So, this week I returned to college (hence the long break in between posts). As great as it is to be back, I have bad news. This return to college and classes forces me to completely re-adjust my time management. Until I know exactly how to budget my time, I have to take a break from TRW. I’m sorry guys, it pains me to do this but I just have to. Expect me to be back this weekend intermittently and then I will be back for good at some point next week.
Until then, enjoy this week’s upcoming games.
Again, I apologize. See you soon!
Ask anyone what the atmosphere in the HSBC Arena is like and you will generally get the same response: “Energetic”. Edward Fraser of The Hockey News, however, begs to differ. Earlier today he wrote a piece about the lackluster amount of energy that he claims exists in the Arena this year. He writes,
During our last trip – as (Ryan) Kennedy detailed in his roundup column – the energy in HSBC Arena, which was so rampant and almost palatable in seasons past and made taking in a Sabres game such a special experience, had dropped like Max Afinogenov’s 2008-09 production.
Ok, although he is correct in saying that that the energy in the Arena was rampant and palatable (…?), there a a few flaws in Fraser’s argument. Being a Sabres fan, I feel the need to set the record straight (someone’s gotta do it).
The first problem is the fact that he used a pun regarding Max Afinogenov’s past production. Really, man? Those are so overused. We get it, okay? He was good and then he wasn’t and then we sent him away and now he is again. I’m sick of hearing about how poorly Max played. If I ever use that pun, please, please, please call me out on it.
Second, this whole idea seems kind of like a weak introduction to talk about how awesome the Sabres are playing. If you continue to read through the piece, Fraser spends pretty much the rest of the article talking about how great the Sabres are. He discusses The Man, The Myth, The Miller, the solid and stingy defense that we have and even how deep our scoring is. If you want to talk about how well the Sabres are playing, just do it. No one is going to hurt you (despite the fact that 80% of sports writers refuse to touch us). All of his points are correct and very flattering to lil ole me but the fact that he used US THE FANS to provide an introduction for a pretty generic piece about the Sabres really upsets me.
How many times can Buffalo sports fans get kicked around and treated like crap? For goodness sake, isn’t that what Jerry Sullivan is for? Don’t we get enough of that from Ralph C. Wilson Jr.? We are clearly the most passionate sports fans for all sports (except maybe Lacrosse which naturally is our best sport) that we have. When the playoffs roll around, there is no city that can touch us. We practically started the trend of watching playoff games outside of Arenas with the “Party in the Plaza”.
Fraser also says that a “distance has been created between the team and the fans as a result of free agents leaving town coupled with disappointing on-ice results”. Listen. I’m only going to say this once. Okay? Yes we lost both Chris Drury and Danny Briere at the same time after both had outstanding seasons. Yes it hurt us immensely and we could notr ecover for nearly two seasons. Yes the team’s play the past two seasons has been poor. But let me tell you something, naysayers, we’re over it. And we have been. For a while. We got over it real quick after Briere and Drury both underwhelmed their teams almost right of the bat. But I digress a bit, I guess.
There is no way that this fan base has been lackluster in terms of energy. I was just at a game last week. The thing I saw most (besides Tyler Myers jerseys) was energetic, enthusiastic, excited and passionate fans. The majority of games this year have been sellouts and that is just a testament to how well this team has been playing and how excited these fans are about it.
Mr. Fraser, I thank you for complimenting the Sabres as much as you did. There is no need to worry, though, because this fan base is just as energetic as it ever has. Talk to any fan on the street or at a game and I’m sure they will change your mind.
Trust me, once the playoffs come around, this city transforms itself into a living, breathing Sabres fan.
I’ll get off the soapbox now.
Enjoy the game tonight.
Ok tonight’s preview is pretty much going to be all stats. I’ve done a lot of analysis these past few days and quite frankly, I need a break. Ok here we go, kids.
The Buffalo Sabres:
Last Game: 7-2 win over the Phoenix Coyotes last night. The Sabres dominated pretty much every part of the game. Read this post to get a full breakdown of the game.
Who’s Hot: Tim Connolly – 12 game points streak; Jason Pominville – 2 goals, 1 assist last game; Tyler Myers – Because I said so.
Who’s Not: Clarke MacArthur – Playing well without the puck but needs to transfer that good play onto the scoresheet.
What we need to do: Keep up the physical play against West Coast teams; Put tons of pucks on the net and pepper the goalie.
The Anaheim Ducks:
Last Game: 5-4 win over Calgary Flames where they scored 2 third period goals to tie up and then win the game. Got the win despite being outshot 37-26.
Who’s Hot: Dan Sexton – 1 goal, 1 assist last game; Jonas Hiller – 33 Saves last game; Bobby Ryan – Leads team in goals with 21, Scored one last game.
Who’s Not: Mike Brown – 6 points in 49 games. That’s really not good. At all.
What they need to do: Overwhelm Patty Lalime with good passing and even better shots; Try to match the physical play that the Sabres bring to the table. Both are things that they can do.
Jonas Hiller gets the start tonight after a win last Sunday. He’s had a decent season so far but really hasn’t turned it on like he did in the latter half of last season. Look for him to continue his spark tonight against a possibly tired Sabres team.
Between the pipes for the Sabres will be Patrick Lalime. I can’t really call him Lalame anymore because he hasn’t had a really bad game in a while. You can’t fault him for the loss against the Avs, he isn’t really known to be a shootout shutdown type of goalie.
Tune to MSG tonight to watch the Sabres try and pour it on against the Ducks formerly known as Mighty.
The game is not on until 10:00. Oy vey.
See you tomorrow for more West Coast Posts!
Until next time… Go Sabres!
Before you get started reading what I have to say, here are some other Sabre’s road trip posts that may interest you:
- Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports (he’s been popular around these parts lately) breaks down the Sabres’ phenomenal record against the West. [Puck Daddy]
- It’s not West Coast related but former Sabre Mike Peca has decided to retire after 13. Best of luck, Mike. He’s a class act. [NHL]
- John Vogl breaks down last nights weak attendance by Coyotes fans and the abundance of Sabres fans [Buffalo News]
- Part 1 of my West Coast Posts is a good read if you haven’t seen it yet. It provides a broad overview of the trip. [The Ruff Writers]
Today marks day two of the Buffalo Sabres trip to trough the West Coast. Last night the Sabres pounded on the Phoenix Coyotes 7-2 as they improved 8-0-1 against the Western Conference. Now, I have saying around here. And that saying is this: When you’re wrong, you’re wrong (and I’ll admit when I’m wrong) and when you’re right, you’re me. Because I think I know things (and stuff). Why am I bringing up this saying? Well, see for yourself (as I quote myself):
The first team that the Sabres face on this left coast bonanza is the Phoenix Coyotes. In my opinion, this game will set the tone for the entire trip. If the Sabres can rout the Coyotes (with something along the lines of a 5-1 win), they will be rejuvenated after their recent loss to the New York Islanders.
So, as you can see when you’re wrong, you’re wrong and (in this case) when you’re right, you’re me. But enough of this shameless self-promotion. The Sabres truly did look rejuvenated after last night’s victory. MSG was playing a re-run of the game today so I watched what I could. And boy did we look good. We we’re all over the Yotes in nearly every facet of the game. Here is a breakdown:
Checking: As Rob Ray noted (quite well, actually) a couple times, the Sabres seem to play a really physical game against the Western Conference. And not like open-ice-hits-of-Carubba-Collision-proportions type of physical play. It seems to be more of a hard nosed, get your nose dirty, diggin your nose in the corner (and other hockey nose puns) type of play. Guys like Goose, Greir, Kaleta, Rivet and Montador wore down the Coyotes on the boards the entire game. If someone keeps punchin’ ya in the mouth, eventually you’re going to wear down and let in goals.
Shooting: Yesterday I said we needed to get good quality shots on net and that is exactly what we did. It was great. The D jumped into the rush just as much as the Offense did. It was great. Tyler Myers had numerous, quality shots as did Rivet. Butler’s shot was so high quality that it went in. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Pucks on the net equals pucks in the net.
Passing: With Vanek picking up two assists alongside Tim Connolly, you really can’t go wrong. When the Sabres play the West it seems that the only game they are willing to play is their own. And when the Sabres play their own game, it works. Their game centers around passing and is something that, when executed correctly, is done very well with good precision. Yesterday, their game was in fine form. The defense cycled the puck with ease and the wingers were able to set up shop in the corners and along the boards. This allowed for the set up of perfect plays and the Sabres were able to take control of the game. Nice.
So yeah, all you need to win is good checking, shooting and passing. Who would’ve thought? Seems simple enough…
Next up, we look to the future: The Anaheim Ducks.
So, let’s talk travel. It takes 5 hours and 38 minutes (via Google Maps) to drive the 355 miles from Phoenix, Arizona to Anaheim, California. For reference that would be like driving from Buffalo to Albany. Geez. If the team is taking a bus, I can’t imagine the fatigue that is setting in.
I said on Sunday that travel fatigue would be a big factor in this trip. So far, it doesn’t seem to have put a strain on the team but we’re only one gameday into the trip. Watch out tonight to see if the team appears to be sluggish or tired from the night before.
Anaheim is 11th in the Western Conference and last in the Pacific Division. Tonight, I’ll break down who is doing what for each team in the first ever night addition Game Preview (the game isn’t on until 10:00 PM, so… yeah).
I’ll see you later on tonight for the aforementioned game preview.
Until next time…
The Buffalo Sabres (29-11-6) kick off their West Coast trip of 5 games in 8 days against the Phoenix Coyotes (28-16-5). The Sabres lead the series 1-0. It is unusual that the Sabres play a West Coast opponent twice but this game is one of their two “at large” games. Basically, these “at large” games are two games in the season where the Sabres play random West Conference opponents. For example, last season’s “at large” games were against the Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Red Wings.
Phoenix’s last game was a 6-4 win against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night. The Coyotes have won their last two straight games and this win against Minnesota brings necessary points for the Yotes. The Coyotes had a total of 33 shots in a game that saw Petr Prucha score 2 goals on 4 shots and other goals came from Shane Doan, Owen Nolan and Radim Vrbata. Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov made 18 saves on 22 shots. Watch for the Coyotes to improve their streak to 3 wins tonight against a possibly fatigued Sabres.
The Sabres come into tonight’s game after a grueling shootout loss to the New York Islanders. John Tavares, who likes to score against Buffalo, got his 17th goal 5 minutes into the game. Sean Bergenheim netted his fifth goal to make the game 2-0. Mike Grier (9) and Drew Stafford (12) answered the call and tied the game. 8 rounds of shootout later and the Islanders came away with 2 points off of the stick of Trent Hunter. Despite this loss the Sabres have yet to lose a game in regulation in the month of January.
Just like the last game preview, I’m not going to do the hots and nots but I will highlight who is playing well and what is working for each team.
Here we go, kids.
Okay, so, the Sabres. Well, obviously we’ve shown some pretty good resilience. The fact that we have come out of every game this month with points is a pretty remarkable feat. Their last loss in regulation came at the hands of the Washington Capitals in a 5-2 loss. Drew Stafford has been playing pretty well lately. He scored a goal last game and netted a goal in the skills competition (also know as the shootout). Oh and he is tied for the team lead in goals with Thomas “The Man-ek” Vanek. This is good news for the Sabres because it was just a matter of time before Stafford stepped and started scoring goals. Plus, he’s a metal head and that is pretty cool. According to Left Wing Lock, it is probably that Miller will get the start tonight. If so that means that Patty Lalime will most likely get the start tomorrow night against the woeful Ducks. Word.
Now, the howling Coyotes. The player that should be watched tonight is definitely Petr Prucha. He scored two goals last game and is finally starting to pick up his scoring pace after amidst questions of his productivity. Watch for him to be all sorts of trouble tonight in and around the crease. When a player is on a hot streak, usually that player will try to crash the net as much as possible because that’s how goals happen (See: Franzen, Johan circa 2008). Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov is confirmed in net tonight. And that is not good news for the Sabres. Let me put it into context for ya: If Miller is the standout goaltender that has played the Sabres into 2nd place in the east then Bryzgalov is the mini version of Miller who has played the Coyotes to 2nd in the Pacific Division. He’s been playing pretty well this season and has finally began taking over games with his play. The Sabres need to put quality shots on net the entire night to crack him.
The game is on at 7:00 on MSG.
See you tomorrow for more West Coast Posts!
Oh, and ironically I was listening to a band called Phoenix while I wrote this preview. They’re really good.
So, seeing as I’ve been super lazy this break I have decided to do a series of posts dedicated to the upcoming trip to the west coast that the Sabres have. This series will be called the “West Coast Posts” and will run everyday or every-other day depending on when the next game is (relative to the post). Expect this series to go hand in hand with the Game Previews.
For those who don’t know, the Sabres play 7 games in the next 12 days. The first 5 of those games are against Western Conference opponents and on the road. The Sabres return home after those games to take on their Conference Rivals in the New Jersey Devils and their Division Rivals in the Boston Bruins.
First, I bring you an overview of the trip:
The Sabres kick off the trip tin Phoenix, AZ tomorrow night against the Coyotes (28-16-5). They then travel to Anaheim the very next day to take on the Ducks (22-20-7). After a day off on Wednesday, they head to Los Angeles to play the relatively hot Kings (27-18-3) on (thirsty) Thursday. The San Jose Sharks (31-10-8) then play host to the Sabres on Saturday night. At 10:30 PM. Yikes, gotta love the west coast. The trip comes to a close on Monday night against the Vancouver Canucks (28-18-2). The Sabres head back home on Wednesday to take on the Devils. As the image below displays, the total millage for the trip is 3,949 miles. Wow. That is a lot of traveling in only eight days. Clark Griswold would be very jealous.
Next up, why the trip is important:
Well it is important because the bulk of it is against teams from the Pacific Division. And by bulk I mean every game is against a Pacific Division team with the only exception being the Canucks. The Western Conference has been way better than the East this year and the proof lies in the standings. The 8th seed in the West is the Los Angeles Kings who have 57 points. The 8th seed in the East is the New York Rangers who have 50 points. If the Kings were in the East they would be sitting in a comfortable 5th place. Meanwhile, back in the West, the Minnesota Wild are in 11th place with 51 points. If they were in the East and the season ended today, they would be playoff contenders. This is simply just a juxtaposition to show how the East stacks up (or doesn’t in this case) against the West. Ironically, if the Sabres were in the West, they would still be in 3rd place.
Let’s focus on the present, shall we?:
The first team that the Sabres face on this left coast bonanza is the Phoenix Coyotes. In my opinion, this game will set the tone for the entire trip. If the Sabres can rout the Coyotes (with something along the lines of a 5-1 win), they will be rejuvenated after their recent loss to the New York Islanders. The Coyotes are 5th in the Western Conference and have put together a very solid season after a shaky off-season that had them worried about their financial future. The Sabres beat the Yotes in their only previous meeting this season. If they can get another win against Phoenix, it should be smooth sailing against what was a weak Anaheim Ducks team that is having a great January. The Sabres need to play solid, hard-nosed hockey against these good Western Conference teams. I’ll have more tomorrow in the Game Preview.
And finally, we’ll bring it all back together:
Overall, the Sabres just need to play their own game and not get sucked into the vortex of decent talent that exists in the West. If they come out strong each night, there is no way they can lose. Fatigue is always a huge factor and it will definitely play a major role in this trip. They need to win games and stay healthy in the final stretch of what has been a great January (so far they are 4-0-2).
It seems to me that this trip is either going to make or break the Sabres (or at least Tim Connolly). This west coast series kicks off what will be a hellish four weeks before the All-Star Olympic break.
Stay posted throughout the week as I provide you with constant West Coast Posts and Game Previews.
Oh and for those who don’t get the title “The Phoenix or The Flame”, it’s a Harry Potter reference. In the book they are asked which came first, the Phoenix or the flame. And yes, I know, I’m a huge dork. They say the first step is acknowledgement and acceptance…
See you tomorrow for the Game Preview!
On this fine Thursday evening, the Buffalo Sabres (28-11-5) travel to hotlanta to take on the Atlanta Thrashers (20-19-6). This is the third meeting of these two teams with the series tied at 1 win apiece. The Sabres are currently on a 1 game losing streak whereas the Thrashers are on a 1 game winning streak.
The Thrashers last game was a 6-1 rout of the Ottawa Senators. Ilya “The-Fate-of-this-Entire-Franchise-Rests-on-my-Shoulders” Kovalchuk had a goal and two assists in a game that saw former Sabre Eric Boulton open the scoring with his second of the year. It’s totally OK that he only has two goals though because he is an enforcer and has a douchebag
haircut equivalent to “The Situation”. It was a solid win for the Thrashers against a (really) struggling Ottawa team that has now lost 5 straight.
On the Buffalo side of things, the Sabres last game was a shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche. Due to the intense amount of gloating I tend to do, I have to do something personal for a moment. I have a friend who is a huge Avalanche fan. I told him all year that we would destroy the Avs in our only meeting with them this season. The opposite happened. So with great regret I have to swallow my pride and say something: Bryan Sibbitts, you win this round. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Sabres ended losing in the 11th shootout round on a goal from sophomore forward Matt Hendricks. Yeah, I didn’t know he existed either. It was a pretty balanced game with both teams putting up a decent amount of shots. Buffalo won that category 35-30. Both Patty Lalime and Craig Anderson had a pretty back and forth game, especially in the shootout. It was a game I would’ve liked to have back but I’ll take the one point and walk.
I’m not going to do the Hots and Nots this week because I really don’t feel like it and I’m getting a little tired of the same format for every preview. And it’s my blog and I can do what I want. So there. Ha.
The Sabres have gone 5-1 in their last 6 games and seem to be clicking pretty well. It’s nice to see that Vanek potted another goal against the Avs. If we want to continue to challenge for the top spot in the east, offensive productivity is a must (as I stressed yesterday). Vanek is the type of guy that can easily be a game-changer. If he gets on a roll there really is no stopping him. It’s about time one player stepped up for this team and really took over the offensive reigns and I’m calling it now. It’ll be Thomas Vanek. He needs to follow in the footsteps of current rising star Ryan Miller and really start taking over games. What night would be better than tonight? C’mon T.V., show the Russian powerhouse that is the Atlanta Thrashers what an Austrian man can do!
For every breakout scorer there is also usually a second-in-command type of guy. That man will be Timmy Connolly. He is already on a roll for the Sabres, netting points in numerous games the past few weeks. If he can get going at the same time as Vanek, we will be literally unstoppable. Like Team Pup-n-Suds in the Disney movie “Brink”. Vanek will be the standout that is Andy “Brink” Brinker and Connolly will be Peter who is almost as good as Brink but doesn’t have quite the abilities (or dimples) the Brink brings to the table. And if you’ve never seen Brink and have no idea what I’m talking about then A.) I’m sorry that I went on this long rant and you have no clue what I’m talking about and B.) WHAT THE HELL?! WHY HAVEN’T YOU SEEN THE GREATEST MADE FOR DISNEY MOVIE OF ALL TIME?!?!?! Here, watch this and you’ll be in the know:
For Atlanta, they need to do what they do best: Get pucks to the net. There is no way this team can win without peppering opposing goalies. Kovalchuk is one the best forwards in the league and he can beat goalies like very few other players in the league. If he can continue to find a way to get to the net, with the help of Maxim(um) Afinogenov, then he will be quite the force to be reckoned with. Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec has taken over quite well for the Thrashers. He stepped in at a time when the team was uncertain where they would be goaltending wise. His Save Percentage is a .92 and he keeps getting better.
The aforementioned Ondrej Pavelec gets the start tonight for the Thrashers. He is currently 10-12-3 this year and his GAA is a whopping 3.55. Yikes. Let’s hope we can get it even higher tonight.
Of course, The Man, The Myth, The Miller: Ryan Miller will be between the pipes for the Sabres this evening. He is 28-5-3 and leads the league in save percentage with .935. Woot!
Game is on at 7:00 on MSG.
See you tomorrow!
In case you guys didn’t know, I read Greg Wyshynski’s Puck Daddy blog on Yahoo! Sports like it’s my job. Wysh’s blog is arguably the largest and best blog in this fuster-cluck of blogs that calls itself the hockey blogosphere .
Yesterday, Adrian Dater gave away mid-season awards on the Versus website to who he thought were deserving of them. Two of these awards were the Vezina (given to the best goalie) and the Hart (given to the player most valuable to his team). Dater decided to give these awards to one Martin Broduer of the New Jersey Devils. Not Ryan Miller. Okaaaaaay, Mr. Dater, if you say so.
Upon reading this ludicrous statement, Mr. Wyshynski took it upon himself to right these very, very wrongs. Wysh crafted a well designed argument and put Marty’s stats up against Miller’s. I urge you to read the entire story here.
Basically (for those too lazy to read the story) Wysh made the point that Miller was only bested by Broduer in Wins and Assists. Millsy has a better GAA and Save Percentage and has an equal amount of shutouts (in two less games). The latter part of that statement is the most important, ya know, the part in parenthesis. IN TWO LESS GAMES. The reason that Broduer has two more wins is that he has played two more games. So yeah.
As great as it is that Wysh has bestowed this honor upon Miller, it scares me a bit. Why does this scare me? Because as a Buffalo sports fan, I was born a cynic. Whenever a Buffalo team is doing well, I’ve learned to not get my hopes up because I know that I will just be disappointed in the long run. Watching your beloved Sabres go to the Conference Finals two years in a row only to lose and then not make the playoffs the next season can do that to a guy. But, I digress. There is one major part of that story by Wysh that really scares me:
“Which is to say that even after swapping out Brent Sutter for Jacques Lemaire, the Devils were still a defending division champion while the Sabres appeared to be a bubble team, if that. Yet Buffalo is two points out of the conference top spot occupied by the Devils heading into tonight … without a player that’s scored more than 12 goals or amassed more than 40 points on the season.”
I added that bold part there. Because I can do that. And you can’t stop me. But to emphasize the part that is in bold, I am a-sacred. Really a-scared. The fact that no one has scored more than 12 goals is good and bad.
First I bring thee, the good. The Sabres have a tendency to put up good numbers without one superstar scorer on a consistent basis. This is great because that means one player can go down with an injury (and I’ll betcha my entire extended family that it’s Tim Connolly) and the rest can pick up the slack with their mediocrity. The fact that one guy (other that Miller and will get that to later) isn’t pulling the weight means that everyone can prosper and so far so good.
Next, the bad. It’s bad for two main reasons. One is that when it’s good, it’s really good. Right now most of the offense is clicking quite well. Guys like Jochen, Connolly, Roy, Pommer, and MacArthur are all playing up to par. The problem is, when these guys get cold (and they will, it’s only natural) the whole system gets messed up and we’re pretty much screwed. The second part of the bad is the real reason this system is working. It’s name is Ryan Miller. Because Miller is playing so well the team can afford to play with such mediocrity. Hell, if I had Miller behind me I would probably slack off a bit too. Eventually, however, something has to give. That something will probably come in the form of the 2010 Winter Olympics. If Miller hits a slump, the team is going to hit a slump. I can guarantee it.
For now it is working just fine. The team is destined to make the playoffs and is only 4 points behind New Jersey for the lead in the Eastern Conference. It would take a fail of epic proportions to derail this team. I fear that this fail will will call itself “February”. As usual, we will see. We can be happy at the moment because the team is hot and I am just fine with that.
It’s good to get points now, especially if we need them later. The acquisition of these points is a direct result of The Man, The Myth, The Miller.
I will be at the game (for the first time all season) with my buddy Steve. Tomorrow I will write some post game analysis and a preview for tomorrow’s game against the Avalanche! Woot!
If you’re going to the game let me know (Meye1314@fredonia.edu) or look for me! I’ll be rocking my brand spankin new Vanek jersey.
See you tomorrow.
Game is on at 7:30.
Tonight, the Tampa Bay Lightning (16-15-10) travel to the 716 to take on the Buffalo Sabres (26-11-4) . The Sabres have won the only contest between these two teams this season.
The Lightning are currently in the midst of a 1 game winning streak to compliment their already up-and-down season. Their last game was a 3-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, a very very formidable opponent. This is an impressive win because the Penguins are a very solid team that many think will go quite far in the playoffs. For example, Pittsburgh has 55 points and are second in the Atlantic Conference. To juxtapose, the Sabres are first in the Northeast with 56 points. For a team that has 42 points (good enough for second in the Southeast), a win over Pittsburgh is great for Tampa. Marty St. Louis, Steve Downie and the man with the greatest name in history, Zenon Konopka each netted goals to defeat the Penguins. Mike Smith made 25 saves on 26 shots to seal the victory for the Bolts.
The Sabres, however, are quite a different story. Why is that? Because we literally refuse to lose. LITERALLY. The Sabres have won 4 games straight. Three of these 4 wins were come from behind victories. The Sabres had back to back games where they were down 3-0 and scored 4 unanswered to win. These wins were against Pittsburgh and Atlanta (in OT) respectively. Their last victory, however, was a 1-0 defensive victory over the Montreal Canadiens. Tim Connolly (we’ll talk more about him later) scored the lone goal in a game that Ryan Miller stole from Montreal (what else is new).
It’s worth noting that both Buffalo and Tampa have played the Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens within their last three games.
Let’s see who’s hot and who’s not, shall we?
Tim Connolly: Timmy C has been on a tear as of late. Like a real tear. He has destroyed pretty much every goalie and defense in his path. In the past four games (ya know, the ones we have won), Timmy has 7 points. He has 4 goals in 4 games while adding 3 helpers. That’s the Connolly we know and love. If Timmy can stay healthy, and I probably just cursed him, he will be a force to be reckoned with for the entire season and could be the offensive spark this team needs. Oh, did I forget to mention that he has the team lead in goals, assists and points? What a beast (Marshawn Lynch would be jealous). Look for Connolly to continue his torrid pace tonight against a decent defense that is starting to come into it’s own.
Jochen Hecht: I never thought I’d be doing this but Hecht is playing quite well as of late. He has 3 goals and 2 assists in the last 4 games. His last point was a helper in the last game on Tim Connolly’s goal. Connolly and Hecht have been clicking pretty well so watch for them to take the entire team to the next level. They can’t do it, however, without the help of the next guy:
Ryan Miller: I’m going to put Ryan Miller in the “hot” section until he has a poor game. Which hasn’t happened in the recent past. And by recent past I mean past 4 months. Also, congrats to Ryan on making the US National Men’s Hockey Team that will compete in 2010 Winter Olympics. Good luck in the Olympics and good luck tonight, Ryan! Keep up the good work.
The “Malone-Stamkos-St. Louis” Trifecta of Awesome… er… Line: Tampa’s first line has been rock solid as of late. This line has accounted for 2 goals and 2 assists in the last 2 games. Steven Stamkos is leading the team in goals with 21 and Ryan Malone is right behind him at 19. Marty St. Louis is leading the team in assists with 36 and Stevie Stamkos is in third with 18. Points, however, are the kicker here. Marty has the team lead with 45, Stammer is in second with 39 and Ryan Malone is in fourth with 35. This line is on quite a roll as of late. Watch for Lindy Ruff to try and line match this line with a pair of shutdown D-Men like Rivet, Lydman or even Butler.
Nathan Paetsch: Ok, that was mostly a joke. The only reason he’s “not” is because he’s on waivers and that pretty much just blows (for him, mostly). See, I have a sense of humor too (not really, I’m actually a communist robot who hates puppies, children and even Rick Astley).
Derek Roy: Although Roysie has has a good season (2nd on the team in goals, assists and points) he is not playing well as of late. Like really not well. He only has one point in the last four games. For Roy to be effective, we need him to constantly contribute to the offense in order to keep us winning. He needs to throw as many pucks at the net as possible and needs to stop trying to make the perfect play. When it comes to this Sabres team, the simple play is always the best play. Roy can get back on his feet by making plays and scoring points. I have faith (kinda).
James Wright: I know it’s a weird choice but it’s true. Wright was a top six forward for Tampa when Alex Tanguay was in a slump. If he can pot a couple points tonight, alongside his buddy Zenon Kenopka (god I love that name), he could be a force to be reckoned with yet again.
Mike Smith gets the start tonight yet again for the Lightning. He’s been playing pretty well as of late but tends to crack when is peppered with shots. Time to starta pepperin’.
The man of the hour, Ryan Miller, gets the start for Buffalo. And why wouldn’t he? He is coming off of a shutout and 4 straight wins. Plus, he wakes up in the morning feeling like P-Diddy.
Game is on at 7:00 on MSG.