The Buffalo Sabres are facing a daunting task, needing to win nearly every game down the stretch to sneak into the playoffs. It is going to be that much harder with games against Pittburgh and last night’s victory over the Rangers.
However, the Sabres kept scoring goals and cruised to a 4-1 victory over the East’s best team and the odds-on favorite for the Vezina. Even though Buffalo didn’t get the help they needed in Washington, they remained tied with the Caps.
The Foligno, Ennis, Stafford line was on fire yet again, scoring three of the four Buffalo goals. The Regulators combined for three goals and eight points. However, the Vanek, Hodgson, Tropp line was effective yet again, despite not finding the scoreboard. I really like the makeup of both of those lines. Combining the scoring skill of players like Ennis, Stafford, Hodgson and Vanek with muckers like Foligno and Tropp has been paying dividends. It would seem like Darcy Regier’s commitment to size in recent drafts has begun to pay dividends.
Ryan Miller had a very strong showing yet again, he stopped 26 shots and made a number of big saves to keep the Rangers attack quiet. The Sabres had a strong game all around, there wasn’t much to frown about across the board. Maybe I don’t like the fact that they gave up 13 shots in the third period, but they managed to turn the Rangers aggressive push into a pair of odd-man goals to seal the game.
- Great to see Travis Turnbull score his first NHL goal last night. It was greasy, but all that matters is that it counts. He was a great depth signing back in 2009, not sure if he is a guy who can be an NHL regular, however.
- No minuses on the sheet for Buffalo, the only goal against was a lost coverage in front and was a very preventable tally.
- One game after registering eight hits, Buffalo threw 22. Not sure if that was a scorekeeper issue, but good to know the Sabres are willing to toss the body around when necessary.
- Not sure if Lindy Ruff will want to continue riding Ryan Miller against Minnesota, they have entered “get every point” mode and that probably means you won’t see much of Jhonas Enroth.
- Sixth defenseman watch: Alex Sulzer played just under 20 minutes, was even and had two blocks. I’m curious to know when Ruff decides to rotate Weber back into the lineup. That will be a tough call considering the way this particular roster is playing.
- For those watching the scoreboard, be equally concerned with the Capitals, Senators and Jets as you are with the Penguins and Rangers. It would be a bad thing to see the Penguins in the first round. If the Sabres are to make the playoffs, hope that they face the Rangers.
Game Summary/Event Summary
The Philadelphia Flyers did just about all the Sabres could have asked them to do last night. Granted, it took a shooutout to topple Washington, but the Capitals were denied two points. The Sabres can now take a full share of eighth with two points this evening.
Of course, they are playing the East’s best team on their home ice. Buffalo has yet to win a game against the Rangers this season, but have taken the Blueshirts to overtime twice. Tonight will once again be described as the biggest game of the year for the Sabres. Just as Wednesday’s game was and tomorrow’s game against Minnesota. Considering every game is the next biggest one, just know the Sabres need two points every evening.
Buffalo has been able to get offensive contributions on a regular basis from their top three lines. Against a strong defensive team, it will be time for those scorers to kick into high gear. The Sabres cannot afford to hope for another 2-1 win.
The Sabres’ biggest issue against New York this year has been containing the big guns. Marian Gaborik and Ryan Callahan have had their way with the Sabres, tonight needs to be the game in which Buffalo locks these guys down. The Rangers aren’t a team that has three dangerous lines like you see in Philly or Vancouver. The Rangers are a steady team that plays such a steady game that they don’t necessarily need nine effective scoring forwards. It makes them a very difficult team to match up against.
Buffalo will need a great night from their back end. Lindy Ruff will be able to match his lines to a certain extent, but there isn’t a single shutdown line on the Buffalo roster at this moment. So it will be up to the six defensemen to shut off the Rangers guns.
Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik and Ryan Callahan vs. Regehr and Sekera. The Sabres won’t be able to match lines due to the last change, but Buffalo’s shutdown pair will see plenty of ice against the Rangers top players. As stated above, if the Sabres can keep these guns quiet, they will have a good look at two points.
BUF: Ryan Miller
NYR: Henrik Lundqvist
Sabres 2 – Rangers 3 OT, Madison Square Garden, 2/25/2012
Two different one-goal leads escaped the Sabres last night as did a precious point for their playoff run. Ryan Callahan scored the deciding goal against the Sabres for the third time this season, this time in OT.
Pat Kaleta had a pretty rough night, getting beaten on Marian Gaborik’s game tying tally and then being undressed by Callahan on the winner. For the first time in a number of games, the Sabres allowed their opponents dangerous scorers in alone on their goalie. For the first time in number of games they paid dearly.
Ryan Miller certainly wasn’t the goalie who has ran up sparkling numbers since January 1, he also received less support than he has recently. Without Miller’s dazzling play in the first period, the game had great potential to be a blowout. Miller made 14 of his 25 saves in the opening stanza.
Another ugly trait reared its head last night. While the Sabres got a pair of goals from a forward, they only managed a handful of shots on goal. Drew Stafford potted two goals, but the Sabres only managed to direct 17 more shots towards Henrik Lundqvist. The last time Buffalo had a shooting effort that was so poor, Miller bailed them out with a shootout win against New Jersey. For the record, the Sabres only manged 14 shots that night.
With the deadline coming tomorrow afternoon, Darcy Regier still needs to address the fact that his forwards are incapable of performing on a consistent basis. It would seem that Miller has truly settled into a groove and the top-six defensemen are performing admirably. However, the forwards have been out to lunch for a good portion of the season. Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville are the only two who have been consistently effective all season. Tyler Ennis has turned the corner in his new role at center, but still isn’t going to have fantastic numbers. Ville Leino has shown flashes of brilliance, but still hasn’t come around and the other scorers – Derek Roy, Stafford and even Nathan Gerbe – have been largely invisible this season.
If changes are made to the top six, there could still be a legitimate chance at creating enough offense to turn this season around. Continue reading
The Buffalo Sabres have been able to roll together an impressive run of hockey as of late. Looking back to early January, they were on a major skid, couldn’t score goals and weren’t supporting their goaltenders. But as the All-Star break approached they began turning things around. A couple sets of five-game stretches have kept the playoffs within reach and the Sabres can take another step forward tonight in New York.
Well, maybe it will be a lateral step.
Each team the Sabres are chasing are in action this evening. A pair (Toronto and Washington) play each other. Since Buffalo won’t be able to get too much help in terms of gaining ground, they will need to be content with keeping their head above water.
Getting wins last night and Tuesday all but guarantee the Sabres won’t be selling at the deadline. Consider Paul Gaustad safe from any suitors that may come calling. Derek Roy and Drew Stafford probably fall into the same category. Darcy Regier is in a position where he needs to make a few significant moves, but his team is in a position where those moves could potentially be detrimental.
The Sabres will not only see one of the league’s best teams tonight, they will also need to deal with one of the best goaltenders. I won’t be surprised if Ryan Miller is in net to face Henrik Lundqvist, but Lindy Ruff should know Miller needs to rest prior to next week’s road trip. Continue reading
The Sabres may have to deal with a little bit more puck magic when the Rangers visit First Niagara Center. Marty Biron is expected to start in net for the Blueshirts and he has put on a few shows down on Perry Street since departing the franchise.
Buffalo managed to expel some of the ghosts that have been haunting them on home ice with an overtime win last night. However, they will be facing a rested bunch and the Sabres will be the ones coming off a big effort the night before.
Once again, First Niagara Center will be hosting HBO cameras for 24/7. The most brilliant TV product to grace the NHL (since ever) rolled into town with the Penguins last year. The city and the arena’s digs will be on display again as the Rangers prepare for the Winter Classic on January 2. It is always fun to see Buffalo displayed on these type of shows. The producers and cameramen usually find a way to showcase some of the nice portions of the city, rather than just showing the dreary drive from the airport to the city.
The Rangers have started to play some good hockey and are attempting to keep pace with the Penguins and Flyers – their Winter Classic foe – in the Atlantic Division. There is little surprise that both teams are choosing to start their backup goalies. Buffalo is in game two of a back-to-back set. Meanwhile, the Rangers are facing the Panthers tomorrow night, a battle with one of the East’s top teams.
Ville Leino vs. Brad Richards. Perhaps it is an unfair comparison given the difference in salary and role for both players. However, Leino was the player the Sabres had to settle for when Richards chose the Rangers. So the two big free agent scores for each team will surely be under the microscope this evening.
BUF: Jhonas Enroth 16GP 8-5-1, 2.32 GAA, .935 SV%
NYR: Martin Biron 6GP 4-1-0, 1.94 GAA, .930 SV%
3/30/2011, HSBC Arena, Sabres 1 – Rangers 0
*stats to come later*