Posted on: March 7, 2012 10:49 pm
By: Adam Gretz
There's always a winner and a loser in the NHL, and this is a new nightly look at some of the winners and losers in the biggest games and biggest situations across the league.
Buffalo Sabres: Thanks to Jason Pominville's overtime goal (as seen above) the Buffalo Sabres managed to gain a little more ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race on Wednesday night.
Their 3-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes pulled them to within two points of a playoff spot in the East, and they've now won seven of their past nine games, with one of the losses coming in overtime (meaning they still gained a point in the standings). There isn't going to be much time to celebrate this one, however, as they have to get right back into it just 24 hours later when they visit the Boston Bruins.
The Sabres controlled much of the game and after falling behind 1-0 early in the first period, they stormed out in the second period and received a pair of goals from Thomas Vanek and Nathan Gerbe less than two minutes into the period.
Ryan Miller, one of the biggest reasons for the late season turnaround, stopped 22 of the 24 shots he faced.
[Related: Sabres 3, Hurricanes 2]
Brad Thiessen and the Penguins: Rookie goaltender Brad Thiessen was a surprise starter for the Penguins on Wednesday night and he ended up playing a heck of a game, stopping 22 of 24 shots and holding down the fort in Pittsburgh as his teammates erased a two-goal deficit to earn a 3-2, come-from-behind win against the Maple Leafs.
His biggest save of the night came late in the third period, with Toronto on a power play, when he slid across his goal crease and made a fantastic pad save on a Phil Kessel one-timer, preserving what was a one-goal lead for the Penguins one-goal.
The Penguins have only won five games that Marc-Andre Fleury did start this season, and two of them have gone to the rookie Thiessen, his only two starts of the year.
[Related: Penguins 3, Maple Leafs 2 -- Letang: the missing piece]
Toronto Maple Leafs: On a night where one of the teams they're chasing in the playoff race -- the Sabres -- picked up two points, the Maple Leafs letting a two-goal lead against the Penguins slip away, the second time they've done so in as many trips to Pittsburgh, is not what they were looking for.
Especially as they suffered even more injuries, losing defenseman Cody Franson and forward Mike Brown within the first 10 minutes of the game, just one night after losing forwards Joffrey Lupul and Colby Armstrong.
Toronto is falling fast in the standings, and with injuries starting to mount the season seems as if it's on the verge of slipping away.
[Related: Playoff race]
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: January 14, 2012 11:54 pm
Edited on: January 15, 2012 12:15 am
By: Adam Gretz
Over the past seven years the number of penalty shots we see in the NHL has been on the rise. We've already seen 41 this season, and that includes the one that went Buffalo's Thomas Vanek late in the third period of the Sabres' 4-2 loss to the New York Islanders on Saturday night. At the time of the shot the Islanders were holding a slim one-goal lead, and Vanek had an opportunity to score a potentially game-changing goal with a little over a minute to play in regulation.
The only reason he was given the shot was because of what appeared to be terrible call by the on-ice officials that awarded Buffalo a penalty shot after it was determined that Islanders defenseman Mark Streit intentionally dislodged the net. After watching the replay it looks as if Streit did nothing other than lose his balance and run into the net, causing it to become dislodged. If he did it on purpose, it was a darn fine acting job.
Fortunately for the Islanders, Vanek's shot hit the post and they were able to add another goal and hold on for the win.
Here's a look at the play so you can decide for yourself if Streit's actions were intentional, or if it was simply an accident that was followed by a brutal call that could have cost the Islanders the game.
The bigger issue here, for me, is that the NHL has become way too penalty shot happy in recent years. Here's a quick look at the number of shots that have been issued dating back to 1997:
2011-12 (half season): 41
That's quite a spike over the past seven years.
Now, one of the biggest factors in that increase has been the elimination of the red line and the two-line pass, which took place prior to the 2005-06 season. But it also seems that the NHL is more willing to hand one out than it used to be. Ten years ago if you had anything that even resembled a shot on goal, or an attempted shot, on a breakaway while being hauled down you didn't have a chance of being awaraded a shot. That no longer seems to be the case.
You also have calls like the one featured above.
For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: January 12, 2012 1:43 pm
Edited on: January 12, 2012 4:24 pm
The NHL announce its full list of All-Stars on Thursday in about as poor a way as it could have. Remember when Mario Lemieux called the NHL a garage league? Maybe he was thinking of days like this.
The NHL had ample opportunities to put this front and center. They could have announced the selections on Wednesday night using NBC Sports Network and TSN. Heck, they could have made the announcement using the NHL Network instead of running a replay of a game from last night.
All of that would have been better. Instead, the All-Star selections started leaking one at a time. The first was the Florida Panthers announcing Brian Campbell would be representing them. Then the Blackhawks followed with the Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. The leaks continued until the NHL finally released the entire list of players about an hour later.
It's almost like it wasn't planned.
Anyway, on to the guys who were selected. These are the guys who will head to Ottawa for the All-Star Game and will be part of the second NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft, much like the way you would pick teams for kickball at recess with two captains selecting players until they're gone.
As usual, there are a few head-scratchers in here.
Jason Spezza (Senators), Milan Michalek (Senators), Daniel Alfredsson (Senators), Jamie Benn (Stars), Pavel Datsyuk (Red Wings), Marian Gaborik (Rangers), Claude Giroux (Flyers), Marian Hossa (Blackhawks), Jarome Iginla (Flames), Patrick Kane (Blackhawks), Phil Kessel (Maple Leafs), Mikko Koivu (Wild), Joffrey Lupul (Maple Leafs), Evgeni Malkin (Penguins), Logan Couture (Sharks), Alex Ovechkin (Capitals), Jason Pominville (Sabres), Daniel Sedin (Canucks), Henrik Sedin (Canucks), Tyler Seguin (Bruins), Corey Perry (Ducks), Steven Stamkos (Lightning), John Tavares (Islanders), Jonathan Toews (Blackhawks).
Erik Karlsson (Senators), Dion Phaneuf (Maple Leafs), Dustin Byfuglien (Jets), Brian Campbell (Panthers), Zdeno Chara (Bruins), Alexander Edler (Canucks), Dan Girardi (Rangers), Shea Weber (Predators), Keith Yandle (Coyotes), Dennis Wideman (Capitals), Ryan Suter (Predators), Kimmo Timonen (Flyers).
For those wondering on the breakdown, that's 24 players from the Eastern Conference, 18 from the Western. The six vote-ins all coming from the East helps with that bit of disparity, though.
Now, on to the superlatives ...
You never know who actually said no to the invite. That's the caveat here. But if nothing else the players should get the honor and then decline to appear (I get the murkiness of it, but they deserve the honor).
I understand that Nicklas Backstrom (the Capitals center, that is) is injured at the moment, but he's day to day and the game isn't for another few weeks. There is zero doubt that he has been the Capitals' best player this season, not Ovechkin, who made the roster ahead of a long list of players that probably deserved it more.
I scratch my head a little with the selection of Byfuglien on defense. Not that he is bad by any stretch, but I probably would take a few guys over him. From the Jets perspective, I would have liked to see Evander Kane more.
You could make a case -- probably not a great one, however -- for Florida's Jason Garrison, as well. He leads defensemen in goals with 11 and has a slap shot that might possibly stand a chance in the hardest shot competition against Chara and Byfuglien.
There are a few more in the forward role who seem to be more deserving. It's going to continue to come back to Ovechkin because he's the high-profile name with mediocre numbers. Thomas Vanek in Buffalo? Scott Hartnell in Philly? Kris Versteeg in Florida? Patrik Elias for the Devils? Patrice Bergeron in Boston? Patrick Sharp (who was reportedly not picked before injury concerns) Or even Radim Vrbata from the Coyotes? The lists goes on.
It goes to show how even when the fans aren't voting, star power is a big factor. It's always about a little more than just performance.
To make room for the snubs you obviously have to decide who shouldn't be on the list, otherwise they aren't a snub, right? Well that is pretty tough to do.
I do not think Ovechkin deserves his selection based on merit alone. But again, there's more to it than just the stats. Ovechkin gets in based on the star power and marketing more than anything else. I don't necessarily like that, but I can accept that. I think Kane falls into this category to an extent, too. All things being equal, a few of the snubs probably deserve the honor more than Kane this season, but he has a little star power that, say, Versteeg doesn't have.
I'm not terribly high on the other Caps pick of Wideman either. He's had a good season offensively, which is what this game values most, so in that regard it's OK. But even he admitted he was surprised when he was told, he thought he was getting traded.
After them (not counting the guys voted in) it gets pretty tough. Not any wholly undeserving guys (not even the above mentioned).
Keeping in mind that every team gets represented through the All-Star Game or the rookie selections, some guys are safe. That makes it tougher.
Who will be Mr. Irrelevant?
We know this much: It won't be Kessel again. Absolutely no way to predict this accurately, so my stab in the dark is going to say Couture. He's the only member from the Sharks, he is young and plays at the position with the most players, on the wing.
Who will be the captains?
The official announcement will come in a week, so for now we're left to speculate. Alfredsson is a given seeing how the game is in Ottawa. Take that one to the bank. The other was likely going to be Selanne, but now ... Iginla? Maybe you go with an old Senator in Chara? I'd take my chances it's Iginla.
Or maybe Kessel? That would be interesting.
Tags: 2012 All-Star Game, Alex Ovechkin, Boston Bruins, Brian Stubits, Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, Daniel Alfredsson, Dennis Wideman, Dustin Byfuglien, Evander Kane, Florida Panthers, Jarome Iginla, Jason Garrison, Kris Versteeg, Logan Couture, New Jersey Devils, Nicklas Lidstrom, Ottawa Senators, Patrice Bergeron, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Patrik Elias, Phil Kessel, Philadelphia Flyers, Phoenix Coyotes, Radim Vrbata, San Jose Sharks, Scott Hartnell, Teemu Selanne, Thomas Vanek, Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets, Zdeno Chara
Posted on: October 6, 2011 12:16 pm
Edited on: October 6, 2011 12:56 pm
The Buffalo Sabres have made their selection for the new team captain, and it might come as a surprise to some. Wearing the C this season for the Sabres will be Jason Pominville, entering his eighth season with the team. Assistant captains will be Thomas Vanek, Drew Stafford, Paul Gaustad and Derek Roy.
He takes over the spot vacated by Craig Rivet, who had been Sabres captain since 2008 before leaving town.
The thing about coach Lindy Ruff's selection was that it was tough to make a bad choice. The Sabres have done a remarkable job of keeping a core together for many years now. There are nine players on the roster that have played in Buffalo for at least the past five seasons. That's a lot of continuity.
Buffalo clearly has a good thing going on as hopes are very high under new owner Terry Pegula. The hope is that the additions to the core of Ville Leino, Christian Ehrhoff and Robyn Regehr are enough to put them into the upper echelon.
As for Pominville, well he's been as big a part of that core as anybody. He's actually coming off his worst statistical season since his rookie campaign, and he still had 52 points (22/30).
Plus, he might have a future as a camera man ... if he can find the on/off button. He shot this 24/7-esque video from the team bus in Europe. In this episode, Luke Adam left his bag in Buffalo and Tyler Ennis debates who gets credit for a nickname.
Posted on: March 12, 2011 4:03 pm
Edited on: March 12, 2011 4:12 pm
Buffalo Sabres (33-26-8) at Toronto Maples Leafs (29-29-10)
Air Canada Centre, 7 p.m. ET (NHL Network)
SERIES: Buffalo 3-1-0; Toronto 1-2-1
IMPLICATIONS: Buffalo, tied with the New York Rangers points-wise, can get a little breathing room in seventh with a victory. (The Rangers play San Jose tonight.) A victory in this division rivalry would be huge for the Leafs -- especially if it comes in regulation. Depending how things shake out, Toronto could finish the night two points out of eighth.
BREAKDOWN: This is one three games that will change how the the bottom of the East looks heading into daylight savings time.
The Leafs, 10-4-5 since the All-Star break, aren't in must-win territory, but they can't lose many of these tilts against teams in front of them in the standings. (They are already winless in their last three outings.) Much the the Leafs' recent success can directly be attributed to goalie James Reimer (above). He's been assigned to the Toronto's AHL club on three occasions this season, but it's safe to say there won't be a fourth trip down to the Marlies. He enters 12-6-4 and one of his rare down games this rookie season came against Buffalo as he gave up five goals on 30 shots on Feb. 5. He got the win the last time these two teams met (Feb. 19) in relief of Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
This game will be the final game on the road on this current seven-game, 12-day trip for Buffalo. The Sabres are 4-1-1 so far and are coming off a 4-3 OT victory over Boston on Thursday.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Buffalo F Thomas Vanek vs. Toronto F Phil Kessel. Vanek, who missed a game earlier this week with the flu, returned and had a goal and an assist against Boston. He leads the Sabres with 57 points (24 goals, 33 assists). Kessel, who has only one point over the last four games, leads all current Toronto players in goals (10) and points (14) in 30 games lifetime against Buffalo.
KEY STAT: 4-10-4. The Leafs' record in Saturday games.
Posted on: March 10, 2011 4:00 pm
SEASON SERIES: Buffalo 3-1-1; Boston 2-2-1
IMPLICATIONS: The Sabres could move up a spot to seventh, displacing the idle New York Rangers. (Both would have 74 points, but Buffalo gets the edge with two games in hand after tonight.) The Bruins could advance to second place in the East with a victory. (Boston and idle Washington would each have 86 points, but the Bruins would have a game in hand.) Here's a look at our plaoff tracker.
BREAKDOWN: Despite all the outcry, Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara will indeed be in the lineup tonight. He told CSN New England’s Joe Haggerty that he was “relieved” that he would not sit for his check Tuesday night that seriously injured Montreal’s Max Pacioretty.
"I’m satisfied and happy about it. Relieved,” Chara said. “They looked at it and made a decision, and I respect that.”
While Pacioretty’s injury understandably took the spotlight off the scoreboard, the Bruins 4-1 loss was a rare hiccup of late. Still, the Bruins enter 7-1-1 in their last nine games.
Buffalo is 3-1-1 through the first six games of its seven-game, 12-day trip. The Sabres will get winger Thomas Vanek back in the lineup tonight after he missed Tuesday’s game with flu-like symptoms.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller vs. Boston goalie Tim Thomas. These two former teammates from the Team USA’s silver-medal run at last year’s Winter Olympics are both on their game. Thomas, who may have been injured in practice and sat out Tuesday’s game in Montreal, is 14-4-4 in his last 22 games and hasn’t been beaten in regulation over this last four starts. Miller made 28 saves in a 3-1 loss to Pittsburgh on Tuesday, his first start since getting a rare night off last weekend.
KEY STAT: 6. Among the Sabres' final 16 games, that's how many teams are currenlty in the playoff picture.
Photo: Getty Images