With the Canadians eliminating the Bruins last night in Game 7 and another two game 7's tonight, it seems like no better time than to talk about the mystique of a game 7. In any sport that has a series, Game 7 always is the best ticket in the series. It reeks of desperation and commitment. Some players have defined their careers on Game 7's alone. Last years playoffs saw only one game 7 and that was in the first round of the Vancouver/Dallas series while this year we are already seeing three. A few nuggets to warp your brain around until the first puck drops. The active leader in Game 7 appearances is Stephane Yelle with 11 appearances. His skipper Mike Keenan has coached a league record 10 Game 7's. There are 17 Calgary players who have played in a game 7 compared to 8 for San Jose. Washington is 1-4 in Game 7's, going 1-3 at home. Enjoy the games tonight. First puck drops at 7 in Washington on Versus.
Since there are only two games left in the season, I thought it was a good time to start writing previews again. The next two games for the Bandits are huge because of the massive logjam that is the Eastern Conference. They are a 1.5 out of first place and a game ahead of the fifth place spot. It makes winning the last two games even that more key. Into town comes the Chicago Shamrox, a team that has won their last 4 games and a goalie received at the trade deadline in Matt Roik that has been playing lights out. With 4 games left and being at 5-7, the Shamrox need help to get into the playoffs but they are going to be playing like every game is their last.
Matt Roik has been playing extremely well since coming over from the Philadelphia Wings where he was a bench warmer behind Rob Blasdell. But since coming over he has played in 5 games, he has gone 4-1 with an 11.74 GAA and .799 SV%. The Bandits are coming off probably the worst loss of the season against the Knighthawks in which it was so bad that Darris called out the team shortly after the loss. Taking 75 minutes in penalties in which 51 of those were in the fourth quarter does not bode well for the team at all. The other issue at hand are the goaltenders. Mike Thompson was hurt heading into this game so Kenny Montour started and while not playing badly, didn't play as lights out as the team needed from him. So there starts a goaltender controversy in who should start this game. All signs are pointing towards Thompson who should be ready to go and should get the start.
Since Chicago is coming off a game on Friday night against the Titans, it will be interesting to see if Roik will get the call in both games and if he will be mentally and physically ready to handle it. I think that if the Rox start Derek Collins the game will be over within the first quarter. If it is Matt Roik, while the Bandits have had prior success against Roik, his play of late would give a ver dangerous Shamrox team and better chance.
The Senators officially became the first team out of the NHL playoffs after their Game 4 loss at the hands of the Penguins. This being the same Senator team that started 15-2 and was proclaimed the best team like ever. Then Ray Emery showed up and they went to hell. It was a goalie ping-pong in where neither goalie was good enough to get the job done and the team kept losing until finally they settled into the 7 seed. Where they kindly got swept out by the Penguins. Even the Bruins are giving the Canadians a hard time by winning game 5. This says a lot about the Sens and the team as a whole. It was basically the same team that went to the Finals with the main three of Spezza, Heatley, and Alfredsson all in tact. Brian Murray became GM and John Paddock was hired, he didnt work and was fired halfway during the season for Brian Murray who couldnt stop the speeding train of doom either. It will be interesting to see what management does about this during the off-season.
As for the rest of the playoffs, I have not paid as much attention as I should but I do know that the Predators are looking good again after chasing Hasek out in the first last night, the Bruins are still grasping for straws after beating Montreal in Montreal, the Sharks looked ten times better in Game 4 after holding the Flames to only 10 shots in the whole game, the Wild and Avalanche are still hating each other as well as the Flyers and Capitals. It would also be really nice to see the Ducks lose in the first round with their in season additions that really should never be allowed. As of writing this, the Stars were up 3-0 in Game 4 of that series. As a prediction as well, and I swear I am writing this during the intermission of overtime, but I would place really good money on Briere scoring the game winner in the second overtime ala the Flyers series in 2005. And then Sabres fans all around will have their heads spin and pea soup coming out of their mouth.
The biggest week of the year in the NLL was week 16 which had a matchup between the two hottest teams in the Eastern Conference and also saw records being broken. Here are the reviews from the games:
Philadelphia vs. Portland The Wings started their crazy weekend by flying to Portland to take on the Lumberjax. With Athan Iannucci needing only 8 goals to break Gait's single season goal scoring record, he put the exclamation point on it by scoring 6 in the Wings defeat of the Lumberjax 13-10. Scoring has been a thing for Iannucci this year in that with those 6 goals he had scored 60 goals on the season. That basically was the story of the game with Brandon Miller in net for the Wings stopping 45 on 55 shots while Matt Disher took the loss stopping 51 on 63 shots. The special teams was not a factor with both teams going a combined 1-7.
Top Performer: Do I really need to rewrite that second sentence?
Philadelphia vs. Minnesota After making the trip to Portland, the Wings traveled to Minnesota to take on the second place Swarm in the Xcel Center. This game had everything that a fan could want, close finishes, records breaking, and an overall well played game. Iannucci broke the scoring record by scoring 3 goals on the night, he only needed 2 to break it. The Swarm went on a 9-0 run in first and second quarters to take a 10-3 lead. The Wings came back on a 7-1 run in the third to bring the game back to being competitive. With the Wings leading 14-13, the Swarm tied the game up in the final second on a goal by Dan Marohl. In overtime, the Swarm scored the winner on a shot by Sean Pollock. Brandon Miller ended up taking the loss after replacing starting goaltender Rob Blasdell while Nick Patterson played the whole game and ended up getting the win.
Top Performer: There are so many to choose from here with the crucial shots on both sides but the ultimate choice is going to Andy Secore who scored 3 goals and had another 3 assists to be the top point getter on the Swarm.
Chicago vs. Toronto The struggling Rock just cannot seem to get any bounces going their way. After firing their offensive coach this past week, the offense seemed to click better but the absence of league leading goaltender Bob Watson ended up costing the Rock the game, losing 13-12 in overtime. Mike Poulin played in the game, playing well but not well enough to help the Rock win the game. He saved 36 on 49 shots while Matt Roik for the Shamrox saved 50 on 62 shots. The Rock totally dominated on offense, outshooting their opponent 62-49 but just could not seem to crack Matt Roik for the final goal. Matt Giles scored on the second shot of overtime for the Shamrox to give them their fourth straight win. The Shamrox are a game and a half out of the final playoff spot which was fueled by this four game winning streak.
Top Performer: Matt Roik gets this honor by saving 50 on 62 shots and giving his team the chance to win it in overtime. Calgary vs. Edmonton The Roughnecks got a much needed return this week of their starting goaltender, Steve Dietrich. Dietrich playing in his first game since suffering a concussion against the Stealth on January 25th. He did not need to do much, stopping 28 on 35 shots while the Roughnecks blasted their foes from Alberta 18-7. Led by Kaleb Toth, the Roughnecks just pounded starting goaltender Curtis Palidwor who allowed 13 goals on 25 shots after finally being replaced by Matt King. Toth scored 4 goals on 5 shots and had another helper for a total of 5 points.
Colorado vs. New York The Titans continued their playoff push by beating the Mammoth at MSG 14-10. Matt Vinc took the win by saving 35 on 45 shots while the Titans chased Gee Nash after going on a five-goal run in the second quarter. Led by Mike McClellan, the Titans rattled off the first five in the second quarter to jump out to a 7-3 lead and never gave the lead back. McClellan ended up with four goals total on the night while the Mammoth were led by Chris Gill who scored 4 goals himself.
Edmonton vs. San Jose After losing to the Roughnecks in Calgary, the Rush had to make the trip down to San Jose to subsequently get beaten by the Stealth 14-6. This loss places the Rush at the bottom of the Western Conference while the win for the Stealth guaranteed them a playoff spot. The Stealth spread the offense around in this game with 10 different players scoring at least a goal. Curtis Palidwor started this game as well, taking another loss while it was Anthony Cosmo in net for the Stealth.
Standings for the NLL Eastern Conference 1. Minnesota (9-4) 2. Philadelphia (9-5, .5 GB) 3. Buffalo (8-6, 1.5 GB) 4. New York (7-6, 2 GB) 5. Rochester (7-7, 2.5 GB) 6. Toronto (7-7, 2.5 GB) 7. Chicago (5-7, 3.5 GB)
Western Conference 1. San Jose (8-6) x 2. Colorado (7-6, .5 GB) x 3. Calgary (5-9, 3 GB) 4. Portland (5-9, 3 GB) 5. Edmonton (4-9 3.5 GB) x- already clinched playoff spot
The Bandits pooched this game against the Knighthawks losing 11-6 at the BCA. Looking at the scoresheet, it looked like the team well just lost it. The quote from Darris kind of confirms that as well.
“I keep telling my guys that you can’t play just 10 minutes with hard energy and expect to get a ‘W’ out of it. I’m figuring out that I have a team that does what they want. When they want to play they’re a great team and when they don’t want to play they’re an average team. There’s pretty much nothing I can say to make them be a great team.”
The Bandits took 75 PIM in the game, 51 of them coming in the 4th quarter. This team just lost its composure during a time where the Eastern Conference has become a logjam of massive proportions. Ken Montour took the game mainly, being replaced by Thompson at some point. Montour had 39 saves on 50 shots, which is on par with his performances this season. The major problem with this game was the absolute lack of offense. 44 shots, 0-3 on the power play and a total of six goals in the game is the recipe for certain loss. Leading scorers like Accursi and Steenhuis were completely held off the scoreboard, while the teams leading scorer in the game was McCready and Tavares. Basically, this game has to be blamed on the lack of judging an opponent that is fighting for their playoff lives. This loss puts the Bandits in third place in the Conference, 1 game behind the Wings and a game and a half behind the Swarm. The last two games of the season are at home against the bottom dwellers of the conferences. This Saturday is against the Shamrox which are winners of four straight and on the 26th are the Lumberjax.
While it may have seemed that I have fallen off the face of the internet for a while, I pretty much have. I haven't had the chance to watch much on the playoffs not including the little bits of the Colorado/Minnesota series and Phily/Washington series. From what I have seen, it seems that the Colorado series is going to be the series to watch. All three games in the series have gone to overtime, with the game winners coming quickly. Both teams are playing with an intensity that rivals any playoff series. The Philly/Washington series is also going to be a great series to watch now that both teams are getting into the swing of things.
I promise that I will be trying to update more and more as the playoffs go on and I will have an NLL review from the crazy week that was Week 16.
While I am a huge fan of playoff hockey, I really kind of disappointed myself by missing the first set of games on Wednesday. The only game I actually saw was the Sharks/Flames game and I will have more on that in a minute.
Looking over the scores it can be said that both Ottawa and New Jersey had really bad nights. I know that Martin Gerber looked bad in net against the Pens and the same with Brodeur for the Devils. In the case of Brodeur, it happens but if it continues to happen the Devils are in major trouble. Brodeur is the rock of that team and if he continues to play that lousy the Devils are history quickly. It isn't so shocking that this is happening in Ottawa cause this has been happening all season. This team is toast and they have been toast before it started.
The Sharks looked really bad last night. Brian Campbell looked like the contract negotiation Campbell that Buffalo all knew and loved in the last few weeks of his run here. The Sharks started flat and the Flames definitely took advantage. Two goals in the first six minutes of the first was basically the start that they needed.
The Avalanche/Wild series looks like it is going to be an entertaining series and was definitely the most entertaining game of the night. Good goaltending made this game what it was. Both Jose Theodore and Nicolas Backstrom played great games with each making a fair share of amazing saves.
Tonights Games: Boston vs. Montreal, Nashville vs. Detroit, Calgary vs. San Jose, Dallas vs. Anaheim.
I was going to write this really long and fluent post on all of the playoff matchups in both conferences. But honestly, I am sick of reading them already and frankly you probably are too. Therefore, all I am going to do is list the playoff schedules and just give you my picks. From there, I will do game reviews of the games each night and if I have caught the game, give my opinion.
(1) Montreal Canadians vs. (8) Boston Bruins
Thursday - 7pm Saturday - 7pm Sunday - 7pm April 15 - 7pm April 17 - 7pm* April 19 - TBD* April 21 - TBD*
Considering that both teams play in the Northeast Division and that I generally dislike both teams, I guess I don't have a rooting interest here. The Canadians should win pretty easily but the return of Patrice Bergeron could give the Bruins a spark to win one. Canadians in 5.
(2) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (7) Ottawa Senators
Wednesday - 7pm Friday - 7pm April 14 - 7pm April 16 - 7pm April 19 - TBD* April 20 - TBD* April 22 - TBD*
This one is pretty easy because while I don't like the Penguins, I hate the Senators. So watching the Senators go down in a heap of flames would be great to see. Penguins in 6 (3) Washington Capitals vs. (6) Philadelphia Flyers
Friday - 7pm Sunday - 2pm April 15 - 7pm April 17 - 7pm April 19 - 1pm* April 21 - TBD* April 22 - TBD*
The prodigal star finally gets his chance to shine in the playoffs and it should really be fun to watch. I really want to see the Capitals succeed and do well. Capitals in 6.
(4) New Jersey Devils vs. (5) New York Rangers
Wednesday - 7pm Friday - 7pm Sunday - 7pm April 16 - 7pm April 18 - 7:30pm* April 20 - TBD* April 22 - TBD*
Probably the longest and most drawn out series of the playoffs, this one should just be a joy to watch. A despised Rangers team versus a trap loving Devils. Honestly, I hope it ends quickly. Devils in 4.
(1) Detroit Red Wings vs. (8) Nashville Predators
Thursday - 7pm Saturday - 2pm April 14 - TBD April 16 - TBD April 18 - 7:30 pm* April 20 - 3:30 pm* April 22 - TBD*
The Red Wings basically cruised the last couple of weeks in the playoffs with nothing really to play for. The last time they won the President's Trophy, they lost in the first round to the eventual finalists Edmonton Oilers. I think it can happen again. Predators in 7. (2) San Jose Sharks vs. (7) Calgary Flames
Wednesday - 10pm Thursday - 10pm Sunday - 10pm April 15 - 10pm April 17 - 10pm* April 20 - TBD* April 22 - TBD*
I will admit it, I like the Sharks. They are the team in the Western Conference that I can quietly root for and not feel bad about it because they really never meet the Sabres. I still like them even with the addition of Brian Campbell and I don't think I can wish ill will on a team that has a mascot like this. Sharks in 5.
(3) Minnesota Wild vs. (6) Colorado Avalanche
Wednesday - 9pm Friday - 9pm April 14 - 10pm April 15 - 10pm April 17 - 9pm* April 19 - TBD* April 22 - TBD*
This should be another barn burner of a series in that both teams don't play a high octane play of offense. The curse of Peter Forsberg is going to hurt the Avalanche so therefore Wild in 5.
(4)Dallas Stars vs. (5)Anaheim Ducks
Thursday - 10pm Saturday - 10pm April 15 - 8:30pm April 17 - 8pm April 18 - 10pm* April 20 - TBD* April 22 - TBD*
I really can't stand the Ducks. I really can't stand the Stars. I have no real rooting interest and could care less who wins. Stars in 6.
A busy week in the NLL made the Eastern Conference even more jumbled then it was before the week started. Knowing that, here are the recaps from the weekend games:
Rochester vs. Toronto The Knighthawks went into the Air Canada Center knowing that their playoff lives were even more in the balance after their 11-8 loss to the Mammoth on Thursday night. They took it to the Rock, winning 9-6 in a defensive battle which always seem to plague Rock games. Watson took the loss allowing only 9 goals on 47 shots while O'Toole took the win allowing 6 goals on 40 shots. While the defensive nature of the Rock is the way they play the game, it is also their downfall because of their lack of scoring. Blaine Manning and Lewis Ratcliff seemed to be the only ones that showed up for this one with Manning scoring 2 and Ratcliff scoring 3.
Top Performer: Scott Evans really put the Knighthawks on his back and carried them with this performance scoring 4 goals and adding another assist.
New York vs. Minnesota The Swarm got into a tie for first place with their win against the New York Titans, 12-9 at the Xcel Energy Arena. The Swarm are undefeated at home this season which could prove trouble come playoff time. Nick Patterson started the game for the Swarm allowing 9 goals on 42 shots while Matt Vinc takes the loss allowing 11 goals on 39 shots. The leading scorer for the Titans here was Pat Maddalena scoring 3 goals and adding an assist.
Top Performer: Ryan Ward wins this honor scoring 3 goals and adding 4 more assists.
Philadelphia vs. Chicago The suddenly hot Chicago Shamrox beat the Wings in overtime 15-14 in front of 5,427 at the Sears Center. The Shamrox are winners of their last three pulling them within two games of the last playoff spot. Much of this success comes from the addition of Matt Roik from the Wings. Roik has played 4 games for the Shamrox having a SV% of .797 which is good for second in the league. In net for the Wings was Brandon Miller who came over from the Shamrox in the Roik trade. He took the loss allowing the overtime goal in the first 7 seconds.
Top Performer: Bobby McBride from the Shamrox with 2 goals including the game winner takes this but an honorable mention can go to Matt Roik with his 48 saves on 62 shots. Calgary vs. Edmonton The Edmonton Rush have been about as hot as the Shamrox have been. Since starting the season 0-7, the Rush have won 4 of their last 5 pulling themselves into the third spot in the Western Conference. Most of this success can be attributed to the introduction of Bob Hamley as coach and many of the moves he has made at the trade deadline. Hamley basically restarted this team and brought in a lot of young players to play for the Rush along with a lot of draft picks. The Rush will have 4 first round draft picks for the 2009 draft which means they could be the team to beat next season. Going to this game, Curtis Palidwor put in another valiant effort between the pipes for the Rush making 32 saves on 41 shots. The loss for the Roughriders put them in last place in the Western Conference, a game back of the final playoff spot.
Top Performer: Jimmy Quinlan from the Rush takes this with 4 goals and assist. San Jose vs. Portland The Stealth keep the second spot in the Western Conference after beating the Lumberjax 12-9 in the Rose Garden. After the dismal performance against the Wings last week, the Stealth came out flat allowing the Lumberjax to have an early 4-2 lead after the first quarter. From there, the Stealth rattled off 9 straight to take a 10-4 lead halfway into the third and held off the late charge by the Lumberjax. Anthony Cosmo takes the win for the Stealth making 54 saves on 63 shots while Matt Disher takes the loss.
Top Performer: Jeff Zywicki had a pretty good game scoring 5 goals on 12 shots and adding 2 more assists.
Portland vs. San Jose Portland gets its payback and wins the back end of the home and home series against the Stealth winning 12-10. Both Disher and Cosmo played in this game as well. Disher made 42 saves on 52 shots while Cosmo made 43 saves on 54 shots. Zywicki played like he was the top point scorer on the Stealth netting 2 goals with 5 helpers.
Top Performer: Ryan Powell gets this with 3 goals and 4 helpers. Philadelphia vs. Toronto After losing the overtime game in Chicago, the Wings went home where they have been undefeated all season and won another 11-9 against the Rock. League leading Bob Watson took another loss having 50 saves on 61 shots while Rob Blasdell took the win making 51 saves on 60 shots. The major problem was the power outage of the Rock who only scored 15 goals in their two losses this weekend. This led to the firing of offensive coach Greg VanSickle today.
Top Performer: MVP leading candidate Athan Iannucci builds his case even more with 4 goals and another assist for a total of 76 points which is good for third in the league and second in the Eastern Conference.
The Bandits/Mammoth game was everything a fan could ask for and more out of a game that had the Bandits squeak by with a 12-11 win. Mike Thompson started in goal after missing a few games due to a concussion. He did not look rusty though. Thompson kept a shutout until the 5:14 mark in the second quarter. He also kept the Mammoth off the board for 14:42 to start the second half as well. In the first and third quarters, Thompson allowed 1 goal on 19 shots. This performance was needed because the offense didn't seem to click for a while, the first goal of the game was not scored until 7 minutes into the game. Both goaltenders played a good game with Thompson just being that much better. Thompson overall faced 56 shots and allowed the 11 goals on there. The Mammoth started Gee Nash who allowed 12 goals on 38 shots.
The special teams were a major factor in this game with Colorado going 5 for 7 on the man advantage scoring twice on a two-man advantage due to the Richie Kilgour 5 minute high sticking major. This allowed the Mammoth to bring the game back from a 4-1 deficit to tie the game at 5. From there, the Bandits held just enough of a lead to be able to keep the Mammoth at bay. The final few minutes saw some crucial saves by Mike Thompson to keep the Bandits from going to overtime.
The leading scorer for the Bandits was Steenhuis with 3 goals and 3 assists while the newly returning Mike Accursi by trade and Kevin Dostie from injury scored one and two goals respectively. For the Mammoth it was Brian Langtry who scored 3 goals and 2 assists while Gavin Prout had 6 assists in the loss. Notoriously absent from the lineup was Brent Bucktooth who with the new additions may just be the odd man out in the lineup, honestly not a bad thing.
The Bandits next face the Knighthawks on the 12th in Rochester while the Mammoth face the Titans in New York also on the 12th.
The run to the playoffs ended last night with the 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadians. At least the Sabres lost their chances on their own terms instead of something that they could not control to knock them out. The Canadians looked really sound in their own end and their powerplay looked like the top powerplay in the league. Their passing was sound and frustrated the Sabres' offense. While I did not watch much of the game, from what I saw the Sabres looked like a team that wanted to win but just did not have enough to overcome the superior play of the Canadians.
Even though that the Sabres are not going to make the playoffs, we here at Dueling Sabres will still have playoff coverage. The plan is to have daily updates of the playoff games and overview the series as they are revealed. Also, we will be here during the offseason updating with league news and Sabres news.
Week 14 in the NLL as I said before was very kind to the Buffalo Bandits. We will look at the standings a little later. But first, here are the recaps from the games last week.
Minnesota vs. Chicago In a weekend of shockers, this game started it off. The Shamrox beat the Swarm 15-10 in front of their home crowd to start a small two-game winning streak. The Shamrox were down early ending the first quarter down 5-1 but came back and scored 9 unanswered goals to take the lead 9-5 heading into the fourth and hanging on for the 15-10 win. Matt Roik played the whole game for the Shamrox allowing his 10 goals on 55 shots. For the Swarm, Patterson played most of the game and was pulled after allowing 11 goals. Kevin Croswell took the loss in allowing 3 goals. The Swarm have lost 4 of their last 5 after starting the season 6-0 while the Shamrox are currently at 3-7.
Top Performer: Cody Jacobs wins this title with his 6 goal performance, 5 of those coming during the 9 goal streak in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. Jacobs now has 11 goals on the season.
Philadelphia vs Rochester With the Knighthawks season on life support, they salvage their playoff chances with a big win against the Eastern Conference leading Philadelphia Wings 20-12. Rochester started with their foot on the gas pedal, rushing out to a 13-7 lead by halftime and never looked back. The Knighthawks garnered most of their success by limiting the chances that Iannucci could get on them. While he scored 3 times, he only got 11 shots off. Pat O'Toole played most of the game before it got chippy and he got run by Geoff Snider. The video of this sequence is here.
Top Performer: According to the Boxscore, this honor goes to Ken Millen with 3 goals and 4 assists. This may go to other things that you cant see from a box score, but from the box score perspective, I will give it to John Grant with 4 goals and 4 assists.
San Jose vs. Edmonton The final shocker of the weekend was the egg laid by the San Jose Stealth, losing on the road to the Rush 12-5. The Stealth never really got their scoring going, only scoring 1 goal in each of the first three quarters. The Rush have looked good since Bob Hartley took over as coach/GM winning 3 of their last 4, giving them a shot in the last spot in the Western Conference playoffs. Curtis Palidwor takes the win here only facing 40 shots. This loss puts the Stealth into the second spot in the Western Conference, only a half game back from the Mammoth.
Top Performer: Chris McKay gets this with 1 goal and 3 assists and 12 loose balls.
There is only one game during the week in Week 15 and that is Rochester vs. Colorado. Colorado can secure a playoff spot with a win against either Rochester or Buffalo this week. The Mammoth have fallen as of late winning only 1 of their last 5. But because of the smaller Western Conference and the lack of good teams there, Colorado still holds the top spot there. The Knighthawks on the other hand are playing for their playoff lives. They are 5-6 which puts them at 6th spot in the Eastern Conference, a game and a half back from the 4th place Bandits. The schedule does not look all that good for the Knighthawks either because in their 5 games left they face the top team in the West and in the East it is Toronto, Buffalo, New York, and Minnesota, all teams trying to jockey for position in the playoff race as well. The Knighthawks do have a chance and now is a good time to start because they are .500 on the road.
Here are the Standings for the Eastern and Western Conferences. The Mammoth and Stealth can clinch playoff spots with wins this week.
Eastern Conference 1. Philadelphia (7-3) 2. Minnesota (7-4, .5 game back) 3. Toronto (7-4, .5 game back) 4. Buffalo (7-5, 1 games back) 5. New York (6-5, 1.5 games back) 6. Rochester (5-6, 2.5 games back) 7. Chicago (3-7, 4 games back)
Western Conference 1. Colorado (6-4) 2. San Jose (6-5, .5 game back) 3. Portland (4-7, 2.5 games back) 4. Calgary (4-8, 3 games back) 5. Edmonton (3-7, 4 games back)
At least the scoreboard was nice to watch last night. The Bruins lost to the Devils 1-0 in a shootout only getting a point and the Flyers lost 4-2 to the Penguins. This means that the Bruins have 92 points now and the Flyers still have 91 and the Capitals still have 90. Therefore, the Bruins have to lose in regulation from here on out, the Flyers can still get a point and the Capitals can only get a point. The Sabres have to win out for any of these things to help and tonight is going to be a tough battle. They head to Montreal to face the division winning Canadiens. The last time these two teams met was last Friday in Buffalo when the Canadiens overcame a two goal lead in the last five minutes and Christopher Higgins scored the game winner in overtime. That cannot happen tonight. Anything but 2 points will eliminate them.
The Canadiens have already clinched the Northeast Division with their win against the Senators. They are 2 points away from the Penguins with an extra game in hand. This would be the first conference title if the Canadiens can pull it out since 1992-93. Winners of 5 out of their last 6 really makes this team dangerous and can strike at any time as they showed last Friday. They have a serious amount of firepower in Higgins, Plekanic, Kovalev, and Kostityn. They also are dangerous on the powerplay scoring at a clip of 24.3% which is good for first in the NHL. Carey Price has looked good since the Canadiens dealt away Cristobal Huet to the Capitals as well.
Getting out of this game with two points is going to be tough, but the Sabres blueline looks that it is going to have help with the return of Jaroslav Spacek. Spacek is coming off a chest injury that sidelined him for the last 10 games. His presence on the blueline is going to good for a team that has been hurting on the blueline kind of. Sekera and Weber will stay in the lineup and it looks that the odd man out on the blueline is going to be Nathan Paestch. In Paestch's case, Daniel Paille looks to be out of the lineup with an upper-body injury so it could be conceived that Paetsch could slide over to his spot. This is nothing new for Paestch who played offense for one or two games last season. EDIT: Scrap that, Paille is going to be in the lineup for tonight.
One final comment on the playoff race. Sportsclubstats.com gives the Sabres a 3.9% chance of making the playoffs as of right now. The Capitals do play tonight against the Lightning. If the Lightning win, the Sabres chance of making the playoffs increases 6.5%. If the Capitals lose, the chance of making the playoffs decreases 1.7% If the Sabres win tonight, their chance of making the playoffs increases 7.8% and are out if they lose. I think this is a big game.
The last game of the QEW rivalry is tonight in at the ACC. The Leafs have been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs a couple of days ago and because of that, the Toronto Star is reporting that Andrew Raycroft is playing tonight in place of Vesa Toskala. Raycroft over his career has a 3.06 GAA and a .891 SV% against the Sabres. He last played on February 5th against the Panthers when he allowed 4 goals on 11 shots. Since then, Toskala has gotten on a hot streak going 17-11-2 in the last 30 games that he has played in.
The Sabres are going to need help to get into the playoffs with the 7th and 8th spots each having 91 points with 3 games left. If the Sabres win out, they will have 92 points. There is only one game on the scoreboard watching front and that is the Capitals vs. Hurricanes starting at 7. In terms of the Sabres hopes, we really want the Hurricanes to win. The Capitals have 88 points with only 3 games left. The Sabres hopes of making this race are very, very slim. But it never hurts to hope.
Here's to game time at 7:30 on MSG. Of course he would be a Leafs fan.