As we get set to open the Stanley Cup finals tonight, the NHL made several announcements Friday in Chicago looking forward to next season. Perhaps lost in all the items was this one: The 2010-11 schedule for the Sabres' 40th anniversary season will be released on Tuesday, June 22. That's about three weeks earlier than the last couple years, when the schedule was released during the dead time in the sports calendar the day after Major League Baseball's all-star game.
It will be interesting to see how the league handles the Sabres' schedule around the holidays as the World Junior Championships open in HSBC Arena on Dec. 26. The Sabres are not expected to be on a two-week road trip and are likely to play one home game during the tourney on Jan. 1
The schedule release will be the kickoff to a big week on the NHL calendar. The annual awards show in Las Vegas will be on June 23 and the draft takes place in Los Angeles on June 25-26.
Three other Sabres-related tidbits came out Friday: As previously announced, the Sabres will meet Ottawa in a preseason game Sept. 28 in Dundas, Ont., as part of the Kraft Hockeyville promotion that awards arena upgrades and the showcase game to a small Canadian town; the Sabres or Chicago will meet Toronto in the Hall of Fame Game Nov. 6 in Air Canada Centre, two days before the annual induction ceremony; and the Sabres will be one of several U.S.-based teams playing on Sunday, Feb. 20 as NBC helps promote USA Hockey's Hockey Weekend Across America.
As for the 2009-10 season still going on? I got Blackhawks in five.
So raise your hands if you had Chicago and San Jose in the Western final. Good for you. Not a tough choice. Keep those hands up if you had Philadelphia and Montreal in the East final. Thought so.
We've got 1-2 one one side and 7-8 on the other -- a first in NHL history. Not much time for the Flyers to refocus as Game One is Sunday night. They'll just have to keep pushing forward on their adrenalin rush and see what happens.
So now that we're down to the final four, how does it change your pick for Stanley Cup champion from what you might have gone with a month ago? Pick the conference final winners and your current choice to drink from the Cup below.
HEARD IN BOSTON -- Water. Water. Water. I'm ch-ch-ch-oking.
Wish I could conjure every noun possible but "choke" does the trick quite nicely. There is no other way to describe what the Bruins did against the Flyers. Bad enough they blow a 3-0 lead in the series. But a 3-0 lead in Game Seven? At home? That's a gag job of biblical proportions. Flyers 4, Bruins 3. Flyers win series, 4-3.
"In Boston, it makes them the Red Sox of the new century."
"It is a new low, the worst moment in franchise history since Bobby Orr left as a free agent in 1976."
"I hate to keep bringing the Red Sox into this (actually, I don’t), but the Sox had 3-0 leads in Game 7 of the World Series in 1975 and again in 1986. You know what happened."
The funniest part of all this, of course, was that the Bruins took the collar thanks to a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty. Think Don Cherry, Montreal, circa 1979. Incredible that bit of history repeated itself and Kevin Paul Dupont's column describes what happened. He calls the 2010 version of TMMOTI "haunting, almost sadistic."
Watched the game this morning on the DVR and you can clearly see Marc Savard raise his stick to the bench to come off and then stay in the play as the Flyers broke up ice. Vladimir Sobotka had already come on, however, and made a futile scurry back to the bench.
Here's a great read from today's Boston Globe, albeit a sobering one for Sabres fans. Columnist Tony Massarotti points out that the Bruins -- still one game away from a stunning run to the Eastern Conference finals after Friday night's OT loss in Philly -- are going to be Stanley Cup contenders for years to come thanks to the shrewd trades and drafting of GMs Peter Chiarelli and Mike O'Connell.
And thanks to the brainlock of self-appointed Toronto genius Brian Burke, don't forget that a Boston team on the verge of hockey's final four has the No. 2 pick in this year's draft and is about to add either Tyler Seguin or Taylor Hall, junior standouts destined for NHL stardom.
The Bruins barely made the playoffs this season as they suffered from injuries and inconsistency in goal. The window of opportunity to get them might have been this year. The Sabres took advantage in the regular season to claim a division title but they didn't finish the job in the postseason when they had the chance. Here's hoping that misstep was a one-time speed bump and not a result the Blue and Gold will be burning over for several years.
Lindy Ruff said in Thursday's wrapup press conference that a Buffalo win in the first round would have resulted in a lot of fingers in Boston pointing at the no-shows of Marco Sturm and Milan Lucic, much the same way everyone in these parts is giving it to Tim Connolly and Derek Roy.
Sturm didn't have a goal against the Sabres and he won't have any more chances in these playoffs. He limped off the ice on the first shift yesterday and the Bruins announced today that he's done for the playoffs with a serious knee injury. Torn ACL AND MCL? Yikes. Might see him by Halloween.
Still shaking my head over the Caps' Game Seven loss to the Canadiens. It's the first time since 2003 -- before the Ovechkin era began -- that Washington had scored just one goal in three straight games. Owner Ted Leonsis has some pretty frank and interesting comments on his personal blog, which certainly read in part as indictments of coach Bruce Boudreau.
BOSTON -- Greetings once again from Level 9 of the TD Garden. When you get to this point in the season, there's not much to say. Thomas Vanek is in and Marc Savard is out. The Sabres are in win-or-go-home mode. The fans in Buffalo want to see Game Seven on Wednesday night. The folks here want to get that date with either Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin in the second round.
Before we get to the serious blogging, gotta give it up to the food in Boston. The Garden press room has fine fare (as does the much-improved offerings in HSBC Arena), but you have to sample the local fare too. Today's stop was Hennessy's Irish Pub for some outstanding clam chowder, lobster rolls, fish and chips and crabcake salad. Just up the street from last week's chowder choice, the Green Dragon tavern. They both rate. Great food town.
Buffalo starters: Connolly-Gaustad-Grier/Montador-Lydman Boston starters: Sturm-Bergeron-Recchi/Chara-Boychuk
7:10 p.m: The puck is dropped. Game on. This place is a cauldron of noise. How loud? Here's what it sounds like from the press box just before the teams take the ice to "Welcome to the Jungle"
Stats of note: The Sabres have just one third-period goal in this series (Ennis' empty-netter in Game Five). That doesn't bode well. ... the Bruins have led for 26:21 tonight -- they led for a combined 19:40 over the first five games. ... Vanek played 5:12 on six shifts in that period. That's 10:14 on 14 shifts, including 2:53 of PP time. Vanek and Krejci are the only players in the game with three shots on goal. ... Hits are 29-18 for Boston (but it was 9-9 in the second period). Boston has 21-16 edge in shots on goal.
8:57 p.m.: The puck is dropped. Is it the final 20 minutes of the season?
18:49 left: Rask stops Ennis just off the edge of the crease after the kid stole the puck. Just 20 seconds in, Vanek had a great chance streaking down the right (off) wing but fanned on a Mair pass.
18:19 left: Miller stops Ryder in front. He can't let anything go by him.
16:54 left: Buffalo blows a 4-on-2 and Mair goes for high sticking Lucic -- a four-minute double minor. Accidental but a clear calls. Refs missed one in the second against Tallinder however.
15:14 left: Three saves thus far by Miller. Shot lanes open and he's seeing everything.
13:09 left: Miller stops Satan on the one-timer a few seconds after Satan just misses. There's 15 seconds left in the Mair penalty.
12:54 left: Miller freezed the puck and the penalty is over. Sabres survive still down by just one. Huge. Montreal up, 3-0, in the third over Washington. The Habs are going to get Game Seven in the Verizon Center. Wow. Never would have called that.
12:42 left: That might be it as the Bruins go up by two on a Krejci tap-in after Lucic simply works over Roy after getting the puck from Myers. 3-1, Boston.
12:20 left: Hold everything. Gerbe gets that one RIGHT BACK on a horrible giveaway from Ryder, who handed the puck right to Gerbe in the slot. 3-2, Boston. His first playoff goal.
9:59 left: Recchi shoots it into Miller on the backhand with the whole net open as Miller is down and out. Huge break.
6:28 left: Rask stops Pominville on a wicked wrist shot.
5:11 left: That might it be this time as Satan taps one into an empty net a few seconds after Miller robbed him. It all started after Montador blew a tire behind the net like he did in overtime in that February loss in Carolina. Ugly. 4-2, Boston.
4:11 left: The place is wild during the timeout. They can smell it here.
3:54 left: Final four minutes of the season.
2:41 left: Final three minutes.
2:29 left: Miller to the bench. It's desperation time.
1:46 left: Timeout, Buffalo.
1:13 left: Hold everything II -- Vanek puts one home with a one-timer to Rask's right on a Pominville feed. 4-3, Boston. Think he would have made a difference? MVP in this series was Johnny Appleseed, er, Boychuk for cutting down Vanek in Game Two.
50.5: Faceoff outside Boston zone.
GAME OVER/SEASON OVER: Bruins hold on for 4-3 win. Final shots were 32-30 for Boston. (Sabres didn't get a key icing call that would have meant a faceoff in the last 10 seconds>
Stats of note: Boston had a 20-9 edge in hits in the opening 20 minutes (four by Sobotka). Much more intensity than Game Five. No one for either team with more than two shots. Vanek played eight shifts totaling 5:02. ... The Bruins are 5 for 19 on the power play, Buffalo is 0 for 17. Buffalo's 73.7 percent penalty-killing rate is far short of its regular-season mark of 86.6. ... Recchi (2-2-4) and Matt Hunwick (0-4-4) are now tied with Bergeron (2-2-4) and Ennis (1-3-4) for the series scoring lead.
8:06 p.m.: The puck is dropped. The teams are playing 4-on-4 for the next 1:55.
19:44 left: Connolly with a stupid crosschecking penalty in the Bruins zone on Wideman. Why's Connolly even on the ice any more?
18:59 left: Another PP goal. Speical teams are the series. Recchi beats Miller from the goalie's left on a perfect Krejci pass, with Lydman too late to cover. 2-0, Boston. Bruins are 6 for 20 on the PP in the series.
16:52 left: Sabres in huge trouble. One more goal -- the kind Buffalo couldn't get twice when it had a 2-0 lead in this series -- would basically put this one away. Connolly, among others, giving the puck away and getting beat badly. All the good of Connolly's season has been shot by this series.
15:49 left: Lucic gets a roughing penalty against Kennedy as the puck is held against the boards. How do you only give one penalty there? That's a break for the Sabres. Oh yeah, it really isn't with this power play.
14:27 left: The PP is again a joke. Pominville loses the puck at the line to Sturm and grabs him to prevent a breakaway but doesn't get nailed for the infraction. Wow. Sabres simply win no puck battles with the man-advantage.
13:35 left: Another PP done. What's that? 0 for 18?
13:26 left: Sabres back in the game. Wideman with a terrible giveaway to Mair, who feeds Kennedy, who feeds Kaleta for a perfect tip-in. Boston, 2-1. First playoff goal for the Angola native. It came 13 seconds after the penalty expired (No Lindy, you can't count that as a PP tally).
12:11 left: Ennis wide on the backhand on a breakaway. Great feed from Pominville. Bruins didn't learn Sabres' lesson about not getting the third goal.
9:43 left: Bruins getting killed in their end all of a sudden. Sabres all over them. They need this TV timeout desperately. Great shift by Gaustad and Grier especially had them hemmed in.
4:37 left: Rask with a super save on Vanek, who undressed Wideman by pulling the puck through the D-man's legs to get in alone. Nothing wrong with the ankle there. (OK, so Vanek doesn't have a whole lot of acceleration at times but he can turn it on in bursts).
3:06 left: Vanek stopped again as he takes the puck from behind the net and cuts in front.
2:19 left: Too many men on the ice on Boston as Sobotka jumps off the bench just as Roy is skating by with the puck.
End-2nd: Another utterly ridiculous PP with Connolly doing nothing other than losing the puck. Boston leads, 2-1. Shots are 19-19 (8-5 Boston in that period)
17:28 left: Vanek skating on fourth line with Kennedy and Kaleta, gets to a loose puck and has a quality scoring chance stopped by Rask. Kennedy draws a cross-checking penalty on Begin.
17:11 left: Sturm off post on breakaway after turning Pominville in knots.
16:40 left: Miller made a sensational save in first 35 seconds on Satan and Rask stopped Ennis a few seconds later. Those two chances have set a breakneck pace early.
16:12 left: Miller stops Paille on a 2-on-1. Which team is on the PP here?
15:25 left: That's 0 for 17. Bruins had two shots and hit a post. Buffalo had one shot.
14:48 left: Rask holds on with a huge scrum in front and Montador dashing in from the right point looking for a loose puck. Good work by Kennedy-Mair-McCormick. We'll get the lines up at the first TV timeout.
14:20 left: Vanek skated a short shift with Roy and Pominville.
13:20 left: Shots are 4-3 for the Sabres and the Bruins did not give up the first goal. Almost got it themselves. The lines started like this for the Sabres: Connolly-Gaustad-Grier, Ennis-Roy-Pominville, Gerbe-Mair-McCormick, Vanek-Kennedy-Kaleta. We'll see how much Vanek gets thrown into different combinations.
12:18 left: Satan throws a punch at Myers along the boards. Satan? Really?
9:55 left: The Bruins Ice Girls are doing their T-shirt toss. Vogl is enraptured by their presence. I have crummy headphones so that little sound clip above might not give you the true picture. Trust me. I'm sitting between Bucky and Vogl and can barely hear either of them talking over the din.
9:20 left: Boychuk knocks down Vanek, who was a little gimpy going off. Some ferocious hitting by the Bruins so far, especially on the Buffalo defense. The B's can't catch Ennis though. He's driving them crazy but the kid has to SHOOT more.
8:21 left: Nice stop by Rask on a Lydman floater with Gerbe screening. Shots are 7-6, Boston.
7:26 left: Montador goes for interference. The yellow towels are whipping around through the crowd.
6:21 left: Amazing what a power play can do as Krejci with the perfect tip-in of a Recchi pass puts Boston in front, 1-0. And the Bruins finally have a first goal in the series. Let's see how they play with a lead -- and how the Sabres play from behind.
5:07 left: The "Toooooook" chants come out on a Rask save against Sekera, just as the "Mil-ler, Mil-ler" howls were deafening.
4:37 left: Another big stop by Rask on McCormick from the slot after a terrific Mair feed. There's Buffalo's trouble in a nutshell: When are Roy/Connolly/Pominville going to create those kind of chances?
3:38 left: Montreal leading Washington, 2-0? Caps don't have enough goaltending to go very far. They fattened up by going 19-3-4 in their terrible division. It shows.
27.5 left: Rask stops a Myers shot, Buffalo's 14th of the period. Came a few seconds after Pominville overpassed on a 2-on-1, trying to thread one to Vanek when he should have shot himself.
5.6 left: Killer. Tallinder bats a puck off the end boards out of midair and it goes over the glass. Delay of game. Hate that rule. But that was an easy call.
End-1st: A scrum at the buzzer and Chara takes a stupid roughing penalty going after Gaustad with the facewash -- after the referee waved him away and he didn't listen. Guess Game Five's conclusion did carry over, eh? Boston leads, 1-0, and shots are 14-11 for Buffalo.
BOSTON -- Cody McCormick, meet Johnny Boychuk. You would assume that will happen in the first five minutes of Game Four. McCormick, a tough guy who had 17 goals this year in Portland, will make his Sabres debut tonight. The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder will be a badly needed physical presence for a Buffalo team that has lost too many physical battles in this series (see Mark Recchi vs. Tim Kennedy in Game Three) and lost both Thomas Vanek and Matt Ellis on plays involving Boston's defenseman.
"It was a really nice surprise," McCormick said of the callup. "I'm a physical player. I want to finish my hits, get the puck in and be responsible out there. You don't want to run out of position to make a hit or anything like that. You definitely have to make sure you're thinking out there."
The Bruins certainly will be wary of McCormick. They know what he's here for and McCormick said that's fine.
"If that's what they're thinking, we can just keep hitting," he said. "We're going to be in the corners together so it's a good place to get some bangs in. I just want to come out, play physical, get the pucks in good spots, finish my hits and let them know I'm out there."
McCormick played four playoff games with Colorado in 2008 and he showed some skill and toughness in training camp with the Sabres this year.
"He's a big body that can get to the front of the net," said coach Lindy Ruff. "He can win battles down low. Without Hecht, without Vanek, without some bigger bodies, some of the battles have gone the other way. A big guy who will be able to win some battles will be important to us. He's thought very highly of by Portland."
WILMINGTON, Mass. -- That's basically what the Sabres did today after practice. Ristuccia Arena, the Bruins' training center, is about 35 minutes outside of town and it's a tight-tight-tight place. No way for the auxiliary locker room to be used by the media to conduct interviews. So what did the Sabres' PR staff do? Improvise. The back doors went open and Lindy Ruff met the media under the sunshine in the parking lot in front of a leafless tree and some shrubs and mulch.
The Sabres even put Ruff on top of an equipment case to elevate him a few inches for the TV cameras. We told him now he gets what it's like to talk to Tyler Myers. Fans stood a few feet away behind ropes near the team bus waiting for autographs and watching the whole scene. One-by-one, a few players came out to the ramshackle interview area and chatted.
For all you folks who say we media folks are cold and heartless, we didn't make anyone else stand on the case, lest anyone sprain an ankle. Thomas Vanek looked down, rolled his eyes and shook his head when he saw the thing.
The whole thing was pretty comical were it not for the fact this is the playoffs. The Bruins have a full dressing room they regularly use at the rink that was fine for the media. The Garden wasn't available due to the Celtics game and potential alternate sites like Boston University and Harvard have already taken out their ice.
This scene was ridiculous for the playoffs of a major league. The Sabres deserved better treatment. The NHL should be embarrassed. Everyone got their work done -- although you had to step outside to use a cell phone since the tin can roof blocked most signals. It was a memorable, albeit silly, experience.
BOSTON -- Greetings again from high atop the TD Garden and thanks to all who were on board for tonight's live chat. Have rectified a few Internet issues and we should be good to go. A HUGE pregame show just finished, highlighted by a boffo video presentation and a giant black-and-gold banner being passed over the fans all around the lower level of the bowl.
So much talk at these things with days off between games. We need to see some hockey. Faceoff is 7:10. Starters for the Bruins are Lucic-Bergeron-Recchi-Chara-Boychuk. For Buffalo it's Kennedy-Roy-Ennis-Myers-Tallinder.
Of note: The Sabres had six giveaways in the second period. It's 7-2 for the game and 46-16 for the series in that category. Ugly. Boston has a 20-18 advantage in faceoffs but Roy has done a great job, going 11-3. Bergeron is just 4 for 9 for Boston. Tough night in the circle for Gaustad (4-8). Grier has a game-high six shots on goal and has by far been Buffalo's best forward. Good for him but not good for a team that needs its top-six to do something. No Sabre has more than one goal in the series.
8:56 p.m.: The puck is dropped. The Sabres didn't emerge from the dressing room until there was 1:02 on the clock in the intermission. The Bruins were already waiting on their bench. Don't know what that might mean. Just sayin'.
19:39 left: Gaustad goes nose to neck with Chara after Rask makes an early stop.
17:44 left: Rask stops Myers after a neat Kennedy feed. More pressure from this team when it's 5-on-5 rather than on the putrid power play which, by the way, is 0 for 12 in the series. You may have heard.
16:48 left: Millllllller with the stoning of Ryder from just to his right. Best save of the night. Kennedy, by the way, got a stick to the face a few seconds earlier and went to the bench slowly.
11:13 left: Miller stops a Satan backhand to end several uninterrupted minutes of play. Shots are 4-4 but you get the feeling the Sabres are holding on here. And you can't play for a shootout anymore.
7:03 left: And a hit does the damage. Old man Recchi destroys Kennedy behind the net and hits Bergeron for the one-timer to Miller's right, with Gaustad late on the coverage. 2-1, Bruins. Sabres just physically manhandled in the final two periods of this one.
6:13 left: Little late for the Sabres to start a ruckus, isn't it? Rivet badgers Ference and Sekera and Sobotka go at it. The place is going absolutely nuts. I'm betting Rivet gets an extra. We'll see. Penalties are even. Rivet got lucky. Still 5-on-5. Torres and Ference got 10-minute misconducts. Rivet and Wideman got minors, Sobotka and Sekera got majors.
4:32 left: The "Mil-ler, Mil-ler" chants going wild. Sabres are in a desperate situation but they sure haven't played too much desperate hockey, have they?
44.7 left: Miller out. Timeout, Buffalo.
It's over: A 2-1 loss for the Sabres and a 2-1 series lead for the Bruins.. Final shots were 33-29 for Buffalo.
Of note: A crazy day here with the Marathon and the 11 a.m. game from the skidding Red Sox, who are 1-6 at Fenway and off to their worst start here since 1932 after the Rays completed a four-game sweep with today's 8-2 win. Maybe I'll have to check them out tomorrow night against the Rangers. The Marathon was intense. Took the subway over to Copley Square and when I say wall-to-wall people, I mean wall-to-wall. Sea of humanity. Runners going down the streets. Huge reviewing stands. Flags of nation. What a scene.
Back to hockey: Great job as always by the Bruins' PR staff, easily one of the league's best. Lots of pregame, ingame and postgame notes. Reminder on first goals: Sabres were 31-6-4 in the regular season when scoring first and Boston was 11-22-9 when giving up the first. So far in this series, Buffalo has scored first all three times. It would be a pity to lose twice in those situations. Very tight period: Hits were 16-14 for Boston and faceoffs were 8-7 for the Bruins. Both teams charged with only one giveaway. Hmmm. Sabres were hit with 39 in the first two games in Buffalo (Boston charged with only 14).
8:02 p.m: The puck is dropped and we're under way in the second period.
18:03 left: Lucic goes for high sticking Rivet. Earlier in the period, Lucic took a hard hit from Torres and has been pretty invisible again.
16:00 left: Invisible would be a good word for the Buffalo power play. One shot (by Stafford) and it falls to 0 for 10. The combinations were Connolly-Gaustad-Ennis-Sekera-Myers, and Roy-Pominville-Stafford-Lydman-Rivet. Nothing different other than the names.
14:06 left: Boychuk LEVELS Ellis at the Buffalo blueline and Ellis goes off favoring his left shoulder. Shades of Campbell-Umberger. It's a tough sport. Keep your head up. That said, is anyone on this team going to do something about Boychuk? Hmmm.
12:40 left: Paille gets in too close and loses the puck on a break. Went right around Sekera, who should be joining us in the press box for Game Four based on this performance.
11:21 left: Nice stick save by Rask on Ennis. Shots are 5-5 in this period but you feel like the Bruins are setting the physical tone and have an edge.
10:58 left: Miller with the save on Ryder as the Ennis and Stafford both had trouble in the Buffalo end with the puck.
7:41 left: Gaustad for interference in the Boston zone.
7:05 left: Some good news -- Ellis is back on the Buffalo bench.
5:40 left: Good clear by Grier helps kill the penalty.
4:54 left: Sabres running around in their zone again and Sekera takes an interference penalty. When he gets out of the box, that should be it for him tonight.
3:11 left: Miller helps Sabres survive and Sturm kills the PP with a holding-the-stick call.
1:09 left: PP falls to 0 for 11 with a ridiculously uninspired effort. They can go for 0 for 12 now as Ference takes a silly tripping penalty in his own end.
End-2nd: It's 1-1. Shots are 21-20 for Buffalo (10-7 Boston in that one). Bruins unhappy that Begin took a stick to the mush from Myers in the dying seconds. The Buffalo power play is an abject joke in this series. All the practice in the world is amounting to nothing because they don't win any puck battles to set up in their own zone and they turn the puck over in the Boston zone.
16:30 left: We're back after more Internet issues. Rene Rancourt, a fixture from the old Garden, did a great anthem and the fans have their gold towels twirling. Shots are 3-2 for the Sabres in the first three minutes. Quite a buzz in the stands. Not as much off-the-top hitting as the first two games.
15:29 left: Miller makes the top save so far on a Sturm one-timer from the left circle.
14:34 left: Miller looks Vezina-worthy again with a stop on Wheeler from the slot.
14:00 left: Folks here booing Montador? Really? He played, what, 20 games here?
13:03 left: The Sabres score first for the third staight game. It's Mike Grier, beating Rask with a quick snap shot after a nifty feed from Raffi Torres. Nice headman work by Tallinder to get it to Torres too. And the crowd goes quiet. Perfect combo: Early Miller saves and the first goal. 1-0, Buffalo
9:00 left: Morerandom thoughts: Nice save by Rask on Ennis. ... Rivet has been brutal in his own end so far. ... Torres has made a couple nice plays with the puck other than the goal. ... Nice pressure by the Mair-Kaleta-Ellis line.
7:45 left: Shots are 8-7, Boston. Key point to the TD Garden press box: Root beer in the soda fountain and a first-intermission appearance from the dessert cart. Double thumbs up.
6:42 left: Post-shot scrum in front of Rask leads to our first penalties: Gaustad and Ference for roughing. Torres was in the middle of that too. Probably his best period as a Sabre.
6:36 left: Nice job by Rask to corral Lydman's one-hopper at the last second.
4:43 left: Wideman ties it on a wicked one-timer from the slot off a Sobotka feed with the teams playing 4-on-4. Sekera was caught and so was Ennis, after he was bumped off the puck in the Boston zone. That left Rivet back with Grier. Bruins tie it, 1-1.
4:20 left: Here's your first real "Mil-ler, Mil-ler" chants of the night.
1:11 left: Rask spears Roy's shot with his glove. Both goalies have been sharp and on their toes.
13.6 left: Rask robs Grier on a backhander from in front, as he scooped up a Gaustad rebound. There have been some rebounds given up by Rask. See if that trend continues.
Enough hype. Enough talk. It's time to drop a playoff puck in Buffalo for the first time in nearly three years.
It's the Sabres and Bruins in Game One from HSBC Arena. Go here to review our pregame chat, which ran from 6:30-7 p.m.. It's a new feature that will run for 30 minutes before every postseason game, home and away. Be sure to join us Saturday at 12:30 for the next one.
A TECHNOLOGY NOTE: We apologize for the premature crash to the chat. Someone who shall remain nameless (you know who you may be) hit the end-chat button. That was it for all of us. Toast. At least it happened at 6:53 and not earlier. Be sure to join us Saturday. Maybe we'll even start at 12:15 to make it up to you. And thanks for coming.
Before we start the final 20 minutes, a shout-out to Mike Robitaille. The Sabres broadcaster is recovering at home from his recent surgery. As he told Bucky in an email printed in Sunday's Inside the NHL column and also sent to me, Roby asks we send "a big thank you to all the people that sent cards, calls and prayers. I'll never get back to all them and I'm starting to feel guilty!!!!!" Not to worry, Roby. Just stay the course and get better.
You have to give it up to NHL.com managing editor Shawn P. Roarke. He's going to all eight Eastern Conference playoff cities in eight days. Be sure to follow his blog here. Great stuff. Also, the 24 shots on goal by the Bruins in the second period equaled the playoff record against Buffalo, last set by Chicago on April 20, 1980.
Remember: Sabres 30-0-0 this year when leading after two. Only team in the NHL last 12 years to be perfect. That better hold.
The puck has been dropped at the stroke of 9 p.m.
18:07 left: Two excellent shifts for the Sabres by the Gaustad and Roy lines. Kennedy got another shot to the mush from Chara too.
14:27 left: Bruins have one shot in 5 1/2 minutes. That's a lot more like it.
12:58 left: Disastrous shift for the Roy line and Sekera-Rivet. They finally get the puck out but Pominville doesn't get it in deep and the Bruins nearly score as Krejci goes to the net and Miller stops him.
11:30 left: Vanek having his best game of the year, in this building at least. Undressed Johnny Boychuk and nearly got in alone. Boychuk recovered at the last minute.
10:42 left: Rask with the save on Connolly. In a tight-tight period, Sabres have a 4-3 edge in shots. Pominville (high sticking) and Recchi (roughing) get coincindental minors for a scrum after the whistle.
9:41 left: Huge save by Miller on Satan on a 2-on-1. Lots of open ice with the 4-on-4 and a bad pass sent Boston away.
6:40 left: Vanek flying all over the ice. It finally results in a tripping call on Dennis Wideman, who hauled down Roy to the left of Rask.
4:50 left: Rask keeps the Bruins alive with a great save on Pominville off a Roy rebound.
4:20 left: Back to the PP as Satan is nailed for putting one over the glass. Delay of game.
2:20 left: Rask again stops Roy on a rebound off Vanek. Two huge saves to keep Boston alive.
1:35 left: Faceoff outside Buffalo line.
1:10 left: Rask out.
6.7 left: Miller makes a big save, Grier gets it out and Chara is gone for hooking. This baby is over. The crowd is up and roaring as there's a timeout.
IT'S OVER: Sabres take the opener, 2-1. Shots were 12-6 Buffalo in the third and 39-32 Boston for the game. Odd. Bruins had just 15 total shots in first and third period. Great third by Sabres. Still perfect after two.
Second Period has started: All the penalties from the fight came at 15:14 of the first. Chara got two for roughing, two for crosschecking, Lucic got four for roughing. Lymdan got two for roughing. So did Montador and Torres. Kaleta for a 10-minute misconduct. That's 24 minutes total for the two teams.
18:40 left: Lydman makes a great play to come back on Lucic, of all people, to snuff out a partial breakaway.
17:55 left: Miller makes the stop on Wheeler on a 3-on-2..
17:39 left: Ryder tip off the crossbar on a Chara point shot.
15:39 left: Ennis right around Chara. Rask the save.
14:50 left: Boychuk off the post. Bruins have been by far the better team in this period. Sabres have not come out of the dressing room with the same intensity. Shots are 6-2 Boston. Kaleta out of the penalty box now after his misconduct. That should help.
13:49 left: If this was a chat, Joe would have been banned months ago. Can't ban people in a live blog. But can we get real and enough of the Cowan-McCormick garbage? It's the PLAYOFFS for God's sake. AHL lunkheads need not apply.
12:57 left: Miller robs Bergeron twice, on a tip and a rebound, to get some "USA-USA chants going." But the fact is the Bruins are overdue to tie this game. A much better forecheck from Boston in this period has the Sabres on the ropes.
11:16 left: Lydman goes for cross checking. Bruins have a 12-5 bulge in shots in the period and 21-17 for the game.
10:30 left: Told you. Two saves on Chara, no clears and Recchi pumps it home to tie it at 1-1 on Boston's 15th shot of the period. And you thought the Sabres weren't going to take periods off in the playoffs.
8:10 left: Kennedy on the bench after getting popped in the month as he pushed to the Boston net. Shots are 19-6 for the Bruins in the period. Yes, 19-6.
7:52 left: Miller makes the save on a one-timer from Marco Sturm in the left circle. That was Boston's 20th shot of the period. Wow.
5:50 left: Nifty little backhand drop pass from Kennedy sets up Rivet and he rips a bullet to the top corner to make it 2-1 Buffalo. Rivet had one goal the entire regular season. Great time for one here. There shouldn't even be three stars in this game. Nobody but Miller should get one.
5:08 left: Rivet's lone goal in the regular season was Jan. 21 at LA. Pretty wicked cut Kaleta got courtesy of a shot to the glass from Steve Begin. Lots of blood. Told you this was like watching 80s hockey at times. JVogl chimes in with a salute to the crowd for its standing O for the recipient of Chris Butler's "TIckets for Troops" charity. Easily the best response we've seen here to that all season.
4:28 left: Pominville fans on a 2-on-1 on feed from Ennis. Obviously, a two-goal lead would be massive for Miller, especially against the Boston offense.
3:32 left: Vanek goes for tripping.
1:25 left: Sabres kill it with no shots against.
END-2ND: The Sabres somehow survive to emerge with a 2-1. Shots were 24-8 for Boston and 33-20 for the game.
Of note: I'm a little surly. The boxes of press popcorn have shrunk dramatically. That just means I eat more. I know that doesn't affect you folks. But just saying. Can the Sabres really play this rock-em-sock-em style for the whole game and multiple games? That will be interesting. Somebody better do something about Lucic. What he was doing to Lydman was pretty ridiculous. That said, the whole thing was great fun. It was old-time hockey.
Like the Sabres-Bruins in '88.
Pregame: Nice video montage of great moments from the '06 and '07 playoffs on the HD board. AND SABRETOOTH IS RAPPELING FROM THE RAFTERS. Another great Stanley Cup video to greet the Sabres (although I miss Hell's Bells). Crowd erupts. Lots of blue and gold pompoms as they take the ice. They're stretched across the blueline in numerical order and getting introduced individually by Rick Jeanneret. Guess it's a recording because he just said Drew Stafford's name (he's a scratch) and Adam Mair had to skate twice. And he said Chris Butler, Nathan Gerbe and Jochen Hecht too.
Biggest roars were for Tim Connolly, Patrick Kaleta, Tyler Myers and, of course, Ryan Miller. The starting goalie's steely eyes came right through his mask.
Jay Moran makes the call to "PLAY SOME PLAYOFF HOCKEY" for the first time in nearly three years and we're ready.. Mair-Gaustad-Grier-Tallinder-Myers start for Buffalo.
19:00 left: We got plenty of "Tuuuuu-kkka" chants going. Crowd is not 2007 level but already better than any night this year.
18:19 left: Good shift from Kennedy-Roy-Vanek. Lots of pressure.
17:31 left: One shot apiece. Connolly had Buffalo's. Bounced out of Rask's glove. No real threat but he didn't catch it either.
16:30 left: Rask stops Myers after some good work by Torres.
16:22 left: Miller robs Satan on a rebound after failing to control Chara's snap shot from the point.
15:08 left: The perfect start. Roy goes right around Matt Hunwick, drops a pass to Vanek and the red-hot No. 26 fires a BULLET past Rask from the right circle. 1-0, Buffalo.
13:02 left: Mair to the dressing room (looked like a shoulder) after a blindside collision at the whistle with Michael Ryder.
11:30 left: May not be any penalties tonight. Mair was hit after the whistle, Chara was roughing up Vanek for several seconds and Pominville just created interference in front of the Boston goal to free up Ennis for a great chance. Rask with his best save. Bruins would have been wild if that puck had gone in. With good reason.
11:00 left: We got a Verzon Center-style trumpeter up here tooting the "Lets Go. Buffalo" melody. Nice.
9:35 left: Roy hits Lucic from behind? Odd one. Roy really playing with a terrific edginess so far.
8:47 left: Mair is back on the Buffalo bench.
7:20 left: Vanek with the backcheck on Wheeler -- and the crushing hit into the end boards. Vanek and Roy definitely playing at a different gear.
5:50 left: Ennis looks a little nervous even though he had the one good chance. Ruff has been working with him at the bench a couple times and he just passed up a great chance to shoot in the boston zone and circled. Fire away, kid.
4:46 left: A HUGE OUTBURST ERUPTS. Chara was going for hitting Kaleta from behind. Torres headlocked Chara (good for him). Then Lucic started attacking Lydman and Montador had to jump in. Most interesting part was MILLER AND RASK moving about 20 feet in front of their goals and staring each other down. Didn't Miller say he'd never deal with Rask unless there was a line brawl yesterday? Almost happneed in FIRS?T period. Ref Dan OHallaran stared at Kaleta and called nothing. Came from Brian Pochmara at center ice.
3:00 left: Vanek between the legs pass nearly set up Ennis on the PP.
1:04 left: A hooking call on Adam McQuaid. We all want to know how Chara was back on the ice. They announced four minutes for him and he came on the ice after two.
1:04 left: Now Chara back in the box. No other penalty announced. It's 5-on-4. How does he not get another two minutes?
End-1st: A wild period ends with Buffalo up, 1-0. Shots were 12-9 for Sabres. They have got to do a better job in this building announcing penalties in the PA and press box. That was a disaster.
Join us 30 minutes before every Sabres playoff game for a live chat. We're going to try to keep it on topic. Questions on this game, this series, please. No looking to the future, no thoughts on the franchise as a whole. Let's talk about tonight's game here. Every night the Sabres take the ice.
Then be sure to join us for our live game blog in a new thread as the television broadcast signs on.
It's been nearly 35 months since the Sabres played a playoff game -- May 19, 2007 to be exact -- and the wait is over. Sabres-Bruins Game One is tonight in HSBC Arena and it's a huge day in The News, online and here at ye olde Sabres Edge blog. Be sure to pick up your print edition, complete with an eight-page preview section and a full-page Paul Gaustad photo. Plenty of good reads:
Stay with us on the blog all day with updates from the morning skates. We'll have a live pregame chat from 6:30-7 as well. How about going to the video? Here's The News' breakdown of things, as well as the Boston Globe's view.
Here's some info we provide for entertainment purposes only but it also gives an interesting perspective on outside views. Sports betting site Bodog.com has issued a variety of odds regarding the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the Sabres. Here's a summary:
1). Buffalo is a 20/1 pick to win the Stanley Cup, the No. 8 choice out of 16 teams (Washington is No. 1 at 7/2). The Sabres are the No. 4 pick to win the East at 8/1
2). Here's a rundown of the Sabres/Bruins opening round possible results:
Sabres in 4 15/2 Sabres in 5 4/1 Sabres in 6 13/4 Sabres in 7 19/4 Bruins in 4 18/1 Bruins in 5 8/1 Bruins in 6 9/2 Bruins in 7 7/1
If the Sabres make the Stanley Cup finals, the odds of meeting each opponent from the West look like this:
Chicago 25/1 San Jose 28/1 Vancouver 40/1 Detroit 45/1 Phoenix 80/1 Los Angeles 150/1 Nashville 175/1 Colorado 250/1
And finally, here's each team's odds to win the Cup:
Washington Capitals 7/2 Chicago Blackhawks 9/2 San Jose Sharks 11/2 Pittsburgh Penguins 6/1 Vancouver Canucks 15/2 Detroit Red Wings 8/1 New Jersey Devils 12/1 Buffalo Sabres 20/1 Phoenix Coyotes 22/1 Los Angeles Kings 28/1 Ottawa Senators 33/1 Boston Bruins 33/1 Montreal Canadiens 35/1 Nashville Predators 40/1 Philadelphia Flyers 40/1 Colorado Avalanche 50/1
We're now at the point on the calendar where international intrigue surrounds all injuries but it was plainly obvious watching practice Tuesday and reading between the lines afterward that Tim Connolly will play in Game One for the Sabres unless he has a major setback on Wednesday.
Connolly has missed nine games with a foot problem but has been skating hard on his own since the weekend and was fully involved in drills Tuesday.
"It felt good," Connolly said. "I"ve been skated for a few days and I'm just started to get into the best possible game shape. It's a matter of getting my legs going. ... I feel good out there. Did some battle drills on the day off, some tough drills in the corner. It feels good to me. It feels ready to go."
Told those comments of course, Lindy Ruff took the cynical coach view that he'll hold for the rest of the postseason.
"For his first practice, I thought Tim do well but we'll let the coach decide," Ruff said. "He needs to have a good practice [Wednesday]. We'll hope it just carries on and elevates it. He got involved in some physical stuff and tomorrow a little more. I would anticpate him progressing."
Jochen Hecht (finger) also took part in practice and Ruff said he was progressing. Drew Stafford skated on his own after practice. He hasn't been ruled out of the opener although it's looking unlikely he would play. Still, it's a big step forward that he's already on the ice given the big hit he took Saturday in Ottawa.
Join me and Senior Sports Columnist Jerry Sullivan in a video look discussing Lindy Ruff's first playoff press conference and the upcoming playoff series against the Bruins. Be sure to look for plenty more audio and video throughout the playoffs.
There's good news on the injury front for the Buffalo Sabres heading into Thursday's opener of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Coach Lindy Ruff said today he's "optimistic" that center Tim Connolly will be ready for Game One against the Boston Bruins after the center skated on his own over the weekend for the first time since he was injured late last month. And Ruff is not ruling out Jochen Hecht or Drew Stafford either.
So where does that leave rookie Tyler Ennis?
Said Ruff: "We'll have to make that decision based on Hecht and Connolly and Stafford being available to play."
Ruff also said he's not made any decision regarding Chris Butler and Andrej Sekera. The struggling young defensemen have been alternating in recent games.
Ruff held his 15-minute briefing in playoff mode -- behind a podium and in front of a flashy black-and-blue Stanley Cup Playoffs banner.
"I'm excited to be back in. It's the best time of the year," the coach said. "The weather outside is nice. Just the atmosphere. I'm looking forward to getting after it here at home with our fans. The visions of the plaza being filled up with people, driving here to the rink and obviously parking lots with people.
"Saturday will be a tremendous day here with an afternoon game. It's going to be great. It's great to be back in. You've got to be excited to be back in again because a couple years of being absent really hurt."
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.
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.
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.