Sabres Hurricanes HockeyThe 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.

Game Summary

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 Sabres Hurricanes Hockeya 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.

Game Analysis

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.

Sabres Hurricanes HockeyEnough already about Ryan Miller’s new mask. It looks cool, sure, but it has nothing to do with the Sabres (Personally, I liked the old one better).

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?

Fast Facts

-After playing in the Eastern Conference finals in 2006 and 2007, the Buffalo Sabres have missed the post season two years in a row.

Sabres Hurricanes HockeyThe 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:

  1. Boston Bruins (114 points)
  2. Washington Capitals (108)
  3. New Jersey Devils (104)
  4. Philadelphia Flyers (97)
  5. Carolina Hurricanes (97)
  6. Pittsburgh Penguins (97)
  7. New York Rangers (93)
  8. 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.

Sabres Maple Leafs HockeyThe 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.

Game Summary

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. 

The Sabres would continue their scoring ways with 11:52 to play in the third period as Thomas Vanek netted his 38th of the year, freezing Joseph and sliding the puck in behind him. 26 seconds later, Gaustad made a nifty move to give the Sabres insurance on their lead (his 12th), making the final score 3-1 Buffalo.

Sabres Maple Leafs HockeyRyan 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.

Game Analysis

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 Sabres Maple Leafs Hockeyentire 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.

Fast Facts

-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 Sabres Maple Leafs HockeyBuffalo hopes to play hockey beyond this week:

  1. Win their remaining two games (against Carolina and Boston).
  2. The New York Rangers need to lose their remaining two games in regulation (both against Philadelphia).
  3. 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:

  1. Boston Bruins (112 points/3 games remaining/clinched the Conference)
  2. Washington Capitals (106/2/clinched division)
  3. New Jersey Devils (102/2/clinched playoff spot)
  4. Philadelphia Flyers (97/3/clinched playoff spot)
  5. Carolina Hurricanes (97/2/clinched playoff spot)
  6. Pittsburgh Penguins (95/2/clinched playoff spot)
  7. Montreal Canadiens (92/2)
  8. 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!

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.”

Oops.

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.


Sabres Senators HockeyHang your heads low Sabres fans. Really low.

The Buffalo Sabres were once again defeated by a team ranked well below them in the standings, and this time it was the Ottawa Senators. Buffalo lost to their division rivals at Scotiabank Place Tuesday night by a score of 4-2. The Sabres amassed a mere 13 shots on goal the entire game. That’s not a joke; 13 shots on goal through 60 minutes of play were all the Buffalo Sabres could accomplish offensively. This mark nearly ties the franchise record of 11 shots on goal, set in 1981 against the Boston Bruins. With the loss, Buffalo falls to 34-28-8 and further decreases their playoff chances. 

Game Summary

Mikael Tellqvist started his first game in net as a Buffalo Sabre, and it was anything but a memorable occasion for the third string goaltender. Tellqvist stood tall, facing 36 shots in the game, compared to Brian Elliot who was only hit with 13. Two of those shots went in for the Sabres, and both goals came in the first period. Defenceman Toni Lydman scored his 2nd of the year on a delayed penalty call to put the Sabres up 1-0. Jason Pominville added another tally (his 15th), shoveling in a return pass from Thomas Vanek, giving the Sabres a 2-0 lead at the end of the opening period. 

Once the second period began, however, it was like watching a completely different game as it was all Ottawa. The Senators got on the board about a minute and a half in when Dany Heatley picked Tellqvist’s pocket, as poor coverage by Jaroslav Spacek left him untouched in front of the net. A little over 4 minutes later, Brendan Bell tied the game while Henrik Tallinder was serving an interference penalty. Early in the third period, Drew Stafford was in the box for elbowing when Daniel Alfredsson scored the go ahead goal. He received a pass from Jason Spezza in a 2 on 1 situation, and a poor read by Buffalo defenceman Andrej Sekera made Alfredsson’s job easy as he caught Tellqvist out of position (at no fault of his own), putting his team up 3-2. As if to punctuate Ottawa’s dominance of the Sabres this season, with 8:34 left to play, Brendan Bell got his second of the night with the man advantage, making the final score 4-2.

Game Analysis

There so many atrocities to point out in this game from the viewpoint of a Sabres fan, that it’s tough to only pick a few. Actually, only a few will be pointed out as hopefully this game can quickly become a distant memory. To begin, the Sabres amassed 9 penalties in the game for a total of 18 short handed minutes. Three of those penalties Sabres Senators Hockeywent to Henrik Tallinder for two hooking calls and an interference call. At one point, the Sabres had 7 straight penalties before they’d get a power play chance of their own. Some people blame biased refs, when they should really blame lazy hockey players.

Despite the poor play and sloppy penalties, the biggest frustration of the night is how the Sabres didn’t fight for their new goalie, Mikael Tellqvist. Imagine how he feels, being the new guy on the team, wanting to make a statement and help the club advance in the standings. Tellqvist makes 32 saves, keeping his team in the game while his fellows managed to only put 13 shots on the the opponent’s goalie. The Sabres should have just spat in Tellqvist’s face as it would’ve been equally insulting to their teammate as their performance last night. The effort put forth in this game proves the theory that the Sabres don’t show up when Ryan Miller isn’t in net. Save a few plays here and there,other backup goalie, Patrick Lalime, has been solid in his nine outings in place of Ryan Miller. All he has to show for it though, is a 3-4-2 record. Without speaking any words, the Sabres have repeatedly shown if anyone besides Ryan Miller isn’t stopping pucks, than they don’t feel like playing hockey.

The rest of the world be damned.

To frustrate Sabres fans even further, Ottawa is 5-1 against Buffalo on the year and has owned the Sabres since being knocked out of the 2005-2006 post season by Buffalo. Add this to the fact that Ottawa is ranked 24th in the league, and it becomes clear that the Sabres can’t win close games against good teams, and can’t win period against bad teams. Buffalo’s chances for a post season birth aren’t over numerically, but after watching this club play last night, the realization that no lead is safe forces fans to accept the fact that this team isn’t very good.

Fast Facts

-Buffalo failed to score on 4 power play opportunities compared to Ottawa’s 3 scores on 9 chances.

-The Sabres had 1 shot on goal in the entire second period. The Senators had 13.

-In their last 7 losses, the Sabres have totaled 13 goals. 

-The Sabres are 3-5-2 in their last 10 games, losing to the Senators (twice), Atlanta Thrashers, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Islanders, Carolina Hurricanes, and the Anaheim Ducks. Only two of those teams are higher than Buffalo in the standings. The three victories were against the Phoenix Coyotes, Florida Panthers, and the Montreal Canadiens, of which only the Coyotes are below them in the standings.

Sabres Senators Hockey-Since the start of the 2005-2006 season, Ottawa is 20-6-4 against Buffalo. Ouch.

-The Sabres started the season 6-0-1, but since then they’ve gone 28-28-7.

-Jason Pominville is a -6 in his last 8 games.

The Final Word

It may be too early to panic about missing the post season as the Sabres are only 3 points out of 8th place, but they keep making it harder on themselves and for their fans to keep the faith. Here is how the Eastern Conference looks:

  1. Boston Bruins (99 points)
  2. New Jersey Devils (95)
  3. Washington Capitals (94)
  4. Philadelphia Flyers (84)
  5. Pittsburgh Penguins (84)
  6. New York Rangers (82)
  7. Montreal Canadiens (81)
  8. Carolina Hurricanes (79)
  • In the hunt: Florida Panthers (78), Buffalo Sabres (76), Toronto Maple Leafs (71)

Something this team needs to do within the span of their final 12 games is to develop an identity, hold onto leads, and find consistency in their play. All of these elements are lacking right now, and it has turned them into a group of losers. After the game against the Senators, Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff said:

I’m very embarrassed. Embarrassed for our fans, embarrassed for how we played the last forty minutes. It’s not acceptable this time of year.

Lindy, 13 shots on goal and 9 dumb penalties are not acceptable any time of the year. On Friday the Sabres take on the Philadelphia Flyers at the HSBC Arena. Anything other than a win in this game and Buffalo’s playoff hopes become nothing more than a hope and a prayer.