Oh the highs and lows of postseason hockey.
Just this morning, the possibility of playing Washington was a mere 60 minutes of hockey away. All the Sabres needed to do was beat the Flyers at home in game 6. At home. In front of fans at HSBC, in the Plaza (where I was), and on national television. And for the second straight game, we would play overtime. However, Ville Leino scored the game winner, and with a 5-4 defeat, the Sabres head back to the City of Brotherly Hate tied at 3 for game 7 on Tuesday. This is it, folks. Win or go golfing. It took 16 wins to get us in the playoffs, and it could only take us one more loss to get out of ’em.
-If you’ve never been to a Party in The Plaza, your mission for whenever the next party takes place is to go. It’s a great atmosphere. There’s a live band up until 15 minutes before puck drop, and you get to see a bunch of celebrities (in my case, Terry Pegula, his daughters, sons and their friends, and Ted Black (who is sporting a Rick Martin moustache)). The buzz in the crowd is amazing, and it’s nothing like you see on television. And after the band leaves, two or three people begin passing out pom-poms. The way to deliver them is to throw them back behind you. It’s like a sea of white. Until you go to one, you’ll half understand this description. It’s not even like being inside, because these are the fans that can’t afford to go to the game, so they go to hang out with a bunch of fans. THAT is what being a Sabres fan…nay, a Buffalo sports fan, is all about.
-Now, onto the game. Ryan Miller made 44 saves in an iffy performance by my estimation. He seemed to be overworked and/or unlucky on some of the goals. This day off tomorrow should help him get more focused, and hopefully he won’t give up 3+ goals for the third straight game.
-Thomas Vanek is FINALLY living up to the $7.1 million price tag. His two goals were anything but pretty, but at least he’s scoring them. It was definitely missed last year and it’s paying off somewhat for us this year.
-I hope Tim Connolly is okay. As much as I dislike him as a player, it’s never good to see someone like that go into the glass face-first. If there’s a consolation, Derek Roy could replace him on Tuesday.
-Nathan Gerbe’s goal was a laser. He’s gonna be a good player for many years to come.
-There was a Matt Ellis sighting in this game, as he was called up for Jason Pominville. I would have preferred to see Mark Mancari, but I’m not Lindy Ruff. Ellis only played a little over 11 minutes and was a virtual non-factor on the scoresheet. Oh well, at least my co-worker Andy Meyer will be happy. Yay.
-I still hate he-who-will-not-be-spoken-of-in-this-blog. His two goals really wrecked my Easter Sunday.
-Marc-Andre Gragnani netted two more points today and finished second with 26:03 time on ice. The man is a beast.
Stat I Liked: Thomas Vanek- 2 goals.
Stat I Disliked: Ville Leino- GW Goal. I wanted to celebrate a clinching at home, not in Philly.
Game Puck: Tyler Myers for 3 assists and being a beast.
Lindy’s Doghouse: Paul Gaustad. This will be temporary, however he whiffed on Kris Versteeg’s initial passing-shot (or whatever you’d call it) to Mike Richards which led to the Leino tip-in goal in OT. He’ll bounce back for sure.
Lastly, GO TO THE PLAZA if/when we have another home playoff game!
Game 7 is Tuesday at 7:30pm on MSG. The future beyond that is unknown.
Don’t stop believing, Sabres fans. LET’S GO BUFFALO!!!!
THAT is what Playoff Hockey is all about.
After blowing a 3 goal first period lead, the boys in blue rallied, and thanks to Ennis the Menace (Tyler Ennis, for those of you new to Buffalo hockey), are going home with a 4-3 OT victory and a 3-2 series lead. Easter Sunday now becomes opportunity number 1 to move onto the second round. Ennis, Thomas Vanek, and Marc-Andre Gragnani scored. Gragnani’s goal makes him the leading scorer on our team in the postseason, with 5 points in 5 games. And let’s not forget about The Man, The Myth, The Miller, who made 36 saves throughout the game and overtime. On the flip side, Brian Boucher got yanked after giving up Gragnani’s goal in favor of former Sabre Michael Leighton (look it up, it’s true!)
-Jason Pominville will most likely miss game 6 with a “lower body injury.” WGR’s Paul Hamilton says that it’s a deep cut on the back of his leg, and Lindy Ruff says “it’s not looking good.”
-Michael Leighton played in 1 game in the regular season, after garnishing a 2 yr deal last offseason. The goaltender roulette in Philly is so amusing to watch.
-I’m never going to judge Chris Butler again. He’s stunned me with his great postseason play. He finished second on the team in time on ice with 26:34. He continues to average at least 19 minutes on the ice. In spite of a couple miscues leading to goals (twice, both leading to goals by he-who-will-not-be-spoken-of-in-this-blog), he’s played well.
-Marc-Andre Gragnani should never play in Portland again. He’s leading the team in points this postseason, and he’s playing great defense alongside whoever he gets paired with (most recently Steve Montador). His goal tonight was beautiful, and his defensive play was outstanding.
Stat I Liked: Tyler Ennis: 2 goals. Ennis the Menace is growing up right before our eyes.
Stat I Disliked: 0 goals in the final 2 periods. I’m nit picking, but it’s true. After the first period, they sat back and were complacent. It wouldn’t have gotten to OT had someone scored sooner.
Game Puck: Tie between Ennis and Tyler Myers, who led the team with 27:48 time on ice, and had an assist. The Two Tylers played amazing.
Lindy’s Doghouse: Brad Boyes. Seriously, score a goal, get an assist, SOMETHING.
Lastly, I wasn’t at game 4, I WILL BE AT GAME 6. The order of events: wake up Easter morning, find basket, laugh, pictures, brunch, Party in the Plaza, dinner. Tweet or text me, and I promise to sign something this time.
Game 6 is Sunday (4/24) at 3pm. It is an NBC game, so “turn down your televisions and turn up Rick and Harry” (WGR would want me to quote it).
One more win, and we’re onto the final 4 in the East. LET’S GO BUFFALO!!!!!
I’ll keep this brief because I’m exhausted: Jason Pominville scored the only goal, and Ryan Miller made 32 saves as the Sabres won 1-0 for the second time in this series and now we head back to the City of Brotherly Love tied at 2. Miller seemed to take the life out of the Flyers when he just stole the puck from Danny Briere who was in front all alone with just under 9 minutes to go. Now for some statistics:
Stat I Liked: The Man, The Myth, The Miller. I’ll be the first to give him credit for making 32 saves, because I was one person who wanted him pulled. I’m glad I was wrong.
Stat I Disliked: Zero goals in the final 2.5 periods. I’m being picky. A win is a win, but it would’ve been nice to not make us as fans sweat it out.
Game Puck: Ryan Miller. Who else? Who else!? Either Pominville or Ennis could also get a nod.
Lindy’s Doghouse: The media (myself included). I’m gonna do my best to stop questioning his methods when it comes to goaltending. He knew Miller would bounce back, and I wasn’t sure. I am now.
Back to Philly on Friday (4/22) at 7:00pm. We’re back in it again.
LET’S GO BUFFALO!!!!
This playoff series was tied entering Game 3 in front of an HSBC Arena crowd (and plaza party partakers). Everyone arrived happy, and everyone left upset/angry/confused/stunned as the Flyers retook home ice advantage with a 4-2 victory good for a 2-1 series lead. Nathan Gerbe and Drew Stafford got the goals for the boys in blue, but it wasn’t enough as Nikolay Zherdev scored on a defensive lapse and Kimmo Timonen. Let’s dive in.
-The first period was OUTSTANDING. The building definitely gave the Sabres an energy boost…until Jeff Carter scored just under 5 minutes into the game. The Sabres need to capitalize on the energy withing the building and turn it into goals, and the sooner the better.
-Another area they need to work on are extended powerplays and 5-on-3 situations…COME ON. They went 1-5 on powerplays. They need to work on it and learn to capitalize on em. And personnel-wise, why is Paul Gaustad on powerplays? What happened to the units from the regular season?
-Welcome to the NHL Playoffs, Nathan Gerbe. You’re playing great right now. Your goal was amazing and your forechecking and hard-nosing the Flyer tough guys does NOT go unnoticed. Keep it up, #42.
-Speaking of forechecking, we looked outworked and bad on our forecheck. Especially one Tim Connolly. COME ON MAN, STEP YOUR GAME UP.
-Did I mention powerplays?
-I still loathe Danny Briere, in spite of his goal which brought back a memory of his time here in Buffalo.
Stat I Liked: Jordan Leopold 14:48 ice time. I was glad to see him back in the lineup for Andrej Sekera. Let Sekera heal up and then jumble the lineup again. And despite his -1, he played extremely well.
Stat I Disliked: 1-5 on the powerplay. Grrr…
Game Puck: Nathan Gerbe for a goal, Marc-Andre Gragnani for 2 assists and 23:51 ice time.
Lindy’s Doghouse: Anyone on the powerplay. I’ll beat the dead horse until something changes.
Game 4 is a must win. There’s no other way to spell it out. The team needs to capitalize on the energy and come out with a quick goal or two. And please, just for me, KEEP BRIERE OFF THE SCORE SHEET.
Game 4 is Wednesday (4/20) at 7:30pm. I will be in attendance at the Party in the Plaza, so if you can find me, I’ll sign something for you (if you want).
LET’S GO SABRES!
The Sabres entered Game 2 with a 1-0 series lead on the Flyers and were looking to leave the City of Brotherly Love with a stranglehold on the series. Thanks to 6 goals in 13 minutes of action, the game was tied at 3 after 20 minutes. However, a parade of blue and gold to the penalty box, the Flyers were able to score two goals and never relinquish the lead again. And despite a Cody McCormick third period goal, this series goes back to the 716 tied at 1. Game 3 is Monday night at the friendly confines of HSBC Arena.
-Teams that take 13 penalties in a game, no matter how many you kill off, will not win playoff games.
-I said in my last game wrap up that if Thomas Vanek gets more than 13:28 of ice time, he’ll be able to perform. Well look at his stats today. 2 goals in 16:48 of ice time. Not a big increase, but an increase nonetheless. It’s now time for Brad Boyes and Nathan Gerbe (12:03 and 6:30 respectively) to get more playing time.
-I’ll make another post out of this later on, but it still angers me to see Danny Briere in an orange jersey. I think it’ll do this until he retires or plays for a team I don’t directly despise.
-The second period was the worst period I’ve seen since the Nashville game in which the team blew a 2 goal lead and lost in overtime. They just paraded to the penalty box. Once they killed one off, another one went back. It meant that our playmakers (Vanek, Ennis, Gerbe) couldn’t get to play a lot at all, and that meant we couldn’t score or set up our offensive attack. The good news is that our PK kept us in it for the majority of the game, as well as Ryan Miller standing on his head again.
-Steve Montador played extremely bad in game 1, and he did a complete 180 in game 2. He won’t show up on the score sheet with any points, but he significantly elevated his play in this game. He was especially helpful on the penalty kill, just lifting the puck down the ice and giving the team time to change up the lines. He’s a big reason we killed off 9 of 10 penalties.
Stat I Liked: The Flyers were 1-10 on the powerplay, and are now 2-15 through two games. That’s disgusting. Give credit to Ryan Miller for standing on his head and the PK units for the Sabres who keep foiling the Flyers’ attempts.
Stat I Disliked: 13 individual penalties. That’s disgusting. That’s wrong. That’s undisciplined. That’s horrible.
Game Puck: Thomas Vanek: 2 goals. That’s how you respond after not playing much in game 1.
Lindy’s Doghouse: Gaustad, Gerbe, Sekera, Kaleta, Myers, Pominville and Montador. All of whom took at least one of the 13 penalties. See the reoccurring theme here?
A final note- all is not lost. It’s one game, and it ensures a 5th game in the series. I didn’t expect a 4 game sweep, and nor should you have. The crowd at home should really help the team out.
Game 3 is Monday (4/18) at 7:00pm on MSG. Let’s see if the boys in blue can get some home cookin’ going to retake the lead in the series.
LET’S GO SABRES!
The Buffalo Sabres entered the playoffs as the number 7 seed in the Eastern Conference against the second seeded Philadelphia Flyers. In an oranged out crowd that looked like a Syracuse basketball game, the Sabres prevailed 1-0 on a Pat Kaleta goal 5 minutes into the third. Marc-Andre Gragnani and Paul Gaustad got the assists as the boys in blue took a 1-0 series lead in the best of 7 series. Here are some nuggets of thought for you to chew on:
-The first period was heavily dominated by the Flyers. Home ice+orange crowd=pure domination..at least for the first 10 minutes. After that, the Sabres seemed to get their legs and their heads in check and get more focused. The period was dominated by physical play, and the first penalties of the game were offsetting minors to Mike Richards and Mike Weber. (Hey, I liked those odds at the time. Get rid of a third line defenseman for a first to second line forward).
-If anyone had left Ryan Miller out of the Vezina Trophy race, I reference tonight’s game to place him back in the race. The Man, The Myth, The Miller stopped all 35 shots that came his way, and I counted at least 14 that Rick Jeanneret went ballistic over.
-Another point about Miller: the team cannot keep relying on him to get wins. I understand he’s an amazing goalie, but at some point the team has to rally and score more than one goal per game. This isn’t to say that they haven’t been scoring, it just needs to transfer over into the playoffs.
-I missed the part of the pregame where Craig Rivet begged Darcy Regier to let him wear Steve Montador’s jersey and play…Wait, THAT was actually Steve Montador? WOW. He looked worse than Tyler Myers when he turned the puck over to Martin Erat against Nashville a couple weeks back. I think this game has earned Montador a trip to the press box. Either that, or a stern lecture from Brian McCutcheon.
-The fact that Pat Kaleta got the goal is just awesome. My mother teaches in Angola, Kaleta’s hometown, and she told me stories about her friend who taught him in the second grade. It’s great that his career has come full circle to where he’s playing for his hometown team. Great work.
Stat I Liked: Philadelphia 0-5 on the Powerplay. WOW, the Sabres penalty kill looks scary good. They not only killed off every penalty they took, but they killed off 38 seconds of 5-on-3 play using Tim Connolly, Chris Butler and Tyler Myers. That’s a filthy combination for a 3 man PK.
Stat I Didn’t Like: Thomas Vanek 13:28 time on ice. That’s way too low for someone making $7.1 million per year. He has got to improve his play if the Sabres are to make a deep run in these playoffs.
Game Puck: Ryan Miller. Is there any other choice?
Lindy’s Doghouse: Steve Montador and Shaone Morrisonn. The two of them together didn’t equal one good defenseman. When a rookie defenseman (Gragnani) looked better than both of them combined, there is a problem. Get on ’em Lindy!
Game 2 is Saturday (4/16) at 5:00pm.
Keep the razors hidden, Sabres fans. Until Saturday, LET’S GO BUFFALO!
Playoff Beard: Andy Version.
Last night I spent way too much time compiling a spreadsheet of how each player performed against the Flyers. I did the same for the Flyers against the Sabres. The stats are from the four game series that the Sabres played against the Flyers. Here are some screen grabs of the spreadsheet.
To view the whole spreadsheet go here: http://bit.ly/eswEwi
Feel free to share the link and edit it if it’s wrong! Thanks for reading!
As many of you may know, my past game previews are pretty much world famous. Alright, so they may not be world famous but my mom really enjoys them. With that in mind, I present to you the first ever TRW Playoff Preview! Basically this is a game preview but based around the whole playoff series.
The Sabres come into this series after clinching the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. Buffalo has a bit of a hot hand as of late. They are currently on a four game winning streak and haven’t lost since their overtime bout against the Washington Capitals on April 2nd. The Sabres haven’t exactly been dominant in the span (they only outscored their opponents 15-10 during the streak) but wins are wins and that is what matters.
Philadelphia, however, has been a bit of different story the past few weeks. The 2nd place Flyers are coming into the playoffs after a 7-4 win over the New York Islanders. Due to Philadelphia’s performance prior to the win, this game can not be used as an indicator for their recent performance. The first problem with this win is that it came AGAINST THE ISLANDERS. This past season the Isles finished second last in the East and further proved that they are a joke. The second problem with using the aforementioned win as a benchmark is that the Flyers lost five games prior. Despite the fact that they are one of the elite teams in the East, the Flyers lack consistency and are surprisingly weak.
In their season series the Sabres and Flyers split with each team going 2-2. The Flyers slightly edged the Sabres out in scoring. Philly outscored Buffalo 17-14 throughout the 4 games.
Instead of talking about who is hot right now, I’m going to discuss who for the Sabres performed well against the Flyers and vice versa.
Nathan Gerbe – Ever since his college days, Gerbe has proven he can step up when the time is right. I watched Gerbe manhandle the rest of the collegiate world on his way to a national title in 2008. In the AHL Gerbe proved yet again he was the real deal when he won AHL rookie of the year. Nathan stepped it up yet again this past season by earning a permanent spot on the Sabres roster. Gerbe proved his worth on the roster by contributing in nearly all aspects of the game. Against the Flyers, specifically, Nate netted 3 goals and an assist. That’s 4 points in 4 games. Couple that with the fact that he was +4 and took a whopping 13 shots and it’s easy to see that Gerbe can be effective against Philly. Watch for Gerbe, who models his game after Danny Briere, to show Briere how a small man really plays.
Thomas Vanek – It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Vanek is listed here. After all, the Austrian has had a pretty fantastic year. Granted, Vanek’s 32 goals, 41 assists and 73 points are by no means stellar in comparison with the league leaders but those points are all good enough for the team lead in their respective categories. If they Sabres want to perform well in the playoffs they need Vanek to step up and be a consistent production machine. Luckily for Buffalo, Vanek performed quite up to par against the Flyers this past season. Although Vanek’s 2 goals in the teams’ 4 meetings this year doesn’t seem spectacular, his assists are quite important. Thomas tallied 5 assists total against Philly. That is a great stat because it is a well known fact that the Sabres need Vanek to be successful if they are going to be successful. Watch for Vanek to set up his linemates tonight against a weakened Philadelphia defense.
Danny Briere – Briere has every right to be listed here as a hot player for the Flyers. Sabres fans know all about how dangerous Briere can be in both the regular season and playoffs. This season, he was second on the Flyers in points with 68. He has proven time and again that he is in the upper echelon of forwards in the NHL. Briere had good success against Buffalo this season as well. His 8 points (5 of which were assists) were the best of any player for the Flyers during the series. Look for Briere to be a veteran presence for the Flyers as they look to go deep into the post season.
Jochen Hecht – Although statistics don’t always tell the whole story, Jochen Hecht’s stats against the Flyers this past season are pretty abysmal. Chokin’ Jochen managed to net zero goal and zero assists for a total of zero points. Normally I’d be alright with that because Hecht is a “two way” forward. However, one of the prerequisites for being dual forward is being solid defensively. It’s a bit difficult to do that, though, when Hecht was -4. That stat is good enough for worst of the series. Hecht needs to bring everything he has this series for the Sabres to go deep.
It was pretty difficult for me to find someone who outright didn’t play well over the course of four games for the Flyers. Perhaps that is a product of how deep of a team the Flyers really are. I almost took the easy way out and said that Oskars Bartulis was “not” but he only played in one game over the series. Plus, You would have been all “Who’s Oskars Bartulis?” and I would’ve been all “He’s some obscure player that you just wouldn’t understand” and then I would’ve turned my vinyl of Modest Mouse’s The Moon and Antartica up really loud just to shut you up.
douchebag defenseman Chris Pronger is injured for tonight’s game. As if Philly’s goaltending wasn’t enough of an issue, their defense just got even worse. Look for the Sabres to use their speed to tear Philly apart.
The Man, The Myth, The Miller makes his return in goal tonight for the Sabres. Ryan Miller could be a major key for the Sabres to make a cup run.
Between the pipes for the orange and black is Sergei Bobrovsky. And you’d be all like “Who’s Sergei Bobrovsky” and then I’d be… Oh wait. I already made that joke.
BOYCOTT THE ORANGE. GO SABRES.
Game is on at 7:30 on VS.
In keeping up with past traditions of playoff hair, I have shaven my face. My beard will look better than Brian Wilson’s after the San Francisco Giants won the World Series last year by the time Ryan Miller hoists the Stanley Cup in mid June (hopefully).
You all have until 7:30pm tonight to rid your playoff parts (faces/legs/etc) of any and all particles of hair. For if you do not, the hockey gods (and this writer) will reign down on you with the white hot intensity of 1000 suns (and I’ll make sure to laugh at you, but only for a little bit. I don’t want to hurt your feelings).