The Sabres Observer
Some quick thoughts on the Sabres, for the attention span impaired, going into tomorrow night’s Game 7 in Philadelphia…..
• With all of the venom spewed from Buffalo fans at Tim Connolly over the past few seasons, you’d think right about now they’d be sending Mike Richards thank you cards. You could half-jokingly say it was Connolly’s destiny to be knocked out of the series anyway, either from a jarring hit or from sacrificing himself for the team during a penalty kill by throwing his face in front of a shot from the point. For my money, his work at times with Buffalo having the man (or men) disadvantage has bordered on heroic. So much for the maligned center supposedly not having any character.
• All of this fuss about defenseman Chris Butler deserving to be benched for Game 7 is making me roll my eyes just a bit. He had a rough game, highlighted by his failure to tie up Ville Leino on the overtime goal, but is now really the time to break up the Sabres top defensive pairing? Are all the great things he did early in the series now deemed as meaningless? Butler was even for Sunday’s game while Mike Weber, who had some adventures back there with partner Steve Montador, was a -3. Folks, if you want to bench every guy on the defense who has had rough games in this series then you’ll have Dennis Persson and Corey Fienhage in your lineup on Tuesday night. Good luck with that.
“If Mike Richards thinks we’re getting away with murder, I don’t know what he got away with. Mass Murder? Are we stepping it up a notch?....unbelievable,” said the Sabres goaltender. “We lose a player for the rest of the game off of a hit that the league has been talking about that is dangerous. They (the league) better seriously consider looking at that one.”
Following Philadelphia’s 5-4 overtime win today in Buffalo, both coaches were surprisingly open about their respective lineup plans for Game 7.
Lindy Ruff announced that Derek Roy, who led the Sabres in scoring with 35 points in 35 games until he was injured in December, will play his first game in four months. Roy will replace Tim Connolly, who was injured in a hit from behind by Mike Richards and who Ruff declared will not play Tuesday night.
Peter Laviolette, after sternly telling reporters earlier in the series “I never discuss goaltenders”, came out and said that Brian Boucher will start Game 7 in Philly.
It’s not that I don’t feel guilty about missing Easter with you and the family, Mom. But there’s a rather important hockey game going on tomorrow afternoon and I just absolutely have to be there. The team that dad got me hooked on and took me to watch as a kid can eliminate the hated Philadelphia Flyers from the playoffs.
I know hockey isn’t in your blood and you wouldn’t know a puck from an overcooked meatball, so you just don’t understand what a big deal this is for Buffalo. I know you’re upset but I’ll try to explain this so that you’ll understand. And please save me some lasagna – you’re the one that always says it tastes better the next day.
Remember, Mom, when we watched the Olympics last year and I told you about Ryan Miller? Well, he’s been performing what amounts to highway robbery in the Sabres net lately, and I have to witness for myself whether or not he and his undersized and underdog teammates can really pull this off.
From The Sabres Edge Blog at BuffaloNews.com,
PHILADELPHIA—Flyers like Mike Richards and Kimmo Timonen say they need to triple their hits tonight, and that’s certainly fine with Patrick Kaleta. The Angola native was all smiles after the Sabres’ morning skate today in the Wells Fargo Center when the talk turned to how tough Game Five might become.
“It’s part of being a competitor: Hate the person and hate the team you’re going against,” Kaleta said. “That’s also the fun part too. You play the same team over and over again and it’s a battle. On the ice, it’s all-out war and that’s what you have to do.”
more, including video of Kaleta’s
dirty play at the Buffalo bench Wednesday night.
Update 1:52pm: Per CSNPhilly.com, Chris Pronger was wincing in pain while trying to take shots in practice and will not play tonight.
From Tim Panaccio of CSNPhilly.com,
The Flyers held meetings on Thursday plus an optional skate. Richards and a few other players skated with the Black Aces, including Chris Pronger, who sources said is expected to play in Game 5, but likely in a reduced role (read: no power play time).
“I just feel that they’re doing a lot of whining. I didn’t hear any whining when they had ten power plays in Philly and I didn’t hear any whining when the power plays in the first game were lopsided, but all of a sudden there’s all this whining that we’re getting away with murder, that’s a bunch of crap. That’s for the media, that’s for the officials to read, that’s for here let’s get the next call, that’s a bunch of crap, let’s just play. We’re just playing, there hasn’t been one word about officiating out of us, but if they want to cry about the officiating or whine about different calls, go ahead.”
The Ryan Miller antagonists once again retreated to their corner as the Sabres superstar goaltender stoned the Flyers in the second 1-0 shutout win for Buffalo in four games.
From The Buffalo News,
Miller provided a resounding answer to anyone who questioned his worth to the Sabres’ organization.
“It’s good to be appreciated,” Miller said. “I’m happy to help the team get a win. I’m not going to pay too much attention to anybody who’s talking about my game right now. I really don’t care. It’s the furthest thing from my mind. I want to contribute and help the guys.
“I don’t need to listen to all of the BS that’s out there from people who don’t know how to play goalie. I really don’t give an (expletive).”
For those of you not in the know, that “BS” to which he’s referring was mostly the result of the Flyers 8-goal assault against Miller over the course of Games Two and Three. We got an education from some emotional media people and fans on how goaltenders are supposed to stop deflected shots and layup tip-ins. Doing merely a solid job in net wasn’t good enough as long as he wasn’t catching bullets with his teeth.
We’re hearing a lot about how the Sabres have yet to play their best game in their series against the Flyers. Despite not looking like gangbusters themselves, Philadelphia to varying degrees has been the better team in all three games.
After their 4-2 win in Buffalo last night to gain a 2-1 lead in the series, it’s about time to accept the fact that this whole turn of events hasn’t been a coincidence.
For all the defensive schemes and systems that are out there, we all know that talent still usually prevails in a seven-game series. Compared to the Flyers, the Sabres just don’t have enough.
Their number one center hasn’t scored a playoff goal in five years. Look at Tim Connolly with Rob Niedermayer and Paul Gaustad as a comparison to Daniel Briere, Claude Giroux and Mike Richards. Is it even close? The Sabres top three up the middle combined for 30 goals this season. Briere topped that on his own.
Buffalo is making some lineup changes for tonight’s Game Three against Philadelphia.
Brad Boyes, who hasn’t been producing much at center, has been demoted to playing wing on the fourth line with Mike Grier and Cody McCormick. The big issue with Boyes is that he’s been playing on the perimeter, and Lindy Ruff feels this move will spark him to crash the net more.
Rob Niedermayer is moving up to center for Drew Stafford and Tyler Ennis, who both have also struggled to produce in the first two games of the series.
On defense, the Buffalo News reports that there is a possibility that Jordan Leopold could return to the lineup tonight.
I thought the Sabres did a good job matching the Flyers intensity in Game Two even though it resulted in too many penalties. Ruff is more accepting of his players erring on the side of aggression, and with good reason. Playing a passive game against a physical and talented team like Philly isn’t going to get it done.
Brian Boucher will be in net for Philadelphia tonight. The Sabres should take a cue from the Flyers and get traffic in front of the opposing goaltender as much as possible. Try to have those after-the-whistle scrums take place in front of their net instead of yours.
Interestingly, the last time Philly won a playoff series against Buffalo was around the turn of the century with a much younger and less experienced Boucher manning the nets. We’ll see if they’re able to do it again 11 years later.
The Sabres have talked openly about how excited they are to play in front of their raucous home crowd. Fans here are pumped and may just blow the roof off the building tonight. Game time is 7:00 and will be televised on Versus, TSN, and MSG.
About The Sabres Observer
Dave Davis has covered the Buffalo Sabres for various NHL accredited websites and newspapers since 2003. He was the senior writer and Sabres correspondent for The Fourth Period, covered hockey for Western New York Sports and Leisure Magazine, and has had articles featured on NHL.com, FOX Sports, Yahoo Sports and in New York Sportscene. Sabres news and notes can be found on his Twitter page.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: [@DaveDavisHockey]