Monday, January 28, 2008

Sabres/Lightning Preview

This is the final push and here is the start. Game 49 is against the Lightning and the push for the playoffs starts now. The Sabres are in the 14th position with 48 points while the Lightning are in the 15th position looking up with 45 points. Each team is within striking distance of the 8th and final playoff position since the Sabres are 6 points out of that spot. The Sabres are going to play without the services of Tim Connolly for what looks like the rest of the season. A bone spur was found in his hip and while it can be played with, it is an extremely painful injury to play through and will most likely result in surgery at the end of the season. Afinogenov's groin injury is looking better and he looks on the path to recovery and may be seen within the next week or two. Mike Ryan has been cleared to practice since the accidental eye injury he suffered in the Thrashers blowout. The Sabres look poised to start the playoff push and a win against the Lightning is a good way to start.

The Lightning are looking healthier with the return of Dan Boyle against the Senators. Boyle had a freak wrist injury at the start of the season when a skate fell off a hook and sliced tendons in his wrist. Brad Richards may not play in this game because it has been reported that he has mono. While he wont admit to this, it seems to be confirmed. When you face the Lightning, the main thing you focus on is stopping the Big Three in Lecavalier, St. Louis, and Richards. These guys are the majority of the offense for the Lightning and if you can shut them down, you stand a good chance of winning the game. The Bolts have had issues in net all season, with the starter now being Holmqvist. But the goaltending has been an issue for the Bolts and will continue to be until they find a good and reliable number one goalie.

The Sabres really need to build off the win against the Stars and the Bolts are the perfect trap game to face. A down and out team can always play the role of spoiler especially since this game is nationally on Versus. The Sabres need to show up for a full 60 minutes and play a game with heart, something that we don't see much of this season. Here are the stats:

Buffalo Sabres Leaders
Goals: Roy (18)
Assists: Pominville (27)
Points: Pominville (38)
Plus/Minus: Paille (+11)
Penalty Minutes: Gaustad and Peters (58)
Majors: Peters (8)
Minors: Lydman (22)

Tampa Bay Lightning Leaders
Goals: Lecavalier (30)
Assists: St. Louis (40)
Points: Lecavalier (66)
Plus/Minus: Ouellet (+6)
Penalty Minutes: O'Brien (101)
Majors: Roy (8)
Minors: O'Brien (28)

Goalie Stats
Buffalo: Miller - 2.49 GAA, .911 SV%, 1 SO; Thibault - 3.71 GAA, .859 SV%, 1 SO
Tampa Bay: Holmqvist - 2.96 GAA, .891 SV%, 2 SO; Ramo - 3.37 GAA, .884 SV%; Denis - 4.05 GAA, .859 SV%

Special Teams
Buffalo: Power Play (17.1%, 18th); Penalty Kill (84.2%, 7th)
Tampa Bay: Power Play (18.1%, 13th); Penalty Kill (80.4%, 24th)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Rest of Week 5


  • Colorado 12-11 over Portland in overtime. Colorado was led in scoring by Brian Langtry and Dan Carey who each scored 3 and Jason Wulder scored the game winning goal 3:14 into overtime. Portland was led in scoring by Dan Dawson and Brodie Merill who each scored 2. Chris Levis was in net for the win while Matt King takes the loss.


  • Calgary 16-13 over San Jose. Jeff Shatler led the Roughnecks by scoring 4 while Colin Doyle, Jeff Zywicki, and Gary Rosyski each scored 3 for the Stealth. Steve Dietrich took the win while Anthony Cosmo took the loss.


  • Toronto 14-10 over New York. Ryan Benesch led the Rock in scoring with 4 while rookie Jordan Hall scored 3 for the Titans. Bob Watson was in net for the win while Matt Vinc took the loss for the Titans.
  • Chicago 17-11 over Edmonton. Callum Crawford scored 4 for the Shamrox while Chris Gill scored 4 for the Rush. Brandon Miller took the win for the Shamrox while Curtis Palidwor took the loss for the Rush letting in 4 goals on the first 9 shots he faced. He was pulled 12:03 into the game.
  • Colorado 11-6 over San Jose. Dan Carey scored 3 for the Mammoth while Tom Johnson, Jeff Zywicki, Luke Wiles, Gary Rosyski, and Cam Sedgwick each only scored 1 for the Stealth. Gee Nash took the win letting in only 6 on 35 shots while Anthony Cosmo took the loss for the Stealth.
  • Calgary 13-6 over Portland. Kelly Hall, Lewis Ratcliff, and Scott Ranger each scored 3 for the Roughnecks while Dan Dawson and Derek Malawski scored 2 for the Lumberjax. Ryan Avery took the win while Matt King took the loss letting in 7 goals from 21 shots. He was pulled at the 3:06 mark in the second quarter.
  • Minnesota 18-17 over Rochester in overtime. Craig Point and Sean Pollock led the Swarm with 3 goals a piece while Scott Evans scored 6 for the Knighthawks. Sean Pollock scored the game winning goal 6:30 into overtime. Nick Patterson got the win for the Swarm playing all 66:07 while Pat Wetherup got the loss for the Knighthawks. He was pulled at the 4:56 mark of the third period in favor of Pat O'Toole.
The standings thus far are:
Eastern Conference
1. Philadelphia 3-0
2. Minnesota 3-0
3. Toronto 3-2 1 GB
4. Buffalo 2-2 1.5 GB
5. Chicago 1-2 2 GB
6. New York 1-2 2 GB
7. Rochester 1-3 2.5 GB

Western Conference
1. Colorado 4-0
2. Calgary 2-2 2 GB
3. San Jose 1-2 2.5 GB
4. Portland 0-3 3.5 GB
5. Edmonton 0-3 3.5 GB

Bandits/Wings Review

20 seconds. Thats all it took for this game to be decided. 20 seconds, one faceoff, one timeout, and one shot. The Bandits lost on Saturday night 15-14 in overtime. Jake Bergey scored the game winning goal 20 seconds into overtime. Overall, the Bandits played what looked to be well, coming back from 13-10 to start the 4th to eventually take the lead and take the game to overtime. Mark Steenhuis and Kevin Dostie led the team with 4 goals a piece while John Tavares scored 2 and Clay Hill, Dan Teat, Cory Bomberry, and Roger Vise each scored one. Mike Thompson started and played all 60:20 letting in 15 goals on 52 shots. Brandon Francis played in the place of Kyle Schmelzle and went an uninspiring 8-34 on faceoffs.

On the Wings side, Jake Bergey scored the game winning goal and he and Athan Iannucci led the team with 4 goals a piece. Geoff Snider and Jamie Rooney each scored 2 and Merrick Thompson, Dan Marohl, and Taylor Wray each scored 1. Rob Blasdell started and played the whole 60:20 letting in 14 goals on 62 shots. Geoff Snider took the majority of the faceoffs going 21-28.

All in all, this Philadelphia Wings team is a very good team and looks to be the team in the East to beat. They set the tone early, scoring within the first 5 seconds, and often, relenting the lead only three times. They do have some speed and that showed with the early goals in the first quarter and overtime. They also have a good amount of shooters. If this team is going to be beat, it most likely will come on the road since the Wings have yet to be road tested. They play 6 of their last 7 games on the road. Right now though, this team seems to have all the pieces in place to make a run deep into the Champion Cup Playoffs.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bandits/Wings Preview

The Buffalo Bandits head into Philly on Saturday night to take on the red hot Philadelphia Wings. This Philadelphia Wing team looks to be extremely dangerous this season because they have a lot of firepower coming from a bunch of sources led by Athan Iannucci. He has 10 goals in 2 games and 14 points total. He has a supporting cast of Jake Bergey (8-5-13), Merrick Thompson (7-5-12), and former Bandit Jason Crosbie (1-8-9). This team really is looking to be the team to stop in the Eastern Conference after they knocked off the Knighthawks 15-14 last week. They had 13-7 lead going into the 4th on the high powered Knighthawks and still held on to win the game. This team looks dangerous in the Wachovia Center and that is where the Bandits are headed.

Coming off his historical night last Saturday, John Tavares looks to keep this team on the winning track. He (6-11) and Mark Steenhuis (8-9) lead the team with 17 points a piece. While the scoring of these two isn't the major concern, its which players would step into the supporting cast after the injuries to Sean Greenhalgh and Brett Bucktooth. Kevin Dostie has stepped into that role quite nicely. He has 6 goals on the season, including his hat trick against New York last week. Roger Vise and Delby Powless have also contributed but they tend to be a little streaky with all of Vise 4 goals this season coming in the second game against the Knighthawks.

The main question mark of this game is going to be the goaltending of Mike Thompson. While he looked extremely shaky in the first game against the Knighthawks, he settled down in the second game. Against the Titans, he let in 13 goals on 46 shots, many of those coming while the Bandits were on the penalty kill. The play of Thompson is going to ultimately determine the outcome of this game. The Wings have a lot more weapons than the Titans did and whether or not Thompson can handle those is whether or not the Bandits can pull out a win. The other issue with this Bandit team is the penalties. They ended up taking 67 penalty minutes against the Titans including 5 major penalties. This put the Titans on the power play 15 times. If the Bandits have any chance of winning they have to keep out of the penalty box because the Wings can be dangerous going 12 for 27 in their two games.

Props/Knocks of Sabres/Stars

  • Wow, there are a lot here. Jochen Hecht on that last second save. Ryan Miller for the saves from the rest of the game. This Sabres team just put forth an effort for the whole game which is something that we really need for the rest of the season. Derek Roy is a beast with the puck since coming back from his injury. This team decided that it needed a win and they got it.
  • Paul Hamilton looks really good behind the desk with Mike Robitaille tonight. If he wasn't hired by WGR, I really think that he should take over the job from Kevin Sylvester when it looks the Sylvester is going to take RJ's job. Speaking of Sylvester, he did another good job on the play-by-play and with some grooming I think he can become a good play-by-play announcer. He obviously has some large shoes to fill, but I think that he could create his own niche in the role.

  • Brian Campbell. He played well for most of the night but got beat bad by Barnes on the only Dallas goal. He looked like he just gave up on that play after he realized that he was beat and just watched that goal go in. Other than that, I think that the defense played really well tonight and it showed since they only scored twice and actually pulled out the win, which is something that we do not see all that often from this team.
  • Jason Pominville. If he scores on that open net, this game is over and we don't have to rely on Hecht making the save of the game. Thats my only beef.
Since this is the last game before the all-star break, lets take a look at what is ahead for this Sabres team to be able to make the playoffs. The conference looks like this:

8. Islanders 54
9. Rangers 54
10. Capitals 51
11. Atlanta 50
12. Florida 49
13. Buffalo 48
14. Toronto 48
15. Tampa 46

The rest of the schedule looks like this: Maple Leafs (5 times); Bruins (4 times); Canadiens, Lightning, Senators, and Rangers (3 times); Penguins, Panthers, Flyers, and Hurricanes (2 times); Thrashers, Devils, Predators, Red Wings, and Capitals (1 time). Also, there are 18 games at home and 16 on the road.

While we play the Rangers and Panthers a couple more times and have games in hand on everyone in head of us, we really have to rely more on the teams in head of us losing rather than taking matter into our own hands. That is never a good thing. This team is 6 points out of the hunt, they really could make a run for it. They need to play like they did tonight for the rest of the break. Now that we can take a break from hockey, we can focus on the goal at heart.

Sabres/Stars Preview

Oh boy. Thats all I have to say about this game. This is not even going to be close. The Stars are playing well, ranked 2nd in the Western Conference and are coming into this game looking to finish strong going into the all-star break. For that matter, so are the Sabres. The Sabres are looking for a win to hang their hat on going into the all-star break and possibly salvage the rest of their season afterwards. They next play the Panthers on Tuesday. Tim Connolly and Maxim Afinogenov are still hurt and won't play in the game tonight and Andrew Peters will be dressed for tonight's game. This means that either Nathan Paetsch or Nolan Pratt will be the odd man out on the blue line tonight. Most likely it will be Pratt, but in my personal opinion I would rather see Paetsch sit. The Stars are looking healthier again with Jussi Jokinen expected to play in tonights game. This game isn't going to be much to stay up for and honestly neither is this season. Here are the stats for the game.

Buffalo Sabres Leaders
Goals: Roy and Hecht (16)
Assists: Campbell (29)
Points: Pominville (38)
Plus/Minus: Paille (+11)
Penalty Minutes: Gaustad (58)
Majors: Peters (7)
Minors: Lydman (22)

Dallas Stars Leaders
Goals: Ribero (22)
Assists: Ribero (32)
Points: Ribero (54)
Plus/Minus: Ribero (+15)
Penalty Minutes: Ott (92)
Majors: Barch (9)
Minors: Ott and Morrow (21)

Goalie Stats
Buffalo: Miller - 2.53 GAA, .910 SV%, 1 SO; Thibault - 3.71 GAA, .859 SV%, 1 SO
Dallas: Turco - 2.41 GAA, .906 SV%, 1 SO; Smith - 2.60 GAA, .900 SV%, 1 SO

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Preview of Week 5 in the NLL

A whole slate of games in week 5 of the NLL which showcases all 12 teams. Here is the rundown of the games minus the Buffalo/Philly game.

Thursday January 24th

Colorado vs. Portland
The Colorado Mammoth come into this weekday game winning their first two games against the Roughnecks and the Rush. They really do look like the team to beat in the Western Conference. The Lumberjax lost their only game to the suprising New York Titans. The Mammoth really have all the pieces starting with their starting goalie Gee Nash. He has a 10 GAA second only to Nick Patterson from Minnesota. Their leading point getter, Dan Carey, has 13 points with 5 goals and 8 assists which puts him 13th in the the league. While there aren't big numbers being put up in Colorado, there are a lot of them. In two games, there are 16 players with at least one point. The Portland Lumberjax have issues when it comes to goaltending. The Titans racked up 14 goals in their only game with Matt King letting in 8 over roughly 47 minutes with Dallas Eliuk letting in 5 more. While Eliuk is getting the start, he may be in trouble again with the high powered offense that the Mammoth propose. Looking at the numbers, the Mammoth should really take this game.

Friday January 25th

Calgary vs. San Jose
These two teams matched up two weeks ago with the Stealth coming away with the win 13-12 in OT. What it really comes down to for Calgary is the play of Steve Dietrich. With a 11.05 GAA, his play has been alright but not good enough for this defense to hold the games. They have lost both of their games this season letting in 23 goals. For the Roughnecks to win, Dietrich really needs to take the team and put it on his back. The leading scorer in Calgary is Lewis Ratcliff with 16 points (6-10). After that, there isnt much on the scoresheet with only 10 others recording points. The Stealth have only played the one game against the Roughnecks and they played well enough to win. The Roughnecks get back Tracy Kelusky which should help their offense. I think that Calgary takes this one.

Saturday January 26th

New York vs. Toronto
The Titans have become the surprise of the NLL this season with beating Portland and keeping it real close with the Bandits. The one thing that has fueled this team is the play of their power play. The power play has gone 15 for 27 overall and 9 for 12 against Portland. Other than that though, the Titans cannot score well on 5 on 5. They have scored 13 of their goals 5 on 5. The Titans have firepower, but no depth when it comes to that. 4 players have more than 10 points, but only 10 players have recorded a point. For this team to beat a sound defense in Toronto, they need to not rely so much on the power play. Toronto has had their fair share of difficulty this season with all of the off the field stuff surrounding the team. They ended up beating the Rush last week and Blaine Manning looks poised to score a lot. He has 23 points in 4 games (10-13) and is leading the league in everything. If the Toronto defense can shut down the heavy hitters, I think that Toronto can start turning their season around. I don't see it happen though.

Edmonton vs. Chicago
The Rush haven't looked all that spectacular in their first two games but who can blame them when you look at their opponents, the Mammoth and the Rock playing a must win game. The Shamrox didn't look all that good in their games either losing to Toronto and high flying Philly. For both of these teams, a win is needed to start to right the season. Both teams have scored 20 goals in their 2 games so their offenses are pretty evenly matched. Basically this game is going to come down to the defenses and goalies. There the Rush have the advantage. They have given up 28 goals to Chicago's 30 and have a better goalie between the pipes in Curtis Palidwor. It seems to be a toss up for the Shamrox in who is going to be between the pipes between Brandon Miller and Derek Collins. I think that the Rush take this one pretty easily.

Minnesota vs. Rochester
Its the lock tight goalkeeping of the Swarm against the high flying offense of the Knighthawks. The Knighthawks looked good in their two games against the Rock, taking both. The main reason for that is the play of goaltender Nick Patterson. He leads the league in goals against average with a 9.8. He let in 20 goals on 101 shots. He was the main reason that the Swarm were able to sweep the weekend against Toronto. He is going to have to be as good against the Knighthawks which haven't been able to win since their first game in Buffalo. John Grant is looking as good as he did in his MVP season of last year. He has 17 points in 3 games (9-8) and has a fairly potent supporting cast in Shawn Williams and the Evans brothers. This game will come down to which is going to give first and I think that Rochester will have enough firepower to break out of their funk.

San Jose vs. Colorado
A matchup of two teams that already play a game earlier in the week. San Jose has to travel to Colorado after facing Calgary, while the Mammoth get to rest a day before they have to play. I think that fatigue is going to play a factor in this game and that obviously gives the Mammoth an advantage. I'll make this one short in saying that the Mammoth are going to be too good in goal to lose in this game. The Stealth offense is alright and I can't see it beating Nash too many times especially coming off of a game the night before. The Mammoth should not have a problem in this one.

Portland vs. Calgary
Again, another matchup of two teams that already play in the week. I would say that Portland has an advantage here but I think that if Calgary can beat the Stealth, then their goaltending should carry them into this game as well. Dietrich has been playing well and the Portland offense isn't all that good. So this one should be fairly simple for the Roughnecks.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Random Stuff from Today(1/22)

Since I havent't done a random things post in a very long time and since the Sabres stink, I figured it would be good to look at everyone else for a change.

  • It was announced today that Maple Leafs GM John Ferguson Jr. has been relieved of his duties as Leafs GM. He is going to be replaced with interim GM Cliff Fletcher. Link
  • Ilya Bryzgalov signed a three-year contract extension today with the Phoenix Coyotes. The total terms of the contract are $4 million the first year, $4.25 million the second and $4.5 million the third. All of these numbers come from TSN
  • Hockeydrunk has a humorous look at the 30 NHL teams. Link
  • I know I said I wouldn't talk about the Sabres but this is an actual level-headed article about the Brian Campbell situation from the Hockey News. Link
  • Spector has a list of potential trade bait including Campbell, Afinogenov, and Kalinin Link
  • The NHL and Versus has signed a three-year extension Link

Finally, since Ferguson lost his job with the Leafs, I only thought it was fitting to run this video:

Monday, January 21, 2008

Props and Knocks Sabres/Coyotes


  • Not much to prop about, but I'll give Kevin Sylvester a prop here. He has a big pair of shoes to fill in Rick Jennerette, but he didn't bother me as much as I thought he would. The first two sentences that came out of his mouth had inaccuracies, Bryzgalov wasn't traded but nice try though.


  • Everything else. Thibault was the king of the softies tonight letting in at least 3. The defense looked really weak trying to do too much and giving up some shooting lanes. The offense couldn't seem to get anything going being outshot 24-12 through the first 2 periods. This was just a really ugly game. We are in trouble cause up next is the Stars.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sabres/Coyotes Gamenight

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are what the 2007 Sabres can most accurately be described as. Friday night against the Atlanta Thrashers, they played their hearts out and absolutely crushed them 10-1. They then turn around on Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs, on Hockey Night in Canada and lay an egg 4-2. Consistency is what this team really needs and a swift kick in the ass too. If this team has any chance in making the playoffs, which is going to be slim considering the logjam that is known as the Eastern Conference, they really just need to win. I said earlier that this team needs to pick up 50 points to try and obtain that last spot because 94 points seems to be the magic number to get into the playoffs. Right now, they have 2 of 6. Not good whatsoever. This road trip will make or break the season which started with Saturday nights game. The rest of the road trip sees us playing the Coyotes, Stars, Lightning, Panthers, Thrashers and Bruins. Out of those six games 4 of them look winable with the other two being the Stars and Bruins. If we take 8 or possibly 10 points out of this trip, the team will be right back on track. If not, it would be time to start to mail it in. This trip is extended because of the All-Star break. So, it really is two trips in one. For the sake of all Sabres fans, we really need something to cheer about. Here are the stats for the game.

Buffalo Sabres Leaders
Goals: Roy and Hecht (16)
Assists: Campbell (29)
Points: Pominville (38)
Plus/Minus: Paille (+11)
Penalty Minutes: Gaustad (58)
Penalty Minutes/Game: Peters (1.6)
Majors: Peters (7)
Minors: Lydman and Vanek (21)

Phoenix Coyotes Leaders
Goals: Vrbata (18)
Assists: Doan (29)
Points: Doan (44)
Plus/Minus: Doan (+11)
Penalty Minutes: Carcillo (172)
Penalty Minutes/Game: Carcillo (5.2)
Majors: Carcillo (10)
Minors: Carcillo (31)
Goalie Stats
Buffalo: Miller - 2.53 GAA, .910 SV%, 1 SO; Thibault - 3.24 GAA, .870 SV%, 1 SO
Phoenix: Bryzgalov - 2.39 GAA, .919 SV%. 1 SO; Tellqvist - 2.54 GAA, .913 SV%, 1 SO

Special Teams
Buffalo: Power Play (17.7%, 14th); Penalty Kill (84.3%, 7th)
Phoenix: Power Play (17.6%, 17th); Penalty Kill (80.4%, 24th)

A look at the Rest of Week 4

Rochester vs. Philly

Philly looked really strong against the Knighthawks, taking a 13-7 lead into the 4th quarter and eventually holding onto the win 15-14. Link

Toronto vs. Edmonton

Toronto overcame all of the distractions and issues that surrounded the team after coach Glenn Clark's indefinite suspension to beat the Rush 14-9. Link

Saturday, January 19, 2008

History in the Making in Buffalo

As I said in the Bandits preview, John Tavares needed 4 more goals to break Gary Gait's all-time goals scored record and that's how many he scored. Coming at 13:08 in the third, Tavares scored his fourth of the night and his 597th of his career. Besides that, there was more of a game played and the Bandits did win 17-13. The offense looked really good with Tavares scoring 4, Dostie scoring 3, and Steenhuis and McCready scoring 2. This game is much closer than what it was supposed to be and that came in through the 67 penalty minutes that the Bandits had during the game. This gave the hottest powerplay in the league 15 opportunities, which they scored on 6 of them. If the Bandits can't seem to stay out of the penalty box, the better teams in the league are going to crush them. The other issue with this team is the faceoff. The Bandits won 7 of 34 in faceoffs. The ball possession in this case needs to be better and I think that the answer is Brandon Francis. Francis went 14 of 27 against the Knighthawks last Saturday and I really think that he needs to be in the lineup more.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Sabres/Thrashers Gameday Preview

Lets take a trip down memory lane to October 28, 2006. Things were a much better time then. The Sabres were off to their best start in franchise history winning their first 10. They faced an equally good Thrashers team at that time who were second best in the conference. It was a high scoring game with both teams going back and forth. The final score, 5-4 Atlanta in a shootout to break the Sabres winning streak. Where am I going with this? The Thrashers come into town tonight after taking the Southeast Division lead from Carolina this past week. They are rising after their awful 0-6 start that led to the firing of coach Bob Hartley. They have claimed 5 out of their last 6 points against three good teams in Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Montreal. The Sabres on the other hand have lost their last 10. Everything about this team has been well documented so I won't rehash that, but the stars seem to be lining up tonight. Atlanta coming into town and the Sabres on a 10 game streak of some sort. I can see the Sabres finally breaking the streak tonight winning 5-4 in a shootout. Here are the stats for the game:

Buffalo Sabres Leaders
Goals: Hecht (14)
Assists: Campbell (26)
Points: Pominville (36)
Plus/Minus: Paille (+10)
Penalty Minutes: Gaustad (58)
Penalty Minutes/Game: Peters (1.7)
Minors: Lydman and Vanek (20)
Majors: Peters (7)

Atlanta Thrashers Leaders
Goals: Kovalchuk (37)
Assists: Kovalchuk (26)
Points: Kovalchuk (63)
Plus/Minus: Stuart (+6)
Penalty Minutes: Holik (58)
Penalty Minutes/Game: Thorburn (1.5)
Minors: Holik (24)
Majors: Thorburn (7)

Goalie Stats
Buffalo: Miller - 2.53 GAA, .911 SV%, 1 SO; Thibault - 3.24 GAA, .870 SV%, 1 SO
Atlanta: Lehtonen - 2.86 GAA, .913 SV%, 2 SO; Hedberg - 3.18 GAA, .899 SV%, 1 SO

Special Teams
Buffalo: Power Play (17.2%, 17th); Penalty Kill (84.5%, 8th)
Atlanta: Power Play (19.3%, 8th); Penalty Kill (79.0%, 26th)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Buffalo vs. New York

Its the Bandits and the Titans on Saturday at the HSBC Arena. The Bandits had two faces agains the Knighthawks this weekend, looking beleaguered at the start of Friday's game to being outscore that same team 6-1 in the fourth to win Saturday's game. The defense of the Bandits looked very shaky with the transitional approach so the philosophy of strict offense and defense played much better against the tough defense of the Knighthawks.

Tavares and Steenhuis lead the team with 11 points and Roger Vise's 4 goals on Saturday leads the team in goals. The offense looks good but still needs some firepower with the loss of Greenhalgh and Bucktooth. Vise and Dostie have looked good scoring 7 goals between the two of them (4 and 3), but these two really do need to keep the consistency from these two games. The defense looks solid under the leadership of Richie Kilgour and if this team is going to meet Rochester again in the East finals, need to keep that up. Thompson looked shaky in his first start on Friday but most of those chances that Rochester scored on weren't his fault but more breakaways and open chances the defense gave up. Al Montour stepped in and looked fairly good playing cleanup role. Thompson looked much better on Saturday so his confidence should not be much of a problem.

Onto New York. The Titans looked good in their only game against the Lumberjax winning 14-11. Their offense led by Casey Powell and Pat Maddalena looked alright, but defense and goaltending were the main issues that plagued this team last year. The Titans helped shore up their defense with 2007 1st pick Jordan Hall. The goaltending is led by Matt Vinc who let in 11 in his only appearance this season. So, as of now, the Titans look to be a contending team but it is still early. I think the Bandits take this one pretty handedly 19-10.

John Tavares still needs 4 goals to take the all-time goals lead, and if this game gets out of hand quickly I think that Saturday is the night it happens. It would be good to see him do it at home. There is one more note. It seems that Pat Merill may be suspended for this game depending on if he appeals or not. Merill is being suspended for one game due to a "dangerous" hit in the Portland game. It is subject to appeal and its not known yet whether he will appeal or not.

A look at the other games in Week 4

There are two other games in the NLL besides the Buffalo/New York matchup that we will preview later.

Rochester vs. Philly
Rochester is coming off a split weekend with the Bandits while Philly is riding their 19-11 win over the Shamrox. Peter O'Toole looked sharp for the Knighthawks while the scoring crew of Crosbie, Iannucci, and Thomson led the Wings. So this should come down to that matchup. But do not discard the fire power that the Knighthawks have in John Grant Jr. and Shawn Williams. The Knighthawks are a well rounded team that can hurt you in many different ways as they showed against the Bandits on Friday. Therefore, the Knighthawks should take this game 14-11.

Toronto vs. Edmonton
The main question from this game is whether the Glenn Clark situation is going to distract this team and whether they will be focused enough to handle the Rush. Toronto dropped the weekend in a fairly rough series with the Minnesota Swarm and Edmonton lost to the Mammoth 14-11. The Rock looked good on Friday but fell apart under the guidance of assistant coach Terry Bullen who maybe behind the bench again for this game as well. The highly touted defense got destroyed against the Swarm on Saturday 11-4. The Rush are coming off a loss against what is billed as the best team in the Western Conference. I just think that the distractions and the possible loss of their head coach is just going to be too much for the Rock and they drop another one here 14-9.

Rock Coach Charged in Aftergame Altercation

Rock coach Glenn Clark is being charged with assault after an aftergame fight with Minnesota Swarm player Sean Pollock. These two went to fisticuffs in the tunnel after a fairly dirty game on Friday which had 137 penalty minutes. As of now, there is no word from the NLL on the disciplinary action that will be taken against Clark.

Here is a link from the Toronto Star: Link

EDIT: The NLL has suspended Clark indefinately. Link

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Rangers Recap

Its fitting that the Sabres couldn't win one against Captain Clutch but things happen. There isn't much to be said about this game that hasn't been said before. This team played good enough to lose, scored 1 goal and the game winner came on a deflection. Go figure. This team needs 50 more points to get to 94 points which seems to be the magic playoff number. Honestly, I don't think it can be done. So I am saying it right now, this team is done. Finished. They should just mail in the rest of the season now. This is loss number 10 in a row and it is fitting that the Thrashers are next.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sabres vs. Rangers Gamenight

The Sabres and the Rangers face each other for the first time this year. The major significance of this is the first matchup of Chris Drury against his old team. We all remember Captain Clutch for his heroic goals throughout his term here in Buffalo, most coming in the last two years. Now, Drury has 12-19-31 which is good for third on the team but also is a -12 which is last for the team. The Rangers are struggling now losing 6 of there last 7. The Sabres are struggling though as well losing their last 9. So which of these teams is going to rebound and win a game. The Rangers have a potent offense that does not seem to know how to put the puck in the net. This seems to be what the Sabres are made of as well, but their offense just was not as potent as we thought it was. So basically it comes down to the battle of the goaltenders, and both of them are good. It will be Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers and Ryan Miller for the Sabres. Here is the stat matchup:

New York Rangers Leaders
Goals: Shanahan (15)
Assists: Gomez (32)
Points: Gomez(42)
Plus/Minus: Hossa (+7)
Penalty Minutes: Orr (99)
Penalty Minutes/Game: Avery (3.2)
Minors: Roszival (20)
Majors: Orr (11)

Buffalo Sabres Leaders
Goals: Hecht (14)
Assists: Pominville (25)
Points: Pominville (35)
Plus/Minus: Paille (+11)
Penalty Minutes: Gaustad (58)
Penalty Minutes/Game: Peters (1.7)
Minors: Lydman (20)
Majors: Peters (7)

Goalie Stats
Buffalo: Miller - 2.54 GAA, .910 SV%, 1 SO; Thibault - 3.24 GAA, .870 SV%, 1 SO
NY Rangers: Lundqvist - 2.39 GAA, .906 SV%, 6 SO; Valiquette - 2.73 GAA, .896 SV%

Special Teams
Power Play: Buffalo (17.6%, 14th), Rangers (17.2%, 16th)
Penalty Kill: Buffalo (84.2%, 9th), Rangers (82.9%, 13th)

Recap of Week 3 in the NLL

Friday and Saturday Night Series

Minnesota vs. Toronto
Friday: Minnesota 17-16 Link ; Saturday: Minnesota 11-4 Link

Saturday Night Games
Colorado 14 vs Edmonton 11 Link
New York 14 vs. Portland 11 Link
San Jose 13 vs. Calgary 12 Link
Philadelphia 19 vs. Chicago 11 Link

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Bandits/Knighthawks Preview

The defending champions Rochester Knighthawks face the Bandits this weekend in a home and home series starting in Buffalo. A couple of questions face this 2008 squad, the largest of them being is Mike Thompson ready to handle the starting duties. Steve Dietrich was traded to the Calgary Roughnecks this offseason which leaves Thompson as the starter. While Thompson looked good in his replacement games for Dietrich last season, is the wear and tear of the season going to take a toll on his game.

Sean Greenhalgh was brought to this team in a three team blockbuster trade that saw Dietrich and Couling go to Calgary and Crosbie go to Philadelphia . He is being seen as the the fresh young face to bring more offense to this already potent team. But, that is going to have to wait because he is out for the season with a torn MCL. So the other question to this team is who is going to step up and provide some offense for this team besides the two major scorers in Tavares and Steenhuis. Guys like Kyle Laverty and Roger Vise are going to need to provide offense. Also injured for the Bandits is Brett Bucktooth who went for surgery this week for torn cartilage in his hip. He should be sidelined for at least 6 weeks.

These teams are two high-powered offenses that always bring a traveling crew to the other's arena. Each team should take one, most likely happening on home turf.

Sabres Lose Eighth in a Row

The Sabres just cannot seem to catch a break during this 8 game losing streak, going 0-4-4, with tonight's loss to Ottawa. Granted most Sabres fans were chalking this up to a loss, but the Sabres did come back from 2 down in the third to tie the game up. Here are some thoughts:

Way too many penalties. 6 powerplays for the Senators are too many. This team is dangerous. Thankfully, the Senators weren't able to capitalize on them. Although the shorthanded goal was a hard pill to swallow.

Good overall effort though. This team, while having some bad moments, did play with more effort than we have seen in the last couple of games. Just this time the shootout does them in again.

From here it doesnt get much better with the Devils traveling to Buffalo on Saturday. The same Devils team that we have seen twice in the last two weeks and have scored a grand total of 2 goals against. Oh boy.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Possible Bandits Rookies to Watch out for

There are a couple of new faces to look for with the 2008 Bandits. Here is a few that Steve Kojima from NLL Insider thinks will make an impact:

13/ Kyle Schmelzle – Buffalo… Schmelze is a Six Nations’ product who played this past summer in the MSL with St. Regis. The defender was taken by Buffalo in the 2005 NLL Entry Draft, and the club is now looking for him to contribute in a regular role. “He’s a big, physical guy, very athletic,” added Bandits’ Head Coach and GM Darris Kilgour. (No. 53 overall, 2005)

14/ Brandon Francis - Buffalo… Francis won close to 80% of his draws in an exhibition against Toronto and should also see a lot of floor time with Buffalo at the face-off circle. “He’s doing a great job on the draws, which is something we haven’t had in a long time. I’m very pleased with him as well,” said Kilgour.

Here is the rest of the list from Kojima: Link

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Devils Thoughts

Since I never actually posted a gameday post, I should post some remarks about this game.

  • This team must have lost its confidence in the effectiveness of shooting the puck. They just get way too damn cute trying to make the goal look good, instead of just scoring the damn thing. This team needs to get back to basics with shooting and just shoot first instead of shoot last.
  • Kaleta was a good callup in terms of a hitting and physical spark that this team needed, but is Kaleta really ready to play full seasons here. I really don't think so in that he brings a great physical game but really not much else. He can hit, but also has a tendency to turtle in the face of confrontation. So while he may bring a spark, I can't see him cracking the lineup everyday.
  • Miller was pretty much the only shining point throughout most of this game. He looked really good in net, besides the shootout, and made too many saves to keep this team in the game in the first point. He earned the point and lost the other one by really not being set on the Elias goal and just looking almost startled and way out of position.
  • Can this team stop giving away the puck. Ever? Giveaways were 8-1 for the Sabres. 8 giveaways led to countless breakaway situations and just stupid chances. The first thing this team needs to do to break out of this streak is stop giving away the puck.

Monday, January 7, 2008

How much is Brian Campbell worth

A lot of talk has been going around this season with the talks of Campbell's resigning for this year. Darcy has been dragging his feet again on this one and I think with good reason. The last offer that we have heard from the Campbell camp is for 5 years, $25 million. Is Brian Campbell worth $5 million a year. The only way to know is to compare his play to the play of those defenseman that are $5 million or more.

We start with Brian Campbell's stats from this year. Right now, through 40 games, he has 4 goals and 24 assists and also a +2. Being 28, he still has a healthy career seeing that many defenseman are playing up til their late 30's. His career stats are 31-130-161 with a -4. He has played on some bad Buffalo teams during that time. Also this season, he is the top scoring defenseman on the team.

The top paid defenseman in the league are as such: Nicolas Lidstrom ($7.6 million), Zdeno Chara ($7.5 million), Scott Niedermayer ($6.75 million), Ed Jovanovski ($6.5 million), Wade Redden ($6.5 million), Kimmo Timonen ($6.33 million), Chris Pronger ($6.25 million), Rob Blake ($6 million), Brian Rafalski ($6 million), Brian McCabe ($5.75 million), Andrei Markov ($5.75 million), Mathieu Schneider ($5.625 million), Roman Hamrlik ($5.5 million), Sheldon Souray ($5.4 million), Sergei Gonchar ($5 million), Pavel Kubina ($5 million).
Offensive Stats of Those Players
Lidstrom (4-36-40, +34)
Chara (6-20-26, +5)
Niedermayer (1-4-5, -2) *10 games
Jovanovski (3-22-25, -9)
Redden (5-20-25, +16)
Timonen (5-14-19, -9)
Pronger (8-23-31, E)
Blake (3-17-20, -7)
Rafalski (7-29-36, +16)
McCabe (4-8-12, -4)
Markov (10-19-29, -2)
Schneider (5-12-17, +7)
Hamrlik (3-14-17, +6)
Souray (2-6-8, -5)
Gonchar (7-25-32, -1)
Kubina (2-17-19, +4)

Comparing these stats, $5 million would be enough. But does $5 million work with the economics of the team. Right now, this team has a cap hit of $42 million. There are four players that are going to be Unrestricted Free Agents besides Campbell: Michael Ryan, Dmitri Kalinin, Teppo Numinen, and Jocelyn Thibault. Therefore, the Sabres have to sign at least two of those UFA defenseman because the youth pipeline cannot handle more. Ryan Miller also comes into play here as well. The all-star goalie's contract comes into play here because he is due for a big raise coming next year. If Campbell is signed for $5 million, is there going to be enough money to be able to pay Miller. Therefore, fans really have to make a choice here. Is it going to be Miller or Campbell because with the finances of this team, you could not have both at the prices that each is asking for.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Recap of Week 2 in the NLL

The only game from Week 2 in the NLL was

Toronto 11 - Chicago 8

Blaine Manning scores 4 and Kasey Beirnes nets three in the win for the Rock. Watson holds the Shamrox scoreless in the 4th to seal the victory.

Link of the game recap.

Week 3 in the NLL is the unofficial start of the season in where the rest of the league kicks off. The Bandits host a home and home series with the Knighthawks. Preview of that and the rest of the games later in the week.

Game 40 - Sabres/Thrashers Preview

At least the Ottawa game has has some brightspots even though the Sabres still lost 5-3. a) Miller is human and definitely does not like getting pulled and b) the offense can find the back of the net more than once a game. Since the Sabres did end up facing beleaguered goaltender Ray Emery, it comes as no shock. But still the high-flying Senators pulled off two late goals to pull off the win. This is something that has plagued the Sabres all season, a lack of finishing games and playing for a full 60 minutes. It actually was with the team before this season, but they had more firepower to overcome that issue.

Consistency with this team is hard to come by and is something that in the stretch drive they are going to need to find if they have any chance of making and advancing in the playoffs. From winning 6 games in a row to being winless in their last five and not being able to find the back of the net in those, being able to consistently get points will drive this team to the playoffs. These things do not happen to good teams and are things that Sabres fans have been spoiled in not having to see in the last couple of years. Lindy needs to find a way to get consistency out of this team and to be able to have it produce it in not necessarily streaks, but more runs without losing more than one or two. This team is 11th in the Conference now and need to still find an identity that works for them.

Onto the game in Atlanta. Atlanta is a team that has battled many things during this season and along with the rest of the Southeast Conference, isn't all that great. They fired their coach Bob Hartley and GM Don Waddell is still behind the bench. The major weapon the Thrashers have is Ilya Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk leads the league in goals and is second in overall points and can singlehandedly win the game for Atlanta which he proved again on Wednesday against the Hurricanes. The Thrashers played an alright game, but Kovalchuk's four point night put them over the top of a Hurricanes team that had more chances and more power plays to work with. Besides Kovalchuk, the rest of the team isn't half bad with really only one brightspot on their blueline being Tobias Enstrom. The promising rookie has 25 points and is starting to get some mention for the Calder. Hopefully, this team can start to cement their blueline because it really needs some help when pylons like Alexei Zhitnik are still producing minutes for them.

This should be an easy contest for the Sabres in what is going to be a rough stretch of games coming here in the next 10 days with New Jersey, the Rangers, and Ottawa again.

So here are the stats for the game:

Buffalo Sabres Leaders
Goals: Hecht (14)
Assists: Connolly (24)
Points: Pominville (32)
Plus/Minus: Roy (+5)
Penalty Minutes: Gaustad (53)
Penalty Minutes/Game: Peters (1.9)
Minors: Vanek (19)
Majors: Peters (7)

Atlanta Thrashers Leaders
Goals: Kovalchuk (33)
Assists: Kovalchuk (25)
Points: Kovalchuk (58)
Plus/Minus: Havelid (+6)
Penalty Minutes: Holik (56)
Penalty Minutes/Game: Thorburn (1.5)
Minors: Holik (23)
Majors: Thorburn (6)

Special Teams
Buffalo: PP (18.9%, 12th), PK (83.5%, 10th)
Atlanta: PP(17.9%, 14th), PK (77.2%, 29th)

Goalie Stats:
Buffalo: Miller: 2.57 GAA, .909 SV%, 1 SO
Thibault: 3.65 GAA, .863 SV%, 1 SO
Atlanta: Hedberg: 3.19 GAA, .897 SV%, 1 SO
Lehtonen: 3.15 GAA, .902 SV%, 2 SO

Friday, January 4, 2008

Sabres/Sens Gamenight - Game 39

The Sabres face the Sens tonight which is also the first game after they lose a heartbreaker to the Penguins in the Winter Classic. The Sabres are 0-2-2 in the last 4 gaining 2 points which has dropped them to 10th in the standings. Needless to say, they need a win tonight and Ottawa is a tough team to do it against. The top team in the East with 54 points have lost the last two handedly to the Washington Capitals, 8-6 and 6-3, and are looking to get back on their feet as well. They get some help in doing so with the return of Anton Volchenkov tonight.

The other issue in Ottawa now is the goaltenders. Martin Gerber started the season well and Emery started it slow coming back from surgery and then with poor play. But both goaltenders have seem to hit a rough patch and John Paddock is now trying to decide which goaltender to start tonight. Most likely that will be a game-time decision.

A look at some stats:

Buffalo Sabres Leaders
Goals: Derek Roy and Jochen Hecht (13)
Assists: Tim Connolly (23)
Points: Jason Pominville (31)
Plus/Minus: Daniel Paille (+8)
Penalty Minutes: Gaustad (53)
Minors: Vanek (19)
Majors: Peters (6)
Penalty Minutes/Game: Peters (1.8)

Ottawa Senators Leaders

Goals: Alfredsson (24)
Assists: Spezza (35)
Points: Heatley (53)
Plus/Minus: Heatley (+30)
Penalty Minutes: Neil (98)
Minors: Neil (34)
Majors: Mcgratton (5)
Penalty Minutes/Game: Neil (2.5)

Power Play and Penalty Kill
Buffalo Sabres: PP 18.6% (13th), PK 83.9% (9th)
Ottawa Senators: PP 18.6% (11th), PK 83.8% (8th)

Goalie Stats
Buffalo Sabres: Miller: 2.52 GAA, .910 SV%, 1 SO
Thibault: 3.55 GAA, .862 SV%, 1 SO
Ottawa Senators: Gerber: 2.60 GAA, .917 SV% , 1 SO
Emery: 2.84 GAA, .896 SV%

News and Link of the Day (12/4)

In Sabres News

The major Sabres news of the day is that Teppo Numminen has passed his latest set of physicals after his heart surgery to repair a faulty heart valve and is still on track to return to the team this season. An article from the Globe and Mail explained how Teppo is doing and possibly how close he is to being ready, which really is unknown at this point.

When Teppo comes back, it creates a logjam on the blue line with 8 healthy defenders and only 6 able to play. The odd men out in this situation are Nathan Paetsch and Nolan Pratt. While Pratt has been sitting when Kalinin came back, it would be nice to see him and Numminen rotate to keep Numminen fresh and allow him to gradually come back into the game and not have him wore out for the playoff run. While Paestch is a good player on the blueline, he hasnt really done much to make you say wow and I think that Pratt would be a better asset back there.

Other News Around the League

Drew Miller was sent back to the Portland Pirates. Drew is Ryan's brother. Link
The Carolina Hurricanes waive John Grahme and recall Michael Leighton from the Albany River Rats. Link
Ryan Smyth will be out 6-8 weeks with a broken ankle. This definately is not good news for the Avalanche because now both Joe Sakic and Ryan Smyth are hurt and this tests their depth. Link
Good article from CBS Sports on the hard time that teams are going to have signing some stars under the cap. Link

Link of the Day

I found this Youtube video of the CBC intro from the Winter Classic and like anything that CBC does is pretty damn good. It includes the old Buffalo Bills theme song and just shows Buffalo in all its glory.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

News and Links of the Day

In Sabres news, it looks that Drew Stafford is going to be cleared for practice soon after the collision he took with Chris Neil during the Ottawa game on the 26th. He suffered some headaches during the Philly game on the 22nd and then had this collision which led to a greater concussion.

Staff was just being plain stupid trying to play through headaches because we have seen repeatedly what concussion symptoms can do to a player and adversely affect their career and their health. So, I just wish that Staff takes his time and returns 100% rather than trying to force himself into the lineup.

Link from the News

Other News Around the League
  • The Anaheim Ducks traded Shane Hnidy to the Boston Bruins for Brandon Bochenski. Hnidy was the odd man out in Anaheim after Scott Niedermayer returned in the middle of December and Bochenski struggled in Boston after not scoring a goal in 20 games this season. This was just a move of necessity for both teams in that Anaheim needed to move a player and the Bruins needed the defensive depth after the rash of injuries that hit their blue line in the last couple of weeks.
  • The Edmonton Investment Group (EIG) board of directors have voted to recommend rejection of Daryl Katz's $180 million offer to buy the Edmonton Oilers. While this is not a complete rejection of the deal because the the shareholder meeting is January 21st, this is a step backwards in terms of this deal. This isn't Katz's first offer for the team and EIG is just trying to get more leverage for the deal I guess because this has turned into a bigger mess than anyone could have believed. EIG sent a letter to Katz asking him to clarify a couple of things including keeping the team in Edmonton and whether he would pledge some of his own money toward the building of a new arena. Katz is worth $2 billion and owns the Rexall Pharmacy Chain which is based in Edmonton. Link to the story from the Edmonton Sun.

Link of the day comes from the Dallas Stars and their analysis of where the 30 NHL teams got their names from.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Bandits Suffer Big Injuries Before Season Starts

Both Brett Bucktooth and Sean Greenhalgh have suffered major injuries that will most likely cause them to miss the entire season. Greenhalgh suffered a torn ACL while Bucktooth's injury is unknown at this point.

While the Bucktooth injury may not be big, the Greenhalgh one may prove to be costly. Acquired in a three team deal, Greenhalgh was brought to the team to add more offense to this already high powered offense. This injury will probably cost the Bandits about 40-50 goals in his production, but this offense should be able to make up the difference.

NLLinsider - Bucktooth injury more serious than thought

A look ahead at Week 2 in the NLL

Week 2 in the NLL features just one game on the schedule being Toronto vs. Chicago on Saturday the 5th. This game looks to be a game between two semi-well matched teams. Toronto looked good in the preseason while Chicago is still trying to find an identity after a dismal opening season last year.

Props and Knocks from the Winter Classic

  • The City of Buffalo and Sabres fans in general: This one was too easy. Sabres fans are probably one of the best groups of fans in the league and it showed during the game. 73,000 strong showed up at the Ralph and another 11,500 showed up at the arena. No matter where you watched the game, you could feel the intensity and passion these fans have for the game.
  • Lindy Ruff and the Sabres coaches: Nice choice on those jackets.
  • Mother Nature: Thanks for the snow, much appreciated.
  • NBC: From what I heard, it was all Sidney Crosby love, but since I was at the arena and heard Rick all game, I couldn't tell you. My major knock was the camera angles. It couldn't of hurt to use the rail cam on this game because of the fact that the rink was so far away from the camera that you couldn't see all of the ice. Not such a major knock but still.
  • Mother Nature: Could you have not snowed so much?
All in all, the Winter Classic was a good game, sans the fact that the Sabres lost, but seriously should this be a regular season game. Wouldn't the outdoor idea work wonders for an all-star game that no one really pays attention to anyways. It would be a good idea to generate some buzz and then all of the stars of the league would be showcased, instead of just Sid the Kid.

Also, good news coming in from the TV Ratings of the game. Here is the link

Recap of Week One

Week One in the NLL featured one game on the 29th and it featured two of the powerhouses of the Western Conference in the Colorado Mammoth and Calgary Roughnecks. The Mammoth look like the team to beat in the West after coming back from a 8-5 deficit to start the 4th to win the game 10-9. Jason Wulder led the Mammoth with 3 goals and Gee Nash takes the win making 36 saves.

Other Recaps: - Colorado edges Calgary in opener 10-9
NLLinsider - NLL All Access - Opening Night
Denver Post - Wulder's goal caps big comeback