Archive for March, 2012:

Sabres Sign Centers Brian Flynn and Kyle Bailey

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The Sabres have signed another center prospect. (Update: make that 2.)

Welcome to the fold, Brian Flynn. The 6’1, 185 pound center is a senior at the University of Maine. While undrafted at 23 years of age, he is certainly not without pro league potential.

From the Bangor Daily:

Spencer Abbott and Brian Flynn comprised two-thirds of the highest-scoring line in Division I men’s hockey this past season along with Joey Diamond.

Flynn notched 18 goals and 30 assists in 40 games and his 48 points left him in a ninth-place tie.

His 0.75 assists per game tied him with teammate Will O’Neill for 17th in the country.

O’Neill signed with the Winnipeg Jets earlier this week.

“I’m very excited,” said Flynn, who will sign a $92,500 signing bonus and will get a two-way contract that will pay him a salary based on whether he plays in the NHL or AHL.

Abbott also signed a two-way contract.

“It’s a great organization. I’ve always wanted a chance to play in the NHL, and now I’m going to be one step closer,” said Flynn.

He said the Sabres “showed a ton of interest in me” and that Buffalo would be an “awesome place to play.”

He will undergo a physical exam Thursday morning before joining his new teammates.

Brian Flynn 300x165 Sabres Sign Centers Brian Flynn and Kyle Bailey

For a better feel on Flynn as a prospect, here’s some insight from Hockey’s Future:

If there’s one undrafted collegian that could potentially become a top scorer at the pro level, it’s Brian Flynn. Since arriving in Orono four years ago, Flynn has been one of Maine’s top point producers. And while the Lynnfield, MA native is an outstanding playmaker; it is his ability to score goals that is among the attributes getting the attention of several NHL teams, including the Philadelphia Flyers. Flynn attended the Flyers’ prospect camp over the summer.

Flynn currently ranks second on the Black Bears roster with 45 points (17 goals, 28 assists) playing in all 33 games to date. His plus-23 leads Maine and is tied for second nationally. Flynn centers the Black Bears’ explosive top line that includes national top scorer Spencer Abbott and junior Joey Diamond. Back on February 17 versus UMass, he became just the 17th player in the program’s history to reach the 150-point career mark. Most recently, Flynn was named a semi-finalist for the annual Walter Brown Award, which recognizes the top American-born collegiate player playing in New England.

At 6’1, 185 lbs, Flynn is the biggest of Maine’s top line players. He has excellent finishing ability and great net presence. Two characteristics that separate Flynn from many other collegiate point producers are his ability to position himself for the best possible scoring opportunities and capitalizing on rebounds. These attributes are especially noticeable is on the Maine power play, where seven of Flynn’s 17 goals have come this season. He has also shown a knack for scoring timely goals as well.

Another of Flynn’s attributes that has NHL scouts taking notice is his terrific stick work. He utilizes his stick-handling skills quite well, both offensively and defensively. As the Black Bears’ top centerman, Flynn also excels in face-offs, winning well over 50 percent of his draws. He possesses a very good shot and can get pucks off quickly and smartly.

While Flynn isn’t an overly physical player, he has added some grit to his game. That has made him more effective in battling for pucks and in the defensive end. It’s unlikely that Flynn will ever become a physical force at the pro level, but he certainly has the potential to become a dominant offensive force.

Chances are we may see Flynn in a Sabres jersey someday. It certainly won’t be this season, but it’s the sort of low risk, high reward collegiate signing that Regier loves. In 2008, Buffalo signed a then 20 year old Nathan Gerbe out of the NCAA (who they had drafted in 2005). It will now be up to Rochester coach Brian Rolston to turn this latest gem into a pro-payoff for the Sabres.

 

 

And, of course, it always feels good to steal a prospect away from the Philadelphia Flyers.

Go Sabres.

Update: The Sabres have also signed Kyle Bailey (forward, University of New Brunswick). From Amerks.com:

Buffalo Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier today announced that the team has agreed to terms with forward Brian Flynn to a one-year, entry-level contract that will begin next season. Flynn will join the Rochester Americans for the remainder of the year on an amateur tryout.

Flynn (6’1”, 185 lbs., 7/26/1988) recently completed a four-year collegiate career at the University of Maine. During his senior season, Flynn appeared in 40 games and recorded 48 points (18+30), along with 37 penalty minutes and a team-leading plus-18 rating, while serving as captain. His 48 points ranked second on the team and ninth among all NCAA Division I skaters, earning him Hockey East First Team honors.

The Lynnfield, Mass. native registered 156 points (69+87) in 153 games during his four-year career, finishing in 11th place on Maine’s all-time scoring list. As a junior in 2010-11, Flynn scored a team-high 20 goals and received the Len Ceglarski Sportsmanship Award presented by Hockey East.

The Rochester Americans also announced that they have signed forward Kyle Bailey from the University of New Brunswick to an ATO, and he will also join the Ameks for the remainder of the season. Bailey (6’2”, 200 lbs., 10/15/1986) was drafted by the Minnesota Wild in the fourth round (110th overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. In five years at the University of New Brunswick, Bailey totaled 153 points (65+88) and 160 penalty minutes in 138 games.

More on Bailey, from The Brunswickan:

In Junior hockey, Bailey had the opportunity to play alongside players such as Brandon Dubinsky of the New York Rangers, Brayden Coburn of the Philadelphia Flyers, and Jannik Hansen of the Vancouver Canucks.

Although he is captain of the top-ranked university hockey team in Canada, Bailey says he has faults like every other player. Having many scoring opportunities, he believes he doesn’t score as much as he should.

“I seem to produce offensively pretty good, but I get a lot of chances to score and a lot of chances on nets. I guess I wish I had a little better scoring touch around the net, but I can’t complain,” Bailey says.

With fewer goals in his favour than he would like, Bailey still believes he has a strong work ethic, which he attributes to his mother and father. He believes no matter how the game is going, whether it is in UNB’s favour or not, one thing that can always be controlled is how hard each player works.

“That’s something I try to do before every game; make sure that no matter how things go, no matter how the game unfolds, make sure you’re working as hard as you can and trying to provide as much leadership as you can for your teammates.”

As captain of the team, Bailey believes the biggest part of his job is leading by example. He believes his actions speak louder than words, and if you’re doing things right, there isn’t much else you can do.

Leading by example is not something Bailey does just on the ice, but on land as well. Having just won a Community Service Award for his leadership in the V-Reds Prospect Program, created by Gardiner MacDougall and Roger Shannon, Bailey says it is a huge honour.

“I almost feel embarrassed about getting the award because there are so many guys on our team that I think do amazing things in the community with underprivileged people,” Bailey says.

“It’s a huge honour but I feel as though I should be accepting the honour on behalf of several people.”

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Sabres GIFs: Pominville “Takes Ovechkin’s Will Away”

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If there is any doubt over Pominville’s captaincy of the Buffalo Sabres, it should be silenced now.

Since being named the captain of the Sabres before the start of the 2011-12 season, #29 has been Buffalo’s most consistent forward, leading the team in goals and points. He plays in all zones of the ice. He’s on the power play and the penalty kill. He never gets too high, and he never gets too low.

And oh, after the Sabres hit rock bottom with their 12th straight road loss (5 in a row overall) in St. Louis on January 21st, Pommers called a team meeting. I have no idea what he said to the guys after that game, but the results speak for themselves. Since that game, the Blue and Gold have gone 19-5-5.

All that being said, sometimes being the captain is all about one moment – one big statement. Something clutch. Meetings aside, for Pominville, his best statements come on the ice, and he made a big one in Washington.

Pomminville Ovechkin 300x208 Sabres GIFs: Pominville Takes Ovechkins Will Away

Triumph and disaster. It's nice to be on the triumph side of this play.

Much has been said about the “biggest game of the season” for the Sabres and Washington Capitals.

In short, the Sabres played 60 minutes of smart offense and suffocating, collapsing defense. The Caps rookie netminder, Braden Holtby, predictably succombed to the pressure under what his coach labeled as a “Game Seven.” The Ennis-Stafford-Foligno line continued to dominate, thrilling the raucous contingent of blue and gold clad fans at Washington’s Verizon Center with more of their patented 2 on 1 rushes.

Much has been said, but even this 5-1 victory was not without high drama. This thing almost got away from us.

The Caps dug deep, and had broken onto the scoreboard to make the game 3-1.  Christian Ehrhoff and Andrej Sekera had left with injury, and with Robyn Regehr in the box, the Sabres were down to 3 defensemen as they tried to kill off a powerplay and a Caps rally.

We all know what happened next.

 

 Sabres GIFs: Pominville Takes Ovechkins Will Away

 

Triumph and disaster.

Here’s another look:

 

 Sabres GIFs: Pominville Takes Ovechkins Will Away

 

Could this be The Goal of the 2011-12 season? With those Caps in position to rally, the Sabres’ captain met the Caps’ captain at the blueline, and the game became just that – captain versus captain. Pominville versus Ovechkin.

Pommers charged at Ovie, forced him to lose control of the puck, dragged him down to the ice, and then skated in for what turned out to be the back breaking goal of the “biggest game of the season.”

Pominville summed up the Sabres’ strategy after the game:

We wanted to take their will away.

Mission accomplished on that play on Ovechkin.

Then, a tip-of-the-hat from Ovechkin, captain to captain:

The goal on the short-handed — I should play [the puck with] my skate, not stick, but it happens. This mistake probably cost us the game.

For now, Pominville and the Sabres’ efforts cost the Capitals the 8th seed as well. Here is where we stand this morning:

ECS2 Sabres GIFs: Pominville Takes Ovechkins Will Away

For Ottawa, Buffalo, and Washington, it is now down to a 5 game playoff series. One team will be left out when the final whistle is blown on the regular season. The Sabres are the hot team of the East right now, while both the Caps and Sens have been suspect in net, giving them both an equal share of troubles. Still, there is plenty of hockey left to be played.

Here’s the remaining schedules for each:

Ottawa:

  1. March 31 – @Flyers
  2. April 1 – @Islanders
  3. April 3 – Hurricanes
  4. April 5 – Bruins
  5. April 7 – @Devils

Washington:

  1. March 29 – @Bruins
  2. March 31 – Canadiens
  3. April 2 – @Lightning
  4. April 5 – Panthers
  5. April 7 – @Rangers

Sabres:

  1. March 30 – Penguins
  2. March 31 – @Maple Leafs
  3. April 3 – Maple Leafs
  4. April 5 – @Flyers
  5. April 7 – @Bruins

 

That’s a big stack of games for these three teams.

At least for now, the Sabres sit in the driver’s seat, alone in 8th. It’s been a long climb since January 21st, but who’s to say that they are done climbing the standings yet? Much work is yet to be done, but #29 and his Sabres have proven a heckuva lot in the last 29 games.

19-5-5. Let’s keep this thing going.

And again, as for Pominville’s leadership, there is no need to question it anymore, and there certainly isn’t any need to ask him about it. All he’ll do is continue to answer on the ice.

Go Sabres.

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Sabres/Capitals BINGO: Special “Biggest Game of the Season” Edition!

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In case you haven’t heard, Reckoning Day is upon us.

The Sabres have played some pretty big games in their history, but this game – if they do win, and if it propels them into the playoffs – could be right up there with the biggest games in team history.

I’m not being histrionic.

The psychological outcome of this game could be huge. Oh, and the Sabres have a chance to make NHL history if they get this playoff thing done.

WackyGraphOfFate1 300x248 Sabres/Capitals BINGO: Special Biggest Game of the Season Edition!

The outcome of this game could keep the Sabres hot on their playoff charge - and it could derail them. I'm hoping that Blue and Gold will make green.

There’s a serious buzz in town over this contest. Hopefully, some good ol’ Sabres BINGO will be just the dose of levity you need while we await puck drop, ants in pants.

Our winner receives a can of ant repellent.

(As usual, click the image to re-size, and click again to re-size again.)

Sabres Capitals BINGO 300x215 Sabres/Capitals BINGO: Special Biggest Game of the Season Edition!

Here’s to hoping for bigger games ahead in this crazy season.

Go Sabres.

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Penalties Are Way Down In The NHL As Refs Swallow Their Whistles

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Whether we like it or not, referees are a huge part of a hockey game. Just like holding in football, they can call a penalty just about any time if they really wanted to. So how do refs decide when to call one?

Some people call hockey games “organized chaos”, meaning that it’s just a bunch of guys fighting over a puck – the refs just make sure they “sort of” play within a set of rules, for the most part.

capt.9d487c05418e4ad1869ee480d73c2df2.senators sabres hockey   nydd1072 Penalties Are Way Down In The NHL As Refs Swallow Their Whistles

Let 'em play! It's old time hockey.

I used to think that if it was a penalty, you call it. That if the NHL wanted to REALLY get back to the non-obstruction of the post-lockout seasons then call every single instance of hooking, holding, and otherwise obstruction of players.

Some would argue that would slow the game game way too much. The counter argument is that players would adapt, realizing they’re going to get called, and play much cleaner.

I really don’t know any more. They can’t call penalties on everything but they could certainly make it a more wide open game if they cracked down a bit more.

buffalo sabres penalty non call1 Penalties Are Way Down In The NHL As Refs Swallow Their Whistles

Nah, not a penalty.

In any case, there are some stats that the number of penalties is WAY down this year.

A post over at TheScore.com has some interesting stats about this.:

In the season after the lockout, the number of powerplays skyrocketed to 11.7 powerplay opportunities per game as players adjusted to the new rule. This season, power plays are, as the alarming NHL.com headline read, at a “three-decade low.

The post also puts together some stat projections for the 2011-2012 season:

NHL stat penalties Penalties Are Way Down In The NHL As Refs Swallow Their Whistles

A similar post over at the Edmonton Journal rants about the drop in power plays chances. He waded through a bunch of data and found that:

…on both sides of the puck, powerplays both for and against, revealing that total PP’s for both teams had plummeted from 8.0 per game in the first 20% of Oilers games to just 4.7 per game in the most recent 20%.

This is huge and something is rotten in Denmark. Is the league purposely reverting back to the “Dead Puck Era”, going back on what they said they wanted to do after the 2004-2005 lockout season? Or is it simply that the league is lazy and inept and has allowed referees to call whatever they want?

Some have theorized that the obstruction is designed to purposely slow the game down that way the skill players don’t get hurt. But, if the skill players can’t operate freely without being obstructed, what’s the point?

In any case, it seems clear the the NHL in trending towards less penalties and more obstruction. And I don’t like it.

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Sabres Win Game, Confidence, Quote War

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On February 15th, the Sabres were 15th in the East, and 10 points out of the top 8.

No team has ever come from that far back to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs since the lockout. (EDIT: the Sabres are looking to become the first team in NHL history to be in last place in the conference in January and make the playoffs.) Now, just over a month after dwelling at rock bottom, the Sabres have tied the Capitals for 8th place. (OK, officially they’re in 9th. Both teams have secured 82 points, but Washington holds all the tiebreakers.)

So how did we get here?

1. Ryan Miller. He’s quietly amassed 5 shutouts over his last 23 games (going back to February 1st), tying him for the NHL lead with Ilya Bryzgalov. He hasn’t lost in regulation since March 5th. Since the All Star break, he has a 14-3-5 record, a 2.02 GAA, and a .932 save%. He’s back, and he summed up his success and the team’s surge perfectly for ESPN:

Goalie reflects team. Team reflects goalie.

WaxOnWaxOff 300x273 Sabres Win Game, Confidence, Quote War

Wax on, wax off. Paint the fence. Miller is owning the Zen power, and the crease.

Once I was healthy I started building back my focus and awareness, and that took some time. … I noticed my game turning when my mind was more at ease and I settled down and allowed the play to unfold. … All of which came when we started being a more responsible team. Knowing my guys are around me allows me to read the play and commit to saves. Without them, I have to cover more options, and the odds of making a save or second save aren’t as good. Having the boys cover my back and work hard makes my job easier.

Top-seeded teams are no doubt taking notice of Miller’s play, along with the Sabres’ overall defensive revival. No one wants to face a Sabres team this focused in their own zone (see: New York Rangers, March 23rd,3rd period, unable to score as Ehrhoff and Roy played back-up netminders to Miller as the Rags could only shoot in vain.)

2. The Sabres are scoring again, in droves. Travis Turnbull became the 29th Sabre to find the back of the net this season – Columbus leads the league with 30. To put that in better perspective, Buffalo has had goals from 30 players three times in 41 seasons, most recently in the 1991-92 season. Meanwhile, there’s that red hot 82-63-21 line. In the past 7 games alone, Tyler Ennis has 5 goals for 12 points and is a +12. Drew Stafford has 4 goals for 12 points and is a +10. Marcus Foligno has 5 goals for 9 points and is a +7.

Ennis Stafford Foligno 300x204 Sabres Win Game, Confidence, Quote War

Too bad the name "Production Line" is already taken.

 

***

Stats aside, there’s some new intrigue emerging here, and it’s all in the quotes, which Miller started us off with. Here’s a couple lines from Tyler Ennis after tonight’s win:

I think we’re just really confident. We know what we have to do. It seems like Washington keeps winning, so we have to keep winning. But we’re a confident bunch. Every game is a new test for us. We just have to focus on the next game. We’re playing well, Millsy seems to be stopping everything and that’s giving us a lot of confidence.

It reinforces how bad we want to make the playoffs. The Rangers are the top team in the East, and they’ve played great hockey all year. We came out and played pretty sound in all areas, and I think it shows how bad we want to make the playoffs.

As for that team they’re tied for 8th with? Let’s leave it to Karl Alzner to sum up how things are in the Caps’ locker room right now, after blowing a 3-0 lead en route to an OT loss to Winnipeg:

We s*** the bed.

As for that team we’re now chasing for 7th? The Senators just allowed 3 goals in the opening 5:41 to Eric Cole and his 15th place Habs. The Sens’ shoddy goaltending has them reeling in what looks like a death spiral. They’re just 1-3-2 in their last 6 games. Here’s what coach Paul MacLean had to say about his team’s troubles before the puck dropped against the Habs:

We’re still in the top third of the league as far as goals scored are concerned. That’s something that gives us the confidence we’re going to score goals again. Something has to spark it. Usually it’s the power play that gets it going. Then somebody gets hot, and away you go, you’re scoring goals again. We believe we’re going to score goals, and it’s going to be tonight.

Oopsy.

The Sens went on to fall 5-1.

But let’s not stop there. Even the almighty Bruins are a wreck of late. Since February 1st, they are just 10-14-1. The Bruins are 5 points up and have two games in hand over Buffalo, but heck, they have to play 9 games in the next 15 days – once every two days – with their last game against  (you guessed it) the Sabres. Here’s what Tim Thomas had to say, after a 2-1 defeat in San Jose:

We’re having a hard time picking up momentum, and keeping it for long periods of time. We proved recently what kind of game we can play. If you asked me before this game, I would have thought we’d carry it over. I thought after our last game we had turned a corner.

Hopefully we still have.

Keep hoping, Tim. Boston hasn’t won 3 games in a row since a 7 game winning streak waaaaay back in December. They’ve lost four straight road games, the longest such streak in three years, and dropped five of the last six away from TD Garden.

Yeah, it’s safe to say that there is a lot of turmoil in the NE Division right now. Meanwhile, Buffalo is surging, and carries a strong 12-5-4 record in the NE.

How much of your brain is saying “Whoa there!” at all this blunderbuss? Chances are a good portion of your mind is actually saying “We have a legit shot at the division.” That’s what happens when confidence is brimming. It makes fans and players alike envision victory.  The Sabres look to have the guts and the gusto to do just that, as this division and conference stumble alongside them.

Simply put: envision it to win it.

The Sabres have 7 games left to prove that their confidence, and this heroic run, is for real. But right now, it sure feels like they’ve got the sharpest edge on the ice, and in the locker room.

“How did we get here?”

That doesn’t matter anymore, does it? All that matters now is where are we going next – be it the NE Division crown or just a spot in the Top 8. It really doesn’t matter which, so long as the Sabres just keep pace with themselves.

Go Sabres.

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