2ITB Conference Final predictions

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

2ITB second round predictions

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.

Eastern Conference

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

Outcome: Penguins in six Continue reading

Double Minors: More of the same in Chicago

As the Sabres prepared for yesterdays game in Chicago, there had to be some mention of what happened two days earlier. Perhaps there wasn’t, maybe the team is trying to move on in any way possible. Even if the 5-0 loss to Detroit wasn’t spoken of, it had to weigh heavy on the minds of the players. Yet, there didn’t seem to be much response.

Buffalo kept things close through the first 25 minutes, but ultimately suffered another tough loss, 6-2. Through the first three games of the road trip, the Sabres have surrendered 15 goals while scoring only four. Saddle the goaltenders with as much blame as you please, but the team is not playing well enough defensively or scoring nearly enough goals to identify one singular aspect as the main problem.

Much of the focus on this loss is going to be focused on Ville Leino’s drop pass that turned out to be the secondary assist on the game-winning goal. Make no mistake, Leino made a horrible choice in dropping that puck in the faceoff circle with no real support. It was an egregious error and can’t be overlooked. However, there was actually some sound reasoning behind the choice. Leino clearly had Drew Stafford breaking to him and a successful pass would have created a 2-on-1. Unfortunately, Stafford broke to the slot rather than trailing the puck and the play went the opposite direction. So, there was a damn good reason as to Leino’s thought process and why he made that choice, it just doesn’t outweigh the fact that putting his head down and getting to the paint would have been a better choice.

The Sabres look like a team simply going through the motions. Questioning the team’s passion is quite a difficult feat when you have no first-hand experience with this particular group. But seeing certain plays and games develop, there seems to be a few missing pieces in the heart/desire department. There are a few players who are obviously going balls-out regardless of the current situation (Pominville, Vanek, Gerbe to name a few), there are just many who don’t seem to be truly sold on trying to win every game. Again, a tough opinion to form without being in the locker room, but that is what seems to be happening on a nightly basis.

  • Jhonas Enroth could have used a better night. He made some big saves early, but didn’t look sharp on many of the Chicago goals. Hossa’s breakaway showed he still has some work to do in that department (yes, it was a breakaway) and he had a few tough ones beat him later on. Obviously neither goalie is playing to the level they’re capable of, but they’re certainly not getting much help either. Once again, the issues with the Sabres go far beyond one singular aspect. Whether you want to point to management, coaching or the players; there are numerous issues at play, not just one.
  • Mike Weber continues to fumble around. He was once a promising prospect who had the potential to be a steady 4-6 defender. Now he is touching the low end of that spectrum on his best day. What makes matters worse is that Weber is sitting third on the current depth chart – more or less.
  • Luke Adam has had a few so-so efforts in recent weeks. That play led to his demotion to the third line. However, he still remains one of THREE players with double digits in the goal category. It might be time to stop worrying only about keeping every player within the system and finding some new ways to create offense. Of note, Buffalo’s best hockey came with Adam centering Vanek and Pominville.
  • No player could really say they had a good night – aside from Jason Pominville – but Tyler Myers certainly had his moments. Myers seems as if he realized that his physical presence is one of the most important parts of his overall game. When he plays with finesse, he is no different than anyone else on the ice. When he is physical, he is a dominant force that possesses a frightening two-way game.

NHL Links

Game Summary

Event Summary



The Morning Skate: Roadie continues in Windy City

The Sabres are still searching for answers. They have another shot tonight in Chicago as their lengthy road trip continues.

Twitter was active with more Sabres trade chatter last night, but one source was beyond questionable and the other quite credible. If you haven’t seen the report from @DaveDavisHockey, you can find it here. The report is from Pierre LeBrun and it doesn’t say too much that Sabres fans have been clamoring for/wondering for some time now. But for those desperate for change, the idea that Stafford, Roy and Boyes are seriously being shopped has to be promising. For what its worth, this is certainly a step in the right direction. If adequate return is brought in for these guys there will plenty of good vibes re-established.

Tonight’s match-up is no easier than Monday’s. The Sabres roll into a hostile atmosphere against a team who just wins at home. Flat out. The Blackhawks have a ton of speed and plenty of weapons. That doesn’t add up for a good outlook for the Sabres. The injury front remains bleak, so there is little chance that reinforcements may shore up any shortcomings. In addition, the shellacking from Monday is likely fresh on their minds.

Expect a pretty simple game this evening from the Sabres. Considering the current state of the roster, that is about all they’re capable of rolling out. The key is establishing early dominance. The Sabres have only had a handful of games in which they established themselves early in the first. It is shocking the results this team is capable of producing when they are able to come out with some fire.

Highlighted Matchup

Derek Roy, Drew Stafford and Brad Boyes. When the entire Ducks roster was put on notice, they responded. When the Kings fired their coach, the team responded. When Ken Hitchcock took over in St. Louis, the team responded. Well. Roy, Stafford and Boyes have been put on notice. If there is any intestinal fortitude between the three you can expect a strong showing. Perhaps the trade chatter will light a fire under them. If it doesn’t, then those who say those players lack heart are dead on in their criticism.

Projected Goaltenders

BUF: Ryan Miller — CHI: Corey Crawford

Last Meeting

10/16/2010, United Center, Sabres 3 – Blackhawks 4

2ITB NHL preview: The West

Since it is a yearly occurrence for the West to have 13 teams in the playoff race and two team at least 20 points out of eighth, I struggled to find a good balance of picks this season. I made a bold choice with the Kings last year. While I don’t have them coming out of the West, I have made a similarly bold statement

Continue reading

Monty’s rights sent to Chicago

As you most certainly know, Steve Montador’s negotiating rights have been traded to the Chicago Blackhawks for a conditional seventh round pick. If you didn’t know, I’m glad 2ITB could enlighten you. Here is the stipulation for the draft pick from the Buffalo News article linked above.

The Blackhawks’ draft pick was previously acquired from Florida in the Tomas Kopecky trade Monday. The pick is presently conditional to the Nashville Predators. If that pick is not available, Florida will transfer its own seventh-round selection in the 2013 draft.

So Monty’s rights are gone. What’s the big deal? It was fairly obvious that Montador was going to be able to test the market, at the very least. I don’t think there would have been much chance to re-sign him given the thin crop of UFA defensemen. Given that fact I applaud Darcy Regier for getting something for nothing.In only four months under his new bosses, Regier has taken on salary with the Brad Boyes and Robyn Regehr trades while also taking shots for marquee free agents. Obviously this man has not been getting the credit he deserves, I don’t know if he ever will.

Nevertheless, Darcy went out and snagged a late-round pick for the rights to Montador. The key to this deal is two-fold. The sticking point, for me, is that Regier recouped the pick he lost in the Ehrhoff trade. I know a seventh round pick is a lot different from a fourth round pick, but he still has that selection in his pocket. The other facet of this deal, depending how you look at it, is that he must be very confident that Ehrhoff will be signed by the end of the day.

I am not as confident regarding Ehrhoff being close to an agreement. Sure, I am confident that Regier has the tools necessary to get Ehrhoff under conract, but I don’t know if I read this trade as a sign that a deal is imminent. If that is the case, then awesome. But I am trying to be patient regarding Ehrhoff until I hear more concrete news in his regard.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Round one recap

To say the first round of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs were highly entertaining would be a massive understatement.

Half of the series went to a game seven and three of the four deciding games were spectacular. The one exception was the 5-2 drubbing the Flyers put on the Sabres. The other four series were equally entertaining. I would say the Caps 4-1 triumph and Detroit’s sweep of the Desert Dogs were the only ho-hum parts of the first round.

Eastern Conference

#1 Washington Capitals defeat #8 New York Rangers 4-1

I had the Caps winning in five, which really is no great stretch of a prediction. This could have shaped up to be a much different series had Marian Gaborik not gift-wrapped the game four overtime goal for Jason Chimera. The Capitals improved defense was strong as was Michael Neuvirth. Washington scored timely goals and Henrik Lundqvist wasn’t enough to counter the superior match up. Turning point: Marian Gaborik’s gaffe leads to OT winning goal to give Washington a 3-1 series lead. MVP: Michael Neuvirth – 4-1, 1.38 GAA, .946 SV% Continue reading

Holy cow Canucks

It is common knowledge that winning the fourth game in a series is the most difficult part of playoff hockey. The Sabres did a fine job of proving that point today.

However, the fact that the Vancouver Canucks can’t get over the hump against the Chicago Blackhawks is astounding.

Drawing the Blackhawks was a worst case scenario for the President’s Trophy winners. Of course, winning the President’s Trophy is a bad omen itself. Chicago has tortured Roberto Luongo and the Canucks for the past two seasons. It certainly seemed as if the Canucks had exorcised some demons after opening up a 3-0 lead with ease. Continue reading

2ITB first-round predictions

After going just about o’fer on my regular season predictions, here is a look at who I think will advance in the first round of the NHL Playoffs.


1. Washington Capitals vs. 8. New York Rangers

This is an interesting series. If Ryan Callahan was healthy and the Rangers had better scoring depth they could really give the Caps a run. However, they don’t have those two things. The Rangers have Henrik Lundqvist and block a lot of shots. It ends there. The Caps play good defense and can score in bunches. Their goaltending is quite suspect but Alex Ovechkin has been heating up over the last half of the season. Plus, Jason Arnott and Scott Hannan were two fantastic acquisitions by George McPhee. Caps in five.

Continue reading

Looking back at my conference predictions

A prognosticator I am not. My mock NFL Draft senior year was about 15% correct. When I went about predicting the NHL’s playoff picture back in October, I didn’t have high hopes. Let us see how 2ITB did:


Prediction – 1. WAS, 2. PIT, 3. BOS, 4. NJD, 5. BUF, 6. OTT, 7. MTL, 8. PHI, 9. NYR, 10. CAR, 11. TOR, 12. TBL, 13. NYI, 14. ATL, 15. FLA

Actual – 1. WAS, 2. PHI, 3. BOS, 4. PIT, 5. TBL, 6. MTL, 7. BUF, 8. NYR, 9. CAR, 10. TOR, 11. NJD, 12. ATL, 13. OTT, 14. NYI, 15. FLA

So I was a bit off in the middle. Not too many people would have bet on that epic collapse by New Jersey and I, admittedly put far too much stock in Brian Elliott and Pascal Leclaire. Philadelphia overachieved (according to my original calculation) and I vastly underestimated Tampa Bay.

Washington was a pretty easy choice to make, as was keeping Atlanta, Florida and the Islanders at the bottom. Otherwise it was a hodgepodge of close calls and near misses.


Prediction – 1. LA, 2. VAN, 3. CHI, 4. SJ, 5. DET, 6. NSH, 7. ANA, 8. CGY, 9. COL, 10. PHX, 11. STL, 12. DAL, 13. MIN, 14. CBJ, 15. EDM

Actual – 1. VAN, 2. SJ, 3. DET, 4. ANA, 5. NSH, 6. PHX, 7. LA, 8. CHI, 9. DAL, 10. CGY, 11. STL, 12. MIN, 13. CBJ, 14. COL, 15. EDM

Since the West is such a crap shoot it would have been pretty hard to predict either way. I gave LA too much credit and it turns out the Hawks didn’t have close to enough depth to compete at the level they did last year.

My biggest oversight was with Colorado at nine, turns out they really stink. The Western playoff picture is extremely interesting this season, with the amount of parity out there it isn’t a stretch to say that any team can advance and any team could have finished two to four places higher.