for Florida with just over five minutes to play in the second. Michael Frolik scored on a trickling puck to put the Panthers up 3-1 early in the third period. Then came the 2 minute onslaught by the Sabres. The comeback began as Jason Pominville responded to Frolik’s goal, scoring his 16th of the year and putting Buffalo within one. Clarke MacArthur tied it up on a slap shot and then Tim Connolly scored the game winner on the power play, making the score 4-3. The goals were MacArthur’s and Connolly’s 14th of the season. Maxim Afinogenov scored the empty netter (his 5th), making the final 5-3 Buffalo. Max’s goal triggered a bum rush from Nathan Horton and company, going after Max in a childish fit of frustration.
-The Sabres had only 1 power play goal in their previous 6 games, going 1 for 26. Last night they were 2 for 5. The Panthers were 0 for 2.
-Florida didn’t get their first shot on goal until 7 minutes into the game. The Sabres had already tallied 4.
-Before last night, the Panthers were 21-9-4 when they scored first. The Sabres have won 3 straight and 5 of the last 6 against them.
-History dictates that the City of Buffalo hasn’t been kind to the Panthers or Richard Zednik. Florida is 7-19-2 with 3 ties at HSBC all time (including this game). Despite scoring a goal, Zednik shed blood onto Buffalo’s home ice for the second year in a row (both times from friendly fire). In this instance, however, the injury was far less severe, as teammate Cory Stillman’s shot struck Zednik in the right side of his face shield. He was cut across the nose and quickly made his way to the locker room. Zednik returned to the bench a few minutes later though, seemingly in good health. The injury creepily took place right near the spot where his throat was cut open just over a year ago.
-Drew Stafford is in the midst of a really bad slump, scoring only 2 goals and 2 assists in his last 14 games.
-Although Afinogenov scored the empty netter and put out some tough shifts alongside Danielle Paille and Dominic Moore, the forward seemed to revert to his old ways (of turning the puck over) a handful of times last night. At one point, Max was out for a lengthy 2:04 shift. Upon returning to the bench, head coach Lindy Ruff chewed him out for the move.
-Buffalo color guy, Harry Neale had the quote of the season when he said that Buffalo was trapped in their own end “like pregnant foxes in a forest fire.” I’m not sure if that’s hilarious, ridiculous, or terrible… probably all of the above.
The Final Word
With the win, the Sabres improve to 35-30-8 on the year, but continue to be locked in 10th place. Here is how the Eastern Conference is looking:
Boston Bruins (102 points/73 games played/clinched the NE Division)
New Jersey Devils (97/73/clinched playoff birth)
Washington Capitals (97/75/clinched playoff birth)
Philadelphia Flyers (90/72)
Carolina Panthers (89/76)
Pittsburgh Penguins (88/75)
New York Rangers (86/74)
Montreal Canadiens (83/73)
In the Hunt: Florida Panthers (81/74), Buffalo Sabres (78/73), Toronto Maple Loafs (75/74), Ottawa Senators (74/73)
It’s easy to see that the final five spots are still up for grabs. Any team can begin to slump while another goes on a playoff propelling win streak. Hopefully, the latter is the route the Sabres can take as they are expecting starting goaltender Ryan Miller to return for Friday’s match-up against the Maple Loafs at home. Miller has stated that his ankle is, “as good as it’s going to get.” Buffalo has gone 4-7-2 without him between the pipes, and with only 9 games remaining in the season, they can’t afford another losing streak. After Toronto, Buffalo takes on the Montreal Canadiens and the Atlanta Thrashers on the road.
One year ago, the Sabres mounted an electrifying comeback against the Tampa Bay Lightning to keep their playoff hopes alive. After that victory, however, the Sabres dropped 2 straight, and went 4-3-1 to close out the season. They missed the playoffs by 4 points, finishing in 10th place.