Welcome to HSBC Arena and the continuing saga of Which Buffalo Team Will Win a Home Game First (minus Canisius edition). Tonight, the Sabres get yet another chance against the Washington Capitals. If they don't beat the East's top team, I fear they will lose the coveted title. Seriously now, the Bills HAVE to beat the Stafford-less Detroit Lions tomorrow, don't they?
The Sabres are certainly a little better looking tonight than they have been. They're 2-0-1 in their last three and Ryan Miller will be back in goal. The Caps are going with rookie backup Braden Holtby -- who is 2-0 with a 1.70 GAA and .931 save percentage in his two games.
Crazy run of backups against the Sabres whether it's injury (Brodeur), illness (Lundqvist) or opposing coaches simply not respecting this offense. At some point, the Sabres need to fire up seven goals against one of these guys (like they did in that 6-1 win over Jersey's Johan Hedberg last month). Of course, that would require Thomas Vanek to actually shoot the puck too. I still hate the thought that it was a good pass to Derek Roy in overtime. I don't want my $6.4 million man passing from the slot in overtime EVER. And I don't care who's open. Sorry.
But like Lindy Ruff says, we're looking ahead. Enough about the last game. Same lineup for the Sabres, meaning Craig Rivet and Mike Weber are the scratches. Be sure to read today's earlier post for an update on Rivet. Helps Ruff out of a pickle for now: He's sick and the team's winning so he sits. What happens if they keep winning and he's ready? Uh-huh.
Strange but true: Derek Roy has 18 points -- tied for eighth in the NHL and fourth among centers. Gotta give it up to him. Alexander Ovechkin leads the Caps with 23 points (9-14) while Alexander Semin has 21 (12-9). They're third and fourth in the league, respectively.
And yes, the "Fans Show Up, Why Don't You?" sign is again up above Section 304. The Sabres, in case you've been under a rock for a month, are 0-6-1. They're now moving the large Sabres banner through the 300 level instead of the 100 level. Anything to change things up I guess. (Conspiracy theory: Maybe management wants it to cover that banner. Oops, just saw the sign on the HD board as the banner went underneath. The Sabre-censors missed that one!).
And an AWESOME new 40th anniversary video for pregame featuring alumni interviews and LOADS of hockey. Got rid of all the cultural references. HUGE improvement.
More pregame: Super job by the Sabres to honor Mike Grier for his 1,000 game. NHL Senior Vice President of Operations Jim Gregory was on hand to present Grier with a silver Tiffany plaque. Sabres GM Darcy Regier presented Grier with a silver stick and the framed jersey he wore game No. 1,000, Nov. 3 in Boston. Grier's wife and two children, in blue Sabres jerseys, joined him on the ice. Super touch. Solid video salutes from Gaustad, Miller, Pominville and Rivet as well as some opponents like Williamsville native Todd Marchant of Anaheim, who played with Grier in Edmonton.
Keep it here for the latest from the Sabres and Ovechkins.
Sabres open with Pominville, VAnek, Roy and Connolly. Four forwards.
4:30 left: Faceoff. Holtby has stopped Pominville twice.
3:42 left: Icing on Caps. Penalty over. Puck off post on Connolly shot. Looked like Vanek got a piece of it.
1:44 left: Shot partially blocked by Green on a 3-on-1. Close call.
1:00 left: VANEK COAST TO COAST. HIGHLIGHT REEL. ALL-STAR STUFF. Stuffs home the backhand. Praise be. A win at home. Place goes nuts.
9:01 p.m: We're under way again. Twenty minutes to go for the Hallelujah chorus of a home win in Buffalo for SOMEBODY.
16:44 left: Caps have the first three shots of the period and lots of zone time. Mr. Boudreau clearly had a few things to say.
14:00 left: Shots are 5-1. Sabres really don't think they can just rely on Miller to hold on for 20 minutes, do they? Against this team?
12:51 left: Hate to say I told you so. But I told you so. Backstrom with a perfect shot just under the crossbar using Morrisonn as a screen. Game tied at 2-2 and shots are 7-1 in this period.
10;02 left: Ten minutes away from a fourth straight overtime. Sabres have to generate more offense here. This would be one devastating loss if they don't pull it out.
6:36 left: Pominville doesn't convert Hecht's goalmouth pass on a 2-on-1 which was Buffalo's best chance of the period. Fair is fair: Great steal by Connolly set the whole thing up.
4:18 left: Shots are 7-3 for the Caps. Attendance announced at 18,690, the third sellout of the season. And the place is definitely packed.
2:54 left: Backstrom goes four minutes for high sticking Morrisonn. A few seconds after Vanek just fails to go backhand-forehand at the doorstep. Gotta score the go-ahead goal here. Just have to.
1:14 left: Timeout, Sabres. Holtby has stopped Pominville on one shot and Leopold just missed on a rebound. Sabres have three shots so far. They would have 1:06 of 4-on-3 to open overtime if they need it.
13.9 left: Crowd boos as Myers ices the puck with a long pass. Ridiculous play.
On to OT -- again. Shots were 7-6 for the Caps in that period and 24-23 for Washington for the game. Caps have gone nearly 13 minutes without a shot.
8:06 p.m.: We're back at it.
16:14 left: Jason Chimera goes for cross checking, a retaliation on Kaleta. AND he gets two more for unsportsmannlike conduct. Will the power play do anything any time soon? It's 1 for 24 in the last seven games before tonight and 0 for 1 tonight. That's 1 for 25 if you're scoring at home (I'm still in baseball mode a little coming off post-World Series vacation).
12:10 left: Three shots and not much possession as the PP falls to 1 for 27. Here's how it went: Giveaway by Pominville, save on Connolly, giveaway by Ennis, save on Hecht, bad pass by Hecht, bad pass by Ennis, Montador shot blocked, Connolly giveaway (boos), offside (boos), Leopold shot stopped. Terrible.
11:09 left: It's not like the Caps are doing anything in this game. They have one shot in the period so far. Sabres have four. Another brutally boring game in Buffalo. Do the Sabres ever player interesting hockey in this building? The games in New York and New Jersey, win or lose, were good to watch. This is plain terrible.
9:50 left: Sabres finally get it in gear as Montador rifles one all the way through from the right point. Nice backhand feed off the boards to him from Grier. We're heard the ping off the post all the way up here. Montador's second of the year puts him at plus-11 -- or 22 goals better than minus-11 Myers. Game tied, 1-1.
6:18 left: Shots are 7-2 for the Sabres in the period. The Caps seem sucked into the Sabres' lifeless approach. They're doing nothing. Is Ovechkin even on the ice this period?
3:55 left: Tomas Fleischmann goes for high-sticking Ennis in the mush. Fleischmann gets four minutes and Roy gets two for hooking. Repeating: Will this power play do anything? People in front of the press box: Stop trying to do the wave. This isn't 1986.
3:31 left: STOP THE PRESSES, STOP THE PRESSES. A power play goal. By Vanek no less. Leopold's shot is blocked by Green but it rolls to Holtby's left and Vanek, mercifully, has a tap-in. Poor guy looked so relieved he just skated away and didn't even put his arms up. Sabres lead, 2-1.
1:53 left: Sabres really dominating as Caps continue to sleep. Shots are 11-2. Wonder if Washington will come out breathing fire in the third after Bruce Boudreau peels some paint off the walls in this intermission.
End-2nd: We hear cheering in HSBC Arena. Praise be. It's 2-1 for the Sabres, shots were 11-4 in that period and 17-17 for the game. The last 10 minutes were about the best we've seen Buffalo at home this year. Winning all kinds of physical battles for the puck.
7:14 p.m: We're under way a few minutes late. Buffalo starters: McCormick-NIedermayer-Grier-Sekera-Myers.
18:16 left: Memo to Lindy -- You will not win a home game as long as Tim Connolly is still on the ice. First shift, first brutal giveaway. Right to Nicklas Backstrom, whose slapshot handcuffs Miller badly. Goalie dropped it right between his legs out of the glove but it rolls just wide of the open net.
17:22 left: David Steckel goes for delay of game (puck over glass). Let's see if the power play can do anything.
17:01 left: Not so far. Brutal giveaway by Vanek creates a 2-on-1 but at least he backchecked hard to break it up.
15:20 left: One shot on goal. Biggest highlight: Strong hit by Connolly, of all people, on Mike Green.
13:07 left: Shots are 4-3 for Caps. At first TV timeout, a video salute for Lindy Ruff and Darcy Regier's 1,000th games. A few boos for Regier when his name is mentioned. Too bad Lindy's moment gets ruined by including the GM, whose name is not on high on most fans' lists right now.
11:57 left: WHO KIDNAPPED TYLER MYERS THIS YEAR? He wipes out going around his net with no one around him, gives the puck away and it goes to the left point where Karl Alzner blasts it past Miller to make it 1-0, Caps.
10:08 left: Video birthday wish to Gilbert Perreault, who turns 60 -- 60! -- today. He waves to the crowd. Still haven't heard the tape of his Elvis impression after a game this year. Why? They only play it here when the Sabres win. Oy.
8:56 left: Another great contribution from Connolly. Slashing penalty.
7:06 left: Niedermayer feeds Kaleta on a short-handed 2-on-0. Holtby with the great glove save.
6:15 left: Kaleta strips Holtby behind the net and feeds an open Roy in front of the yawning cage but the Caps get back just in time to stop Roy's chance.
5;13 left: SHOOT VANEK, SHOOT.
4:42 left: Miller stones Ovechkin on a breakaway and the crowd is on its feet. Finally, some life here. Huge play. Maybe that can change some things. Great stop with the left pad.
End-1st: It's 1-0 for the Caps and shots are 13-6. Miller keeping the Sabres afloat so far. Not much going on offensively. Again.