n47000657_31394824_74687411After 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.

Game Summary

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…

36 seconds into the third period, Marian Hossa cashed in on Connolly’s idiotic play, scoring to put Detroit up 2-0. 9 minutes later, Hossa got his second of the night, freezing Buffalo defenceman Henrik Tallinder and getting the puck past Ryan Miller. Paul Gaustad, one of the few Sabres still playing with heart, got Buffalo on the board 38 seconds later (his 11th on the year and a career high), finding the puck in a scramble in front of the net. In the end though, it didn’t matter as Nicklas Lidstrom scored an empty netter, making the final score 4-1, Red Wings. 

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.

Game Analysis

Some thoughts:

-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.

n47000657_31394819_5112778-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?

Fast Facts

-Ryan Miller is 2nd in the NHL for total wins (32) and shutouts (5) this season.

-Useless stat of the day: The Sabres are 11-4 in their third jersey’s 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. 

n47000657_31394832_3478325The 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:

  1. Boston Bruins (112 points/4 games remaining/clinched conference)
  2. Washington Capitals (104/3/clinched division)
  3. New Jersey Devils (102/3/clinched playoff spot)
  4. Philadelphia Flyers (95/4)
  5. Carolina Hurricanes (95/3/clinched playoff spot)
  6. Pittsburgh Penguins (93/3)
  7. Montreal Canadiens (92/3)
  8. 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…

Panthers Sabres HockeyBoth 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. 

After being booed by their fans throughout the first two periods, the Sabres desperate play was eerily reminiscent to the comeback Buffalo made against the Tampa Bay Lightning just over a year ago. Check out these freaky comparisons:

  • 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.

Weird, eh?

Game Summary

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 Panthers Sabres Hockeywith 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.

Fast Facts

-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, 84-sabres_game_sports_panthers_at_sabres_004standaloneprod_affiliate501seemingly 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:

  1. Boston Bruins (102 points/73 games played/clinched the NE Division)
  2. New Jersey Devils (97/73/clinched playoff birth)
  3. Washington Capitals (97/75/clinched playoff birth)
  4. Philadelphia Flyers (90/72)
  5. Carolina Panthers (89/76)
  6. Pittsburgh Penguins (88/75)
  7. New York Rangers (86/74)
  8. Montreal Canadiens (83/73)
  • In the Hunt: Florida Panthers (81/74), Buffalo Sabres (78/73), Toronto Maple Loafs (75/74), Ottawa Senators (74/73)

Panthers Sabres HockeyIt’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.

Hopefully, history won’t be repeating itself.

Thrashers Sabres HockeyThe Sabres lost to the Atlanta Thrashers at the HSBC Arena Friday night, 4-3 in a shootout. Despite a 3 goal second period, the Sabres couldn’t hold on for a much needed extra point, losing to a club who is out of the playoff race. 

Game Summary

Despite some great shifts from the Mair/Moore/Afinogenov line, the Thrashers got on the board first while on the power play. Vyacheslav Kozlov got the puck past Buffalo goalie Patrick Lalime with 25 seconds to go in the opening period. The score would remain 1-0 until a little under seven minutes left in the second when the Sabres would score 3 goals in 5:05. Danielle Paille got the Sabres on the board with his 9th of the year (and his second in the last two games) by driving hard to the net. About three minutes later, a buzzing Derek Roy netted his 25th of the season, and Maxim Afinogenov capped the scoring for the Sabres (his 4th) with a minute and a half to play in the period. Afinogenov was in the right place at the right time, finishing a perfect feed from Thomas Vanek, putting the Sabres up 3-1.

The third period would begin with Eric Perrin charging Tim Connolly for no apparent reason. Perrin went mugged Connolly immediately after the puck was dropped, and his actions earned him 10 minutes in the box and a Buffalo power play. The Sabres couldn’t capitalize though, and while they had some chances in the period, it would be the Thrashers who scored the next two goals. Buffalo had the man advantage when Jaroslav Spacek’s shot from the point was blocked, sending the puck to Colin Stuart for a 2 on 1 situation. Stuart was trailed by Marty Reasoner, and when Lalime made the initial save on him, Reasoner was there to punch in the rebound, scoring short handed, making the score 3-2. Thomas Vanek nearly scored with 5:37 to play, but Kari Lehtonen made a highlight worthy acrobatic save to keep his team down by 1. Buffalo’s bad luck continued when with only 3.5 seconds remaining in the game, Todd White knocked one in to force OT. The puck sat behind Lalime for a few beats, and as he went to cover it with his glove, White batted it in for the goal.

An exciting overtime saw some spectacular saves from the goaltenders but no goals, sending the contest to a Thrashers Sabres Hockeyshootout. For the first time since the trade deadline, the Sabres missed shootout go-to-guy Ales Kotalik as Roy, Connolly, Drew Stafford, and Vanek all failed to get the puck past Lehtonen. Brett Sterling, who was called up from the minor leagues to play in the game, scored the winning goal in his first shootout attempt; Lalime should have poked checked him. 

Game Analysis

The Sabres have played badly against bad teams this season, and except for the 6 minute onslaught in the second period, the trend continued last night. When the team doesn’t skate hard, they usually end up of losing as their speed and agility are their assets. The longer it takes for this to sink into the heads of the Sabres, the longer it will take for them to go on a successful run.

As annoying as he has been in the past, Maxim Afinogenov has upped his game significantly since returning from a groin (and neck) injury. He has scored 2 goals in 5 games and is constantly creating chances for the Sabres. He’s gotten smarter with the puck and appears to be back to his shifty self from a few seasons ago. The same can be said about new Sabre Dominic Moore who has been great on the penalty kill and isn’t afraid to hit people. Sabres fans are still awaiting his first goal in a blue and gold sweater…

Defenceman Toni Lydman is the unsung hero of this team (when he isn’t turning the puck over), and has come into his own this season. Lydman used to be a wishy-washy d-man, but this year he has stepped up his play by putting shots on net, making hits, and displaying solid leadership for his teammates. Head Coach Lindy Ruff appears to agree as Lydman logged 25:16 minutes of ice time in last night’s game, the most by any Sabre.

Fast Facts

-Patrick Lalime made 29 saves for the Sabres, compared to 34 saves by Kari Lehtonen.

-The Thrashers were 1-6 on the power play and the Sabres were 0-3.

-The Thrashers appear to have Buffalo’s number as the Sabres have gone 0-0-3 against Atlanta this season. To boot, Buffalo was 4-0 to begin the year until Atlanta handed them their first loss. The Thrashers were also the guilty party in snapping Buffalo’s 10 game win streak to start the 2006-2007 NHL season. The loss prevented the club from setting a new franchise record.


-Pat Kaleta has 114 hits on the season and Derek Roy has 15 multi-point games.

Thrashers Sabres Hockey-The Sabres are 7-5 in the shootout this year and have 13 games remaining (6 at the HSBC Arena). The Sabres are 10-3-1 at home in 2009.

-The players with the worst plus(-) rating for the Sabres are Jochen Hecht (-12), Jason Pominville (-11), Andrej Sekera (-11), and Maxim Afinogenov (-10). These four guys combined have 30 goals on the year. The Sabres with the best plus(-) rating are Drew Stafford (+7), Matt Ellis, Patrick Kaleta, Chris Butler, and Nathan Gerbe who are all tied with +3. These five guys combined have 28 goals. 

-In unrelated news, the New Jersey Devils defeated the Montreal Canadiens, tying Devils goalie Martin Brodeur with Patrick Roy for the most career wins in the NHL. Both players have 551.

Final World

Considering the Florida Panthers, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Carolina Hurricanes also lost in a shootout last night, the Sabres only close the gap on the Montreal Canadiens and the New York Rangers who lost in regulation. As a result, not much changed in the Eastern Conference standings:

  1.  Boston Bruins (99 points)
  2. New Jersey Devils (93)
  3. Washington Capitals (92)
  4. Philadelphia Flyers (84)
  5. Pittsburgh Penguins (82)
  6. Montreal Canadiens (80)
  7. New York Rangers (80)
  8. Carolina Hurricanes (79)
  • In the hunt: Florida Panthers (78), Buffalo Sabres (76), Toronto Maple Loafs (69)

The Sabres are obviously far from out of it, but this is the time of year where every point could mean a post season appearance or a final game in April. While the Sabres managed a point last night, they continue to back themselves into a corner. Lalime has now started 9 straight games and he is beginning to look tired. A huge demand was placed on him when Miller went down and he has risen to the challenge, playing very well as a stand in. Unfortunately, the rest of the Sabres are still struggling with consistency problems. Buffalo has been playing .500 hockey for the past month, and if they hope to cover ground in the standings they need to get into a rhythm.

The team will have that opportunity Tuesday night when they travel to Ottawa to take on the Senators, who rank 25th in the league. Like the Thrashers, however, the Sens have owned the Sabres this year as Buffalo has gone 1-3-1 against them. The Sabres cannot afford a loss as their following three games are against the Flyers, Rangers, and Panthers.



Panthers Sabres HockeyPatrick Lalime put forth another solid effort in net for the Sabres Thursday night, and his team responded as Buffalo defeated the Florida Panthers 3-1 at the HSBC Arena. With the win, the Sabres cover some lost ground in the points race to the playoffs as they are now only 3 away from the coveted 8th seed in the Eastern Conference standings. The victory improves the Sabres record to 34-27-7 on the season.

Game Summary

Similar to the last game in Philadelphia, Buffalo got off to a hot start as Jaroslav Spacek scored his 8th of the year just over 3 minutes into the game. Michael Repik would tie it up for Florida 7 minutes later, scoring glove side on a lightning quick goal that Lalime had no chance on. With barely under 3 minutes to go in the first, Danielle Paille gets his 8th of the year, catching a pass from Andrej Sekera along the boards and taking a picture perfect shot that went in stick side, putting the Sabres up 2-1. Both teams skated hard through a scoreless second period, but it looked as if Thomas Vanek had scored as Thomas Vokoun made a glove save that appeared to be behind the goal line. Vanek shot his arms up in celebration, but the ref waved it off. No review was made of the play and the score remained 2-1 at the end of two. Unlike the last game in Philly, the Sabres kept their skating legs in the third period and the effort paid off. Jason Pominville prevented a Panther breakaway by tripping up skater and taking a penalty. Then, Henrik Tallinder took a silly penalty to put the Sabres down two men, giving Florida a 5 on 3 situation for what felt like an eternal 1:06. For the penalty kill, Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff put out Tim Connolly, Jaroslav Spacek, and Toni Lydman. Those guys stood their ground by not allowing Florida to score, and a fresh squad replaced them for the 5 on 4 situation. Patrick Lalime stopped 6 shots in the near 3 minutes of penalties as the Sabres held onto their one goal lead. With under 3 minutes left to play, Thomas Vanek scored the insurance goal for Buffalo (his first tally since returning from a fractured jaw injury) on the power play. Vanek caught Vokoun out of position, easily scoring his 34th of the year and his 17th power play goal.

Game Analysis

When the Sabres actually show up to play the team is one to be reckoned with, as they swarm the opponent and are relentless with their attacks. The problem with the Sabres is that they have been unable to find any consistency since the beginning of the year, and that has resulted in their recent slide in the standings. Team Panthers Sabres Hockeycaptain Craig Rivet couldn’t have put it better, “It was the biggest game of the year. We needed this game to get us back in it. We still have a ways to go but we’re going to keep punching.” That’s what the Sabres need to do; Keep punching. Far too often this club gets down on themselves, figure skating across the ice, expecting things to happen with the flip of a switch. That strategy worked when Daniel Briere and Chris Drury were on the team, but not anymore. 

The line of new Sabre Dominic Moore, Maxim Afinogenov, and Adam Mair produced some of Buffalo’s better opportunities, despite being pointless on the night. The line has played well together the last few games, and if they can finish their chances, it would help the Buffalo scoreboard. Who isn’t eagerly awaiting Moore’s first goal as a Sabre? It was a smart move by Ruff to put Moore on the penalty kill as he isn’t afraid to hit guys, taking them off the puck. On a similar note, it’s easy to get pumped about Buffalo native Pat Kaleta. The guy is mean and tough and doesn’t take anything from opposing players. If it weren’t for Kaleta’s size, he could be the teams main enforcer instead of Andrew Peters, as he’s a better fighter and actually scores goals once in awhile.

Fast Facts

-Panther goalie Thomas Vokoun made 20 saves on the night, compared to Patrick Lalime’s 30 saves. The first period of this hockey game was penalty free.

-Lalime has started 8 games in a row in place of the injured Ryan Miller who is out indefinitely with a high ankle sprain. In that span he has gone 3-4-1.

Panthers Sabres Hockey-The blooper reel highlight of the night was when Hank Tallinder was leaving the penalty box, taking a pass along the boards for a potential break away. Instead of taking a shot on net, however, Tallinder lost his balance and fell down, losing the puck. This had to be hilarious to anyone who isn’t a Buffalo fan.  

-The Sabres are 21-6-3 this season when leading after the first period, and have only given up 3 goals this year when facing a 5 on 3 situation.

-Sabre defencemen have amassed a total of 120 points so far this year.

-The Sabres have won 3 straight home games.

-This game marked Panther player Richard Zednik’s first in Buffalo since getting his throat slit open by teammate Olli Jokinen’s skate 13 months prior. When the Panthers took to the ice for their morning skate yesterday, the first thing Zednik did was go to the spot where his life nearly ended. He didn’t make a big deal about the action, stating, “I was trying to not think about it, it’s just like any other game as it’s a big game for us.” 

-Whenever the Minnesota Wild score, the song that plays at the Xcel Energy Center was the same one that played when Danielle Paille scored in the first period. It felt odd and out of place hearing that tune played after a Sabre goal in the HSBC Arena.

The Final Word

This was a huge win for the Sabres as they now find themselves three points out of the final playoff spot, and still in the thick of the race to the post season. Here is how the Eastern Conference standings currently look: 

  1. Boston Bruins (97 points)
  2. New Jersey Devils (91)
  3. Washington Capitals (90)
  4. Philadelphia Flyers (82)
  5. Montreal Canadiens (80)
  6. Pittsburgh Penguins (79)
  7. New York Rangers (78)
  8. Carolina Hurricanes (78)
  • In the hunt: Florida Panthers (77), Buffalo Sabres (75), Toronto Maple Loafs (67)

On Saturday night the Atlanta Thrashers come to the HSBC Arena. This is the perfect opportunity for Buffalo to gain some momentum going into the home stretch as Atlanta is 28th in the league with only 60 points. A loss however, would be a severe blow to the team’s morale, further hindering their chances of catching up to the teams in front of them. Here’s to hoping for the former.

Go Sabres!