Backup Goalies, Man

The Buffalo Sabres beat the Boston Bruins last night.  They scored FOUR goals, which is a ton for this team.  It helps that Chad Johnson was the goalie (not the football player), and let in a couple of butter-soft goals.  Of course, it seemed that Miller was going to match him with a rough patch of ‘tending, with two goals by Marchand but those were it for the night.

The goal-scoring came from a variety of sources, and included some hard work in front of the net.  Foligno took a Jamie McBain shot off the chest and tapped it in, for instance.  I like that Myers scored, even if it was a “hey, might as well try it – it went IN??” goal.  Stafford had the game-winner on a wraparound.  It was that sort of night for the B’s backup goalie.

Special recognition to Ville Leino for the dive of the week, drawing a tripping call on Milan Lucic.  On the downside, karmic retribution came on short-handed goal.  Marcus Foligno had the Gordie Howe hat trick.

Buffalo and Boston do it all again on Saturday, with 12:30 tussle in Beantown.  I imagine we’ll see Tuukka Rask this time.

A few helpful notes for the Bruins

Just a few things I saw that might help the Bruins after last night’s game:

  1. The opposing team’s best offensive player should probably be covered.  You may even want to shove him around a bit when he’s parked in front of the net on a power play.
  2. Tuukka Rask’s default move when a goal-scorer is near probably shouldn’t be ‘lie on my stomach’.
  3. That best offensive player I mentioned?  Passing him the puck yourself – with a gentle nudge of your hand, no less – also not recommended.

And a few notes for the fans of the Bruins:

  1. We know that Lane MacDermid wasn’t brought up to ‘deal with John Scott’.
  2. The timeout was taken because the wrong Sabres were on the ice.  Tough guys versus skill players is not something you want if you’re a coach.  Reverse the situation, and Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand are standing nose to bellybutton with John Scott (or Jared Boll, or Colton Orr) at a meaningless late-game faceoff, you don’t want to switch them out?
  3. Actually, I kind of want Ruff to own that, since it bothers some of the Bruins players so much.  “Oh, that?  Yeah, I called that timeout for a victory lap.  What of it?”

By the way Sabres fans, this really wasn’t one to crow about after today – the defense on the Buffalo side was just as brutal, only Ryan Miller bailed ’em out more than Rask bailed out the Bruins.  Many of the same problems remained from the Leafs disaster.

That was a tear your hair out type of game for both fanbases last night, but I’m glad the Sabres came out on top.  They meet again in just over a week, and it’ll be interesting to see if there is any carry-over.  Might depend on how Thornton’s doing.

It’s a GAME

You know, I’m dreading this game.  Not because Buffalo has sucked since game 3 of the season.  Not because we’ll get a hundred and fifty Miller/Lucic references.  Because it won’t live up to the hype.  They almost never do, these ‘team toughness’ statement games.  Oh, Lucic might fight somebody, John Scott may terrorize some poor sap, but at the end of the day, what the Sabres need is two points.  They need to GET RIGHT.  They could hardly pass the puck with a purpose in the last game, the only reason they were in that game at all is the Leafs suck just as bad.  This might mark me down as a ‘bad’ fan for a certain portion of the fanbase, the part that thinks adding -mafia to the team name makes you sound intimidating.  I don’t care.  Two points, awesome goals, that’s what needed.

Now, if John Scott were to rip Lucic’s spine out, Mortal Kombat style, I’d probably nod and say ‘Good Job, Hodor’…but not if it’s 4-1 Bruins at the time.  Sorry.

Beatings Literal and Figurative

The Buffalo Sabres beat the Boston Bruins.  Badly.  They tried two goalies, both of who allowed 3 goals.  The Bruins took a bunch of stupid penalties.  When they couldn’t solve Ryan Miller, they tried to get dirty.  That didn’t work, either.  Buffalo stood in and took the physical pounding, and won the game.  My positives:

Ville Leino.  What a game he had last night.  He’s a puck possession beast, and we might finally be seeing what we hoped to see from him.  Great fun watching him right now.

Patrick Kaleta.  That was about as close to a perfect Kaleta game as we’ve seen in a long time.  Scored, fought (well, mostly held on for dear life), and was a prime agitator.  Bruins were after him all night, including Chara trying to elbow him in the head.  This is what we expect when he’s in the lineup.

Ryan Miller.  His stellar goaltending performance could almost get lost in the shuffle, with all of the other stuff going on.  But we won’t let it, because it was awesome.  It seemed like there were long stretches where he wasn’t challenged, but he made 36 saves anyway.

Tyler Ennis.  The only guy above 50% at the faceoff dot (other than Luke Adam’s single faceoff win), he had a goal and an assist to boot.


The officiating.  I think that the Boston goal probably should’ve counted, that was a reputation call based on the previous games in this series.  I’m glad it didn’t count, though.  The refs also didn’t seem to have a good feel for the rough stuff and how to control it.

NBC Sports Network.  I love Doc Emrick, so I don’t think it’s his fault, but it seemed as if the broadcast and studio show were ready with all sorts of stats and facts and video to show how awesome the Bruins are…and had no idea what to do when the Sabres dominated them.  Milbury was an idiot again (no surprise), and as mentioned on Twitter last night, I find it really funny that someone who once beat a fan with a shoe would think that someone fighting on the ice with a visor on is some terrible person.

What’s next:

Buffalo currently sits 9 points back of Ottawa for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, but they have to leapfrog a few other teams to get there.  The Senators have lost seven straight, though, so a run by the Sabres now might just get them back into contention.  Still, I think the focus should be on getting past the Islanders (who they are tied with) and Winnipeg (4 points up).  Then we’ll talk about 8th place.

Prep Time

The Sabres split the weekend, shutting out the Canes 1-0, while losing to the Coyotes 4-2.  Other than suffering the ignominy of allowing Biz Nasty to score, the worst news came in the third period on Saturday, when Tyler Myers didn’t return to the ice.  He’s got an ‘upper body injury’ that we should hear more about today.  He had just picked his game up after his benching (though he still had a few bad decisions) so losing him now (if indeed they do) would be tough.

All of this becomes background noise as Wednesday approaches, and the rematch with the Boston Bruins looms.  I talked before about the likely scenarios we’ll see for that game, though we now have even more injuries that make brawls and fights even less likely.  Cody McCormick is still sitting, he’d be the most likely to go after Lucic on his own.  If Myers is out, I don’t think I’d want any defensemen to take themselves out of the play challenging Lucic (Weber or Regehr…obviously Leopold isn’t stepping in there).  So barring a Commander Cody recovery or callup cannon fodder, what we’re probably going to see is a bunch of hard hits, Kaleta-style charges, and a shit-ton of after the whistle tough-guy posturing without punches.  It’ll be annoying until the refs start tossing guys into the box to discourage it.  I’d much rather just see Buffalo win the game and keep their players upright and available for future games at this point.  Get Lucic later.  The anger will keep.

Head Games

The plot, it does thicken.  After a resounding win over the Senators, Buffalo went to Boston and let the Bruins run roughshod over them (literally).  A lot has already been said about Lucic and Miller and responses.  I think Nick Mendola summed up the immediate reaction best for me:

The Sabres immediate response to the offense was mostly fine in my book, given their personnel. Miller tried a blind baseball swing back at Lucic. Thomas Vanek tried to knock the train over. No dice. Andrej Sekera shoved Lucic and looked around for reinforcements. Not seeing any coming, he buried his head and hoped for the least beating possible. I’d like Paul Gaustad to look more interested in getting to Lucic, and maybe it’s above Tyler Myers’ weight class right now.

While I did wonder where the Gaustad is that came off the bench to attack Ovechkin for cheap-shotting Briere, but the officials got their arms on guys as quick as they could and Goose apparently didn’t see it happen.  As for not taking care of Lucic later, well, for the rest of the 1st and 2nd periods, the game wasn’t out of reach (though those two goals later in the 2nd off stupid defense AGAIN had to drive even a concussed Miller crazy).  Would I want a full-on brawl to develop?  Would I have wanted Kaleta to run Tim Thomas?  Or the usual suspects to charge Lucic whenever they could, late/dirty or not?  I might’ve had a positive visceral reaction to events like that at the time, but after the fact, I’d be a bit disappointed.  I like Tim Thomas, and I wouldn’t like to see him get hurt, even in retaliation for a stupid shot on a Sabre.

So, what happens next week when these two teams meet again, here?  There are a few scenarios:

  • Scenario One – The Sabres call up Kassian, roll out a line featuring Cody McCormick, Gaustad and BZK (backed by Regehr and Weber), and they brawl with whoever they are on the ice with, Neil/Drury game style.  EXTREMELY UNLIKELY.
  • Scenario Two – Cody McCormick fights Lucic, Kaleta hits him a few times.  Beyond that, a normal game.  MORE LIKELY.
  • Scenario Three – Gary Bettman or Colin Campbell attend the game, and the teams are on their best behavior.  SOMEWHAT LIKELY.

There is one wild card in this – a Sabres player truly running a Bruins player.  Maybe Myers bounces Horton’s head off the boards accidently with his elbow.  Maybe Kaleta does the usual Carubba worthy hit near the boards on a guy in an awkward position.  It might even be an accident, and have nothing to do with the recent history.  But that’s the one thing that will kick that next game into clownshoes territory.  Still, the most likely one is the ‘one fight and done’ thing.  ‘The next game’ is always a disappointment.

Miller is concussed, and Drew McIntyre will be the door opener for however long that lasts.  Jhonas Enroth is the man now, and it’s no easy stretch coming up, in Montreal tonight, home for NJ Wednesday, then another set of back to backs this weekend (Friday in Carolina, Saturday here for Phoenix).  You have to think Darcy and Lindy are hoping Miller is ready for the weekend but with a concussion, you just can’t know.  The team needs to pull together here and rally.

Potential Opponents

Now that the Sabres are all but assured of making the playoffs, let’s take a look at their most likely combatants.  There’s a few possibilities here, as the Sabres could be anywhere from 6th to 8th.  7th is the most likely spot to finish in.

First up is the Washington Capitals.  The season series with the Caps was 1-2-1, with Miller going 1-2-0 with a 2.32 GAA and .924 SP.  Jhonas Enroth played the game last week, losing in OT (sandwiched between those 2 outstanding games for what it is worth).  The win, if you recall, was the game that Thomas Vanek dazzled John Carlson and Braden Holtby for the OT winner.  I’d be curious to see what a seven game series against the Caps would look like, as Buffalo is playing much better lately, and Washington has some injuries of their own they are dealing with, including Mike Green, Dennis Wideman and Tom Poti on the blueline.

Next up in the likely opponents list is the Flyers.  Unlike the Caps, the Sabres have one more game against the Flyers this Friday, going 1-2 in the first three.  Ryan Miller has played all 3 games against Philly, and the numbers aren’t great – 4.03 GAA, .881 SP.  Again, a couple of those were earlier in the year and the most recent game is a 5-3 win.   The Flyers are 2-3-3 in their past 8 and who knows what’s going to happen with their goaltending tandem.  Bobrovsky is the likely starter for the playoffs, though you have to think Philly wouldn’t hesitate long to put the more veteran Boucher in there if  ‘Bob’ struggles.  They’ve also been missing Pronger and Briere, though Briere might be in for the Sabres game Friday.  Pronger hasn’t played since March 8th and had a ‘minor setback’ in rehab that puts his earliest return game 1 of a potential playoff matchup at the earliest.

The other likely foe would be the Boston Bruins.  This probably happens if the Sabres can overtake Montreal for 6th in the conference.  Buffalo has gone 4-1-1 in the season series, with Miller posting the 4-0-1 portion of that, with a 3.01 GAA and .911 SP.  Those numbers are skewed a bit by the 7-6 SO win where Stafford scored with 30 seconds to go to tie the game.  Tim Thomas took back the goaltending job from Tuukka Rask and had a Vezina-caliber season.  I’m really hoping they end up playing Montreal, though.  It would be great drama, not to mention they are likely to beat each other up.

As of today, it is still mathematically possible to see the Lightning (and an even smaller chance to see the Penguins) but it’s so unlikely that there’s no reason to worry about it.  Looking at the potentials, there’s nobody there that this team, they way they are playing can’t stand toe to toe with.  There’s a lot of variables right now with the health of key guys up and down the Eastern conference, including the Sabres with Miller, Pronger as I mentioned, and the Washington D.  Boston has the best goaltending situation, but the Sabres still have a great record against them.  I know the excitement builds with every passing day, and I expect tonight’s home game crowd to blow the roof off the place.  Let’s send this team streaking into the playoffs.

Bruins and Canadiens: Appointment TV?

The Bruins and the Canadiens play their sixth and final game of the regular season tonight, and the last two games have been quite memorable.  You have Chara ramming/guiding/elbowing/brushing Max Pacioretty into a stanchion between the benches (with the word used to describe it differing based on your rooting interest) in the last game.  The game before that was an 8-6 penalty fest that saw multiple line brawls, a half-hearted goalie fight, and numerous ejections.  What does that mean for tonight?

Nothing.  IF any crazy shenanigans happen, it will be due to actions that happen tonight.  Both teams know full well this game will be watched VERY closely by NHL hockey ops, and the playoffs are too close to have someone important sent off for message-sending.  There will be fights, I wager, between the usual combatants, but unless someone elbows somebody in the face or Chara goes full Wookiee on a guy again, this game will be a tame one.  Even though we may want these two teams to beat each other up.

Gameday 2010-2011 – Sabres at Bruins

It’s these guys again, and this time no Drew Stafford to save us, who’s nursing a groin injury and is out for the next game or two.  Marc-Andre Gragnani gets the call this time instead of Luke Adam, who was sent down to Portland after Kaleta returned.  Boston’s offense has come alive of late, since losing to the Sabres 7-6 they have mixed in 6-0 and 7-0 shutouts, and a 7-5 win over Philly.

A win tonight puts Buffalo back in 10th, and Carolina would be the next target (before today’s action they are 5 points ahead, playing the Rangers).  The Canes lost two straight to Boston (one of which is that 7-0 shutout).

Stafford Beats Bruins

Stafford upped his season goal total to 8 (in 16 games) as he single-handedly beat the Bruins last night at the Arena.  Perhaps Stafford is going to sit out all of his bad games, and only play in his good games.  Would be a nice change.  Good job, Angry Eyebrows.

I love the Bruins fan in the background there.  Regulation wins against division and conference opponents are huge right now, and this one puts the Sabres 6 back of 8th place Boston in the East.  There aren’t any teams at the top of the list, save the slumping Caps, who are playing poorly.  It’s up to Buffalo to do the damage themselves by winning games.