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Morning (yep) musings/links from Vancouver and around the NHL

By Mike Harrington

VANCOUVER -- Greetings from what has to be about the most scenic place on the Sabres' North American stops. Never been here before. Completely blown away.  A reminder that tonight's game in Rogers Arena is a 5 p.m.  local time start (8 p.m. in Buffalo), so there is no morning skate today.

The Sabres have played 111 meetings with their 1970 expansion cousins and have 111 points -- going 46-46-19.  Odd.  The Sabres' last game here was a 5-3 win over March 3, 2012. With a win tonight, the Sabres would have consecutive wins in Vancouver for the first time since they won three in a row from Oct. 9, 1996 to March 16, 2000. Tonight is former Canuck Cody Hodgson's 200th NHL game.

Read today's game preview on BC native Nathan Lieuwen starting against his once-favorite team.

Read today's Sabres notebook on the Canucks' desperation

Here's a quick Vancouver Sun preview, with some neat Canucks notes and quotes.

In other NHL news:

---Sure seems like the Sabres sent the Edmonton Oilers for a loop by winning in Rexall Place. The Oil was 10-4-3 in its previous 17 before losing to Buffalo, and then had a complete meltdown last night in an 8-1 loss to Calgary.

Star Taylor Hall and coach Dallas Eakins had an on-bench spat caught by CBC cameras after a frustrated Hall tossed a water bottle and it squirted on to Eakins. And a fan threw an Oilers jersey on the ice, prompting an enraged Edmonton native and goaltender Ben Scrivens to fling it back in the crowd with his stick. See a vine of Scrivens' jersey toss at this Edmonton Journal link.

Read more about the meltdown in the Edmonton Sun.

Continue reading "Morning (yep) musings/links from Vancouver and around the NHL" »

With no loser points, quite a different view of the standings

By Mike Harrington

In one of the most baffling stats of the season, the Chicago Blackhawks fell to 0-6 in overtime winners and 5-13 after regulation with Tuesday's 5-4 OT loss in Calgary. The Blackhawks are now 32-10-13 and that league-high total of loser points has their total up to 77, or third overall.  Detroit and New Jersey both have 11 loser points, although the Devils are almost certain to rue their 0-8 shootout record come April unless they improve it.

Every so often, I want to NBA- or MLB-style the current NHL standings so I'm going to do it here.

You know. No loser points. You just win or you lose. Then compare the winning percentages to what the overall standing really is, given the preponderence of three-point games.

The Sabres, of course, still come out last. But it gives you an interesting gauge, especially as you look to the playoffs, about which teams might be underrated and which teams are inflated by those extra points.

Going by my theory, here's a look at how the standings go by winning percentage. Losses are added together, whether they come in regulation, OT or shootout. The number in parentheses is the overall standing in the league of the team when you count its loser points.

You can really how see how Detroit and Chicago are inflated while teams like the Rangers, Columbus and Winnipeg are a little underrated. The same might apply to Montreal, although the Habs have been mostly dreadful of late and that may not apply to them much longer.

The W-L version of the NHL
1. Anaheim 39-16, .709 (1)
2. Pittsbugh 37-16, .698 (4)
3. St. Louis 36-16, .692 (2)
4. Boston 34-18, .654 (6)
5. San Jose 34-19, .642 (5)
6. Colorado 33-19, .635 (7)
7. Tampa Bay 31-22, .585 (8)
8. Chicago 32-23, .582 (3)
9. Los Angeles 30-25, .545 (9)
10. Montreal 28-25, .528 (13)
11. Minnesota 29-26, .527 (10)
12. NY Rangers 28-26, .519 (15)
13. Toronto 28-27, .509 (12)
14. Vancouver 27-27, .500 (11)
15. Columbus 26-27, .491 (19)
16. Philadelphia 26-28, .481 (16)
17. Phoenix 25-28, .472 (14)
18. Winnipeg 25-30, .455 (25)
19. Carolina 24-29, .453 (17)
20. Dallas 24-29, .453 (20)
21. Washington 24-29, .453 (22)
22. Nashville 24-31, .436 (23)
23. Detroit 23-30, .434 (18)
24. Ottawa 23-30, .434 (21) 
25. New Jersey 22-32, .407 (24)
26. Florida 21-32, .396 (27)
27. NY Islanders 21-34, .382 (26)
28. Calgary 19-34, .358 (28)
29. Edmonton 17-38, .309 (29) 
30. BUFFALO 14-38, .269 (30)

A Saturday gone haywire: MeshGoal in Detroit, line brawl and near hall-brawl in Vancouver

By Mike Harrington

Most of your attention last night was probably focused on Tylers Two getting the Sabres a last-minute point in their shootout loss to Columbus. But the rest of the NHL is buzzing over what took place in the final seconds in Detroit and the first two seconds in Vancouver.

The Red Wings earned a 3-2 shootout win over Los Angeles -- only because their tying goal with 26.1 seconds left clearly soared high into the mesh before plopping into the net off the back of Kings goalie Jonathan Quick. Incredibly, that's not a reviewable situation! So the goal counts, and we have a likely rule change for when the league's GMs have their next meeting in March.

Seriously, every goal is reviewable and a puck out of play leading to a goal should be also. That said, how did FOUR officials on the ice miss such an obvious thing? That's even more hard to believe. Even the Red Wings admitted it shouldn't have counted.

Best line came from Kings coach Darryl Sutter, referring to the Jan. 25 Kings-Ducks game at Dodger Stadium: "What are they going to do at the outdoor game? What happens if it goes through a cumulus cloud?"

Just as that one finished, choas broke out in Vancouver with a full line brawl after just two seconds of the game against the Flames that the Canucks eventually won in a shootout. Calgary coach Bob Hartley started a tough guy lineup up front with Kevin Westgarth at center and Vancouver's John Tortorella countered. Defenseman Kevin Bieksa took the opening faceoff vs. Westgarth and it was on.

After the first period, things got even more dicey as Tortorella tried to confront Hartley in the hallway leading to the Calgary dressing room, with Flames goalie coach and ex-Sabre netminder Clint Malarchuk having to be restrained too. Not a good scene.

I would think Hartley might be looking at one of those handy-dandy "player selection" fines the league suddenly created for Ron Rolston in the wake of the John Scott-Phil Kessel preseason dustup. (Or was that only a made-for-Toronto rule?). Hartley's postgame assertion that Tortorella had the last lineup decision was silly. Torts sees who the Flames are starting and he's going to throw, say, Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler on the ice? Please. 

That said, Tortorella can't go rogue and try to instigate in the dressing room hallway either. That's just not a good look for anybody, unless you're culling videos for places like Deadspin. Tortorella is reportedly going to have a hearing with the league and don't expect Colin Campbell & Co. to look too kindly upon his antics. This could be a multi-game suspension.

Click below to see videos of all the shenanigans, including Torts' pointed postgame comments:

Continue reading "A Saturday gone haywire: MeshGoal in Detroit, line brawl and near hall-brawl in Vancouver" »

Bettman upholds 15-game ban for Bruins' Thornton

By Mike Harrington

Merry Christmas Eve from Gary Bettman to Shawn Thornton: The NHL commissioner has upheld the 15-game suspension to the Boston tough guy for his Dec. 7 attack on Pittsburgh's Brooks Orpik.

You can go to this link to peruse Bettman's entire 12-page ruling and it makes for some interesting reading. My biggest take from it comes from pages 9-10-11 -- Bettman says Thornton's clean record saves him from an even longer suspension, and not the 10-12-game ban the players union was seeking.

Among other plays, Bettman compared the ugly incident to Dale Hunter's 21-game suspension in 1993 and the 18-month bad Todd Bertuzzi got for attacking Steve Moore in 2004. Thornton, if he wishes, has one week to appeal Bettman's ruling to a neutral arbitrator. 

West is by far the best in heavily tilted NHL standings

By Mike Harrington

PHILADELPHIA -- When you wake up this morning and change the NHL standings into the overall mode, you're not seeing any misprints. The top eight teams -- yes, the top EIGHT -- are all from the Western Conference and are all bunched within three points of each other from 33 (Anaheim) to 30 (Colorado). The top team in the East is Boston at 29 points, leaving the Bruins ninth overall.

The West is an astounding 87-38-16 vs. the East this year after Wednesday's results, but actually lost two at home in overtime, with Calgary falling to Columbus and Anaheim getting stopped by New Jersey.

A big reason for the success of the West is its teams are dominant at home. Anaheim dropped its first point of the season and is 8-0-1 on the pond at Honda Center. In fact, the top six (ANA, CHI, MIN, STL, SJ, PHX) are an astounding 50-4-11 on their home ice and the top eight (adding LA and COL) are 67-10-11. That's all patently absurd.

Another reason, of course, is talent. The Sabres have seen the huge forwards of the West at work. Think Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry and St. Louis' David Backes. Pretty hard to defend. 

Worst East teams against the West are Ottawa (1-7-2), the New York Rangers (1-6-0) and the Sabres, who are 2-9-0 -- including 0-5 against the Central Division. 

Best West teams against the East are Chicago (7-0-2), Phoenix (7-1-1), Minnesota (8-3-2), Los Angeles (8-2-1) and Colorado (8-3-0).

While the Sabres and Flyers are meeting tonight in the Wells Fargo Center, there's plenty of interconference showdowns. The full list:

St. Louis at Boston
Nashville at Toronto
NY Rangers at Dallas
Florida at Edmonton
New Jersey at Los Angeles
Tampa Bay at San Jose

Video: Should visors be mandatory in the NHL?


Watch all the segments from the most recent Bucky & Sully Show here.

Go to the video: Ridiculous passes from Vanek and Kane

By Mike Harrington

Who doesn't love a great pass? We had two absolutely sick ones Thursday night: Thomas Vanek to Jason Pominville and Patrick Kane to Marian Hossa for an overtime winner. Check 'em out:

 

Video: No late fail for Oilers' Nail in wild OT win over Kings

By Mike Harrington

Thursday's late-night special had a spectacular finish as the Edmonton Oilers rallied for a 2-1 overtime win over the struggling Los Angeles Kings after a wild final minute of regulation.

The Oilers tied the game, or so it seemed, with 1:05 left on a goal by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. But after a sudden discussion by officials, the goal was wiped out due to goaltender interference and fans at Rexall Place erupted. The ice was showered with debris and the game was delayed for about 10 minutes.

When it resumed, the Oilers scored the tying goal (again) as No. 1 overall pick Nail Yakupov swatted a rebound out of mid-air past Jonathan Quick with 4.7 seconds left -- and then took off down the ice for a knee-sliding celebration that reminded everyone of Theo Fleury circa 1991. Sam Gagner won the game with a goal in OT. With young stars all over, Edmonton has been great fun to watch so far.

Continue reading "Video: No late fail for Oilers' Nail in wild OT win over Kings" »

It's (finally) Hockey Day in Buffalo and here's today's game plan

By Mike Harrington

Greetings and welcome to Sabres season! Bet many of you never thought we'd say that this year.

But lo and behold, here we are at First Niagara Center getting ready for today's opener against the Philadelphia Flyers.

I'll be joined here today by John Vogl, Bucky Gleason and photographer Harry Scull. Here's a look at our coverage plans for the Sabres-Flyers game, which will air on Ch. 2 and WGR Radio with a 12:30 faceoff:

---I'll be on the WGR Radio roundtable from 11-11:40, discussing the season with Brian Koziol, Paul Hamilton and Brian Duff. Hamilton is doing the radio play-by-play today for the ill Rick Jeanneret. 

---At noon, I'll host a special opening day chat on the Sabres Edge blog for 30 minutes.

The link to the pregame chat is right here.

---Then stick around for our in-game blog all afternoon and a special 15-minute "Sabres flashchat" we'll have during the second intermission. We'll have intermission flashchats from time to time throughout the season; make your questions good, as only the best will make it in that short timespan!

---After the game, be sure to look for audio from the locker room and our postgame video wrap-up.

Today's Buffalo News includes our annual NHL preview section, featuring everything you need to know about the Sabres and presented through the auspices of award-winning Graphics Editor Vince Chiaramonte, sports page designer Andrea Zagata and cover artist Dan Zakroczemski.

In our cover story, Vogl talks about the Sabres' situation at center, where Tyler Ennis and Cody Hodgson are vastly inexperienced compared to most teams' No. 1-2 guys down the middle.

Vogl's team preview discusses a Sabres team that might have lost some offense but picked up some sandpaper edge that has been missing.

My main contribution looks at the question of whether a goalie -- Ryan Miller, perhaps? -- can steal a short season for his team. 

Follow this link for Vogl's four reasons for optimism and his four reasons for pessimism.

What do I think the Sabres have to do in a short season? Not stumble out of the gate at home.

Vogl talks to Pat LaFontaine to take a look back at the '94-95 Sabres, who finished 22-19-7 and were a first-round loser to the Flyers. 

Bucky Gleason says it's all on Lindy Ruff now. 

In our Mixed Media column, Greg Connors says NBC is ready to finally get this thing going. The network did a great job yesterday showing the Kings' banner-raising and then switching to Flyers-Penguins.

Outside of the preview section:

In announcing Darcy Regier's contract extension, owner Terry Pegula said Saturday "this looks like a good team." We'll see. 

Ville Leino's status for today's game is uncertain due to a leg injury.

Cory Conacher sticks in Tampa Bay

By Jay Skurski

Former Canisius College star Cory Conacher survived final cuts today to earn a spot on the Tampa Bay Lightning's opening-day roster.

"I like his grit, I like his relentlessness, I always have and he deserves it," Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher said today, via the team's official Twitter account.  

Conacher, 23, won the MVP award in the American Hockey League last season after finishing with 39 goals and 80 points with the Norfolk Admirals, who the Calder Trophy.

He's played left wing on a line with Vincent Lecavalier and Teddy Purcell during the Lightning's training camp.

Conacher was mentioned today by TSN's Bob McKenzie on Twitter as a candidate for the Calder Trophy, which goes to the NHL's rookie of the year. 

The time Derek Roy thought reporters got traded

By Tim Graham

When the Buffalo Sabres traded center Derek Roy on Monday, it reminded me of the time goaltender Martin Biron and I convinced Roy that I was on the verge of getting traded to Newsday.

I referenced the story in a tweet that generated a healthy response. People wanted to know the details. So, inspired by similar anecdotes I've been reading the past few days in Frank Deford's excellent autobiography "Over Time," here's just one of a thousand behind-the-scene stories I can tell from two decades hanging out in locker rooms.

A day or two before the NHL trade deadline in February 2007, I leaned against the wall in a nearly empty Sabres dressing room, waiting to interview a particular player. I don't recall who.

Biron and I were about five feet apart on opposite sides of the entryway. He was inspecting his leg pads at his locker stall. Roy sat at his locker way down the row to Biron's left. Jason Pominville was down the row of lockers to my right.

On the large, flat-screen television was a TSN show dissecting trade-deadline rumors.

Ever since Ryan Miller emerged as the franchise goalie, Biron's name frequently got bandied about as trade bait. He was anxious about getting dealt, and this time he would be -- to the Philadelphia Flyers. By this time, Biron and I had known each other for seven years and enjoyed many conversations never meant for the paper.

With my notepad in my back pocket and no recorder I asked Biron -- just two guys talking -- how he was holding up. He said something diplomatic, but he silently telegraphed, with a theatrical roll of the eyes, that he was stressing out. Then, in typical Biron fashion, he quickly tried to turn the situation into a joke.

"How are you hanging in there, Tim?" Biron asked. "Do you think you'll get traded this year?"

Those who know me are aware my sense of humor can be drier than powdered gin. So I deadpanned that my agent was hearing Newsday and the Boston Globe had called The Buffalo News about me and wanted to know what it would take to close a deal.

Biron, equally as sarcastic, started to express sympathy for my predicament. Roy hollered "Bulls---! Reporters don't get traded."

I gently informed Roy newspapers make trades all the time. "Yeah, that's true!" Biron chirped. I explained when NHL teams are about to make the playoffs, their local newspapers sometimes need to bolster coverage for the stretch run. Sometimes they have too many editors and need to acquire reporters. Or vice versa.

The New York Islanders, under Ted Nolan, had been one of hockey's most exciting stories that season and were gunning for a playoff berth. Newsday wanted go all-in. As for the Globe, I wasn't sure what its motive was because the Boston Bruins didn't look like a playoff team. Maybe the Globe needed to unload a contract or wanted me for depth.

Roy, about to turn 24 and in his fourth NHL season (counting the lockout), stared off in the distance and nodded his head, satisfied with this new bit of insight.

Unfortunately, the ruse wouldn't last long -- not nearly as long as the time I used a tape-delayed boxing match to persuade defenseman Alexei Zhitnik into thinking I was a legitimate psychic by predicting the exact round and method that massive underdog Corrie Sanders would whip Zhitnik's countryman and friend Wladimir Klitschko.

I shifted a glance to Pominville. I could tell he wasn't buying it, and he was about to say something.

Biron and I cracked. We told Roy we were just screwing with him.

Roy didn't think it was as funny as we did.

NHL draft preview chat with Vogl, guest Baker

NHL draft preview live chat at 11 a.m. Wednesday

Join The News' John Vogl and guest Kris Baker of SabresProspects.com to look ahead to this weekend's NHL draft.

Weigh in with your comments and questions at 11 a.m. Wednesday on the Sabres Edge blog.

On the Sabres Beat video chat with Gleason, Vogl and Harrington

The News' Bucky Gleason, John Vogl and Mike Harrington held a season-end video chat on the Sabres, as well as the team's decision to retain General Manager Darcy Regier and coach Lindy Ruff. Replay the chat in the console below the video.

Click on the links below to watch clips from the live video chat:

-News Sabres Writers on the decision by Sabres' management to forgo season-end news conference

-On the possibility of a lockout

-On the play of Alexander Sulzer

On Ruff's comments about Roy's play

 

Inside the NHL chat with Bucky Gleason at 9:30 a.m.

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Vote for your three stars

Inside the NHL chat with Bucky Gleason

Vote for your three stars

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John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

@BuffNewsVogl | jvogl@buffnews.com

About Sabres Edge


Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

@BNHarrington | mharrington@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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