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!

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…


Sabres Thrashers HockeyThe Buffalo Sabres entered Wednesday night’s contest against the Atlanta Thrashers in desperate need of two points. The Sabres left the Philips Arena with only one however, keeping their already slim playoff hopes barely alive. Buffalo dropped a 1-0 lead, losing 3-2 with only seconds left in overtime. The loss marked a season sweep of the Sabres by the Thrashers, as Buffalo drops to 37-30-9 on the year.

Game Summary

Seven minutes in Buffalo scored first on a power play goal from Thomas Vanek (his 36th of the year) against an Atlanta club that has already been eliminated from playoff contention. The Thrashers responded a minute and a half later when Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller went down early and Zach Bogosian caught him out of position to tie the game at 1. Ex-Sabre Vyacheslav Kozlov gave Atlanta the lead 10:26 into the second period; Ryan Miller made a phenomenal save with his stick, but Dominic Moore was unable to clear the puck out of the crease and Kozlov was there to knock it in. Shortly thereafter, Vanek netted his second of the night (his 37th) when the Sabres were on a 5 on 3 man advantage, tying the game at 2. Notice how loudly the crowd cheers after Vanek scores when Atlanta is supposed to be the home team! With just over two minutes remaining in the third period, Buffalo’s shootout hero in Montreal, defenceman Toni Lydman, took a stupid hooking call to put the Thrashers on the power play for the final ticks of the game. Buffalo survived though, sending the contest into overtime, and as expected it was fast paced end-to-end hockey. While Vanek and Miller were responsible for keeping Buffalo in the game, the two leaders ultimately dropped the ball for their team as Ilya Kovalchuk robbed the club of a much needed point. With only 30 seconds remaining in OT, Vanek tried to send a pass over to Jaroslav Spacek, but the puck hit Kovalchuk’s skate giving him a breakaway and he beat Miller five-hole. The score alloted Atlanta a 3-2 victory over a desperate Buffalo club.

Ryan Miller faced 30 shots while Atlanta goaltender, Johan Hedberg was hit with 32. The Thrashers were 0 for 3 on the power play while the Sabres went 2 for 6.

Game Analysis

Buffalo didn’t look lazy in this game but they couldn’t close the door on most of their chances. Thomas Vanek felt terrible about his game-ending giveaway stating, “I gave their best player a breakaway to lose the game for us. It’s disappointing. It’s tough when you let your teammates down like that…. It was a stupid play.” It really is too bad that Vanek had to be the scapegoat for this loss considering he was the only Sabre who managed to score in the contest. Had the Sabres won, he and Miller would have been the heroes of the night. Said Miller of Kovalchuk’s goal, “I tried to cheat the five-hole. He got it up over my stick and hit me straight in the pad right above where the knee 114-57102841standaloneprod_affiliate50break is and powered it through.” Poor guys.

It was easy to tell that there were a lot of Sabres fans in attendance. The arena looked to be a little over half full, and as a result the “Lets Go Buffalo!” chant could be heard loud and clear throughout the game. Funny how the Atlanta commentators never mentioned it during the broadcast.

The loss means that the Thrashers have swept the Sabres this season, going 4-0. Buffalo dropped 2 games in OT and 2 games in a shootout against Atlanta, and the Philadelphia Flyers are the only other club the Sabres were winless against in the Eastern Conference this year.

Fast Facts

-The Thrashers  have beaten the Sabres 10 times out of their last 13 meetings at the Philips Arena, and are 12-3-3 against Buffalo at home.

 
-Buffalo’s second string goalie, Patrick Lalime was scratched in this game due to an injured hip. As a result, Mikael Tellqvist played the role of backup. Maxim Afinogenov, Andrej Sekera, Nathan Paetsch, Andrew Peters, and Matt Ellis were also scratched. Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff stated that he thought Afinogenov has been taking shifts that last too long and has reverted to his old ways of turning the puck over. Young defenceman Andrej Sekera sat the game out due to his admission to Ruff earlier in the week that he has lost his confidence. Sekera has only 3 goals in 63 games and a -16 rating.

-The loss snapped a 3 game win streak for the Sabres, and they are 4-4-2 in their last 10.

-In the previous game against the Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo native and Sabres tough guy, Patrick Kaleta suffered a minor concussion when he was boarded by Maxim Lapierre. He was cleared to play against the Thrashers.

 

-Ilya Kovalchuk has 20 goals in his last 21 games for Atlanta.

-Thomas Vanek has 19 power play goals this season. He is tied for 1st in the league in that category alongside Calgary’s Mike Cammalleri. Vanek has scored 64 ppg in his young career.

-Ryan Miller is 8-3-2 in his last 13 games with a 2.52 GAA and 2 shutouts.

The Final Word

While the Sabres still have a shot to make the post season, this loss has made it a bleak shot at best. Buffalo is still Sabres Thrashers Hockeyranked 10th in the East, and the fact that they couldn’t defeat the 13th ranked Thrashers isn’t a good sign. The Sabres remaining opponents rank 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 6th, and 11th in the East and 2nd in the West. Needless to say, it’s an uphill climb for Buffalo to usurp the coveted 8th seeding. Here is how the Eastern Conference standings currently look:
  1. Boston Bruins (108 points/6 games remaining/clinched division)
  2. Washington Capitals (101/5/clinched playoff spot)
  3. New Jersey Devils (98/5/clinched playoff spot)
  4.  Philadelphia Flyers (92/6)
  5. Pittsburgh Penguins (92/5)
  6. Carolina Hurricanes (91/5)
  7. New York Rangers (89/5)
  8. Montreal Canadiens (88/6)
  • In the Hunt: Florida Panther (87/5), Buffalo Sabres (83/6)

Next up the Sabres go on the road to face the Washington Capitals. Then they take on the New Jersey Devils and the Detroit Red Wings at the HSBC Arena. The regular NHL season has only 11 days remaining, and the Sabres have 6 chances to gain ground in the standings. If Buffalo hopes to play hockey beyond April 11th, they’ll need the teams in front of them to lose a few games in addition to their need to probably win out the remainder of the season… Yikes.

Maple Leafs Sabres HockeyIn his debut since injuring his ankle on February 21, starting goalie Ryan Miller sparkled in the Buffalo Sabres 5-3 victory over the hot Toronto Maple Leafs, and stood tall in the 4-3 shootout win against the teetering Montreal Canadiens on Friday and Saturday night. Both games were exciting, intense, and gritty, complete with a pseudo playoff atmosphere. The victories keep Buffalo’s playoff hopes alive, and improve their season record to 37-30-8.

Maple Leafs vs. Sabres   3/27/09

Game Summary

This match-up at the HSBC Arena marked trade deadline acquisition, Dominic Moore’s first game against his former team. Normally, Martin Gerber would have started in net for the Loafs. However, due to his childish actions of shoving referee Mike Leggo and shooting a puck in his direction in Toronto’s 3-2 shootout win against the Capitals, Gerber has been suspended for 3 games. While serving the first game of his sentence, long time veteran Curtis Joseph started in his stead. Thankfully, he was horrendous. Only 37 seconds in, Jochen Hecht scored glove side for his 10th of the season, giving Buffalo an early 1-0 lead. 9 minutes later Tim Connolly came charging in on a 2 on 1 rush with Clarke MacArthur. Connolly scored his 15th of the year as he ripped it off the post and the puck bounced off of Joseph’s back leg for the score. Despite being out-shot 14-4 in the period, the Sabres found themselves up 2-0 at it’s conclusion.

Maple Leafs Sabres HockeyJust over 3 minutes into the second period, Danielle Paille scored top shelf (his 11th) to put Buffalo up 3-0. Paille earned the goal on what is quickly becoming his signature move: skate down the left side, wait for the opening, and snipe a wrist shot past the goaltender. Dominic Moore assisted on the goal, giving him his 100th career point. Seconds later, Connolly got his second past Joseph (his 16th) who was screened by Sabres defenceman, Chris Butler. As a result of letting in two goals in 21 seconds, Joseph was replaced by rookie Justin Pogge, who put in a decent relief performance. With the Sabres on the power play, Boyd Devereaux scored shorthanded on a nifty move to get the Loafs on the board, 4-1. The goal was Boyd’s first of the year.

Sabres nation nearly hit the panic button when it looked like the Sabres would suffer another 3rd period meltdown. Matt Stajan scored almost 8 minutes into the period, bringing the Loafs within two on a fluky deflection that rolled down Miller’s back and into the net. Nikolai Kulemin made it 4-3 on the power play 43 seconds later, lifting the puck over a sprawling Miller who had previously stopped a barrage of Toronto shots. Karma came full circle though, as Paul Gaustad scored a similar goal (his 10th) with Pogge on the ground at the half way mark of the final frame. Jochen Hecht began the successful play by snapping off a quick shot at Pogge, and Goose was there to snatch up the rebound. The insurance goal was all Buffalo would need as they went on to win, 5-3.

The final shots in this game were 35 to 24 in favor of Toronto. Buffalo went 0 for 2 on the power play, while Toronto went 1 for 5.

Sabres Canadiens HockeySabres vs. Canadiens   3/28/09

Game Summary

After a lengthy, grueling, and unnecessary pre game ceremony at the Bell Centre, the Montreal Canadiens got off to a fast start against the Buffalo Sabres. At the outset, the Canadiens were playing tougher hockey than Buffalo, completing their checks and getting quality chances on net. Ryan Miller, however, bought his team time, keeping the Canadiens off the board until they could settle into the game. They did with 2 and a half minutes remaining in the opening frame, as Jochen Hecht’s shot was tipped in by Adam Mair (his 8th on the year) to put the Sabres on the board first, 1-0.

On the power play with 2:36 gone by in the second period, Tim Connolly scored his 17th of the season, getting the puck past Montreal goalie Carey Price. The Canadiens, however, would go on to score three in a row over a 7:16 span. Christopher Higgins got Montreal on the board, and Alexei Kovalev tied the game at 2 with 7:47 remaining in the second. Kovalev scored minutes later on a 5 on 3 situation, to put the Canadiens up 3-2 at the end of two.

Clarke MacArthur scored his 15th of the year 3:58 into the third period, tying the game at 3 (which may have saved the Sabres season). The Sabres swarmed the Canadiens in the final frame, out-shooting them 16-7, but neither team managed to score, sending the game into overtime. Buffalo had the better opportunities in the intense end to end OT, but again, neither team scored, which resulted in a shootout. This shootout was Miller’s first since returning from injury, and to be blunt, he kicked ass, stopping all 6 Montreal shooters. Buffalo defenceman Toni Lydman was the hero of the night, scoring the only goal in the shootout, winning the game for the Sabres. His teammates Tim Connolly, Drew Stafford, Jason Pominville, Derek Roy, and Thomas Vanek all failed to score in the shootout.

The Sabres out-shot the Canadiens 37-35 and were 1 for 3 on the power play, while Montreal was 1 for 4.

Game Analysis

Paul Gaustad and Pat Kaleta led the physical charge for the Sabres in both games. They were very aggressive; hitting guys, and protecting Ryan Miller at all costs as he was being bumped by both teams (who even went as low as to blast snow in the goaltenders face). Led by Gaustad and Kaleta, the Sabres players didn’t take any garbage, and their eagerness to defend Miller was admirable as their previous unwillingness to come to his aid resulted in Miller’s ankle injury and a fall in the standings. Former Sabre gone Maple Loaf, Brady May, was trying to Sabres Canadiens Hockeypressure Kaleta into dropping his gloves all night long, but Kaleta proved to be the mature one and never took the bait. Still, there were a handful of brawls in the Toronto contest in which Gaustad, Kaleta, and Moore were involved in, and team Captain, Craig Rivet dropped the gloves in Montreal. None of the Sabres players lost their fights as Maple Loafs or Canadiens hit the ice first. 

These two games may have been Jochen Hecht’s best two all season. He scored the first goal against Toronto and Montreal, as well as set up the insurance goal by Gaustad in the Loafs game. Hecht is still taking some silly penalties, but his hard work at driving to the net isn’t going unnoticed. Props also need to be given to rookie defenceman, Chris Butler. Butler is a quiet difference maker for the Sabres, as he leads the team in plus(-) rating with +8; he is +15 at home -7 on the road. 

Against Montreal, Pat Kaleta was boared by the cowardly Maxim Lapierre. Reports were claiming that Kaleta suffered a mild concussion on the hit.

Sabres fans can’t help but wonder where Thomas Vanek been these last two games. 8 regulation goals were scored and Vanek had 0 points and a -1 rating in the two contests. That needs to change if the Sabres hope to continue their winning ways.

Fast Facts

-Ryan Miller is 31-16-5 this year with a , 2.52 GAA, and a .918 save %.

 -Toronto goalie, Curtis Joseph, let in 4 goals on 9 shots against the Sabres.

-Loafs backup goalie, Justin Pogge, is 0-3-0  against Buffalo this season with a 4.5 GAA.

-The Sabres have outscored the Loafs 9-0 in the 1st period this season.

-Before coming into the HSBC Arena Friday night, the Loafs had won 10 of their last 15 games. 

-So far this year Buffalo has outscored Toronto 19 to 7 and is 4-1 on the season series. 

-The Sabres have outscored the Canadiens 19-14 and are 4-1-1 on the season series.

-Against Montreal, Maxim Afinogenov was scratched in favor of Adam Mair.

-Buffalo won 57% of the face-offs against the Canadiens.

-The Sabres are 26-2-1 when scoring 4 or more goals this season.

-The Sabres have had 5 shorthanded goals scored against them this year.

-Buffalo is 8-5 in shootouts this season.
-In their last 7 games, the Sabres have allowed 27 goals and have scored 26.

The Final Word

These two wins and 4 points were season savers for Buffalo. While the Sabres still sit in 10th place, they are now only 4 points away from the final playoff spot. Here is how the Eastern Conference standings currently look:

  1. Boston Bruins (104 points/74 games played/clinched their division)
  2. Washington Capitals (99/76/clinched playoff spot)
  3. New Jersey Devils (98/75/clinched playoff spot)Sabres Canadiens Hockey
  4. Philadelphia Flyers (92/74)
  5. Carolina Hurricanes (91/77)
  6. Pittsburgh Penguins (90/76)
  7. New York Rangers (87/76)
  8. Montreal Canadiens (86/75)
  • In the Hunt: Florida Panthers (85/76), Buffalo Sabres (82/75), Toronto Maple Loafs (75/76), Ottawa Senators (74/74) 

The remaining playoff positions are still up for grabs, and anything can happen in the home stretch of the regular season. The Sabres have 7 games remaining, for a total of 14 available points. In their last 7 games, the Carolina Hurricanes have managed to go from barely holding onto 8th place, to being firmly seated in 5th. The point: anything can happen if the Sabres can muster up a serious win streak.

Now that the team has found some consistency in winning 3 straight, the Sabres desperately need to improve the play in their own end and hold onto leads. Both of these tasks won’t be easy as Buffalo’s next three opponents are the Atlanta Thrashers, the Washington Capitals, and the New Jersey Devils.


1288506This was a tragic and bizarre week for the Buffalo Sabres who went 1-2 in games at home against the Ottawa Senators, the San Jose Sharks, and the Carolina Hurricanes. Wednesday night the Sabres put on an uninspired performance, playing incredibly soft in their own end, and deservedly losing to Ottawa. Then on Thursday night, Continental Flight 3407 crashed into a Clarence residents home, killing 50. Clarence, a suburb of Buffalo, is home to many Sabres players including defenceman Teppo Numminen, back up goalie Patrick Lalime, and head coach Lindy Ruff. In the face of tragedy, the Sabres had to gather their mettle and prepare for battle on Friday night. In one of the darkest times in Western New York history, the Sabres put on a show that allowed Buffalonians a brief distraction from the crash, as they defeated the Western Conference leading San Jose Sharks 6-5 in a shootout. It was an emotional game for fans and players alike. Unfortunately, that joyous performance was followed up with another lazy effort from the Sabres, as they were shut out in a loss against Carolina on Sunday.

SENATORS vs SABRES   2/11/09

With team leading scorer Thomas Vanek out a month with a fractured jaw, Lindy Ruff needed to make some moves to inspire his team offensively. At the time, Lindy was faced with some serious scoring droughts from players he needed to produce: Ales Kotalik (3 goals in 27 games), Jochen Hecht (3 goals in 27 games), Jason Pominville (0 goals in 16games), Clarke MacArthur (1 goal in 16 games), and Danielle Paille (3 goals in 39 games). As a result, Ruff shuffled the lines and benched Paille while calling up Nathan Gerbe from the Portland Pirates. The strategy was to generate more offensive opportunities against the Ottawa Senators.

His plan didn’t work as the Sabres fell 3-1 to their division rival.  

Jaroslav Spacek joylessly celebrated his 35th birthday as Ales Kotalik netted the Sabres lone goal of the game. It came on a 5 on 3 opportunity early in the 3rd period. Other than that, it was all Ottawa. Jason Spezza scored the first goal of the Senators Sabres Hockeygame, outworking Buffalo defenceman Tony Lydman, six minutes in on the power play. Ottawa nearly went up by two when Chris Kelly scored, but the goal was disallowed as an interference penalty was called on Jarkko Ruutu. It didn’t matter though as Shean Donovan got one in off the goal post to put his team up 2-0. Daniel Alfredsson ended the scoring for Ottawa about half way through the second period, making the score 3-0.

Thomas Vanek, the league leader in power play goals with 15, was severely missed in this game. The Sabres had 12 power play opportunities (the most by any team this season) but managed to score only once on 22 shots. Jason Smith of the Senators had a triple minor for roughing and a 10 minute misconduct for hitting Pat Kaleta from behind, yet his 16 minutes of box time wasn’t enough for the Sabres to take advantage. Lindy Ruff couldn’t have put it better in the post game press conference, “It’s a step back. You can’t be happy with that.”

The fans were definitely unhappy. The “Lets go Buffalo” chant couldn’t be heard until just over three minutes into the third period, and the Sabres were deservedly bombarded with boos as they made their way to the locker room. Ryan Miller looked shaky in net as he only faced 23 shots and let in 3 against the NHL’s third worst team. The Sabres put 32 shots on Ottawa goalie, Brian Elliot, who stopped 31. Rob Ray summed the Sabres play up nicely:

“They’ve been standing on the corner being pretty boys.” 

SHARKS vs SABRES   2/13/09

The Buffalo Sabres achieved their most emotional win in franchise history on Friday against the San Jose Sharks. Due to the crash of Continental Flight 3407, the NHL gave the Sabres organization an option of postponing the game to a later date. The Sabres graciously declined, deeming that the team could better serve their community by offering to take people’s minds off of Sharks Sabres Hockeythe crash, if even for only a handful of hours. The tragic event rightfully overshadowed Sabres captain, Craig Rivet’s first time squaring off against his former team since being traded to Buffalo in the off season. Rivet was vocal about the crash to the Buffalo media prior to the game:

“If we can come here tonight and just put in the work, do our best, and get that win. Hopefully it will take some discomfort off of the people involved. If we can do anything to help, we’re certainly going to try.”

Rivet indeed helped propel the Sabres to a 6-5 shootout victory over the Western Conference leading Sharks. Rivet logged the most ice time at 24:46 and had 3 assists on the night, the most important of which came with just seconds left in the game; He ripped a shot off from the point and Jason Pominville got his stick on it to tap it home with 3.9 seconds left on the clock, tying the game at 5-5. To quote Buffalo play-by-play guy, Rick Jeanneret, “Gloom and doom is now glee and joy!” The tying goal earned the Sabres a standing ovation who at one time led the game 3-0 and 4-1. The goal was the perfect time for Pominville to end a 16 game scoring draught. 

The Sabres got off to a hot start scoring three times in under fifteen minutes: Adam Mair scored his 7th of the season as he deflected in a shot from Rivet, on the power play Jaroslav Spacek got his 4th, and Derek Roy netted his 20th on a Sharks Sabres Hockeysweet wrist shot at the tail end of a power play. With under two minutes left in the first, Patrick Marleau scored with the man advantage to get the Sharks on the board, 3-1. About half way through the second, the Sabre special teams get it done again as Ales Kotalik scored his 12th of the season, putting Buffalo up 4-1. Ryan Miller stopped former Sabre, Mike Grier on a breakaway chance before things started to go San Jose’s way. The Sharks scored three in a row: Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle in the second, and a power play goal in the third from Devin Setoguchi tied the  game at 4-4. With just under ten minutes left in the third period, Craig Rivet was called for a bogus high sticking penalty. The penalty cost the Sabres a goal as Andrej Sekera lost his stick and Joe Pavelski punched it by Miller to give San Jose the lead, 5-4. With 3.9 seconds left to play in the third, Rivet made up for it with his clutch shot from the point that Pominville tipped home, sending the game to OT. 

The Sabres and Sharks managed to each get 35 shots on goal in regulation and OT. Ryan Miller and Evgeni Nabokov Sharks Sabres Hockeystood tall in the shootout as both goalies stopped their first three shooters. Jason Pominville scored first to put Buffalo ahead, but Miller couldn’t get the win quite yet, as he let in a shot from Patrick Marleau (again) to tie up the shootout. Derek Roy then scored the go ahead shootout goal, and Miller stuffed Milan Michalek for the emotional Sabre win! HSBC Arena went nuts. To quote WGR550 reporter, Paul Hamilton:

“It seemed like that building was maybe the loudest I’ve heard it since the playoffs.”

Indeed it was, as 19,000 plus people witnessed their team put forth a gutsy effort, giving Buffalonians something to cheer about in the face of tragedy.

HURRICANES vs SABRES   2/15/09

After such an exciting game the Sabres were unable to respond, putting forth another lazy effort in front of their home crowd as they lost 3-0 to the Carolina Hurricanes. The game was an opportunity for Buffalo to gain some distance in the standings between themselves and the teams looking for a playoff spot. That didn’t happen, as the Sabres offense was shut down for the second time in three games. 

Essentially, the Sabres stuck it to their goalies with their weak play. Eric Staal got the ball rolling for Carolina, scoring with just over nine minutes into the game on the power play. Staal then earned the assist off of a Chad LaRose goal who punched in his own rebound, putting his team up 2-0. As a mercy move, Sabre head coach Lindy Ruff pulled Ryan Miller from net after Hurricanes Sabres Hockeythe first period. He let in 2 goals on 18 shots. Patrick Lalime stepped in to replace him, and had a solid outing. He stopped 26 shots before Sergei Samsonov knocked in his own rebound with just over two minutes left to play, putting the Hurricanes up 3-0. The score wouldn’t change again as Cam Ward stopped all 36 Buffalo shots. The Hurricanes managed a total of 47 shots on goal, and Lalime made 28 saves in his relief performance. 

“It’s a tough situation for our goaltenders when we’re leaving them out to dry like that. It’s disrespectful to those guys behind us,” said Sabre team captain Craig Rivet. He’s right, it is disrespectful to the goalies to play sloppy and make lazy plays. It’s even more disrespectful to the fans, forcing them to watch a pathetic performance from their hockey club against a rival squad.

Pathetic. 

Quick Hits

  • Top Duelers of the Week:     #1 Craig Rivet    #2 Ryan Miller    #3 Derek Roy
  • Dull Sabre of the Week: Tim Connolly. After scoring 5 goals and 9 assists in 12 games, Connolly has had 1 assist and 0 goals in the last three.
  • Sabres that Need Sharpening: Ales Kotalik and Jochen Hecht. While Kotalik is a clutch shootout scorer and a decent special teamer, he needs to improve his defensive play. Silly penalties and lazy stick checks result in goals for the other team. Jochen Hecht had 22 goals last season, but finds himself with only 6 this year. The fewest goals he has ever scored was 0 in the 98-99 season (Oilers), but he only played in three games. Since then his worst season was in 02-03 (Sabres) where he managed to score only 10 goals. He is on pace to have the worst season of his NHL career. 
  • Broken Blades: Thomas Vanek/fractured jaw/3-4 weeks, Paul Gaustad/upper body/day to day, Henrik Tallinder/right shoulder/day to day, Maxim Afinogenov/groin/day to day.Hurricanes Sabres Hockey
  • The Sabres are 5-4-1 in their last 10 games.
  • Derek Roy has 100 career goals and Drew Stafford has 100 career points.
  • Ales Kotalik has 6 shootout goals this season, and is the first NHL player to obtain 10 game winning shootout goals in his career. For the time being it’s an NHL record.
  • Andrej Sekera returned from injury against San Jose, so Mike Weber was sent back to Portland.
  • The Sabres organization has announced that ticket prices will go up an average of 5% next year for non- season ticket holders.
  • The Sabres are 19-1-4 when leading after two.
  • Miller is 7-2 this year in shootouts.
  • The plane that crashed into Clarence happened one day after the year anniversary of Florida Panther’s player, Richard Zednik, slitting his throat open in a game at Buffalo.
  • For the San Jose game, defenceman/makeshift forward, Nathan Paetsch was scratched in favor of Danielle Paille.
  • San Jose is now 10-2-3 against the East this season.

The Final Word

The Sabres lost ground this week as they slip to 8th place in the Eastern Conference with 64 points. Here are the Eastern Conference standings:

  1. Boston Bruins (86 points)
  2. New Jersey Devils (77)
  3. Washington Capitals (77)
  4. Philadelphia Flyers (69)
  5. Montreal Canadiens (66)
  6. New York Rangers (66)
  7. Florida Panthers (64)
  8. Buffalo Sabres (64)

On the outside looking in for that final playoff spot are the Carolina Hurricanes (61), Pittsburgh Penguins (59), and Toronto Maple Leafs (52).

45059401Buffalo has a tough week coming up playing three  games in five nights. Next, the Sabres travel to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs on Tuesday,  and then go to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers on Thursday. The Sabres close out the week against the New York Rangers at HSBC Arena on Saturday. Buffalo needs to come away at with at least four points in these games, or they will find themselves out of playoff contention. 

For Sabre interviews following the crash of Continental Flight 3407, click here.

For more info on the crash visit www.buffalonews.com.

Thanks to NHL.com and WGR550.com for providing statistics.

Welcome to the first installment of my new weekly column, Sabre Tactics! Every weekend I will review and summarize the Buffalo Sabres games from the past week, provide highlights and stats on the progress of the team, and preview the games of the upcoming week. For easy reference, I have attached video links to key plays performed by Buffalo players.

This past week the Sabres attained 5 points out of a possible 8, going 2-1-1.  The two wins were at home, the regulation loss in Anaheim, and the shootout loss was in Ottawa. The hard earned points allow for the Sabres to claim the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. The club received some phenomenal goal-tending by Ryan Miller and witnessed a natural hat trick from Thomas Vanek.

Recap of this week’s action:

Sabres Ducks HockeySABRES vs DUCKS  2/2/09

For the Sabres, this game closed out a West Coast road trip that began before the All-Star break. Buffalo went 3-3 on the trip, dropping their final game to the Anaheim Ducks by a score of 3-2.

In his first game back from injury, Pat Kaleta scored the first goal of the contest, his 3rd of the season. The Sabres would be kept off the score board until the third period when team captain, Craig Rivet, finally got his first goal of the season. Backup Patrick Lalime had the start in net for Buffalo and played a solid game, stopping 34 shots. His best performance was in the second period when he faced 20 shots and only let in 1 goal, compliments of Chris Pronger. Across the ice, the Sabres offense only managed 23 shots on goal (a mere 6 in the second period), giving Duck’s goalie Jonas Miller an easy night. Buffalo had a power play opportunity and some chances in the closing minutes, but couldn’t get it done.

This game took place amidst lead color guy, Rick Jeanneret’s vacation. Without a doubt, it’s weird hearing a Sabres game called without his voice. I rue the day that he retires from calling Sabres games.

LEAFS vs SABRES  2/4/09

The Sabres rebounded in their first game home at HSBC Arena since January 17, blanking the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-0. Thomas Vanek stole the show with his 4th career natural hat trick (his 5th career hat trick), and Ryan Miller shined for Buffalo, getting his 5th shutout of the season and his 2nd in two games (2-0 against the Phoenix Coyotes). Maple Leafs Sabres HockeyTeppo Numminen also returned to the ice from a broken jaw injury.

The last time the Sabres played the Leafs in Buffalo, I was there with my dad. The Sabres lost 2-1 and the Loafs fans stuck it to us all the way to our cars. This time around I’m happy that lots of Leafs fans wasted their gas money to see their team get shredded. 

Toronto lost to the Florida Panthers the night before in OT, and their fatigue showed in this game. Tim Connolly got the scoring started in the first period with his 10th of season, and Drew Stafford put the Sabres up by two with his 14th. Stafford had a great night, also having an assist and a +3 rating. Thomas Vanek scored his 30th, 31st, and 32nd goal of the season, starting in the second period on the power play. He then he put the Sabres up 4-0 when Drew Stafford found him on the breakaway early in the third period. Less than four minutes later Vanek continued to dominate, earning his natural hat trick when Buffalo had the two man advantage. True to his style, he was camped out in front of the net, easily getting the puck by rookie goalie, Justin Pogge (who was playing in his 3rd NHL game). Buffalo hit him with 32 shots in the game, while Ryan Miller only had to turn aside 16 in the victory. 

Sabres color guy, Harry Neale, had the quote of the night while trying to remember the name of our goal tender: “Ryan Murray, Ryan Miller, Murray.” Hilarious. At this point, Vanek was 7th in the NHL in shooting percentage. Out of 164 shots on goal, he connected on 19.5% of them.

CANADIENS vs SABRES 2/6/09

Ryan Miller critics can no longer claim that the Buffalo goaltender hasn’t stolen one for his team. In the first period, Miller was blasted with 15 shots and didn’t let one of them in as the Buffalo Sabres went on to beat the Montreal Canadiens, 3-2.

Miller carried his team to the victory as the offense sputtered in this match-up (two of the Sabre goals came from defencemen). He stopped 35 shots and his shut out streak of 157:13 was ruined by Saku Koivu halfway through the second period. Miller’s previous streak was 149:12 earlier this season, and his great play hasn’t gone unnoticed by his teammates:

Canadiens Sabres Hockey“Ryan kept us in the game. It would have been two or three-nothing, and it would be tough to come back against a team like the Canadiens. … every night, he gives us a chance.” – Defenseman, Jaroslav Spacek

Spacek got things going for the Sabres, scoring just 27 seconds into the second period to put Buffalo up 1-0. This was his first game back after missing the previous two with a hip injury. The Candiens would respond with a goal from Saku Koivu, but less than three minutes later defenceman playing forward for the evening, Nathan Paetsch, scored his second of the year to put the Sabres back out in front 2-1. In 59 games last season Paetsch scored a mere 2 goals, but this season he has that many in only 19 games. Paetsch’s play has come under fire from head coach Lindy Ruff and the Buffalo fan base, as he took a demotion earlier in the year. Due to the teams defensive injuries, he’s back on the ice and it’s nice to see him respond in a positive way. In the third period, the red hot Tim Connolly scored the game winning goal, his 11th of the season, in dramatic fashion; While on his knees, he shot the puck off the backhand, putting away an opportunity off of a bad Montreal pass. 

Carey Price had a mediocre night as the Sabres put only 25 shots on him. Pat Kaleta had a replay worthy hit on defenceman Ryan O’Byrne. This was a huge win for the Sabres, as they currently trail the 4th place Canadiens by 2 points.

SABRES vs SENATORS  2/7/09

The Sabres played three games in four nights and it showed against the Ottawa Senators as they lost 3-2 in a shootout. Coming into this game, Ottawa ranked last in the league with 2.36 goals per game, and third last in the league overall. This victory was the first for their new head coach, Cory Clouston.

weber_0207091Despite overcoming a 2-0 deficit in the third and a decent turn out by Sabre fans, the club didn’t have enough gas in the tank for a win. Except for Ryan Miller (who stopped 26 shots before letting one in), Buffalo looked the worst in the second period, giving up 18 shots on goal and only managing 7 for themselves. Less than two minutes into the third period Adam Mair scored first for Buffalo, closing the gap to 2-1. Mair also had a nice hit on Jarkko Ruutu. Ruutu is a marked man to the Sabres after biting Buffalo tough guy, Andrew Peters on the thumb earlier this season. About five minutes later, Drew Stafford tied it up at 2 on the power play, his 15th of the season. The game went to a shootout, where Miller let in three off of the backhand. Ales Kotalik and Tim Connolly scored for Buffalo, while Drew Stafford was stopped. Derek Roy missed the net to lose it for the Sabres.

Once again, Miller kept the Sabres in the game making 40 saves to Elliot’s 28 saves for Ottawa. Miller made spectacular saves on Dany Heatley (Save 1Save 2) and Daniel Alfredsson. In the past, Jason Spezza has been a thorn in the Miller’s side, scoring 14 goals and 10 assist in 17 games since the 2006-2007 season, but Ryan stuffed him in the shootout.

Quick Hits

  • Top Duelers of the Week : #1 Ryan Miller   #2 Thomas Vanek   #3 Tim Connolly   Honorable Mention: Drew Stafford. See above.
  • Dull Sabre of the Week: Maxim Afinogenov. He’s been out 15 games and the Sabres have gone 9-5-1 in that span and Miller has had two shut outs. 
  • Sabres That Need Sharpening: Nathan Paetsch, Jochen Hecht, Jason Pominville. Hecht and Pominville are a combined -11. 
  • Broken Blades: Thomas Vanek/jaw/3-4 weeks, Paul Gaustad/upper body/day to day, Maxim Afinogenov/groin/IR, Henrik Tallinder/shoulder/IR, Andrej Sekera/ankle/IR.
  • In his last 15 games Ryan Miller is 11-3-1, and has allowed 2 or fewer goals ten times in that stretch.
  • Maple Leafs Sabres HockeyTim Connolly and Drew Stafford’s trade stock has never been higher. Connolly is injury prone and Stafford is prone to cool off for long stretches. Trading one of them now for a worthy goal scoring defenceman could prove to be beneficial for the club in the long run.
  • Marc-Andre Gragnani has been sent back down to the Portland Pirates.
  • A poll on espn.com asked if fighting should be banned in the NHL. Out of 23,975 votes 10% of the world says yes while an overwhelming 90% says no. The entire poll map was the color red, which represented ‘no’. Not a single state, country, or region on the planet had a majority vote that favors fighting being banned in the NHL. Kick. Ass.
  • ESPN gave a survey to NHL players, with one of the questions being, ‘Which team has the most disruptive fans?’ Buffalo and Chicago were tied at 4th with 4% of the player vote. Montreal was first with 13%, San Jose was second at 8%, and Calgary was third at 7%. Having 3% or less of the vote was Detroit, New York (Rangers), Edmonton, L.A., Vancouver, Minnesota, and Toronto. Five other teams had one vote.
  • The Sabres are 6-3-1 in their last 10 and have won 10 straight home games. 

The Final Word

The worst news of the week happened in the Ottawa game, and it isn’t that the Sabres lost. The news is far worse; Thomas Vanek is out 3-4 weeks after taking a puck to the face early in the game. The Sabres All-Star fractured his jaw and had successful surgery in Buffalo the following day. This happens at the worst time for Vanek as he has 52 points in 54 games, and is tied for 2nd in the league for goals scored.

This also happens at the worst time for his team.

The Sabres are clinging to 7th place in the Eastern Conference with 62 points. The New York Rangers are in 6th with 63 points, the Montreal Canadiens in 5th place with 64 points, and the Philadelphia Flyers have 65 points which puts them in 4th place. The New Jersey Devils (69 points), Washington Capitals (72), and Boston Bruins (85) occupy 3rd-1st place. In 8th place sit the Carolina Hurricanes (59) with the Florida Panthers (58 ) and the Pittsburgh Penguins (57) hungrily lurking on the outside looking in.  

Buffalo needs to find consistency in their play this week as they (again) face the Ottawa Senators and the San Jose Sharks. Ottawa is still in third last place in the league, where San Jose and ex-Sabre Mike Grier are the #1 team in the Western Conference.

Lets Go Buffalo!

Special thanks to nhl.com, espn.com, and wgr550.com for stats and facts.