My apologies for the lack of activity in the last week here. The new year started and so did other things. So now that the minor things are out of the way, I can focus on the more important things: the winning streaks of the Sabres and the Bandits.
Since I left, the Sabres have started a new year winning streak with wins against the Maple Leafs, Bruins, Senators and Rangers. The team has seemed to gel going into the halfway point of the season, with Ryan Miller stepping up his game and spearheading the Sabres winning streak. Miller has been spectacular in the past four games, allowing seven goals on 135 shots in those contests. The Sabres will most likely ride Miller through at least tonight against the Red Wings, which will be a homecoming game for Miller. The last time that Miller played in Detroit was in October 2006, where he made 41 saves in a 3-2 shootout win.
Another thing that is making the Sabres dangerous is the secondary scoring that has suddenly come along. While Thomas Vanek has been on a scoring tear all season with 27 goals which is good for 3rd in the NHL. But in the past four games, Vanek has only scored 2 of the Sabres 13 goals. Roy, Pominville, and Ellis have stepped up their scoring in the current winning streak. Ellis has 3 goals in this stretch, two of them coming against the Bruins, Roy has 4 goals while Pominville has 2 goals. This scoring is going to need to continue if the Sabres are expecting to keep this winning streak going.
Finally, the Sabres are starting to get healthy again. Tim Connolly came back against the Rangers after missing 24 games with a broken rib. As fragile as Connolly is, any amount of time in the lineup is a good thing. When Connolly is playing, he is one of the best players on the ice. Unfortunately, he can’t stay healthy for longer than 10 minutes. So to have a healthy Connolly in the lineup is going to improve the Sabres for any amount of time that he is here.
Switching gears, the Bandits opened the 2009 season with a rousing home opening win against the Philadelphia Wings. The 2009 Bandits roster looks extremely dangerous up and down the lineup. Returning 18 players from last year’s championship winning team means that this team is going to be able to hit the ground running to start the season. They showed this ability on Saturday night. The Bandits scoring started slowly, the first goal was netted at the 10 minute mark in the first, but once they gained the lead they never let it go defeating the Wings 15-11. Mark Steenhuis picked up from where he left off in the championship game, scoring 4 times while also having 4 assists. The ageless wonder, John Tavares, scored 3 times and had a total of 5 points. The main wonder in this game was how well the Bandits defense played. Losing Kyle Laverty to the expansion draft and Rich Kilgour to an elbow injury may have caused some problems heading into the game. But replacement captain Chris White and the rest of the defense stepped up to the plate and held the Wings defense to five goals through the first three quarters. If the Bandits can play defense like that all season, this team is going to be even more dangerous than it was last season.
This was game one though, and it was the home opener with the raising of the championship banner. The true test of this team is going to be how they perform on the road. The Bandits always seem to play at their best in front of the HSBC Arena. The Bandits were 3-4 on the road last season while going 7-2 at the Bank. They earned home field advantage throughout the playoffs and that could be a major reason as to why they won the Champions Cup last season. The first major road test for the Bandits comes tonight against the Toronto Rock. The Bandits have not won at the Air Canada Center since 2006. Competing in a very dangerous Eastern Conference means that the Bandits need to get to a fast start.
We will have game previews for both games tonight coming later and more posts period coming.