Flyers Sabres HockeyLast week the Buffalo Sabres dropped games to the Philadelphia Flyers (6-4) and the New York Rangers (5-3). The losses prevent Buffalo from covering some much needed ground in the standings, as they remain locked in 10th place with a 34-30-8 record on the season.

Fast Facts:

Flyers @ Sabres   3/20/09

-The Philadelphia Flyers have swept the Sabres 4-0 this year. The Flyers haven’t done this since the 2000-2001 season. In the four wins, Philly has outscored Buffalo 20-9.

-The Flyers scored first on the power play via Michael Richards. Dominic Moore finally scored his first goal as a Sabre (his 13th on the year) and it took 7 games to do so, putting the Sabres up 2-1. Moore’s tally followed the game tying goal by Thomas Vanek (his 35th) in the second period. Simone Gagne tied it up again for Philly, but Derek Roy would score (his 26th) shortly thereafter to put the Sabres up 3-2. Ex-Sabre Daniel Briere then scored short handed to tie the contest, and just 1:05 later he beat Lalime again for the go ahead goal. Briere’s second goal came with only 35 seconds remaining in the frame. With the Flyers up 4-3 in the third period, Mike Knuble and Jeff Carter scored for Philly. However, Sabres defenceman Chris Butler earned his first career goal with only 1.2 seconds remaining, making the final score 6-4.

-Former Sabre Martin Biron stopped 39 shots compared to Patrick Lalime’s 25 saves. Biron has a 1.677 GAA against Buffalo this season.

-In the game, Buffalo was 0-7 on the power play, while Philadelphia was 2-3.

-Said Briere of his goals, “On the first one, a lot of weight came off my shoulders. The second one I got to enjoy a little more.”

Sabres Rangers HockeySabres @ Rangers   3/21/09

-The loss prevented Buffalo from sweeping the Rangers this season, going 3-1 on the series.

-Markus Nasland opened the game’s scoring about half way through the first period, and former Sabre Chris Drury scored on the power play to put the Rangers up 2-0 in the second. Danielle Paille scored his 10th of the season to cut the lead in half, but only minutes later Ryan Callahan gave the Rangers their two goal cushion back. Nikolai Zherdev finished out a 3 goal second period for the Rangers, to make the score 4-1. To start the third period, Sabre head coach Lindy Ruff pulled Patrick Lalime from goal, putting in Mikael Tellqvist. 18 seconds into the period Clarke MacArthur broke a 21 game scoring drought, scoring his 13th on the year, cutting the New York lead in half once again. With just over a minute remaining in the game, Toni Lydman netted his 3rd of the season to bring Buffalo within one goal. Ryan Callahan would score his second of the night on an empty netter though, making the final 5-3 Rangers.

-Patrick Lalime made only 15 saves in two periods, while Tellqvist stopped all 11 shots flung his way in the third. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 37 shots for the win.

-Sean Avery, newly returned to the Rangers after spending some time in the minors, was allowed to do whatever Sabres Rangers Hockeyhe wanted in this game. He tugged on Vanek’s face mask that is protecting his fractured jaw, and as expected, didn’t stop running his mouth for 60 minutes. Pat Kaleta had enough of Avery at one point, and shut his mouth.

-Buffalo was 0-5 with the man advantage, while the Rangers were 1-2 on the power play.

-Between these two games, Patrick Lalime stopped two penalty shots, but has given up 10 goals on 50 shots.

-In their last 7 games the Sabres are 1-5-1. They are 3-6-1 in their last 10.

-Since Miller went down, Buffalo has amassed a 3-7-2 record and are allowing an average of 3.33 goals per game. Buffalo is averaging 4.11 goals per game when they have lost during that span.

-Eastern Conference standings:

  1. Boston Bruins (102 points/73 games played)
  2. New Jersey Devils (97/72)
  3. Washington Capitals (96/74)
  4. Philadelphia Flyers (88/71)
  5. Pittsburgh Penguins (86/74)
  6. Carolina Hurricanes (85/74)
  7. New York Rangers (84/73)
  8. Montreal Canadiens (81/72)
  • In the hunt: Florida Panthers (80/72), Buffalo Sabres (76/72), Ottawa Senators (74/72)

-Buffalo’s next three games are against the Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Loafs, and the Montreal Canadiens.


Flyers Sabres Hockey

Special thanks to NHL.com and wgr550.com for some stats.

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!


Sabres Flyers HockeyFor a team who is fighting for their post season lives, the Buffalo Sabres looked completely uninterested in a playoff spot, losing to the surging Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 Tuesday night at the Wachovia Center. The game was tied at 1 going into the 3rd period and it looked as if Buffalo would at least gain a point on the night. However, the Sabres lost their edge, allowing 3 goals in 6 minutes and falling to 33-27-7 on the year. 

Game Summary 

The Sabres got off to a good start, scoring less than 2 minutes in as Maxim Afinogenov netted his 3rd goal of the year while parked in front of goaltender and ex-Sabre Martin Biron. Biron has been solid against his former team, going 3-0 against the Sabres this year. With just 13.6 seconds left to go in the opening period, the notoriously ugly Scott Hartnell would tie things up on the power play getting the puck past Buffalo net minder, Patrick Lalime. This was Lalime’s 7th straight start in place of the injured Ryan Miller who is out indefinitely with a high ankle sprain. The second period would remain scoreless, as both teams alternated between skating and figure skating. Then came a monumental 3rd period collapse by the Sabres. A mere 27 seconds in, the Flyers took the lead as Jeff Carter, standing all alone up front, got one over the pads of Lalime to go up 2-1. An unchallenged Mike Richards would make the score 3-1 when he deflected a sniper shot past Lalime. Minutes later, Carter would score his second of the night to put the Flyers up 4-1, prompting a Buffalo goal change. Replacing Lalime in net was the new trade deadline acquisition, Mikael Tellqvist. Tellqvist looked decent in his first appearance in a Sabre sweater, only letting in a fluke goal that shouldn’t have counted. Hartnell bumped the puck in off of his chest for his second of the night, putting the Flyers up 5-1 with five minutes remaining. It was odd that the goal counted considering a similar goal was disallowed by Sabre Jason Pominville in a previous game this season. The goal wouldn’t matter though, as the Sabres only other tally came with 1:22 left to play. Jochen Hecht scored the meaningless goal to give the Sabres a pair on the night.

Game Analysis

To be blunt, this game sucked for Buffalo. Once again the Sabres were soft in their own end, sticking it to their goalie by allowing Flyers to crowd around the net. While this game counts as a loss for Lalime, it is yet another example of him fulfilling his duty as a backup goalie, while the rest of his team took the night off. Lalime has Sabres Flyers Hockeyshown that he can weather the storm in place of Miller, provided the other Sabres give him support up front and on the scoreboard. Low scoring drawn out mental contests are not Lalime’s forte, and it goes to show how losing Ryan Miller was such a serious blow to this team. The problem with the Sabres is that they aren’t aggressive enough throughout 60 minutes. This has been said of them for the past two seasons, as they are a team who chases sticks rather than bodies. More aggressive play in their own end could have prevented a number of goals in this game, and the confidence meltdown by Lalime.

Props to new Sabre Dominic Moore, who seemed to be the only Buffalo player who was physical and actually skating with some purpose. Moore took some silly penalties, but he did come from the Maple Loafs so that has to be expected. The only 3rd period highlight for Buffalo was by Patrick Kaleta who beat the crap out of Arron Asham with 3 minutes left to play. The fight was one for the highlight reel as both players exchanged savage blows.

I feel the need to mention that the Versus coverage of this game was horrendous. Who gives a crap if Scott Hartnell hasn’t cut his hair in a year and a half. Seriously? This is a relevant point to make when the clubs are tied at 1 in the thick of a game with playoff inclinations? Lame.

Fast Facts

-Biron made 27 saves while Lalime made 25 and Tellqvist 3.

-The Flyers have outscored the Sabres 9-1 this year in the 3rd period.

-Against the Sabres this season, Biron has a 3.19 GAA and one shutout. His career record against his former team is 4-2-1. This stat confuses me : shouldn’t the Sabres know all of Biron’s tricks and ‘isms’? Shouldn’t they be able to lace this guy with goals? After all, he was drafted by Buffalo in 1995 and didn’t leave the club until 2007. It’s just another frustrating example of the Sabres inability to make things happen.

-The Sabres have 15 power play goals in their last 11 games. The club is 5th in the league in power play conversions, scoring 22.5% of the time with the man advantage. That’s great and all, but Buffalo was 0-3 on the power play in this contest.

-Before this game, the Sabres penalty kill had allowed only 2 goals in the last 32 chances. They allowed back to back power play goals against the Flyers.

-Jason Pominville leads the Sabres in shots on goal with 190, but he has only 14 goals on the year. 

Sabres Flyers HockeyThe Final Word

Before this game, Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff stated “That the pressure has definitely come up. We’re playing .500 hockey… and this time of year we have to play better than .500 hockey.” No kidding coach. 

Buffalo has 15 games remaining this season (9 of which are against teams with higher seedings), so it’s tough to not feel like a broken record when every game has a ‘MUST WIN’ label attached to it. However, the Sabres have cornered themselves in the standings, and if they want to play hockey in May, every game from here on out is a must win. On a night where the Sabres failed to pick up a point, their rivals in the playoff picture all gained ground on Buffalo: The Montreal Canadiens won and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Florida Panthers in a shootout, giving each team at least a point. Here is how the standings look in the Eastern Conference:

  1. Boston Bruins (95 points)
  2. New Jersey Devils (89)
  3. Washington Capitals (88)
  4. Philadelphia Flyers (82)
  5. Montreal Canadiens (79)
  6. Pittsburgh Penguins (78)
  7. Florida Panthers (77)
  8. Carolina hurricanes (77)

       In the hunt: New York Rangers (76), Buffalo Sabres (73), Toronto Maple Loafs (67)

It’s tough to see teams like the Penguins and Hurricanes pass the Sabres in the standings as Buffalo was, at one time, in control of their own destiny. Tomorrow night the Sabres square off against the Panthers in a crucial game that may lay waste to post season hopes in Buffalo.


newsabresThe 2009 NHL trading deadline has come and gone and the Buffalo Sabres have made some moves. The most significant of which was keeping glass man, Tim Connolly in Buffalo. Connolly signed a two year contract extension worth $9 million with the club, while Ales Kotalik was shown the door. The right winger has been traded to the Edmonton Oilers, and his replacement comes from the Toronto Maple Leafs in centre Dominic Moore. The Sabres also signed goalie Mikael Tellqvist from the Phoenix Coyotes. While Buffalo didn’t make any dramatic moves by the deadline, they did come out a slightly better club at the end of the night as they went on to defeat division rival, the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 5-1. The victory improved Buffalo’s record to 32-25-7, moving them up into 9th place and one spot out of the playoffs.

Let’s take a closer look at the events of the day:

3447786819Goalie Mikael Tellqvist comes to Buffalo: The Sabres sent a 4th round pick to the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for Swedish goaltender, Mikael Tellqvist. Tellqvist, the former backup in Phoenix, has started 13 games this season, going 7-5-1. He has a 2.86 GAA and a .907% save percentage for a total of 38 goals scored against him on the year. Compare these stats to current Sabres backup goalie, Patrick Lalime who has started 14 games this year, going 3-9-2. His GAA is 2.78 with a .909% save percentage and 42 goals let in. In Lalime’s defense, his team looks like a totally different club with starting goalie Ryan Miller in-between the pipes. In front of Lalime the Sabres have been sluggish with a horrendous offensive output, averaging a mere 2.4 goals per game. 7 of those goals came on his first start of the year when Buffalo beat the New York Islanders 7-1, and another 5 goals came last night with the victory against the Habs. Take those 12 goals away on the bookend games, and the Sabres average a despicable 1.75 goals in 12 games with Lalime as a starter. It’s tough to blame those losses on the backup. That being said, since Miller went down with a high ankle sprain on February 21st, Patrick has carried the team, allowing only 7 goals in his 4 straight starts, stopping an average of 32 shots a game. Lalime became a liability when he came down with the flu and head coach Lindy Ruff was almost forced to bench him in favor of AHL goalie, Jhonas Enroth. Enroth’s game has slipped as of late, with the goalie playing .500 hockey. Wanting more experience in net in-case Lalime goes down and Miller stays injured, Ruff went with Tellqvist who with 7 years in the league has amassed a career record of 43-40-8, with 2 ties and 6 shutouts. The last player Buffalo acquired from Phoenix was Daniel Briere, which turned out to be the trade of the decade for the Sabres. Lalime has faced 461 shots this year, compared to Tellqvist’s 408.

connolly-3-21-08-bigTim Connolly signs 2 year $9 million deal: In his last three seasons with Buffalo Tim Connolly has missed 149 games, playing in only 79 contests. Assuming Connolly misses more time, this signing may turn out to be a waste of money for the Sabres. No Sabre is more injury prone than Connolly, as he’s never been the same after suffering a concussion in the 2005-2006 playoffs against the Ottawa Senators. If Connolly goes down again, this deal could be considered a missed opportunity for the Sabres to trade him for a more reliable player down the stretch. His stock is currently the highest it’s been since the 2005-2006 season, and now that he’s staying put, Sabres fans hope Connolly’s value continues to climb. Tim’s new contract is a 50% pay increase from his previous deal, and as long as he stays healthy, he is worth the money. Says Connolly of the signing, “Glad that I was able to stay in Buffalo, great hockey town, great place to play, great group of guys. I’m just looking forward to the rest of the season, and doing what we can do to make the playoffs.” The Syracuse native has 11 goals and 16 assists (27 points) in 30 games played this year. He has a +1 rating with 2 power play goals, 1 short handed goal, and 3 game winning goals. Connolly was traded to Buffalo (along with Taylor Pyatt) from the New York Islanders in 2001 for local favorite Michael Peca. 

Sabres trade for Dominic Moore and let go of Ales Kotalik: The Sabres picked up centre Dominic Moore from division rival, the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for a second round pick. Hours later the Sabres recovered ground in the draft as Ales Kotalik was dealt to the Edmonton Oilers also for a second round draft pick. At first glance, it appears that the Sabres over payed for Moore, a 28 year old journeyman, but upon closer inspection it turns out that he was essentially traded for Kotalik. Moore, who is two years younger than Kotalik, kotalik0has found most of his success this season parked in front of the net, scoring 12 goals on the year and 29 assists (41 points). Moore also has a -1 rating, with 4 power play goals, 1 short handed goal, and 1 game winning goal. Ales Kotalik has spent his entire career in Buffalo, and has been one of teams better players as of late scoring 13 goals and 19 assists (32 points) this season. He has a -7 rating with 8 power play goals and 1 game winning goal. Kotalik also holds the NHL record in career game winning shoot-out goals with 10. Moore, an Ontario native, does fill a hole with the Sabres as he’s a big guy who plays hard and can score. The question is though, will he stick around past this season? He becomes a free agent at the end of the year and may go the way of former Sabre rent-a-players Dainius Zubrus and Steve Bernier. While Sabre fans will miss Kotalik’s hard slap shot and reliability in shootouts, his lazy skating, weak checking, and unnecessary penalties won’t be missed. Kotalik’s dealing came as somewhat of a surprise as Jochen Hecht and Maxim Afinogenov seemed to be more valuable trade bait.

The Final Word: By the end of he day, the Sabres did make improvements to the team, but the next two months will prove whether they were enough to propel the club into the post season. Buffalo looked like the team they hope to be Wednesday night at HSBC Arena, as they defeated the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 5-1. Buffalo got a Thrashers Maple Leafs Hockeypair of goals from Derek Roy (24 on the year) and Paul Gaustad (9). Roy scored first in the game on the power play, and again in the second period. Gaustad’s goals both came in the third, one on the power play and the other on a breakaway while the Sabres were short handed. Jaroslav Spacek (7) scored the other Sabre goal halfway through the second period. A la Ryan Miller, Patrick Lalime had his shutout attempt spoiled by Tomas Plekanec with 1:06 left to play in the game. With the win, the Sabres move to one point out of 8th place, the final playoff spot. While the Pittsburgh Penguins occupy that coveted spot in the rankings, the Sabres have a game in hand on them, so a win would put them back in playoff contention. Here’s how the Eastern Conference standings look:

  1. Boston Bruins (93 points)
  2. New Jersey Devils (87)
  3. Washington Capitals (85)
  4. Philadelphia Flyers (78)
  5. Montreal Canadiens (75)
  6. Florida Panthers (74)
  7. New York Rangers (72)
  8. Pittsburgh Penguins (72)

In the hunt: Buffalo Sabres (71), Carolina Hurricanes (71), Toronto Maple Leafs (63)

Happily, the Sabres hold the tie breaker over the Rangers, and have a game in hand on the Hurricanes. If forced into a tie with Carolina, however, the Sabres lose the edge as the Hurricanes have the tie breaker. With Thomas Vanek back in the line up, Tim Connolly signed semi-long term, and the additions of Tellqvist and Moore, the Sabres have a shot at making a playoff run. Ryan Miller is the teams sole injury and is out indefinitely. His return would be ideal, but as long as Lalime keeps up his strong play and Tellqvist serves his duty as a backup to the backup, it’s the offense that will dictate where this team is headed. Players like Jason Pominville, Jochen Hecht, Henrik Tallinder, and Maxim Afenogneov have been cold all season and need to step it for their team. Thomas Vanek also needs to be the player he was before he fractured his jaw. Most importantly, the Buffalo Sabres need to put together a win streak and obtain some consistency, something they’ve been lacking since losing Daniel Briere and Chris Drury two seasons ago…

Lets go Buffalo!