Thursday, March 26, 2015

'Yotes snag two huge points, Sabres fans feel relief

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com


How ironic.

The iconic Detroit Red Wings, a franchise that hasn't had a draft pick in the top-10 since 1991 yet will be making their 24 consecutive playoff appearance next month, may have played a crucial role in helping to determine the winner of the so called "McEichel Derby" in 2015. They dropped a 5-4 OT decision to the 29th place Arizona Coyotes last night at home.

With their surprising overtime victory over the Wings, the 'Yotes moved five points ahead of the Buffalo Sabres in the standings.

Fans in Buffalo breathed a bit easier with the news. A collective cheer was felt throughout Sabreland after Arizona's Mark Arcobello tinkled the twine with 1:52 left in overtime while Peace Bridge Security nodded to the heavens in thanks. Legions of Sabres fans have been feeling pressure as the Coyotes began barreling towards the bottom of the standings in an effort to disrupt the Buffalo's best laid plans while doctor's offices throughout Western New York were said to have seen a sharp rise in scripts for Prozac and Xanax as the race tightened.

The Sabres and Coyotes still have two head-to-head meetings in five days beginning tomorrow night in Buffalo with those two games likely deciding who will finish last this year to "earn" the right to draft one of two future franchise centerpieces:  Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. As it stands right now the Sabres could win both games and still be one point behind in the standings, in essence two points as the Coyotes hold the tie-breaker.

But that would only heighten tensions.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Nikita Zadorov and Mikhail Grigorenko at different stages of the developmental process

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com


There was a point in the season when Buffalo Sabres rookie defenseman Nikita Zadorov was logging games of 20-plus minutes in a top-four role while playing alongside fellow youngin, Rasmus Ristolainen. The "Twin Towers" on defense gave fans a starry-eyed glimpse into the future as they were in lock-down mode much of the time while helping propel the team to their best stretch of the season.

It's easy to forget, however, that Zadorov is only 19 years old and plays a position that takes most players years to figure out. Rare is the teenager that can walk into the National Hockey League and have the physical and mental maturity to log 20-plus minutes effectively over the course of an 82-game season. A player with that type of game is usually found at or near the top of the draft like Drew Doughty in 2008 (LAK, 2nd-overall,) Victor Hedman (TBL, 2009, 2nd-overall) and Aaron Ekblad (FLA, 2014, 1st overall.)

Zadorov was drafted 16th-overall in 2013.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A petulant Lindback? And, Lindy Ruff's 2006-07 gameplan can help bring this thing home

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com


Perhaps it was the headline that read, Lindback courts many fans' displeasure, and the notion put forth that "he’s on his way to becoming one of the most reviled Sabres ever," as written by the author, Jon Vogl of The Buffalo News. Or maybe it was the number of games he's played in consecutively, which has reached eight, all since Michal Neuvirth was traded to the NY Islanders. Or it may have been something unseen, but Sabres goalie Anders Lindback began last night's game versus the New Jersey Devils in a petulant mood.

He wasn't angry, throwin' crosschecks or elbows or anything like that, but it seemed as if there was a slight change in his demeanor as seen when he handled the puck early in the game. It looked as if something was bugging him, throwing him off a bit. It had the look as if he'd mentally thrown his arms up to say, "whatever."


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Have "Doe-ming" will tank plus lottery notes that may provide some comfort

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com


With the Buffalo Sabres on another off-night and my "March Madness" bracket taking a mild beating, as 10:00pm rolled around last night I thought I'd get a glimpse of the Arizona Coyotes/Colorado Avalanche game.

I managed to get through half of it.

After some guy on the Avalanche named Freddie Hamilton deflected a shot past this Coyotes goalie named Louis Dominigue (pronounced doe-ming) midway through the second period I'd seen enough. That goal made it 3-1 Colorado and for all intents and purposes it was game-over. I clicked it off thinking that it's possible that the Arizona Coyotes don't win another game. They may get the odd loser point or two, maybe more but with a team icing so little talent, and/or playing Dominigue, there's little hope that they'll produce even a handful of points over their remaining 11 games.

Arizona was team that had been spinning it's wheels all season and it came to the point where GM Don Maloney, with the help of AGM Darcy Regier, finally decided drive the franchise over the cliff. Beginning with a 10-game losing streak that started on February 10, the Coyotes have gone 1-15-1 and are poised to take control of the "McEichel Sweepstakes."

Friday, March 20, 2015

Anders Lindback raising some eyebrows

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com


That was a helluva performance by Sabres goalie Anders Lindback at TD Garden. Buffalo headed into Beantown last night on the second game of a back-to-back against a team in the thick of a wild card battle and came out on top, 2-1 via the shootout (on St. Patrick's Day, no less.) In doing so, Buffalo avoided getting swept by Boston in the season series for the first time ever.

Lindback turned back 44 of 45 Boston shots en route to his first victory in the blue and gold since coming to Buffalo in the Jhonas Enroth trade to Dallas. All totaled, Lindback has stopped 227 of 243 shots for a stellar .934 sv%, but because he's on a last place Sabres squad that once again is scoring at an historically low pace, his record in Buffalo stands at 1-3-2.

It was only his third win of the season for him and first as a starter.

"You have to be able to give your team a chance to win every night as a starting goalie in this League and it’s not an easy thing,” Lindback said post game.

Especially in Buffalo this season. Although things are looking quite a bit different at this point as opposed to earlier in the year and during their team record 14 game losing streak.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Ovie "the King," another tanking team plus Sabres notes from last night

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com.


Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals were a tired lot last night. They came to Buffalo after an emotional, hard-fought shutout victory over the Boston Bruins the previous night to face the last place Sabres. And true to coach Barry Trotz's pregame warning, Buffalo did indeed represent a trap game.

As sluggish as the Capitals were they still managed to overcome a dedicated Sabres squad 4-3 in the shootout. As tired as Ovie was, he still managed to fire over 20 shots Buffalo's way with nine of them being registered as shots on goal with none of them tinkling the twine.

One can't dismiss "The Great Eight's" supreme talent. Ovechkin's skill-level is outstanding and when he wants to compete and be hard on the puck, he's a tough customer. But my word, what a lazy, goal-sucking slacker he can be.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Sabres goalie coach Arturs Irbe working some magic with Buffalo's netminders

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com


When goalie Anders Lindback was traded to Buffalo for Sabres netminder Jhonas Enroth on February 11th, it was a somewhat curious trade for Buffalo. Not that they weren't intent upon getting a return for the soon to be unrestricted Enroth, but the return of Lindback was a bit of a head-scratcher.

From the Stars perspective, they were just three points out of a wild card spot at the time without any help from Lindback so an upgrade at the No. 2 spot was a necessity. As Kari Lehtonen's back-up the 26 yr. old Lindback was sporting a 2-8-0 record with a bloated 3.71 gaa and an AHL-worthy .873 sv%. Of note, both of Lindback's wins came in relief of Lehtonen.

Enroth was dealt a tough hand as the Sabres No. 1 goalie this season. Coming out of camp he got the nod as a starter over Michal Neuvirth, proceeded to get shelled, firmed up his game then capitulated under the relentless pressure of being a sitting duck in a shooting gallery. Yet, as the Sabres plummeted to a 16-36-3 record with a league low of 103 goals-for, Enroth was able to maintain a sense of dignity. He left Buffalo with a 13-21-3 record, a 3.27 gaa, a .903 sv.% and was a perfect 5-0 in the shootout allowing one goal on 21 attempts.