Jason Botterill held court with the press and gave his head coach a vote of confidence. He also reinforced his previous claims of the deals he’s looking to make ahead of the deadline. We air some frustrations with Botterill’s apparent approach and break down some of the recent deals to break, including Charlie Coyle to Boston and Jakub Silfverberg’s extension in Anaheim. We also offer up a few thoughts on Jeff Skinner, trying to cool off any concerns people may have regarding whether or not he’ll be signing an extension in Buffalo.
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Now that the NHL’s final four (and last four Cup champs) have advanced to the Conference Finals, it is time for another edition of playoff picks. While I was a respectable 6/8 in the first round, I only managed two correct picks for the four second round series. While 50% is great in baseball, it isn’t all that fantastic considering the picks I made.
The Conference Finals pretty much have the exact four teams most expected to see when the playoffs first opened and these four favorites certainly haven’t disappointed. Maybe Los Angeles wasn’t expected to advance to this point, but the other three were certainly penciled in.
So, with a score of 8/12, I look to improve my score as the 2013 NHL season continues to meander to a close. Continue reading →
For the third-straight season I rolled up six out of eight correct playoff series predictions in the first round. I fully expect to almost completely whiff on my second round predictions for the third-straight season.
While I swung and missed on my Cup Finals prediction, I managed to guess most of the second round participants and I’ll now provide my predictions for the second round series.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Ottawa Senators
This will be a very interesting series to follow. The main storyline is the Penguins struggles in net but this will really come down to Pittsburgh’s firepower matching up against Craig Anderson and Ottawa’s ability to defend. Pittsburgh has a deep offensive lineup that would create ugly matchup choices for an All Star team, let alone the seventh seed in the playoffs. If Paul MacLean can work his magic and Anderson stays hot, this will be a long series.
Why Pittsburgh will win: Firepower is the name of the game for the Penguins. They outscored their way to the second round with little more than average goaltending supporting their back legs. This is an offensive juggernaut which also has a pair of bottom six lines capable of mixing offense and defense quite nicely. Goaltending will obviously be an issue and the hot button issue until Tomas Vokoun proves he can carry this team.
Why Ottawa will win: The Senators have continuously proven that they’re capable of overcoming and they did a fine job of that all year. They certainly weren’t overmatched by the Canadiens but I feel they will be in many ways during this series. However, if they can find offensive success they should have little issue being very competitive against this team
Funny how 12 months, an intense labor debate and relatively happy returns from fans can change how things work in the NHL.
When realignment was brought up last season, the NHLPA shot down the proposal citing a number of issues surrounding travel and questions about the playoff format. After burning a major portion of the season to a lockout, the NHL and PA put through a realignment plan for next year that was nearly identical to the one that was vetoed last season.
There are some significant changes to this plan compared to the last proposal. Both Detroit and Columbus come East, leaving the league with unbalanced conferences; a wild card option has been instituted to keep a competitive balance for the playoffs; lastly, the recently approved plan ensures every team will appear in every arena over the course of the year.
The Sabres will welcome three new division rivals to their yet-to-be-named division dubbed as “Division C” in the most recent league graphic illustrating the new conferences. In addition to their current Northeast Division rivals, the Sabres will welcome Florida, Tampa Bay and Detroit to their new division.
The Bolts and Panthers ended up being the black sheep of the entire realignment as they’re geographically hamstrung compared to the rest of the Eastern Conference. Short of splitting them between the two divisions (an unrealistic option), the NHL had limited options with their two Sunshine State franchises. Detroit (along with Columbus) made good on the reported promise made by the league to get them into the Eastern Conference, away from 10:00 starts and into a division with relatively limited travel.
Buffalo will play five games a year against division opponents, three games a year against the other Eastern Conference teams and 28 total against the West.
While the new division alignment doesn’t stack the odds against the Sabres, it doesn’t necessarily favor them either. Finding success within their division may not be as much of a challenge for the Sabres as remaining above those teams from the other Eastern division.
Tuesday night didn’t end well. Ryan Miller allowed a pair of questionable goals and there were some struggles from various players on the roster. However, Tuesday’s overtime loss to the Leafs was followed by a 7-4 win over the Bruins.
Thomas Vanek continued his Hart-worthy play with a five-point effort that was complimented by his first hat trick since 2011. Buffalo’s defensive struggles remained evident in the win, but Ryan Miller made a number of massive saves throughout the course of the evening, aiding in the Buffalo win.
Vanek was straight-up dominant on Thursday. He’s been strong all year and quickly jumped into the Hart Trophy race with a five-point game right off the bat and an incredibly impressive point streak. Vanek has registered at least one point in every game that he has played.
This is exactly the type of hockey that you need to see from Vanek. He has developed terrific chemistry with his linemates and providing him with a steady, talented center in Cody Hodgson has been playing dividends. Vanek’s line has combined for 33 points (15+18) thus far. Lindy Ruff has found lightning in a bottle with this line and I’d argue that no matter what type of slide the Sabres may hit that this line should remain untouched.
The one constant between Tuesday and Thursday’s games are the continued struggles on the defensive side for the Sabres. Tyler Myers has had an up-and-down season and Thursday was certainly a down game. His partner, Jordan Leopold, wasn’t much better in a contest where the Bruins skated freely in the offensive zone on a regular basis.
Buffalo’s defensive zone lapses aren’t focused on one area either. In fact the defensemen, centers and wingers have all been culpable at times this season. Even the goaltenders have laid eggs of their own – Enroth in Carolina and Miller on Tuesday. Continue reading →
As was illustrated last week, one loss can really be magnified with such a short schedule. Three losses can send a fan base into an absolute state of terror.
With two losses to the Canes followed by another defeat in Washington, a number of fans seem to be inching closer to the panic button as 10% of the 2013 schedule is now behind the team. Of course, that is only five games worth of a 48-game schedule.
The reactions to these losses seem to be fueled more by the way in which the games were lost more so than the actual outcome. However, there is still plenty of time to right the ship as the Sabres prepare to close out February with a pair of division games; their second and third within the Northeast Division this season. In fact, five of their next six games will be against Northeast Division rivals.
Buffalo’s win against Toronto was a practice in great goaltending and clinging on for dear life. You might say that the below average third period carried into the loss at Carolina two days later and has stayed with the team since. Ryan Miller’s stellar night against the Leafs last week was the catalyst in Buffalo’s victory; along with another great night from the team’s top line.
Tonight’s First Niagara Center debut from the Leafs is different only in that Toronto has suffered two ugly losses down in New York and are still searching for answers in the James Reimer/Ben Scrivens debate. Reimer impressed against Pittsburgh last week before getting lit up for five against the Rangers but wasn’t victimized by the Islanders as Scrivens was. I’d expect to see Reimer between the pipes tomorrow night. Continue reading →
The 2011-12 NHL season is in the books for the Buffalo Sabres. Ultimately, it was a disappointing year considering the mid-season struggles and the failure to reach the playoffs. I’ll attempt to merely focus on yesterday’s loss in Boston.
Brad Boyes enjoyed what should be a nice swan song with the Sabres, picking up a pair of goals. I fully expect that he will be seeking a new city to play in for the 2012-13 season. Boyes’ first two goals staked the Sabres to a 2-1 lead before Jason Pominville’s 30th goal gave Buffalo a 3-1 lead. However, as was the case for portions of the season, Buffalo’s two-goal lead was not enough for a victory.
Jhonas Enroth was hardly to blame, turning aside 37 shots (including six in overtime). Tyler Seguin scored a pair and Brad Marchand tied the game on an interesting piece of defense from the Sabres. Enroth didn’t get enough playing time this season and it shows in his record. Winless since November, Enroth wasn’t the player so many fans fell in love with last spring. I’m wondering if the love affair would continue if he was indeed the full-time starter?
Regardless, yesterday’s failure was just another chapter in a season full of them. It was a meaningless game, so the outcome matters little in my opinion. The season finale was basically bonus hockey for me and that is how I treated it. Now comes a few months of playoff hockey and then what should be an interesting offseason for the Sabres organization.
Good on Boyes to pick up that pair of goals. He has caught a bad wrap during his time here and has justified much of his criticism. Boyes was largely misused for most of his tenure but didn’t find much success with the power play time he was given most of the time.
Brayden McNabb was rewarded with some serious ice time in Boston. He should be contending for a spot with the top-six next fall. Hopefully he continues to get big minutes for the remainder of the year in Rochester.
McNabb has shown some great attributes. His physical game and two-way skills make him quite valuable. T.J. Brennan has been less impressive in my opinion, I think he will be an admirable cog to fill a spot until a player like Mark Pysyk is ready for the NHL.
Great to see Jason Pominville hit 30 goals. He had a great year and deserved that milestone. Too bad Thomas Vanek couldn’t continue his early season success that had him pacing towards 40 goals. 2012 has been rough on Vanek, he needs to find more consistency in the coming seasons. Vanek is too valuable to continue this up and down play.
Tyler Ennis and Andrej Sekera must have been listening to the Benny Hill Theme on the tying goal. Ennis made a poor choice trying to clear the zone and Sekera offered little help for his goaltender.
Sekera chose a really poor time for his game to go to hell. He had a really rough few weeks and they happened to come when they needed him to be the shutdown defender that he and Robyn Regehr became as the calendar year turned.
I’ll have a full load of coverage as the offseason gets rolling, keep your eyes peeled for a rough schedule regarding what will be coming along for the offseason. Thanks for reading this year.
Once again the Buffalo Sabres couldn’t muster the offense to maintain the early lead they built in Boston. Once again a one-goal lead was established and sat on. Once again the Sabres will wait to climb the final rungs of the playoff ladder.
For what it’s worth, Sami Pahlsson scored a late goal to put Vancouver over Winnipeg late last night. Of all the teams Sabres fans are keeping their eyes on, Winnipeg is the one that matters most.
Last night’s loss was another in which the Sabres scored only one goal. It was also a game in which they held a lead but failed to build upon it. The past 14 days have been grueling for the Sabres. They have gone from Anaheim, up the coast to Vancouver (via San Jose), to Winnipeg and now to Boston. They will stop off in Ottawa tomorrow night. In that whole span the Sabres returned home for Wednesday’s overtime win against Carolina.
This rough road schedule is a likely culprit for additional fatigue and bumps and bruises. But the Sabres have failed to adapt to many of their shortcomings this year, particularly in the scoring department. Whether this is a coaching issue or player issue is unknown. All I know is that any hope of actually catching eighth place will come on the coattails of more than just one or two goals per game.
Jhonas Enroth’s unfortunate losing streak continued despite a fine showing. He turned away 13 shots in the first period alone, finishing with 25 saves on the night. Enroth’s losing streak has been subject to a number of game in which the Sabres failed to provide proper goal support. Last night was another good example. Enroth did prove that he’s capable of earning another start before the end of the season.
Funny how Cody Hodgson went from being the toast of the town to an alleged bust in just a week and a half. Apparently the Sabres acquired Wayne Gretzky and no one told me. Give him time to settle into the system, offensive players often take a little longer to acclimate to a new system. Especially a system that runs on only one goal per game.
Alexander Sulzer continues to acquit himself nicely. Three games in, he is a major improvement over Marc-Andre Gragnani.
I still wonder about the mental toughness of the Sabres at times. Surrendering a one goal lead isn’t a rare occurrence. However, both losses this week came after being tied entering the third period. Again, both games came after rough travel days, but that type of game is what the Sabres will see in the playoffs.
There is no reason to start scoreboard watching just yet. The Sabres still control their own destiny and simply need to win their games. They have been getting some help lately, but there is no reason to fret over every other team’s win or losses when the standings will change in 24 or 48 hours.
Buffalo’s physical game hasn’t seemed to suffer much since losing Paul Gaustad. However, their faceoff numbers are down significantly and I wonder if it is something that will really start to prove to be a factor. Even on Wednesday, Ville Leino’s faceoff loss led to Carolina’s first goal. Just something to keep an eye on.
Buffalo came forth with a strong bounce back effort against Carolina last night after dropping a 3-1 loss to Winnipeg on Monday.
The Sabres are now heading to Boston on a night that a pair of their playoff race competitors are in action. Toronto’s loss last night gave the Sabres more help in the playoff race. Getting a win tonight and regulation losses in Vancouver (Winnipeg) and Washington (vs. Tampa Bay) will keep the Sabres collective heads above water.
Boston has been up and down in recent weeks, playing strong hockey while laying eggs shortly thereafter. The Bruins and Sabres have played an interesting series this season, I have to wonder how Buffalo will fare against a supremely physical team with the general lack of physicality on the Sabres roster.
I fully expect to see Jhonas Enroth in net tonight. Ryan Miller has started 21-straight games and has played at least 30 minutes in the last 22 games. He has seen a ton of action in every game since last week – save for last night – and needs some time prior to this next run of games he will be sent on.
Sabres toughness vs. Bruins toughness. The absence of Paul Gaustad has yet to show much effect on the Sabres. Boston plays a hard game and I wonder if the Sabres have the muscle to run with a team that plays such a style. Obviously players like Chara, Lucic and Thornton will be too much to handle. But like the 6-0 win last month, Buffalo simply needs to push back and show they’re capable of not backing down.