Double Minors: Sabres 4 – Blue Jackets 2

Just call them the Subway Line.

Vanek-Adam-Pominville, call them The Subway Line

Thanks to Thomas Vanek, Luke Adam and Jason Pominville, plenty of Buffalonians will be eating free subs after home games this season. The people at Subway will be second guessing their decision to say three goals is all the Sabres need to score in order to qualify for the free sandwich.

I understand that the Senators had the Pizza Line a few years ago, but this is not an imitation of the Sens power line. This is a different giveaway and a different set of players.

The Sabres’ power line racked up seven points (2+5) and Pominville earned first star honors for his effort this evening. Brad Boyes and Pat Kaleta also factored in the scoring for the Sabres.

Buffalo nearly gave back another two-goal lead at home before Kaleta’s go-ahead tally late in the third. After a sound first period, the Sabres slept walked through much of the second and third period. Two defensive gaffes by the Sabres resulted in the Columbus goals. This time the Sabres were able to battle back and lock down their first home win.

The first period featured two fights, 30 shots and Buffalo’s first home power play goal of the season. After Pominville’s tally in the second, the Sabres took a break. Vinny Prospal scored on a transition play created by a Christian Ehrhoff turnover and Fedor Tyutin tied the game in the third period.

Kaleta’s winner came at the end of a hard shift for Buffalo’s grind line and Pominville sealed it with a late power play goal.

Jhonas Enroth had another great outing and potentially made a case to get back in the crease sooner than a week from now.

  • The Sabres power play finally got clicking, going 2-for-3 on the night. They didn’t get much help from the zebras, the Sabres were whistled for six minors. Still, Buffalo managed to exploit openings in the Blue Jackets penalty kill in order to score their goals. Boyes’ tally came off a beautiful passing play on the rush, while Pominville’s was equally pretty as Vanek found him from behind the net.
  • Despite having a tough turnover that resulted in a goal, Ehrhoff did some things well tonight. He was shut off at the point, but his volley into the corner helped set up Kaleta’s winner. Ehrhoff seems to be settling in a bit and looks to have developed a comfort zone with his partner, Andrej Sekera.
  • The Sabres didn’t give a full 60 minutes, as some might say. They allowed an inferior team to put 43 shots on goal while taking six penalties. While the Sabres have the luxury of two goaltenders who can bail them out of that situation, the defense needs to be shored up. This is the perfect opportunity to insert Mike Weber into the lineup.
  • Weber could replace Marc-Andre Gragnani without missing a beat. Gragnani seems to be a little anxious when he has the puck on his stick and he has not been sound in his own zone. Simply put, the Sabres have too many offensive defenseman in the lineup. They need a little more responsibility in their top six.
  • Enroth was a bear in net. He had a few awkward moments, but that is going to be commonplace for the youngster. Enroth plays an almost uncomfortable style that can make fans nervous when a shot comes through. He probably didn’t earn a start on Saturday, but he should see time at least once next week.
  • Pat Kaleta scoffed a bit at The Code when he declined a fight with Cody Bass before obliging him shortly thereafter. As it turns out he has a pretty nasty cut and infection on his nose, not something that was noticeable in-arena. However, he made it his mission to run Vinny Prospal through the glass any chance he had in the third period. That is the type of play I want to see more of from Kaleta.
  • Yes, Tyler Myers had a few tough shifts. He definitely doesn’t appear to be at 100% efficiency just yet. Perhaps he has a few offseason habits he needs to kick. Who knows? He had a few tough plays this evening but also made a handful of smart, sound plays as well. It is too easy for Sabres fans to pile on these players after one or two bad plays. Evaluate the player’s entire game or don’t evaluate it at all.
  • Matt Ellis dressed and the Sabres won. You can’t deny that the dude would run through a wall if needed. It will be hard to take him out of the lineup.
  • Brad Boyes has come alive. He had a great game against the Panthers and has started finding the net once again. He is certainly benefitting from playing with the team’s two hottest scorers on the power play. But he is showing quite a bit of life. He is suddenly looking like the guy who went on a tear from the first game he arrived in Buffalo.

Three Stars

1. Jason Pominville

2. Jhonas Enroth

3. Patrick Kaleta

NHL Links

Game Summary

Event Summary

The Morning Skate: Sabres vs. Blue Jackets

Despite what the current standings say, Buffalo’s match up with the Columbus Blue Jackets this evening will be anything but a sure thing.

Columbus found some offense as they finally won their first game of the season, 4-1 over Detroit. After opening the season 0-7-1, the Blue Jackets rode two special teams goals (one shorthanded, one power play) to the victory.

On top of facing a seriously desperate team, Buffalo will have some significant history against them as well. Prior to their two-game sweep of the Blue Jackets last season, Buffalo had not beaten Columbus since the 2004 season. The Sabres are 4-7-1 all-time against Columbus and lost four of the previous seven games against the Blue Jackets. What is most important is that the Sabres had been winless against Columbus since the lockout.

Aside from cracking the Blue Jackets’ code last season, Buffalo will be facing a team that has had a topsy-turvy start to the season. Columbus beat Detroit, thanks in part to facing a backup goaltender, but have otherwise been very subpar this year. The Sabres not only need to jump to an early lead, tey need to step on the throat when they have their opponent down.

The Sabres are still struggling to find depth scoring behind the line of Thomas Vanek, Luke Adam and Jason Pominville. Brad Boyes and Nathan Gerbe got in on the act on Tuesday, which is a promising development. Both have been generating more chances of late, they were due to get a goal.

Every other line for Buffalo has not been able to provide help in the goal scoring department. Partly because all but one line (26-72-29) has been shuffled and flipped through nearly every game. With a bit more time to develop chemistry there should be some progress seen in terms of offensive output.

Highlighted Matchup

Buffalo power play vs. Columbus penalty kill. In their search for secondary scoring, Lindy Ruff shuffled his power play units prior to Tuesday’s game. While the Sabres remain in the top-20 in terms of conversions, they have only four power play goals this season – three of which were scored in Europe. In practice it seemed as if Christian Ehrhoff was being moved up towards the top of the point, rather than down on the circle. This was something I had touched on previously and I’m glad they are going to try and fix the problem. With the league’s worst penalty kill in town it will be imperative for the Sabres to capitalize on the potential mismatch. If the power play fails them again they could have bigger problems than finding the best spot for Ville Leino.

Projected Goaltenders

BUF: Jhonas Enroth 1GP, 1-0-0, 2.00 GAA, .935 SV%

CBJ: Steve Mason 9GP, 1-7-1, 3.25 GA, .889 SV%

2010-2011 Season Series BUF 2-0-0

12/3/2010, HSBC Arena, Sabres 5 – Blue Jackets 0

4/9/2011, Nationwide Area, Sabres 5 – Blue Jackets 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

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Double Minors: Sabres weekend wrap

The Sabres finished their three-game weekend 2-1 as they were handed their first preseason defeat on Sunday in Columbus.

Buffalo, finishing a five game in seven nights stretch of hockey, weren’t very competitive against the Blue Jackets. The Sabres dressed what may have been their greenest line up of the preseason with only a handful of regulars playing in Columbus. Robyn Regehr wore the ‘C’ while Ville Leino and Andrej Sekera each wore an ‘A’. A look at the roster shows 10 regulars in the line up and that is fairly generous in my eyes.

Ryan Miller wasn’t spectacular, but he was Friday against Toronto, so I really don’t care too much. Tyler Myers scored on a great individual effort, but there wasn’t much else to like, or care about in this game.

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The Morning Skate – Weekend series

Ryan Miller will play the full game against Toronto on Friday.

The Buffalo Sabres enter this weekend’s trio of games with 19 skaters who have yet to see action this preseason. As Rochester is set to open their camp on Monday, there is a chance some of these players may remain in the press box before heading up the 90.

Notable names among the group are Ales Kotalik, Shaone Morrisonn and Jordan Leopold. Brayden McNabb has also been held out thus far, but I would expect him to see action at some point this weekend. In fact, the three veterans listed above are all certain to see time before the team heads to Europe.

The complete list is as follows: Forwards; Riley Boychuk, Jochen Hecht (injured), Kotalik, Jacob Lagace, Maxime Legault, Jonathon Parker, Mike Ryan, Colin Stuart, Paul Szczechura, Shawn Sydlowski, Travis Turnbull and Phil Varone, defensemen; Nick Crawford, Corey Fienhage, Joe Finley, Leopold, Matt Mackenzie, McNabb and Morrisonn, goaltenders; Jeff Jakaitis and David Leggio. Continue reading

Unwinding a crazy weekend

Suffice it to say this was the wrong draft weekend to head out to Boston to catch the Dispatch reunion show. I’m not mad at my decision, Boston is a great city and the show was absolutely killer. However, there were some major stirrings in the hockey world – both in and outside of Buffalo.

As the Robyn Regehr trade gets pounded into oblivion by the sports media, I want to offer my take on the other major transactions from draft weekend. My opinion, and many others have been cast regarding the Sabres trade. No need to rehash it.

One set of moves that outweighed anything else were the ones made by Philadelphia. By shipping Jeff Carter and Mike Richards to Columbus and Los Angeles, respectively, the Flyers really put a stamp on their goal for 2011-12. They needed cap space to sign Ilya Bryzgalov to a major deal (that they did) and they found it with two major cogs. Continue reading

Thrash on the move? Atlanta in talks with True North

The eyes of Winnipeg are affixed firmly on the Atlanta Thrashers. After the City of Glendale dropped an additional $25 million to keep the Coyotes for another season, the Winnipeg spotlight turned east.

The Coyotes are safe for another season and the Thrashers are drowning in debt. So much so that their owner is looking high and low for prospective buyers. However, most sources have identified True North Sports and Entertainment as the group that will step in to purchase the Thrashers. Now it appears as if it is only a matter of time before hockey returns to Winnipeg.

This entire situation is tough to digest. On one hand I thought the poetic justice would have been perfect had Phoenix gone back north. Not to mention the fact that the Coyotes are struggling so much in the desert. I also have  a similar opinion on the Thrashers. They have no fan support and are just draining money from the league, it is time for a change. However, you hate to see any of the 30 teams struggling, no matter how silly their location is.

So, as Winnipeg prepares to embrace the return of the NHL I feel at ease with the situation. It is a city that should never have lost their team to begin with and well suited to support an NHL franchise (at least from a fan perspective). The lack of corporate sponsors is an issue, but I hope it is something that can be overcome. If hockey is to return to Manitoba, I am ready to applaud the move. The next question is, who fills the vacant spot in the east? 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:

East

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.

West

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.