Saturday, January 5, 2008

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

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