Last week’s events in Boston hit hard not just for Boston residents, but everyone who was paying any attention. Hockey players were no different.
Tuesday night saw the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Buffalo Sabres in a big Eastern Conference match up. Big in that both teams are trying to climb their way into the playoff picture with a few short weeks left in the season. As can be expected when playing a team with Steve Ott and Patrick Kaleta in their line up, it was a rather physical game.
What may be surprising is there was only one fight in the game. No matter how hard the Sabres tried to get Radko Gudas to drop the gloves.
Take it away , Keith & Marcus.
Photo Credit: Melissa Ann Kania
The NHL offseason is a busy, yet exciting, time for teams and fans alike. This is when fans get to see their teams building for the future. However, not every team makes the moves necessary to become a legitimate contender. With the 2012 NHL draft complete and free agency currently going on I will be looking at every NHL team, taking into account the moves they’ve already made, what players are free agents, who looks to be coming back, what prospects are already under contract, etc, and then deciding whether that team will, in the next two years, be more of a “contender” or “pretender”. This week we’ll be taking a look at the Buffalo Sabres.
The Sabres return captain Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek, Drew Stafford and Nathan Gerbe to name a few. Pominville is a great player on special teams, earning 20 points on the power play while playing in all 82 games this past season. Altogether he scored 73 points in 2011-2012, the second-best points total of his career. Vanek had a good season this past season, though he struggled with injuries that hurt his point total from January onward. Stafford, on the other hand, stumbled the first half of the season but got better as the season progressed, finishing with 50 points and a plus-5 rating. Gerbe put up only six goals in 62 games this past season but is decent defensively, putting up a plus-2 rating. (Source: http://www.tsn.ca/blogs/scott_cullen/?id=396554) The Sabres did end up losing forward Derek Roy (44 points in 80 games played) to the Dallas Stars in a deal that landed them forward Steve Ott (11 goals, 39 points, plus-5 rating in 74 games played) and defenseman Adam Pardy. (Source: http://sabres.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=637044) This deal looks like it could work out in the Sabres favor as both Roy and Ott had similar point totals in 2011-2012. The Sabres also could possibly lose Jochen Hecht and Brad Boyes as both are currently unrestricted free agents with a cap hit between 3.5 and 4.0 million dollars. Finally, the Sabres have prospects Luke Adam and Corey Tropp, both with a decent amount of games at the NHL level. They also have a good young player in Tyler Ennis who helped key their late-season surge, though not quite enough, into the thick of Eastern Conference playoff race and Marcus Foligno who, late in the season, averaged a point per game and a plus-7 rating with the big club. (Source: http://www.tsn.ca/blogs/scott_cullen/?id=396554)
The Sabres have all their defenseman, including top players Christian Ehrhoff and Tyler Myers, returning next season. Ehrhoff, in his first season with the Sabres, put up some below average numbers (five goals, 32 points and a minus-2 rating in 66 games played) but the Sabres know what he’s capable of and will give him some more time to heat up. Myers’ offense has fallen off since his phenomenal 48 point rookie season but he’s still solid, putting up 23 points and a plus-5 rating in 55 games played last season. (Source: http://www.tsn.ca/blogs/scott_cullen/?id=396554) Prospect-wise, the Sabres have Brayden McNabb who played a few NHL games this past season and could get a shot in a few more years, given the Sabres’ crowded blueline. (Source: http://www.tsn.ca/blogs/scott_cullen/?id=396554)
The Sabres have both Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth still under contract. Miller, from October until the All Star Break, was not very good, with a 3.07 goals against average (GAA) and .899 save percentage. He also missed some time after being run over by Boston’s Milan Lucic during a game in November. However, after the All Star Break Miller was as good as he’s ever been, posting a 2.08 GAA and .931 save percentage that nearly propelled the Sabres into the playoffs. Enroth also proved to be good, if not great, with a 2.70 GAA and .917 save percentage in 26 games. (Source: http://www.tsn.ca/blogs/scott_cullen/?id=396554)
If Miller can play close to the way he played after the All Star Break, Enroth can continue putting up decent numbers, Ott can stay healthy and contribute and Ehrhoff can produce like he did with the Vancouver Canucks prior to joining the Sabres then this team should be alright.
The Dallas Stars had points at stake as they lead their division by one point and couldn’t take advantage tonight. Instead of a dominating and pesky game that the fans were used to seeing, they decided to do the opposite and drop to the Vancouver Canucks, 5-2. The game was lopsided in that Dallas got chances but couldn’t put the puck past Cory Schneider, who stifled the Stars as Vancouver capitalized on mistakes from the Stars. We thought at first that Roberto Luongo was going to get the start for the Canucks, but he was late scratch due to a sore neck. I really wanted Luongo to be in the net instead of Schneider, who the Stars had played against in previous games.
You would expect the Stars to play a better game like they did in their game against the Calgary Flames but they didn’t. The Stars were coming out fast and had the momentum until the player I spotted in the game preview to watch, Chris Higgins, got the 1st goal for the Vancouver Canucks for a 1-0 lead. Dallas wanted to get the first goal because they were a dominating 30-8-3 after scoring the first goal. They even outshot the Canucks 13-7 but couldn’t get anything passed Cory Schneider. Stars did bring life back into the team as Steve Ott tied the game up at 1-1 with a beautiful shot that stunned Schneider. The Stars had more opportunities as Ott, who had a breakaway, could not score on the opportunity to make the Dallas Stars go up 2-1 as Cory Schneider made an absolutely amazing save.
After that breakaway opportunity, Sami Salo hit a long shot that put the Canucks up 2-1 on the power play. It seemed like the puck was deflected in as Kari Lehtonen could not see the shot as he was screened by Alex Burrows, who was in front of the net. After that goal was let in by the Stars, it seemed like the Stars were lifeless and the Canucks had energy. Andrew Alberts got his 2nd goal of the season as Stephane Robidas deflected the goal past Kari Lehtonen due to a mental error by a couple of rookies, Ryan Garbutt and Reilly Smith, who were trapped in the offensive zone. Then, Alex Burrows makes the game unbearable for the Stars as he got his 25th goal of the season as Alex Goligoski lost track of Burrows making the lead 4-1 in the 3rd period.
Maxim Lapierre makes it a bigger lead, making the game 5-1. But with a hard effort by Dowell, the Stars answered right back with a rare goal by their fourth line as Jake Dowell worked hard and cashed in for his 2nd goal of the year, but as we all know the Canucks won the game 5-2.
Kari Lehtonen, who started the game and tried his hardest, got pulled in the 3rd period after letting 4 goals in as backup Richard Bachman gives Kari the rest. It’s a good decision by Glen Gulutzan to give Kari a rest since they are going to be a facing a bigger challenge when they face the San Jose Sharks in a Pacific Division battle.
Dallas Stars will have a chance to redeem themselves tomorrow when they face the Sharks. We will either see the Stars in 1st place or see them out of the playoffs. Hopefully Dallas will work on their mistake and get a much needed win.
-Stars are on back to back game in which the Stars are not good at.
-The Stars were playing without two of their forwards as Eric Nystrom and Radek Dvorak missed games due to injuries and will miss the Sharks game as well. The Stars are hoping these two will be healthy for their home game on the 3rd.
-Michael Ryder’s & Mike Ribeiro’s point streaks ended today as both of them were held off the scoresheet.