Tag:Buffalo Sabres
Posted on: April 6, 2011 2:13 am
Edited on: April 6, 2011 2:14 am
 

Morning Skate: Leafs' skid officially extended



The Toronto Maple Leafs’ playoff drought officially reached six seasons on Tuesday, although most of Ontario saw that coming with club’s horrific start. 

The skid, the longest in franchise history, predates the NHL lockout. Two teams (Carolina Hurricanes and Anaheim Ducks) have seized Stanley Cup titles for the first time and two other Original Six franchises (Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks) earned championships as the club at the center of the hockey universe has called it a season at 82 games.

Line Changes
  • Eye on Hockey: Vancouver's Torres ejected
  • Eye on Hockey: NYR's Callahan on shelf
  • Buffalo inches closer to playoff berth
  • CBSSports.com playoff tracker
  • So, where was the outrage Tuesday night? Imagine if baseball’s equivalent, the New York Yankees, or the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakes, went that long without a playoff berth. Heck, the fanbases for those franchises would be in an uproar if their teams didn’t secure a title or two. 

    The dependable Damien Cox of the Toronto Star for one wasn’t about to let the Leafs off the hook, understandably setting a good heap of the Leafs' lack of success on GM Brian Burke and coach Ron Wilson: 

    They’ve had their honeymoon period, and now this hockey town needs to demand answers and achievement.

    “I’m not going to conduct an autopsy here,” said Wilson after Tuesday night’s loss to the Caps.
    No problem. We’ll do it for you, coach.

    There were clearly factors that injured the Leaf season, including the failure to identify the organization’s best goaltender earlier, a serious injury to captain Dion Phaneuf, a good but not great season from (Phil) Kessel, the struggles of Mike Komisarek and, of course, that nightmarish power play.

    But the overriding issue that made the first half of the season a disaster and the second half not good enough is that this hockey club still lacks a defining personality, an identity that explains what it wants to be night after night.

    Burke built a solid nucleus in Vacouver, which included drafting the Sedin twins. After his contract was not renewed and a little bit of TV work, Burke needed only two seasons to turn the Ducks into Stanley Cup champs.

    He’s now about to complete his second full season in Toronto without nearly the success despite more resources at his disposal. Burke recently reaffirmed his backing to Wilson, who will return for his fourth season behind Toronto’s bench. 

    Nobody can question the credentials of either Burke or Wilson, but time could be running out for each -- and it doesn’t help that the team has hung out the “for sale” sign and could soon have new ownership that might not be as patient. 

    There are some positives, but who knows if they carry into next season. The Leafs are tied with the Los Angeles Kings with the fifth-most points (41) since the All-Star break. Rookie James Reimer (pictured above) was solid in net down the stretch, oftentimes keeping the Leafs in games to make their late-season run possible. Even in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Washington Capitals, Reimer made 39 saves in regulation and overtime. 

    "We can hold our heads high," said Reimer told the CBC Sports. "We’ve gained a lot of confidence."

    This is the latest, as CBC points out, the Leafs have gone (third-to-last game of the season) before getting eliminated since 2006. I guess that is what is considered progress these days in Toronto. The Leafs were actually eliminated a few minutes before their game ended via Buffalo’s victory over Tampa Bay. 

    "Everybody’s going to be really excited to get back here," Leafs forward Joffery Lupul told the network.

    Maybe it’s odd that the Leafs have lapsed into the “wait ‘til next season” mentality, but it has been 44 years since their last championship. It's quite understandable. 

    TUESDAY'S RESULTS
    Buffalo 4, Tampa Bay 2
    Washington 3 , Toronto 2 (SO)
    Ottawa 5, Philadelphia 2
    Pittsburgh 4, New Jersey 2
    Montreal 2, Chicago 1 (OT)
    St. Louis 3, Colorado 1
    Nashville 6, Atlanta 3
    Dallas 3, Columbus 0
    Edmonton 2, Vancouver 0
     
    -- A.J. Perez

    Photo: Getty Images 

    Posted on: April 5, 2011 3:38 pm
    Edited on: April 5, 2011 4:00 pm
     

    Playoff Watch: Clinchers all around tonight



    WHO CAN CLINCH: The Philadelphia Flyers can clinch the Atlantic Division with a victory over the Ottawa Senators tonight combined with a win by New Jersey Devils, who face the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Flyers can also win the division with an overtime or shootout loss to the Sens coupled with regulation loss by the Penguins. 

    The Washington Capitals can clinch the Southeast three different ways:
    • a regulation victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs
    • a point against the Leafs via a shootout/overtime loss and a Tampa Bay Lightning loss to the Buffalo Sabres (in any manner). 
    • a Lightning loss in regulation.


    The Montreal Canadiens can secure a playoff berth with any kind of victory over the Chicago Blackhawks.

    The idle Phoenix Coyotes are in if the Dallas Stars lose to the Columbus Blue Jackets

    The Los Angeles Kings, also idle, are also in with a Stars loss, as long as it’s in regulation. 

    The Nashville Predators can dance in the land of milk and honey if they beat the Atlanta Thrashers (in regulation, OT or shootout) and the Stars lose in any fashion. The Preds are also in with a shootout/overtime loss and a regulation loss by Dallas. 

    ALREADY IN:  Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia, San Jose, Tampa Bay, Detroit and Washington.     

    GAME OF THE NIGHT: Tampa Bay Lightning (44-24-11) at Buffalo Sabres (40-29-10), 7 p.m. ET

    The Sabres will again be without goalie Ryan Miller, who will miss his fourth consecutive game with an upper body injury. Of course, with the way rookie Jhonas Enrothm (pictured above) has been playing, he doesn’t exactly have to rush back. Enroth is 2-0-1 with a 1.94 goals-against average and .936 save percentage in Miller’s absence. Enroth has gotten points in his last six starts overall and the Sabres, who enter three points ahead of idle Carolina in the eighth place, would like to see that trend to continue. 

    Tampa Bay enters on a five-game win streak. Captain Vincent Lecavalier, who took a high-stick to the eye in Sunday’s 2-0 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks, will play in tonight’s game, according to The St. Petersburg Times. He had been listed as day-to-day since he received stitches and was examined by an eye doctor. 

    ALTERNATIVE VIEWING: Washington Capitals (46-22-11) at Toronto Maple Leafs (37-32-10), 7 p.m. ET
    The Caps don’t need a victory to clinch the Southeast for a fourth consecutive season, but the Leafs do need one to stay alive in the playoff picture. Of course, even that may not be enough to keep the Leafs from missing the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season (see below).

    GOLF WATCH:  The Toronto Maple Leafs will be eliminated if they lose (in any form) to the Capitals in regulation or overtime. Toronto is also out if the Sabres manage to get one point tonight. Atlanta, New Jersey, Minnesota Columbus, Ottawa, Florida, New York Islanders, Columbus, Colorado and Edmonton are already mathematically eliminated.  

    -- A.J. Perez

    Photo: Getty Images
    Posted on: April 3, 2011 1:46 pm
    Edited on: April 3, 2011 3:27 pm
     

    Playoff Watch: East race could swing in Raleigh

    WHO CAN CLINCH: The idle Washington Capitals will win their fourth consecutive Southeast Division title if Tampa Bay loses in regulation to Chicago. The Detroit Red Wings can clinch the Central Division title if they beat Minnesota (regulation or OT) OR if they win via a shootout and Blackhawks lose to Tampa Bay. If the Anaheim Ducks beat the Dallas Stars, as many as three teams can secure playoff berths. The Ducks and Los Angeles Kings are in with a regulation winand the Phoenix Coyotes can earn a slot with a regulation, OT or shootout win by Anaheim.

    GAME OF THE NIGHT: Buffalo Sabres (39-29-10) at Carolina Hurricanes (38-30-10), 5 p.m. ET

    Separated by just two points, there's plenty on the line for this fourth and final tilt between these two teams. The Hurricanes enter on a three-game win streak and have won six of their last seven games. The 'Canes are coming off a 4-2 victory over the the New York Islanders on Saturday. They were briefly just a point out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the East until the New York Rangers used a 3-2 shootout victory over Philaelphia Sunday to push that margin back to three points and move up a spot to seventh. 

    The Sabres -- who enter in seventh place in the East -- felt the absence of starting goalie Ryan Miller, who missed his second consecutive game with an upper-body injury. Buffalo still managed to pick up a point in an OT loss to the Washington Capitals on Saturday, but Jhonas Enroth was shaky at times in net.

    ALTERNATIVE VIEWING: Dallas Stars (38-28-11) at Anaheim Ducks (44-29-5), 8 p.m. ET
    This game means a lot to plenty of teams (see above).  The Stars are fighting to stay in the playoff hunt heading into the final week of the season. (Dallas’ only hope with a loss would be to catch eighth-place Chicago, but that would be a major stretch.) The Ducks have won four of the first five meetings, although they could be without defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, who left Saturday’s 4-2 loss to San Jose with an upper-body injury. The Stars have enter on a six-game skid. 

    GOLF WATCH: The Calgary Flames will be eliminated if they lose to Colorado in regulation AND Chicago defeats Tampa Bay. Atlanta, New Jersey, Minnesota Columbus, Ottawa, Florida, New York Islanders, Columbus, Colorado and Edmonton are already mathematically eliminated. 
    Posted on: March 30, 2011 3:40 pm
    Edited on: March 30, 2011 3:55 pm
     

    Playoff Watch: Seeds could shift in East tonight

    WHO CAN CLINCH: The idle Tampa Bay Lightning can lock down a berth if the Carolina Hurricanes lose in regulation to the Montreal Canadiens

    ALREADY IN:  Vancouver, Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington.   

    GAME OF THE NIGHT: New York Rangers (41-30-5) at Buffalo Sabres (38-29-9), 7 p.m. ET
    The Sabres could tie the seventh-place Rangers points-wise with a victory. Both enter with 33 regulation/overtime wins -- the first tiebreaker -- so if this game goes to a shootout it becomes even more convoluted. But with five games left for each team after tonight, there’s plenty of time sort things out. Buffalo, which fell to Toronto on Tuesday, is probably more worried about the team behind them. The Carolina Hurricanes are just three points back. One thing the Sabres have going for it is that they haven’t lost consecutive games since Feb. 18-20. The Rangers have won two of the first three meetings between the clubs. 

    ALTERNATIVE VIEWING: Montreal Canadiens (41-29-7) at Carolina Hurricanes (36-30-10), 7 p.m. ET
    The Eastern Conference is not as bunched up for the final playoff seeds as the West, but games like this make things interesting. The ‘Canes beat the Washington Capitals --- for the first time in six meetings this season --- on Tuesday, a victory powered by rookie Jeff Skinner and the goaltending of Cam Ward. Skinner knotted the game at the end of regulation and scored one of Carolina’s two shootout goals in the 3-2 win at Verizon Center. The Hurricanes face another team that they have gone winless against this season, this time in the previous three meetings. 

    GOLF WATCH: The New Jersey Devils will be eliminated a couple different ways tonight: If New Jersey loses (in regulation or overtime) and the Buffalo Sabres defeat OR if the Devils lose in regulation and the Sabres earn at least one point. The St. Louis Blues will be eliminated if: they lose to the Detroit Red Wings, in any manner.  Ottawa, Florida, New York Islanders, Colorado and Edmonton have already mathematically out of it.

    -- A.J. Perez
    Posted on: March 30, 2011 2:38 am
     

    Morning Skate: 'Canes gain ground in East

    WASHINGTON -- Eric Staal let himself have a little glance at the out-of-town scoreboard after overtime Tuesday. 

    “I didn’t want to look until the shootout started,” the Hurricanes captain said. “It was a 4-3 final, so I knew the shootout was going to be huge. Then those guys came through with those huge goals.”

    Rookie Jeff Skinner and Tuomo Ruutu scored in the shootout as the Carolina beat the Washington Capitals, 3-2, at Verizon Center. The score Staal mentioned came from the only other game the ‘Canes had to concern themselves with Tuesday, a contest where the Maple Leafs squaked out win over the Buffalo Sabres.

    “We got a little bit of help,” Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. “Now we have to go back at it. That’s our fate with the schedule we have this year.”

    The Sabres hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the East and things just got a little tighter. Carolina moved to within three points of the Sabres and both teams have six games left on the schedule – including a head-to-head matchup on Sunday. The Leafs finished Tuesday five points behind the Sabres. 

    Carolina’s playoff hopes appeared slightly dim in the second period. Referees missed a high stick by Caps defenseman Karl Alzner that resulted in a gash in Staal’s forehead, a cut which required seven stitches to close. Maurice took issue with a couple other calls, including a too many men on the ice call just before the Caps pulled ahead 2-1 on a Marcus Johansson tally late in the period. 

    Line Changes
  • Eye on Hockey: Semin maintains bad habits
  • Eye on Hockey: Should visors be required?
  • Vancouver clinches West title
  • Goldstein: Strong rookie class
  • CBSSports.com playoff tracker

  • “This game was so much more important to us than what happened there in the second period,” Maurice said. “I didn’t know what was going on. At the same time, we had to refocus and get back to playing.”

    No matter. The Caps gave it all back when goalie Semyon Varlamov let in soft goal by Skinner that tied the game 1:46 left in regulation. Overall it wasn’t a bad way for the ‘Canes to avoid getting swept by the Caps in their six meeting this season. 

    “The biggest thing coming into the game was where we are in the standings,” Skinner said. “I don’t think you look back on a head-to-head. When you come this far, your focus is on the next game and the future and it was a big two points for us.”

    Maurice added that those points were bigger when you factor in the two players that returned to the lineup for the Caps. Captain and former MVP Alex Ovechkin (out three games with an undisclosed injury) and center Jason Arnott (out six games with an undisclosed injury) were both back in action. 

    “It was a little bit of curve ball when they got their players back,” Maurice said. “We handled that well, too. We wanted to beat at team with their best. Confidence is something that we’ve been searching for. We’ve played hard and played well. You should feel good about wins like this.”

    This victory can’t be savored long. The ‘Canes will host the Montreal Canadiens tonight, another team ahead of them in the East standings. 

    TUESDAY'S RESULTS
    Carolina 3, Washington 2 (SO)
    Toronto 4, Buffalo 3
    Philadelphia 5 Pittsburgh 2
    Columbus 3 Florida 2 (SO)
    Montreal 3, Atlanta 1
    Boston 3, Chicago 0
    Tampa Bay 5, Ottawa 2
    Minnesota 3, St. Louis 2 (SO)
    Vancouver 3, Nashville 1
    Los Angeles 2, Edmonton 0
    Phoenix 2 , Dallas 1 (SO)

    -- A.J Perez
    Posted on: March 21, 2011 4:24 pm
     

    Pavelski atop bracket heap among NHLers

    San Jose Sharks forward Joe Pavelski finished the first weekend of the NCAA men's basketball tournament in solid shape, leading the three other NHL players who particpated in CBSSports.com’s Bracket Challenge

    Pavelski is seventh overall among the 35 celebrity brackets compiled. He got 33 games correct out of a possible 48 and enters the Sweet 16 with 43 points. All of his Final Four teams -- North Carolina, Duke, Kansas and Florida -- remain in contention. 

    That's not a bad start for Paveklski, who also tapped as one of the NHL's three Stars of the week on Monday.

    Teammate Dany Heatley and Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller are tied in 16th (39 points), Columbus Blue Jackets winger R.J. Umberger is 34th (37 points.), just ahead of last-place Special K Daley of the Harlem Globetrotters.

    Overall, President Obama leads with 49 points, predicting 39 games correctly. 
    -- A.J. Perez
    Posted on: March 19, 2011 1:48 pm
    Edited on: March 19, 2011 1:51 pm
     

    Playoff Watch: Sabres can gain some separation

    WHO CAN CLINCH:  The idle Philadelphia Flyers will seize the first playoff berth in the East with a victory in Dallas tonight. 

    GAME OF THE NIGHT: Atlanta Thrashers (30-29-12) at Buffalo Sabres (34-28-8), 7 p.m. ET

    The Sabres have one game in hand against the Thrashers and the weakest strength of schedule over their remaining games among teams eighth through 12th in the East. It seems like the bottom couple teams in the East -- no matter who they’ve been -- have slowed down a times to let everybody else catch up. The Sabres did just that Tuesday, losing to a Carolina Hurricanes team that enters even with them with points (76).

    Buffalo is 2-0-1 heading into this fourth and final meeting between these two clubs. Defenseman Andrej Sekera enters on a tear, scoring 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) over the last 10 games. The Thrashers appeared to have to have solved their recent malaise, winning five of the last six games to become contenders again.  (The Thrashers enter in 10th place, four points behind the Sabres.) Tobias Enstrom and Dustin Byfuglien have averaged a point a game against the Sabres this season. 

    ALTERNATIVE VIEWING: Anaheim Ducks (38-27-5) at Los Angeles Kings (40-26-5), 10 p.m. ET 

    A victory by the Ducks against their SoCal rivals would put all five teams in the competitive Pacific Division back in playoff contention. Ray Emery earned his first NHL win in more than a year with a 30-save effort against St. Louis and could get the start in net again for the Ducks. The Kings will likely counter with Jonathan Quick, who has lost eight of this last 12 games.

    GOLF WATCH: The Colorado Avalanche will be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss tonight to the Edmonton Oilers, the only team already mathematically eliminated.
    Posted on: March 17, 2011 2:57 pm
    Edited on: March 17, 2011 3:17 pm
     

    NHL players remain (mostly) loyal in NCAA picks



    Joe Pavelski can’t be called a homer. 

    The San Jose Sharks forward (above left) is the only one of the four NHL players to fill out the CBSSports.com’s Bracket Challenge who did not pick his alma mater to win it all. Pavelski, who attended the University of Wisconsin, has the Badgers falling in the fourth round to Florida and penciled in Duke to win the NCAA men’s basketball championship.

    His Sharks teammate and fellow Badger Dany Heatley has Wisconsin beating Duke in the finals. Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller has his Michigan State Spartans winning their third national title by beating rival Ohio State. (The odds of those schools winning it all, according to VegasInsider.com, are 35/1 and 60/1, respectively.) 

    Columbus Blue Jackets forward R.J. Umberger (above right) has top-seeded Ohio State overtaking Louisville in the championship game, so it was fairly easy for him to stay faithful to his collegiate roots.

    The Eye on Hockey blog will be upating how these four players' brackets are holding up as March Madness progresses.

    -- A.J. Perez

    Photo: Getty Images
     
     
     
     
    The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com