Over-Thought: Playing Catch Up Once Again

The intent of The OT is to run shortly after Elliotte Friedman’s excellent 31 Thoughts hits the web each week. That is not what happened with the most recent edition. Or the last one. So, once again this rundown of some of the juicier topics in the most recent 31 Thoughts is about a week late. Good stuff! Continue reading

Sharks tweaks give a new look in the same packaging

The middle of August and hockey don’t have much in common. Just ask those who follow the Sabres Twitter account as they’re subjected to countless puzzle pieces of the new third jersey as they wait for the new sweater to be unveiled.

Two more clubs took their cue from the Sabres and Hurricanes this year and teased information on Twitter regarding their new jerseys. Minnesota will begin to tease pictures on the 26th and the Sharks tossed a few teasers out prior to their unveiling today.

San Jose’s new uniforms are pretty much the same as the one’s they’ve donned since the Reebok EDGE uniform system was unveiled in 2007-08 with some specific changes to the jerseys. First, they ditched the shoulder yoke off both the home and away uniforms while also removing the waist stripes from both jerseys. They added a lace collar, cut down on the amount of orange everywhere making the entire uniform set far more simple and closer to the design of their awesome black alternates.

Cluttered was the best way to describe San Jose’s previous uniforms. It was as if the design team went onto the NHL 14 team creator, picked every jersey option they could and then put four different colors to it. The result was a heavy, trimmed shoulder yoke, shoulder patch, numbers on the front and three-color striping and numbers. It was a mess. These new jerseys, while incredibly similar, are simple and clean.

Going to a simple two-color number is cleaner and makes the teal pop so much more now that the orange has been minimized. From the crest up, these jerseys look phenomenal. The shoulder logos kind of look like they’re floating, but losing the yoke was a major plus. Where they went off the rails was with the stripes.

The LA Kings can attest to what happens when you lose the waist stripes on your jerseys. It’s a bottomless expanse that looks unfinished. Unfortunately that’s the exact issue with these new Sharks uniforms. Add to that the odd decision to keep just one orange stripe on the sleeves and socks and San Jose is left with a very perplexing look. While de-cluttering is definitely the name of the game for the Sharks, perhaps they took it a step too far with the stripes.

Had they picked a lane with the stripes – orange or no orange – they would have been better off. It wouldn’t have been a problem to keep the pair of thin orange accents on the sleeves and socks. It also would have been just as easy to drop orange from the scheme altogether. One way or the other, they needed that bottom stripe as well. The jersey looks strange without it.

Overall the Sharks did a great job minimizing the amount of orange on the jerseys, accentuating teal and simplifying a brutal design. They missed on the stripes but still improved their look overall. I’m interested to see what the Wild have in store and I’m sure we’ll have six or seven more Sabres puzzle pieces to decode before October roll around.

Double Minors: Miller steals another for Buffalo

Ryan Miller has been playing at a level reminiscent of his 2009-10 season. The last two nights of hockey have been nothing short of spectacular. After stopping 43 shots against Anaheim on Wednesday (20 in the 3rd), Miller turned away 39 more last night against San Jose.

Buffalo inched two points closer to a playoff spot on the back of Miller. Drew Stafford picked up the lone goal for Buffalo in the victory. The story again was Miller’s stellar play, but his collision with Pat Kaleta late in the third period may end up being the most important storyline.

After making a solid glove save on Brent Burns, Miller was struck by Kaleta as he slid into the goaltender on the tail end of the play. It looked as if Kaleta was helped by Ryane Clowe a little on the way, his momentum carried Miller’s right leg hard into the post. From what I could tell, Miller’s contact with the post was fairly significant. He struggled a bit and avoided pushing with his right leg for the remainder of the game.

Bottom line, if Miller is injured in any significant way, the chances of the Sabres sneaking into a playoff spot would seem to be unlikely. I’ll hold out to see more evidence, but I’m hoping that the pain he was dealing with didn’t go beyond the third period.

The Sabres do need to find a way to start putting pucks in the net on a regular basis. Miller’s play has been stellar, but Buffalo can’t count on Miller to steal every point for the rest of the season.The Sabres have found a way to play decent defensive hockey without Paul Gaustad on the roster, it doesn’t seem as if they miss him too much just yet. But they were chasing quite a bit in the third period and it would seem as if they could use a solid defensive center at times like that.

  • I’m glad to see Ryan Miller fully turn his game around. Obviously he is finally healthy and focused on his game. Good on him to have gotten back to the style of goaltending that made many consider him to be elite.
  • Ville Leino is a waste playing center. I like his game, he had turned things around playing wing with Buffalo’s better forwards. But his game is wasted, especially at center on a checking line. He’s stuck in a tough situation based on the center and wing depth, but I’d like to see some sort of solution for getting his offense going.
  • Drew Stafford has gotten things going a bit. He’s always been a streaky scorer and it looks like he has finally hit a streak. It has been two games, but putting him with Cody Hodgson looks like a great decision.
  • Hodgson is showing some of the skills that made him the tenth overall pick in 2008. He’s got slick hands and strong hockey sense. I’ve loved his game these last two nights. Hopefully the goals aren’t too far behind.
  • Despite Tyler Myers having a couple rough nights carrying the puck, the Sabres defense has remained strong as a unit. Hopefully Robyn Regehr doesn’t miss any time due to the injury he suffered in the second period.
  • Something needs to be done about Buffalo’s power play. The unit has been giving up chances and has been disjointed entering the zone and setting up their rotation. Both units need to find some consistency and soon (I am well aware of the numbers, too). The power play very well could make or break this playoff run.

Game Summary/Event Summary

 

The Morning Skate: Western swing heads north to San Jose

The Buffalo Sabres unlikely push for a playoff spot continues to get tougher. While the Sabres are doing their part – 8-3-3 since the All-Star break – they continue to see formidable opponents on a nightly basis.

After dispatching the surging Ducks last night, Buffalo is back against another Western Conference foe tonight in San Jose. The Sabres follow tonight’s game with a Saturday showdown with Vancouver, Monday’s game against Winnipeg and another set of Wednesday/Thursday back-to-back games next week.

The Sabres are in need of every point available but are in the midst of a stretch that sees them play six games in nine nights. Their last regulation loss came against Philadelphia, also the last game in which Jhonas Enroth started. The rookie was hardly to blame for the loss, but the Sabres need a greater contribution from him if they hope to continue this surge.

Despite Ryan Miller’s shutout last night, I would start Enroth today. The Canucks offer no more relief than the Sharks do and Enroth will likely be called upon next week against either the Hurricanes (Wednesday) or the Bruins (Thursday). Knowing how Lindy Ruff operates, Miller will be in net tonight. I would say it is the wrong move, get him some rest now. Miller played the last set of back-to-back games and needs to maintain this tremendous stretch of hockey he is playing.

Lindy Ruff needs to find the faith that Enroth instilled in him last season and early this year. Enroth is capable of being a 2A goalie at the minimum in the NHL. Now it is on Ruff to stick with his schedule and let Enroth be that player.

The Sabres face a strong Sharks squad that just had one of their young stars traded from the lineup in hopes of finding a little more grit and pugnacity for their own playoff push. San Jose is a deep roster with strong goaltending. The Sabres saw backup Antero Niittymaki last season, expect to see Antti Niemi tonight. His game is about blocking and simply getting in the way. For some reason the Sabres struggle with these goaltenders.

Highlighted Matchup

Lindy Ruff vs. Joe Thornton & Co. Buffalo no longer has a formidable shutdown line to match their opponents’ studs. I find it hard to believe that Ville Leino, Nathan Gerbe and Patrick Kaleta are even Ruff’s second choice for a proper checking line. I would think that Robyn Regehr and Andrej Sekera will be the primary duo tasked with matching San Jose’s top line.

Projected Goaltenders

BUF: Jhonas Enroth

SJ: Antti Niemi

Last Meeting:

Sabres 3 – Sharks 0, HP Pavilion, 1/6/2011

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

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

Stanley Cup Playoffs: Conference Finals recap

Better late than never. My stats got a major boost as I went two for two on my Conference Finals predictions. I really enjoyed the two series. I thought San Jose could give the Canucks more of a test, but Vancouver’s talent really came to play in the WCF. There was a long period of time when I thought the Lightning were going to steal that ECF from Boston. The Bruins managed to grind out the series victory, but it certainly wasn’t as easy as many expected.

#3 Boston Bruins defeat #5 Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3

This was quite the back and forth series as both teams received stellar and porous goaltending, from the same guys. Dwayne Roloson showed some serious signs of fatigue as he had carried Tampa through the first two rounds. He was pulled and replaced by Mike Smith. Smith kept the Bolts alive and ultimately it was the inability to score that killed Tampa, not goaltending. However, a few key saves would have closed the series in six, maybe even five games for Tampa. Continue reading