A pair of 6-3 wins have the Buffalo Sabres prospects in line for a berth in the championship game at the Traverse City Prospect Tournament. UPDATE: The Sabres tweeted that they have secured a berth in the championship game. They will play the Rangers at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
Buffalo sits 2-0 after wins over Minnesota and Columbus this weekend. The Rangers also went 2-0 over the weekend and it appears both teams are set for a final showdown. Barring a blowout loss by either side, there should be nothing that eliminates them after round robin play.
Although both games bore the same score, there were few similarities beyond that. Buffalo had to come back after giving up two early goals against Minnesota. Meanwhile, the Sabres held control for much of their win over Columbus. Kevin Snow has two great write ups of both wins on the Sabres website, accompanied by video highlights. In addition, Phil from Black & Blue & Gold also has video highlights posted. I will defer to them on in-depth game coverage.
The Sabres final round robin game is against Detroit tomorrow afternoon and the Championship game will be played at 7 p.m. on Sunday. The game will be televised on MSG. The Rangers sent a crew to cover all of their games at the tournament, they have also been rebroadcast on NHL Network. As for the Sabres performance thus far, the have received balanced scoring from many players over the first two games. Most of the players with multiple points have been in the system for a few years. Nick Crawford has two goals and an assist while Zack Kassian has three helpers to go along with a fighting major against the Wild. Six more players have two points, including free agent invites Jonathon Parker and Phil Varone. Luke Adam has two goals and is plus three. He and Parker have the Sabres’ game winning goals.
Of course, Kassian, Parker and Varone aren’t as familiar with the Sabres system as some of the other top point producers at this point. Kassian does carry quite a bit of potential with him, while Parker and Varone both had impressive showings at the prospect camp this summer, thus extending their invitations to early fall.
Outside of simply looking at the number, it is difficult to say who has been playing well and who has been struggling. This is particularly difficult since none of Buffalo’s games have been televised to this point. It is a real shame because NHL Network provided great coverage of this tournament a few years ago. I have to think it offers more entertainment value than stale replays of the playoffs at this point.
After two games only two players have a minus rating (Kevin Sundher and Steven Beyers) and only six players have yet to record a point. There are many who have a stat line which could go either way, based on the results of each game it seems safe to assume the Sabres have brought a wealth of talent with them to Michigan. While some of the quick swings in goals against could be somewhat concerning, the ability to put up 12 goals in two games puts to bed any doubts. Not to mention, 23 young skaters have a different grasp on the game than, say, Robyn Regehr and others will have come October.
Buffalo brought a fairly stacked roster up to Traverse City. Eight players have either seen time in the AHL or are set to make their pro debut this season. Only seven have yet to see a Sabres training camp. Shawn Szydlowski was signed to play in Portland late last year, so he technically falls into both categories.
Wednesday will be exciting for a few reasons. It is likely that Buffalo will roster their top 23 players, so you will get a good idea of which players Ron Rolston is a fan of. Guys like Adam, Kassian, McNabb and even Parker and Varone will likely be players for interest for the coach and fans.
The other reason for every Sabres fan to get excited is that hockey is back. This will offer fans a live game to watch and a bit of a warmup for the upcoming preseason and training camp schedule. The NHL is less than 30 days away, life in Pegulaville is about to get exciting again.