Monday, September 15, 2014

Goalies are a little too "comfortable" versus the Sabres

Reprinted with permission from

NY Rangers goalie prospect MacKenzie Skapski stopped 36 of 37 shots vs. the Buffalo Sabres prospects in yesterday's 2-1 overtime win. The 36 saves was a new Traverse City record for the Rangers, and when asked how he felt out there, Skapski replied, "I felt comfortable."

The Sabres youngins would, once again, throw plenty of rubber at the opposition net and would, once again, leave the ice having scored only one goal. “I thought one of our strengths coming into this tournament was going to be scoring goals. We have a lot of guys who are producers in that area,” coach Chadd Cassidy said. “It’s obviously been an issue for us. We had a lot of good chances again tonight.”

The "issue" overall seems to be getting into positions in and around the net to score.

Versus the Carolina Hurricanes, it was perimeter play and not getting to the "blue paint." Against the Rangers, "We're just not finishing around the net," offered Cassidy. "We're not heavy enough around their net. We're not getting enough traffic around their goaltender, he's seeing to many shots. Unless you play heavy in that area [around the net] you're not going to score too many goals.

After their 6-1 victory over Buffalo, Hurricanes goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic, said, "I saw nothing but pucks."

The Sabres youngins played a much tighter game vs. the Rangers, as evidenced by the score, but ran into a pretty stout goalie in Skapski. Less than halfway into the first period Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen banked a pass from his own endline to hit a streaking Joel Armia. He went in alone on Skapski but was stopped when he went backhand. Armia also was in the paint when Nikita Zadorov sent a blast from the slot on the powerplay which was kicked aside by Skapski.

Armia spent 54 games in Rochester last season and knows the pro game. He knows where to go and learned how to score having netted three goals in five playoff games. It's a battle of attrition at the pro level, unlike junior. And it's a lesson for the youngins going forward.

Some notes after two games:

--The Rangers scored their overtime winner in the new NHL OT format where the teams start 4-on-4 before reverting to 3-on-3. The goal by the Rangers was 3-on-3 with Sabres d-man Jake McCabe getting caught up-ice and forward Brendan Lemieux being back on a 2-on-1. Said McCabe, "“The 3-on-3’s kind of funky and I got caught below the puck and an odd-man rush went the other way,”

--Lemieux played well vs. Carolina grabbing a secondary assist on Vaclav Karabacek's goal. The line's center, Eric Cornel got the primary assist. But against the Rangers he was dropped to the fourth line, apparently for channeling too much of his inner Patrick Kaleta. "The big thing from last night to tonight, we really needed Brendan focused on playing hockey and being a consistent force in the game. And it's not just being an antagonizer. He can play. We want him to be physical, we want him to be involved, but he must make sure he's not getting distracted from his game."

--Traverse City invitee Francios Brassard was in net for the Sabres. Brassard was 2012 6th round pick (166th overall) of the Ottawa Senators and had an excellent night in net. Save for the Rangers game-tying goal. NY won the draw and it went back to their blueline on the right dot. Defenseman Samuel Noreau, a 2011 5th round pick of the Rangers lofted a shot on the Sabres net which eluded Brassard.

--Another Sabres invitee, Joseph Blandisi scored the lone goal for the Sabres. Blandisi was on a line with Lemieux and Justin Kea, who had the lone assist on the goal.

--For the first time since 2011 when the Sabres first attended the Traverse City Tournament, they will not be in the Championship game. They won it all in 2011 and were runner-up in 2013. The 2012 tournament was a casualty of the NHL lockout.

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