Friday, December 20, 2013

Sabres fans have themselves a hockey team once again, and a trade went down yesterday

After an incredibly tough stretch to open the first third of the season bringing about a major overhaul, things are looking up for the Buffalo Sabres.

The back-to-back wins by identical 4-2 scores against Winnipeg and arch rival Boston could be a signal that the team is finally on the upswing. It was only the second time all season that they've won two in a row and it's the first time they've done it in regulation.

And it's also only the second time all season that they've scored eight goals in back-to-back games (ANA/SJS, Nov. 2/5.) Since their five goal "outburst" in Anaheim on Nov. 2, the team has scored more than 2 goals in regulation only once and during that 16-game span they scored 1 goal seven times and were shut out twice.

Regardless of whether or not the goals are going in for the Sabres, they have been playing some pretty good hockey lately. They're skating and working hard, reminiscent of "the hardest working team in hockey" from the late 90's, a team that got it's identity from Ted Nolan on his first go round in Buffalo.

A few things from yesterday's game that are noteworthy:
  • Brian Flynn had a great game with a shorthanded goal and an assist. Both were great plays and on the latter he lead an odd-man rush into the Boston zone and while everyone skated by him he found a hard-charging Tyler Myers in the slot
  • Myers has been playing exceptionally well. The goal last night was a perfect example of him just attacking. He has been playing well all season, but looks as if he's really kicked it in since Nolan took over behind the bench
  • Drew Stafford had a real nice goal, charging hard down the wing, circling behind the net and tucking one in. He's been playing very hard lately, even getting into a "fight." As one person posted on another site, he looked like a 30-goal scorer on that goal last night.
  • What more can be said about Ryan Miller? He did what he's always done--hold the fort. Said Bruins coach Claude Julien, "I thought we controlled the game pretty good, but the goaltender at that end (Miller) made some pretty big saves to keep them in the game, especially in the second period."
  • For weeks, Nolan has been trying to get Marcus Foligno to charge hard to the net, and the kid has started to do that on a more consistent basis. The result? Two goals in the last two games, both from right at the crease.
Good things are happening on the ice in Buffalo. Are we planning the parade yet? Nah. But we are seeing much better hockey at the F'N Center.


The Sabres traded for Edmonton winger Linus Omark last night giving up a conditional 6th-round pick.

Omark was a 4th-round pick for the Oilers in 2007 and played a total of 66 games for the team. He had 8 goals and 22 assists.

According to the Edmonton Journal's Jonathan Willis, the 5'10" 187 lb Omark is "a small, skilled forward who has proven time and again that he can be a difference maker in Sweden and Russia and the AHL, showed reasonably well in a brief stint with the Oilers in 2010-11 but found himself pushed down the organizational depth chart by the presence of many, many similar players."

Organizationally the Sabres are weak along the wings, although the previous regime had drafted a multitude of centers with the idea of moving them to the wing if necessary.

Omark had been unhappy in Edmonton and it was said that he'd asked to be traded.

CBC's Elliot Freidman, in his Tuesday, December 17th, 30 Thoughts had this to say, "Buffalo makes sense [as an Omark destination]. The Sabres are on a pace to score 137 goals. The last time a team scored fewer? Chicago in 1953-54, with 133 in 70 games. Omark's not a cure, but it's a sensible gamble, no?"

A conditional 6th round pick for the Sabres is really no gamble at all. They have, and have had, a multitude of draft picks so losing a late-rounder doesn't really matter all that much.

It's the first trade of the Pat LaFontaine-era, and Omark, like every player on the Sabres roster will get a legitimate shot to show what he's got.

Willis summed it up well, "For Omark, this is the best shot at an NHL job he’s ever going to have, as a player that can’t crack the 2013-14 Sabres has no business playing in the majors.  For Buffalo, it’s an awfully low price to pay for a guy who might be an NHL player in a secondary scoring role."

Omark will be meeting the team in Boston and Nolan said, "He’ll take a spot in the lineup. I’m not 100 percent sure exactly where we’ll put him yet, but he’ll play tomorrow night.”

It's assumed that he will be in because Cody Hodgson suffered an "upper body injury" and is out. Hodgson was placed on injured reserve and could miss 3-4 weeks.

One last note on the Omark trade. On November 27th, LaFontaine hired Kevin Prendergast as a scout. Prendergast had been in the Oilers organization for 20 years before coming to Buffalo. Methinks Prendergast may know a little bit about Omark.


Interesting piece from Bill Hoppe of the Olean Times Herald.

Hoppe talks with Bruins forward Brad Marchand about Sabres bench boss Ted Nolan. Nolan coached the then 17 yr. old in 2005-06 for the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Marchand's is a small, fiery forward who will get under an opponents skin either by being a petulant pest or scoring. He had two goals vs. Buffalo last night including a shortie. 'A perfect Boston Bruin,' said Nolan.

The respect Marchand has for Nolan is deep, 'definitely not a guy I'd chirp,' said Marchand, which is unique for a player who's mouth is constantly running.

Getting past the typical, "I wouldn't be here today were in not for (enter coach's name,)" which is very true, Marchand reveals why players will run through a brick wall for Nolan.

'I don’t know how he does it,' Marchand said. 'But it just seems he can understand how to treat each guy and how every guy has to be treated differently. He finds a way to bring the best out of every guy. He’s so good at reading people and talking to people it’s incredible.'

In the five weeks Nolan has been in charge he's molded the Sabres into a cohesive unit playing while allowing player to play to their strengths, most notably Tyler Ennis and Tyler Myers.

The 5'9" 183 lb Marchand, a 2006 3rd-round draft pick of the Bruins, has played in 253 NHL games with 74 goals and 149 points. He has 16 goals and 34 points in 54 playoff games and has his name engraved on the Stanley cup for the 2010-11 Bruins.

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