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 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.

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 and for some stats.

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.

The NHL Conference Finals begin tonight in the West with the #1 Detroit Red Wings facing off against the #5 Dallass Stars. Tomorrow night in the East the #6 Philadelphia Flyers take on the #2 Pittsburgh Penguins.

I’m rooting for the Flyers.

I know, I know; How could one do such a thing being a Buffalo Sabres fan. Since the Sabres didn’t even make the playoffs, and the Minnesota Wild (who I was rooting for in the West) were eliminated in round one, I needed a team to pull for. Believe me, this decision didn’t come easy. I hate the Flyers. I really do. And to be honest (being an Atlanta Falcons fan), I don’t like the Eagles either. Philadelphia is not a sports city I particularly care for. Even so, I want to see ex-Sabres, Daniel Briere and Martin Biron win the cup. Both players left Buffalo, a city that revered them, abruptly and dramatically.

Biron was traded to Philadelphia via a three way deal: Buffalo sent Biron to Philly and sent a fifth round pick in the 2007 draft to Columbus. The Sabres in return received goalie Ty Conklin from Columbus, and the Flyers also received a second round pick in the 2007 draft. This all happened at the trade deadline with only a handful of games left before the start of the 2007 post season. Biron was drafted by Buffalo as a first round pick in 1995, and up until being traded, he was the longest serving Sabre on the squad. A likable persona to Buffalo fans, he is a class act and had talent to back it up. Even so, Biron played second fiddle his entire career in Buffalo to such goalies as, Dominik Hasek, Steve Shields, Mika Noronen, and of course Ryan Miller. He seemed to be Miller’s backbone during the 2005-2006 post lockout season and the 2006-2007 Presidents Trophy season. Even more, Biron gave Miller moral support, guidance, and friendship. In his last season with Buffalo, Biron had a 12-4-1 record. Talk about an awesome backup goalie. His stats with the Sabres are 134-115-25-4 with 18 shutouts and a 2.53 goals against average. He has also never played in a post season game in his career until this season; Now he finds himself with the chance to play for the Stanley Cup. Something he has only been able to watch his teammates do throughout his career. Biron’s current post season record is 8-4 with 34 goals against and 395 saves with 1 shutout, and a .914 save percentage. It’s tough to root against a guy like that.

Then there is Daniel Briere. A player who was unanimously a fan favorite in Buffalo. He scored goals and played hard, but he wasn’t just a talented hockey player, he was also the teams pretty boy. He was the closest thing to Tom Brady Buffalo sports has ever experienced; Women loved him, and guys loved watching him perform on the ice. Sabres fans can easily recall the 2006-2007 season, when Briere was boarded hard by NHL love child, Alexander Ovechkin. The Buffalo fan base went into an outrage over the cheap shot, and awesomely, so did Briere’s teammates who leaped to the defense of their captain. Daniel Briere could have easily become a legend in Buffalo. Some things just aren’t meant to be. Briere’s departure from the Sabres organization was a head scratching, upsetting, frustrating, ‘WTF’ type of blunder by the Sabres brass. At the end of the 2006-2007 season, after Buffalo was eliminated for the second year in a row at the Eastern Conference Finals (by Carolina and Ottawa), Briere became a free agent. Before Sabres fans had time to stomach the playoff loss, Daniel Briere had signed a contract with long time team rival, the Philadelphia Flyers. During an NHL season that lasted 8 and a half months and 82 games, the Sabres management never approached Briere with a new contract offer. As a result, Briere’s agent wisely began talking to other teams, and this move ultimately landed him a spot in Philly. Briere signed an 8 year contract worth $52 million. So far in the post season, Briere has scored 8 goals along with 6 assists, for a total of 14 points. 5 of those 8 goals came on the power play, and 3 of the 8 were game winning goals. Briere has also put 27 shots on net in the playoffs. It isn’t tough to see the fact that Briere was a great acquisition by Philadelphia and a terrible loss for Buffalo.

And that is how Daniel Briere’s and Martin Biron’s tenure as Buffalo Sabres came to a grinding halt.

Even though their colors have changed to a hideous orange and black, I think these two men deserve to win the Stanley Cup. They play hard, with a lot of heart, and they are both classy gentlemen. Not many other athletes can claim to have these virtues. At the end of the 2007 NHL season, the Sabres ranked 1st in the league and the Flyers dead last at 30th. Yes, Philadelphia has made other additions to their team, but it is obvious that Briere and Biron have had a lot to do with the Flyers impressive comeback season. This post season, the pair knocked out the Washington Capitals, complete with NHL ‘superstar’ Alex Ovechkin, in the first round. In the second round they quickly toppled the Eastern Conference’s first seeded Montreal Canadiens in a mere 5 games. Other ex-Sabres of note who are appearing/have appeared in this years playoff race are Brian Campbell and Mike Grier. Grier and Campbell both play for the San Jose Sharks and were eliminated in the second round by the Dallass Stars. Former Sabre, Stu Barnes is also playing for the Stanley Cup this year. Barnes played for Buffalo when they last appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1999; the year of Brett Hull’s infamous NO GOAL. Ironically enough, Barnes is now playing for the very team who eliminated him from Stanley Cup contention nearly a decade ago; the Dallass Stars. The Buffalo goal tender at that time was Dominik Hasek who is now playing for the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings are still alive in the post season, and Hasek will have another chance to win Lord Stanley’s Cup. Another notable ex-Sabre who played this post season, was New York Ranger Chris Drury. His team was eliminated in the second round by the Penguins.

Daniel Briere and Martin Biron continue their quest for the Cup when they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins, tomorrow night at 7:30pm, for Game 1 in the Eastern Conference Finals. I hope the duo shame Marc-Andre Fleury, Evgeni Malkin, and the annoying, cocky, NHL poster boy, Sidney Crosby.

I never thought I’d say this . . . GO FLYERS!!

Without a doubt it is ‘make or break’ time for the Buffalo Sabres who currently sit at 9th place in the Eastern Conference standings of the NHL. If the team hopes to make the playoffs, they need to start a run tonight against the Philadelphia Flyers and carry the momentum onwards into June. Having been eliminated in dramatic fashion the previous two seasons in the Eastern Conference Championship round by both the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006 and then the Ottawa Senators in 2007, the Sabres (and fellow Buffalo fans) would be happy with just an appearance in the post season this year. Thus far it has been a season filled with frustration and brief moments of pure joy: losing key players Chris Drury and Daniel Briere to free agency, a rocky start in October, losing the outdoor Winter Classic which was followed by a lengthly losing skid in January, to an awesome multiple game points streak in February. Yet, the Sabres are now 1-3-1 in their last five games. The team now needs to think ahead to the ultimate goal; hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup in HSBC Arena with thousands of fans looking on.

It is far too easy to blame this seasons ups and downs on the departures of Briere and Drury, so I won’t go there. Mainly because both are not playing to the elite levels they did with Buffalo, and their stats are comparable to the top two players of the Sabres;

Chris Drury (New York Rangers) ’07-’08 stats:

  • 66 games played
  • 21 goals
  • 26 assists
  • 47 points
  • -5
  • 34 penalty minutes
  • 11 power play goals
  • 0 short handed goals
  • 6 game winning goals
  • 185 shots

Derek Roy (Buffalo Sabres) ’07-’08 stats:

  • 66 games played
  • 25 goals
  • 33 assists
  • 58 points
  • +10
  • 40 penalty minutes
  • 6 power play goals
  • 2 short handed goals
  • 3 game winning goals
  • 166 shots

Daniel Briere (Philadelphia Flyers) ’07-’08 stats:

  • 66 games played
  • 22 goals
  • 35 assists
  • 57 points
  • -23
  • 56 penalty minutes
  • 11 power play goals
  • 0 short handed goals
  • 3 game winning goals
  • 146 shots

Thomas Vanek (Buffalo Sabres) ’07-’08 stats:

  • 66 games played
  • 27 goals
  • 25 assists
  • 52 points
  • +1
  • 48 penalty minutes
  • 14 power play goals
  • 0 short handed goals
  • 7 game winning goals
  • 199 shots

On paper, these stats show how the roles of Drury and Briere have been filled. Regardless, both players are currently on playoff teams as the Rangers sit in 7th place and the Flyers in 8th. Still, the Sabres are right behind them. If Buffalo manages to win tonight, they will only be one point behind the Flyers with 73. Philadelphia currently has 74 points and the Rangers are tied with the Bruins at 76. Buffalo is riding close though with 71 points. A win tonight would put them only two wins away from surpassing both New York and Boston by placing 5th behind Ottawa who has 80 points along with New Jersey who have the same.

Lets not forget what the New York Giants did this year in the NFL; Their Championship run began late in the football season when their playoff hopes were threatened. The Giants were faced with some ‘make or break’ situations at the end of the season in which they emerged the victor. Their first opponent in said win streak was the Buffalo Bills (how ironic), and they were able to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy over the evil New England Patriots. The New York Giants feared nobody, and the Sabres need to get into the same state of mind.

So what or whom is to blame for this seasons roller-coaster ride thus far; A lack of consistent leadership? Missing depth in the line up? A lack of ‘star power’? The list could go on. While the aforementioned problems with the team do need to be addressed, they are not to blame for this seasons lack of consistency; The Sabres must possess confidence, fearlessness, determination, and focus in order to achieve the ultimate goal. The players need to believe in themselves, their coach, and their fans. If they can do this, June will be a month to remember.

And it all begins tonight.