30 April 2007

Ryan Callahan

After getting home very late last night I foolishly insisted on at least perusing BUF/NYR game 3 without knowing the outcome - quick zipping through the first 2 1/2 periods and then I watched it with very low sound straight through from Daniel Briere's goal until the end. Three cheers for five hours of sleep. So I don't have much commentary to provide other than something I'm sure everyone has noted - the ice was so bad last night it looked like us playing street hockey in high school using a fresh tennis ball for a puck. Each team had a bunch of chances in OT they would have buried (or at least had great opportunities for odd-man-rushes) had the puck been settling more normally.

Most of the focus is on the stars in these playoffs, but the guy who really stood out for me last night was Rangers' forward Ryan Callahan. From my Sabres-point of view, he made the unsung play of overtime when (2nd OT I think...it's a bit of a blur) he backchecked hard on Briere, preventing him from corralling the puck by himself in the slot while Henrik Lundqvist was down and out - that would have been a sure goal. In not a ton of ice-time Callahan made a quality impact, especially in the last ~3 periods - in all he totalled 6 hits and 3 blocked shots on the night.

Callahan played on some great teams in Guelph for the Storm of the OHL as a top-notch physical scoring winger - this kid could be a future captain with his effort and skill.

29 April 2007

Buffalo News article

Last week I was interviewed by Stephen Watson of the Buffalo News for an article on how technology is bringing fans closer to their team - nice to see that Road Apples made today's front page in TBN (even though there was no link...). Kevin at BfloBlog.com was responsible for this blog getting noticed so a big thanks goes out to him as well as to Mr. Watson for the very enjoyable interview and subsequent article.

update: since the article is no longer online, here are links to the article in jpeg form (obviously, click for the full-sized page):

page 1
page 2
page 3
page 4

...thanks again to Mr. Udo for those deadline-day updates. :)

28 April 2007

Weekend off

Very busy weekend, I'll be posting much more come Monday. In the meantime for some local Buffalo recaps:



Have to pay homage to one of the more amazing sites on the 'net and devoted to the NY Rangers:

Hockey Rodent

Adding the usual Mirtle for great overall commentary.

Hope everyone is enjoying the weekend and the playoffs. I'll admit I fell asleep during the first OT last night (Vancouver/Anaheim). Maybe it's impressive that I made it that long...

26 April 2007

Playoff preview: New Jersey Devils (2) vs. Ottawa Senators (5)

to be published at SportsBlurb.com


Thursday, April 26 7:00 p.m. Ottawa at New Jersey
Saturday, April 28
8:00 p.m. Ottawa at New Jersey VERSUS
Monday, April 30
7:00 p.m. New Jersey at Ottawa VERSUS
Wednesday, May
2 7:00 p.m. New Jersey at Ottawa VERSUS
*Saturday, May
5 8:00 p.m. Ottawa at New Jersey VERSUS
*Monday, May
7 7:00 p.m. New Jersey at Ottawa VERSUS
*Wednesday, May
9 7:00 p.m. Ottawa at New Jersey

Series overview:

Seen in simplistic terms, this looks to be a series between an offensive giant vs. a defensive one. These two teams finished one win and two points apart in the standings but their styles are very different – how will the always defensively-conscious New Jersey Devils stymie the dangerous offensive attack (288 goals, second in NHL) of the Ottawa Senators while scoring enough to win?

Why New Jersey should win the series:

Despite their meager goal-scoring totals for the season, New Jersey has more offensive talent than their overall statistics show. With six goals in as many games (and leading all playoff scorers), emerging star Zach Parise showed why he's a good bet to be a steady 30-40 goal scorer for years to come. Relative old hand Scott Gomez leads the league with nine points, and Brian Rafalski, Patrick Elias, and Brian Gionta all are in the top-10 in points. Their front-end talent forms a swarming threat to opposing defences. New Jersey's power play clicked at a 25% rate against Tampa Bay. There's always the Martin Brodeur factor, as he had one of the greatest seasons of his career, but he’ll have to improve on his play over the first round, as Ottawa sports a much deeper attack than he faced from the Lightning.

Why New Jersey should be afraid:

Brodeur did not have a consistent first-round series against Tampa Bay – yes, his overall numbers were good but games two and three were marked by shaky goals that kept the Lightning in the series much longer than New Jersey would have liked. Defensively this team will still have to answer questions – they consistently hold teams to low goal totals but they will need to play out of character and bring a much more physical style of play to neutralize the dangerous Ottawa offence. The Devils should be able to keep the odd-man rushes to a minimum but if the Senators can develop a cycle in the New Jersey zone, the Devils will not have the brawn to defend against it for long. Finally, despite the front-end talent of New Jersey, the fact remains that they (in)famously play a shutdown style of hockey; opportunistic to a fault. With the talent and discipline in place it makes for successful seasons but the big challenge will be if Ottawa takes early leads – will New Jersey have the skill and mindset to change their style of play, and open up the attack more than they’re comfortable with? And if so, beyond the few big guns they do have, who will provide scoring support? Their lack of scoring depth often doesn’t hurt them, but against a premier opponent like Ottawa it could prove fatal.

And finally this late info: Patrick Elias will miss at least game one because of what is being called a cold - obviously very bad news for New Jersey.

Why Ottawa should win the series:

The importance of Ottawa’s first round defeat of the Pittsburgh Penguins cannot be overstated. Through the past decade, the franchise has had great regular season success but has never matched expectations in the post-season; qualifying for the playoffs in each of the past ten seasons (including six 100+ point seasons) Ottawa had only won five of 14 playoff series and advanced to the conference finals once (losing to New Jersey in 2003). Combining that pressure and the public’s fascination with the sudden rise and stability of the Penguins, the Senators were in many ways an afterthought in the first round. After a convincing five game beating, the Senators served notice that they are still a premier team. Their top players are well-known: Dany Heatley, Jason Spezza, and Captain Daniel Alfredsson, but general hockey fans may not be aware of the depth in this team - players like Mike Fisher and Chris Kelly make this team a true threat. Among Ottawa skaters, only Kelly (three) and Mike Comrie (two) had more than one even-strength goal against Pittsburgh. Finally, goalie Ray Emery took a beating last year for spotty play in the post-season – his play was poor, but he was an undeserved scapegoat. This season he emerged as the clear number one and should give his team confidence that he will back up the team after any breakdowns in front of him.

Why Ottawa should be afraid:

Having just complimented their lesser-known lights, their stars need to step up and play better to advance - Heatley and Spezza in particular. Each played more than 63 minutes of even-strength play during the Pittsburgh series and their line never scored a goal. It should go without saying that that performance won't be good enough to win against the tighter and more disciplined Devils. Despite the increased swagger the Sens should possess, there will still be talk about underachieving until they someday get to the Cup finals - only the team itself can quell such doubtless-annoying talk in the media and amongst the fans by winning, so in some ways the pressure remains.

Random useless but fun playoff facts:

Ottawa and New Jersey have met twice in the post-season, each team taking one series. The first meeting in 1998 saw the Senators pull a shocking first-round upset of the Devils – 14 wins separated the two in the standings but Ottawa prevailed in six low-scoring games. The 2003 meeting was in the conference finals where the Devils returned the favour in knocking off the President’s Trophy-winning Senators in a 3-2 seventh game.

My pick:

New Jersey had what could be called a typical year for them – top of the division, lowest goals-against in the conference, just (barely) enough offense to win. Ottawa hid under the radar for most of this season - they got off to a slow start, had goaltending troubles, adjusted to major off-season losses (most notably Zdeno Chara, Martin Havlat), but had a fantastic second-half.

Due much to the nature of the modern NHL, the overall parity has already given us a few match-ups in the early rounds that would have been worthy as Conference Finals, and this series could be another one. Nevertheless it looks from here that the Senators are just that much stronger in every zone. The Devils had difficulty with the rather one-dimensional Lightning while the Senators disposed of the Penguins with much more ease than many would have thought possible. The Devils had great success this season but don’t have the look of a tough playoff team. Whereas the Senators could have been accused of playing cautiously in the past, the early-season emergence of Ray Emery in part helped the team play with a confidence that could prove deadly to their opponents through the playoffs. Ottawa’s road to the Cup is proving to be very challenging which in the end could play to their benefit - it’s likely they’ll have to get through four 100+ point teams to win it all. Taking the Elias absence into account, the Senators will get at least one step further as they should defeat New Jersey in 5.

first round stats

damn, i got to this a little late. Following chart includes last night's games; I don't feel like editing it so here's what happened:

Vanek 1ESG, 1PPG
Pominville 1ESG
Nylander 2 ESA

1 MICHAEL NYLANDER NYR C 5 3 4 7 1 2 3 0 0 0 2
2 MARTIN ST. LOUIS TBL R 6 2 4 6 1 1 2 0 0 0 0
3 SCOTT GOMEZ NJD C 6 2 4 6 0 3 3 0 0 0 1
4 JOE THORNTON SJS C 5 0 6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
5 VINCENT LECAVALIER TBL C 6 4 1 5 1 1 2 0 0 0 1
6 THOMAS VANEK BUF L 6 3 2 5 1 0 1 0 0 0 1
2 3 5 0 2 2 0 0 0 0
8 TAYLOR PYATT VAN L 8 2 3 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
9 FEDOR TYUTIN NYR D 5 0 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
10 ZACH PARISE NJD C 6 4 0 4 2 0 2 0 0 0 1
11 BRIAN GIONTA NJD R 6 4 0 4 1 1 2 0 0 0 1
12 MILAN MICHALEK SJS R 5 4 0 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
13 ALEXANDER RADULOV NSH R 4 3 1 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
14 CHRIS KELLY OTT C 5 3 1 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
15 JASON POMINVILLE BUF R 6 3 1 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
16 BRYAN SMOLINSKI VAN C 8 2 2 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
17 PETER FORSBERG NSH C 5 2 2 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
18 JOHAN FRANZEN DET C 6 2 2 4 0 0 0 0 1 1 1
19 PATRICK MARLEAU SJS C 5 2 2 4 1 1 2 0 0 0 1
20 JEAN-PIERRE DUMONT NSH R 5 2 2 4 1 0 1 1 0 1 1

Sabres dominant in game 1

All in all a very solid effort by Buffalo tonight - they survived the initial onslaught by the Rangers and pretty well dominated the last 2 1/2 periods of play. Their discipline was excellent and they didn't get caught up in an obviously over-amped Rangers club - Sean Avery was of course trying to stir up anyone and ended up being a complete non-factor (other than sitting in the box for four minutes)

Thomas Vanek is continuing on his amazing season. When I watch him play I see Peter Forsberg - incredibly smart and strong on the puck, deceptive speed, unreal hands. I hate to use a cliche but I see such a will to win with him this year.

Henrik Tallinder did an excellent job sticking with Jaromir Jagr tonight.

Ryan Miller went long stretches of not being tested but his key stops early in the game kept it scoreless and enable the Sabres to find their game.

The talent difference was evident all night. Game 2 on Friday.

The only series I'm not that excited about is Anaheim/Vancouver. I think that will be a very quick one (sweep?). Ottawa/New Jersey should be fascinating in terms of strategy. Ottawa has positioned themselves very nicely as a team not many people talk about that is very dangerous.

25 April 2007

Playoff preview: Buffalo Sabres (1) vs. New York Rangers (6)

to be published at SportsBlurb.com


Wednesday, April 25 7:00 p.m. NY Rangers at Buffalo VERSUS
Friday, April 27 7:00 p.m. NY Rangers at Buffalo VERSUS
Sunday, April 29 2:00 p.m. Buffalo at NY Rangers NBC
Tuesday, May 1 7:00 p.m. Buffalo at NY Rangers VERSUS
* Friday, May 4 7:00 p.m. NY Rangers at Buffalo VERSUS
* Sunday, May 6 2:00 p.m. Buffalo at NY Rangers NBC
* Tuesday, May 8 7:00 p.m. NY Rangers at Buffalo VERSUS

Series overview:

Each of these clubs finished their first round in relatively quick fashion – the Rangers waxing the Atlanta Thrashers in four easy games while the Sabres survived five surprisingly arduous games to eliminate the New York Islanders. Both teams are well-rested and healthy. Although the Sabres won each of the four regular-season meetings between the teams this year, three went to overtime and all were played before New Year’s Day, so throw those stats out the window. Do the Rangers have enough to end the Sabres’ run here? Or is Buffalo’s skill and attack too much for yet another New York team?

Why Buffalo should win the series:

This will sound familiar and will probably be repeated as long as
Buffalo stays alive this spring, but Buffalo should win simply because they’re the better team - President’s Trophy, most goals-scored, etc. etc. But what may differentiate the Sabres now from two weeks ago is a renewed sense of commitment; the series against the Islanders was supposed to be an easy warm-up for further rounds. They will now begin the Rangers’ series without any assumptions as to how the series will progress – look for a more consistent effort from the talented forward lines - in particular, snipers Jason Pominville and Maxim Afinogenov began to find their games late in the Islanders’ series. An unsung team defensively, Buffalo’s top pairing of Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman will likely match up against the Rangers’ potent top line (featuring Jaromir Jagr). Buffalo’s true blueline stars against the Islanders were Brian Campbell and Jaroslav Spacek, who were only on the ice for one even-strength goal against for the entire series (and that only in the fifth game). When all else fails (and it rarely does), Ryan Miller has proven himself capable of rescuing the team from poor play in their own end (evidenced by his miraculous end-of-game save in game five on Miroslav Satan).

Why Buffalo should be afraid:

Yes, their opening series only went five games and there were periods of complete domination by Buffalo but the domination was never for as long as they’d have liked, as the Islanders ended up keeping each game quite close. The Sabres were never able to use their relentless offense to stick a dagger in the Islanders once they got a lead, and the team needs to build on that experience to help them in the next series. Unfortunately, if they play with mixed intensity in this series…they will have far greater offensive talent to deal with from the Rangers. Buffalo needs to pay close attention to the Rangers’ forecheck and job number one needs to be getting the puck out of the defensive zone as easily as possible without resorting to trying for the big play. Furthermore, if they let the Rangers’ other lines generate offense and spark (Matt Cullen and Martin Straka only combined for one goal against Atlanta) it could put undue pressure on Buffalo’s defensive play as a whole, and detract from their greatest skill – moving the puck up ice and generating a scoring attack. If the Rangers can effectively cycle and forecheck in the offensive zone while beating them up in challenges for the puck, the Sabres can be thrown off their game.

Why New York should win the series:

First and foremost, if Henrik Lundqvist doesn’t play like he has over the past three months, the Rangers will exit this round quickly. There’s no reason to think that he won’t, though, as he has been arguably the best goalie in the league since January. Jagr is a known commodity, and if possible I think he’s actually underrated. There are still residual feelings from his rather listless time with the Washington Capitals but since coming to New York he has renewed his first-ballot Hall of Fame credentials (and got jobbed out of the Hart Trophy last season). He is still in every way a superstar and with open-ice will destroy even the best of defenses. The more-surprising revelation has been linemate Michael Nylander, who did everything against Atlanta: scoring eight points and notching a +7 in just four games. The 14-year NHL veteran had career highs in goals, assists, and points this season and has been a perfect compliment at center for Jagr. If this line can dominate games and even just create constant pressure in the Buffalo zone and draw penalties, the Rangers have a chance to take this series.

Why New York should be afraid:

While few, if any, teams have the depth that the Buffalo Sabres have, the Rangers have a real danger of being exposed as thin in this series – they will be overly reliant on relatively few players. One, their top line must produce both in points and offensive pressure. If they are shut down, it’s over. Two, Lundqvist must be sharp for 60 minutes each night. A Tim McCarver-like master-of-the-obvious statement to be sure, but even when the Rangers have a lead he must stay focused as Buffalo had more comebacks from being down two-or-more goals than any team in the league this year. Three, they need to play disciplined hockey. Much has been made over the acquisition and play of agitator Sean Avery this season, and he has already gone on record that he’s been psyching himself up over the Sabres (read: looking to play dirty and get under their skin; channeling as much of Ken Linseman as possible). Truth be told, if Avery doesn’t play a smart game and the Sabres don’t let his antics get to them, he should be a non-factor for New York. The Rangers will have to play at their peak level to be able to shut down Daniel Briere/Jason Pominville/Jochen Hecht and Derek Roy/Thomas Vanek/Maxim Afinogenov…but the so-called “other” lines for Buffalo are as dangerous as most teams’ top two.

Random useless but fun playoff facts:

These cross-state rivals have only met in the playoffs once in the 19 seasons they have both qualified for the playoffs since 1973. In 1978 they met in the old best-of-three preliminary round, where the superior Sabres prevailed two games to one. New York’s defeat of Atlanta was their first playoff win since 1997 when Wayne Gretzky helped the club to the Conference Finals. Buffalo has won nine series in that span and currently stand at 114-118 in their often-checkered playoff history.

My pick:

The Rangers have won 17 of their last 24 games, counting the playoffs, helping to render the Sabres' season sweep meaningless. Often times in a playoff series the end outcome is influenced more by role-players and otherwise unheralded heroes. Can the Rangers bring a quality second and third line attack? Will the Sabres succumb to the likely physical play they will be exposed to? Is Lundqvist capable of stealing two games in Buffalo? Questions we will find the answer to in a week or so…but based on what we’ve seen thus far, it’s hard to pick against the Buffalo Sabres. Their depth and skill are too much for the Rangers to handle, and although I see the Rangers giving the Sabres as much trouble as the Islanders did – and their higher skill level perhaps winning them an extra game – the Sabres should get through this series to make a return trip to the Eastern Conference finals. Buffalo in 6.

fan priorities

I just spoke with a friend from Buffalo who will go un-named...let's just call him Mr. Udo. Mr. Udo is away for three days on a business trip and upon arriving at his hotel this afternoon he made a discovery: apparently in his haste to pack this morning he failed to bring any form of underwear, but did pack his authentic throwback Buffalo Sabres jersey.


I'll mail you the CDN$15 I have in my wallet if you wear that sweater to your meeting/conference tomorrow - photo evidence required.

24 April 2007

round 2 schedule

I'll have detailed series previews up later today - here are the schedules:


Series "I" Time (ET) #1 Buffalo vs. #6 NY Rangers Network
Wednesday, April 25 7:00 p.m. NY Rangers at Buffalo VERSUS
Friday, April 27 7:00 p.m. NY Rangers at Buffalo VERSUS
Sunday, April 29 2:00 p.m. Buffalo at NY Rangers NBC
Tuesday, May 1 7:00 p.m. Buffalo at NY Rangers VERSUS
* Friday, May 4 7:00 p.m. NY Rangers at Buffalo VERSUS
* Sunday, May 6 2:00 p.m. Buffalo at NY Rangers NBC
* Tuesday, May 8 7:00 p.m. NY Rangers at Buffalo VERSUS

Series "J" Time (ET) #2 New Jersey vs. #4 Ottawa Network
Thursday, April 26 7:00 p.m. Ottawa at New Jersey
Saturday, April 28 8:00 p.m. Ottawa at New Jersey VERSUS
Monday, April 30 7:00 p.m. New Jersey at Ottawa VERSUS
Wednesday, May 2 7:00 p.m. New Jersey at Ottawa VERSUS
* Saturday, May 5 8:00 p.m. Ottawa at New Jersey VERSUS
* Monday, May 7 7:00 p.m. New Jersey at Ottawa VERSUS
* Wednesday, May 9 7:00 p.m. Ottawa at New Jersey


Series "K" Time (ET) #1 Detroit vs. #5 San Jose Network
Thursday, April 26 7:30 p.m. San Jose at Detroit VERSUS
Saturday, April 28 3:00 p.m. San Jose at Detroit NBC
Monday, April 30 9/10:00 p.m. Detroit at San Jose VERSUS
Wednesday, May 2 9/10:00 p.m. Detroit at San Jose VERSUS
* Saturday, May 5 2:00 p.m. San Jose at Detroit NBC
* Monday, May 7 TBD Detroit at San Jose VERSUS
* Wednesday, May 9 TBD San Jose at Detroit VERSUS

Series "L" Time (ET) #2 Anaheim vs. #3 Vancouver Network
Wednesday, April 25 10:00 p.m. Vancouver at Anaheim VERSUS
Friday, April 27 10:00 p.m. Vancouver at Anaheim VERSUS
Sunday, April 29 8:00 p.m. Anaheim at Vancouver VERSUS
Tuesday, May 1 10:00 p.m. Anaheim Vancouver VERSUS
* Thursday, May 3 9:00 p.m. Vancouver at Anaheim VERSUS
* Sunday, May 6 TBD Anaheim at Vancouver VERSUS
* Tuesday, May 8 TBD Vancouver at Anaheim VERSUS

* if necessary

my picks:

Buffalo in 6
Ottawa in 5
San Jose in 6
Anaheim in 4

Game 7

They live! They live!

Trevor Linden and the Sedins wake up for game 7 - Vancouver wins 4-1 to advance:

I had the over-under at 2.2 and considering there were 2 empty-netters the 3 other goals were pretty much par-for-the-course in this series. Vancouver was playing their usual meek offensive style and after Joel Lundqvist scored in the first period it honestly looked like the Canucks wouldn't score again until October. Strangely enough they carried much of the play in the second period and when Henrik Sedin scored late in the second - the 'nucks first goal since last Tuesday in game 4 - GM Place erupted as if Nathan Lafayette had finally shot that puck 1 inch to the left...

Mr. Canuck - Trevor Linden - scored the winner seven minutes into the third on the power play. Jokes aside, Linden has played in nine game 7s and now has 12 points (including both Canucks' goals in game 7 of the '94 finals against the New York Rangers). After that the Canucks had to weather a few chances including a ridiculous save by Roberto Luongo off of Stu Barnes with 10 minutes left...although if Henrik hadn't played Jeff Halpern like a complete pussy behind the net Dallas never would have had retained puck possession. Jesus, you don't even have to clobber the guy but enough with the gym-class poke checks.

Lots of penalties in the third, and referee Rob Shick got a little gutless on his diving call against Linden, which was bogus. I understand what he was trying to do as it was getting chippy; Eric Lindros clearly tripped Linden (Lindros in particular was ratcheting up his borderline play as the game went on; that's pretty much been his career m.o.) but Shick probably didn't want to cause a riot on the Dallas bench with another call. I get it, but it still sucks. In fact, I don't get the diving penalty at all. If it's a dive....it's a dive, and that should be the only penalty. If the initial penalty is/was legitimate....then it's not a dive. I think it's a complete cop-out for the refs.

Of course let's not kid ourselves: the real reason Vancouver pulled it out was because they wore the throwbacks. NICE.

my bracket - updated

5 for 8 with one team out of the final 4.

Calgary was a reach. Man for man I still think they should have won the series but it's clear that Detroit is the better team. So long Jim Playfair.

thanks to James Mirtle since I nabbed the original graphic from his site.

22 April 2007

Sabres survive

A bit late, but quality recaps/critiques of the game can be found here or here. Or here. Weird game - the Sabres kept getting better and better as the game went on, and did truly dominate the 2nd and first half of the 3rd period. With less than 10 minutes left in the game I had already cracked open my celebratory box of Double-Stuf Fudgeeos. Then....what the hell???? 4-3, and the Islanders were on FIRE. The Ryan Miller save will be replayed for years to come (check it on the following video, :40 seconds before the end):

In the end, the Sabres didn't play a full game in this series (damn close in game 5) and hopefully this will serve as a bit of a reminder that it will only be harder. If the Rangers are the next opponent, they should expect a physical presence with a much more potent top line with Michael Nylander and Jaromir Jagr on fire.


Meanwhile, I just finished sitting through game 6 of the Vancouver/Dallas series and I'm shocked at the lack of offensive creativity in the Canucks. Two consecutive shutouts and not much of a challenge for Marty Turco. Of the 20 times in history that a team has come back from a 3-1 deficit in a series, 4 times it has come at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks. Meaningless to 2007, but interesting nonetheless.

20 April 2007

2008 Memorial Cup

In two weeks the 2008 Memorial Cup host city will be announced/awarded - next year it is the OHL's turn to host. These five teams/cities are in the running:

London Knights
Kitchener Rangers
Saginaw Spirit
Sarnia Sting
Oshawa Generals

The winner will be announced during the week of May 7th.

(Memorial Cup is held between the winners of the OHL, QMJHL, WHL, and the host team which gets a bye into the tournament. The host city also stands to make serious money.)

Gut feeling, I'm going to say Oshawa wins it - London hosted two years ago, Kitchener might be a little small/old (even though I love it). I plead ignorance on the Saginaw/Sarnia presentations. Oshawa has a brand new arena, proximity to Toronto, and John Tavares.

19 April 2007

Sabres defensive statistics

Another tight one on the island last night, and the Buffalo fan in me couldn't believe that the late 3rd period review didn't give the goal to the Islanders. Logically they couldn't give them the goal because of the way it was called on the ice (no goal) and there seemed to be no conclusive evidence otherwise. However...that looked like a goal to me. And that's two reviews that have gone Buffalo's way this series. Amazing how for so many years Sabres' fans went through a crisis every time there was an official's call, just *knowing* it would go against the team - seems quite the reverse of late.

This is reminiscent of the great Bills teams in the late 80s-early 90s when, after years of getting the shaft on calls especially against Don Shula's hated Dolphins teams, seemingly overnight the Bills were getting the better of the officials, much to the chagrin of a certain Isotoner Whiner. I suppose if there's anything scientific to take away from this is that the better teams get the calls due either to perception or simply that they're just better.

Dainius Zubrus has quite literally been getting better each game. At his best he'd never be a high-scoring forwards but he has a killer combination of hands and ability to protect the puck with his size.

Courtesy of Behind the Net, I've taken a look at the defensive play of the Sabres for this series which should be the most-emphasized positive thus far for Buffalo. While Ryan Miller has come up big when necessary (notably last night), for the most part the Sabres' defence has kept a lot of quality shots away from him. If you were to pick the two most effective Sabres' defenseman thus far, would you pick Brian Campbell and Jaroslav Spacek? Here's why you should: at roughly 57 and 56 minutes of play at even-strength respectively for this series, those two have not been on the ice for even one even-strength goal. Granted, in theory specific matchups will play an overall part in a statistic like this - in just last night's game the pair spent much of their time against Alexei Yashin, Miroslav Satan, Viktor Kozlov - power forwards, they are not. Nevertheless, there is (should be) a lot of skill in that line and to hold them scoreless over four games is highly impressive, and perhaps the top reason the Sabres are on the verge of burying the Islanders.

Sabres' forwards who have contributed to shutting-out the Isles at even-strength thus far are Drew Stafford, Jochen Hecht, Tim Connolly, and Adam Mair. Fourth line indeed.


Rule 69.6… In the event that a goalkeeper has been pushed into the net together with the puch after making a stop, the goal will be disallowed….

In the event that the puck is under a player in or around the crease area (deliberately or otherwise), a goal cannot be scored by pushing this player together with the puck into the goal.

with thanks to SabresReport.com

I still think the odds are that the puck was in before the "push" but there's the official reasoning.

18 April 2007

tracking ice time

major plug for Vic Ferrari's first take at this: head-to-head ice time for any completed playoff game. Here's one example of how this can be used, using the Calgary/Detroit series:

during game 2 in Detroit, Niklas Lidstrom played 87% of his 5v5 icetime against Jarome Iginla, a key in neutralizing Iginla.

last night (game 3) in Calgary, with (obviously) the Flames getting the final line changes, Lidstrom played only 68% of his 5 on 5 icetime against Iginla. Iginla scores game-winner and is much more of a force.

(thus far it's only for 5 on 5 matchups)

Once again: http://www.timeonice.com/. Vic's blog is here.

more notes...

As much as I petulantly love seeing the Thrashers getting waxed (congratulations Marian Hossa - you are the new Alexei Yashin....although late word is that Yashin is reluctant to give up the crown), and even though Ilya Kovalchuk can be a brat himself it was still sweet to see him get frustrated and lay a beating on (coward) Sean Avery last night. Calling Avery a punk doesn't really fit; his bogus tough-guy style is beyond annoying. I particularly enjoyed how Kovalchuk finally had had enough and the two sort of squared off but Avery didn't quite want to go as he was trying to get the young Atlanta star to drop his gloves first. Seeing Avery skate off the ice with a fat eye and bloody lip was doubtless small consolation to all 12 Atlanta Thrashers fans but for the rest of us it was sweet. Atlanta looks horrid and I obviously failed to weigh the Keith Tkachuk factor before calling this series.

Calgary Flames - they finally showed up. I hesitate to break it down into the home/away split, because it seems too easy but...damn, they really have made a pattern of that all year. They played like scared kids in Detroit and played like a team with desire last night at the Saddledome. Quite literally in the first four minutes of the game they were better than they had been all series. The Flames should have no reason to think Detroit is a much superior club than they are - the Wings' top line is extremely talented (Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Holmstrom) but overall I think Calgary is the more talented club. Jarome Iginla had no excuse for his invisible showing over the first two games so having him get the game-winner was important for him personally as well as for the team. What most impressed me was in the first period with the game scoreless the team was faced with killing a double-minor (Keith Primeau high-sticking). They were smart and aggressive and didn't allow one shot during the penalty kill.

Didn't get a chance to see the other games - The "2-1 series" between Vancouver and Dallas (nearly every game they play ends up 2-1) doesn't excite me enough right now to divert me from the other games, but I am happy to see the Canucks take a 3-1 lead. I'd like to catch more of the Anaheim/Minnesota series but with the next game at 10:30EDT on Thursday night I'll have to hold off.

Big night tonight with four games, most notably the Rangers try to sweep away the Thrashers:

Atlanta at NY Rangers 7:00 PM
New Jersey at Tampa Bay 7:00 PM
Buffalo at NY Islanders 7:30 PM
Nashville at San Jose 10:00 PM

For a team with some major holes, the Lightning have really been impressive. Vinny Lecavalier is frightening right now as to how good he is, he plays a complete game and is not afraid to skate into danger (take note, Joe Thornton). If the Lightning can get even slightly above-average goaltending the rest of the way they can beat New Jersey.

17 April 2007

Hits to the Head

Roy MacGregor of the Globe and Mail writes this excellent article pointing out the lunacy prevalent in the NHL in terms of allowing hits to the head. Written in the wake of the Colby Armstrong brutal leveling of Patrick Eaves this weekend, I particularly enjoyed this bit:

One would like to think that the main event in such a moment would be the health of the young man who had slammed so hard into the ice.

But no, no one but a concerned referee, a team captain and the team doctor seemed much interested in whether Eaves was in trouble.

There was something far more important going on: a fistfight.

Buffalo playing soft

wow, that first period was awful. Once Buffalo scored the first goal they started to look better, playing aggressive hockey. But dammit...you know the Sabres are playing soft when they do a lot of pokechecking rather than playing the body. Check out Trent Hunter's goal - why he wasn't sitting on his ass instead of scoring the goal...

This third period is going to kill me. I can't believe this is only the first round.

edit: it's too damn bad Jochen Hecht has ham hands. He's played a solid game tonight and should have at least one goal.

2nd edit: that was a bad call against Randy Robitaille. Although not the first one of the series, for either side. I won't forget that hideous call against Max Afinogenov in game 2 that essentially gave the Isles the winning goal. Therefore....zero sympathy.

final: as a fan, an unsatisfying win. Accepting the 2-1 series lead, I'm hoping this means they'll open it up on Wednesday night and go for the kill so they can wrap up this shit on Friday at home.

16 April 2007

mid first-round notes

out of town for a few days, haven't seen as much hockey as I'd have liked (tuning into the Sabres/Isles in 10 minutes. A few points:

NBC's shift-clock is...

  1. distracting
  2. arbitrary
  3. useless
  4. taking up valuable screen space

The Calgary Flames right now are a disgrace. That team should be playing dead-even at worst with Detroit and they laid down and died yesterday; Mikkaa Kiprusoff was the only thing keeping them within a touchdown. There is too much talent everywhere - physical, offensive, defensive - for them to not at worst lose this series in 6 or 7. Heads should roll if the Flames lose this series, especially in the manner they're going about it.

Vincent Lecavalier is playing like the best player in the world right now.

The NHL Network's "On The Fly" wrapup is a hockey-nerd dream. Mostly. Huge plus on the extensive highlights - every goal (in addition to various great plays, saves, hits, etc.) using only the original in-game commentary. Huge minus thus far on Bill Berg, who manages to spew cliche after cliche in his commentary. Unless he tells me something factual, other than the usual blather, I'd rather hear nothing.

Jordan Tootoo...I really don't like this guy.

Let's go Buffalo. Sabres have been the better team both nights and shouldn't let a bad period in game 2 affect them.

edit: Lecavalier gets the first goal in game 3 not two minutes after I type the above. Therefore, Daniel Briere will score one minute into the game tonight...