Saturday, May 11, 2013

LA taking down St. Louis is great on a couple of levels

I've always been a fan of Robyn Regehr.

It's not that I'd followed the Calgary Flames all that much when he was playing for them for a decade, but when I did catch their games I really liked what he brought to the team.

The Sabres for the past seven years have needed more professionalism, more grit, more leadership. Regehr is that type of player and it's players like him who get the respect of hockey world.

Regehr brought those attributes to the Sabres for the nearly two years, but as his rugged style of play began to wear on him a bit, he wasn't quite as effective with the Sabres as he was with the Flames. He's not washed up by any stretch of the imagination, but the load he had to carry in Buffalo, from a leadership and grit perspective, is too much to ask a 33 yr. old player who's never missed more than 14 games in a full season.

It's too bad Sabres GM Darcy Regier opted to pick Dmitri Kalinin one spot ahead of Regehr in the 1998 draft. We could have seen him on a nightly basis smack-dab in his prime. Who knows, maybe the Carolina series would've turned out differently and/or maybe a pro like Chris Drury would've opted to re-sign with Buffalo.

Methinks the past eight seasons would've turned out quite differently--for the better.

Regehr is out in LA now, headed to the second round of the playoffs with his Kings teammates.

Much respect to the Sabres organization for sending him there (for two 2nd-round picks.) It's probably the best possible situation for him to win the Stanley Cup.

The Kings are filled with leadership, skill, grit and tenacity. They're defending their Stanley Cup crown on a shortened season and seem to be hitting their stride right now.

What's asked of Regehr is simply to play his game. Clear the front of the net. Lay some hard hits on the opposition. Help anchor the PK.

For 21:00/game Regehr is simply asked to be the player he is--a tough defensive defenesman.

After spending an entire career being a true professional in both Calgary and Buffalo, the world would be right if he was on the last team standing.


A very young and talented St. Louis Blues team was eliminated in the first round and it exposed a couple of holes in the line-up.

The Kings knocked out the Blues in six games, winning the last four straight. St. Louis scored six goals on 110 shots in those four losses.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post Dispatch called out management for " inexplicably ignoring the obvious need to add a proven finisher to the lineup."

Miklasz wants a "fearless, cold-blooded sniper that won't get the yips and repeatedly miss putting the puck in the net at crucial moments" in the lineup.

The Sabres Thomas Vanek is a sniper. He can score in a variety of ways from any area of the ice and he's proven he can score in the playoffs.

St. Louis bench-boss Ken Hitchcock had that type of player in Brett Hull when the Dallas Stars defeated the Buffalo Sabres in the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals.

Although Vanek is not Brett Hull, he may be the best winger available this off-season for the Blues to acquire.

In 26 playoff games for the Sabres, Vanek has 15 goals. His average shooting percentage over those four appearances is 18.3%.

As the only real offensive weapon for Buffalo in their last two playoffs in 2010 and 2011, he had seven goals in 10 games and shot at rates of 20% and 25% respectively.


Miklasz also points out another flaw in the Blues--goaltending. He says, "[LA Kings goalie] Jonathan Quick  outplayed the Blues' Brian Elliott when pressure seeped into this series."

In blog dating back to the trade deadline, it was noted that the Blues allowed the least number of shots per game in the NHL, but their goalies' save percentage was weak.

It's a trend that bit them again in the first round of the playoffs.

Miklasz points out that over the last three Blues losses to the Kings, Elliott had an .871 sv.%. For the series Elliott had a 1.90 gaa and a .919 sv%. Pretty solid numbers on the whole, but when it really counted those last three games--when Elliott needed to steal a game--an .871 sv.% doesn't get the job done.

Elliott is what he is--a real strong back-up who can play like a starter on a number of occasions, but isn't that bonafide #1 goalie.

The Blues have a potential #1 goalie in Jake Allen, but at a very young 22 yrs. old, he still has a lot of growing to do.

The Sabres' Ryan Miller is a bonafide #1 goalie who has proven that he can steal a game or two in the playoffs.

Just look back on the Philadelphia series two years ago when he had two shutouts vs. the Flyers. The Fly-boys had possibly the best group of forwards in the NHL that year. The Sabres countered with one of the worst defenses in the playoffs that year. Of the eight d-men who dressed for that series, only three remain.

Miller is highly regarded throughout the league (outside of Buffalo, of course) and has a way of getting in the opposition's heads. If he doesn't need to worry about his defensemen playing the game properly, he's out high in his crease challenging shooters.

And when he's on, he's real tough to beat.

It wouldn't be surprising to see the Blues and the Sabres hook-up in the off-season. St. Louis needs a sniper like Vanek and could justify bringing in a bonafide #1 goalie like Miller.

The Blues also have a bevy of young talent throughout the organization with, according to Hockey's Future, depth and talent at center and on defense in the pipeline. They have size, skill and grit on the big club. And they have so much youth that moving a 1st-round draft pick this season and/or next will not set the organization back that much.

They need to make a move for some vets to fill the two holes Miklasz points out.

And the Sabres would be the team to call.

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