With the lockout done and the schedule for this shortened season already decided, The Devils’ Den will give you an in-depth look at the team’s opponents this season. We kicked things off with a look at the Boston Bruins, and we’ll continue today with a preview of the Buffalo Sabres.
Last year was supposed to be the year in Buffalo.
New owner Terry Pegula, not afraid to open up the checkbook, brought in Christian Ehrhoff, Ville Leino and Robyn Regehr. Doling out the cash, however, didn’t match the lofty expectations fans and analysts had for this team. They spent most of the year at the bottom of the conference, and only a late-season surge saved them from being a complete bust.
On top of their struggles, opponents exposed Buffalo’s lack of grit. In the most glaring example, Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic bowled over Ryan Miller in open ice, and no one on the Sabres responded.
This offseason, Pegula added that toughness, bringing in the likes of John Scott, Steve Ott. The Sabres also kept Patrick Kaleta, re-signing their in-house enforcer.
There were no changes this season despite the failure to reach the playoffs. Will this be coach Lindy Ruff and general manager Darcy Regier’s last chance to bring the team deep in the playoffs?
Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will preview the 2011-2012 schedule, breaking down matchups and providing in-depth analysis of their opponents. Today, we the preview this season’s matchup with the Buffalo Sabres.
Usually, the Buffalo Sabres stay out of the limelight during the offseason. But since late last year, the only successful team from the Buffalo area made a ton of noise. First, billionaire Terry Pegula purchased the team, brining a wealthy owner to a usually frugal team. They made some noise in the playoffs, but lost to the Philadelphia Flyers. That would be one of their only disappointments.
With Pegula backing the team, Buffalo went on an offseason spending spree. They became, for the first time in recent memory, big spenders. Nobody was surprised; Pegula promised to pay for a quality team. An already good team added some key pieces. It’ll be a different team on the ice taking on New Jersey this season.
The History Behind The Matchup
The Devils have faced the Sabres 132 times, and haven’t fared well against them. New Jersey is 47-65-3 with 17 ties, allowing 448 goals against, or 3.39 goals per game. They’ve only scored 380 goals against Buffalo, good for 2.88 goals per game.
The two teams faced off four times last season, with New Jersey compiling a 1-2-1 record. They first met on October 13 in a game that became a duel between Martin Brodeur and Ryan Miller. Both goalies stood on their heads, matching each other save for save. In overtime, rookie Matt Taormina set up Ilya Kovalchuk for a game-winning one-timer deep in the Sabres zone. The puck rang off the crossbar before finding it’s way to the back of the net. That marked the first win of John MacLean’s coaching career. Too bad he wouldn’t lead the team to many more.
Buffalo evened the series just 10 days later, blowing out the Devils, 6-1, at the Prudential Center. Drew Stafford started the scoring, giving Buffalo a 1-0 lead at 6:57 of the first period. Tyler Myers extended the lead to 2-0 at 16:33 of the opening frame. They poured it on in the second period, scoring three times. Tyler Ennis pushed the Sabres’ lead to 3-0 at 3:10 of the middle period. Patrick Kaleta stretched the lead to four at 8:17 of the period, chasing starter Johan Hedberg.
Brodeur couldn’t stop the bleeding. Thomas Vanek made it 5-0 at 18:12. Vanek scored again in the third period, making it 6-0. Zach Parise broke the shutout, scoring at 11:25 of the period. Miller finished with 26 saves. The game was more known for the infamous benching of Kovalchuk.
The teams played another high scoring game on November 10, with Buffalo winning, 5-4, in a shootout. Jason Arnott opened the scoring, putting the Devils ahead, 1-0, at 10:12 of the first period. That lead wouldn’t last. Jason Pominville tied the game, 1-1, at 5:22 of the second period. Derek Roy wasted no time in giving Buffalo the lead, scoring 13 seconds later to give his team a 2-1 advantage. The Devils answered right back. David Clarkson tied the game, 2-2, at 7:58 of the middle period. Arnott struck again, giving the Devils a 3-2 lead at 12:01.
The see-saw battle would continue. Myers evened the score, 3-3, at 13:50 of the second period. Jamie Langenbrunner responded, putting the Devils ahead, 4-3, at 18:01 of the second period. New Jersey once again failed to hold their lead. Ennis tied the game at four at 8:54 of the third period. Both teams moved to the shootout, where Vanek and Langenbrunner both scored. Roy put his team ahead, and set up one of the worst moments for Kovalchuk this season:
Jhonas Enroth stopped 28 shots for the win. Hedberg stopped 38 in the loss.
It seemed like the New Jersey Devils finally woke up tonight. While the defensive play wasn’t great, the team created scoring chances and actually converted them. They scored four goals with a goalie in the net! But home effort would be for nothing. Ilya Kovalchuk‘s failed shootout attempt (more below) would epitomize the Devils season as the team dropped their second game in a row, losing to the Buffalo Sabres, 5-4, in a shootout tonight. The loss extended their home losing streak to seven games.
Who is this #17, and what have you done with the real Kovalchuk?
The Devils spent $100 million dollars and suffered through public humiliation just to re-sign Kovalchuk, who they believed could be a difference maker. But when push came to shove tonight, the left winger once again fell flat on his face.
Kovalchuk’s heard boos during the third period of tonight’s game, when he had the chance to be the hero. The left-winger broke in on a partial breakaway against Sabres third-string goalie Jhonas Enroth, but sent a shot high over the net. But coach John MacLean would give him a chance to redeem himself. With the Devils down, 2-1, in the shootout and facing a loss, MacLean called on Kovalchuk to keep the Devils in the game. With the game on the line, Kovalchuk lost the puck and didn’t even get a shot off on net.
Just like that, Kovalchuk drew the ire of every Devils fan. Through sixteen games, Kovalchuk has three goals and eight points total. When asked if he was frustrated, Kovalchuk replied “I think we all are.”
Kovalchuk needs to find himself – and fast – to start helping this team win.
Derek Roy delivers a win
Roy skated to center ice for his shootout attempt in the fourth period after Jamie Langenbrunner put one past Enroth to knot it up. Calm and collected, Roy collected the puck and broke in on Hedberg. The forward made a beautiful move to bring the puck to his backhand. He fired it past the glove of Johan Hedberg for the game-winning goal in the shootout.
The Sabres Never Say Die
The Sabres were behind the eight ball three times tonight, and each time they came back to tie the game. The best comeback of the night came in the second period, where the Sabres would take a 2-1 lead in 13 seconds.
Jason Pominville tied the game at one with a goal at 5:22 of the second period. Tim Connolly took a shot from the point that Hedberg stopped, but a rebound went to the slot. Pominville collected the rebound and beat the Devils’ goalie for his first goal of the season.
Roy gave the Sabres a 2-1 lead merely 13 seconds later. Roy received a pass from Thomas Vanek and skated the puck over the blue line. He blasted a slap shot from the low slot that beat Hedberg for Roy’s eighth goal of the season.
The Captain backs up his talk
Langenbrunner has been a subject of fan ire for most of the season. Several fans commented the captain could only talk about improvements and attitude, not display it on the ice. But tonight, Langenbrunner proved those doubters wrong. The Devils captain scored a goal in the second period, was taken out hard into the boards but came back to play, and kept the Devils alive in the shootout.
Not only that, but Langenbrunner showed his leadership after Kovalchuk flubbed his shootout attempt. He skated to Kovalchuk first and made sure he knew the team had his back. That may seem insignificant, but support like that in the locker room is huge. I thought it was a big step for Langenbrunner, and he should quiet the critics.
Continue reading the preview after the jump!
Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek scored shootout goals to lead the Sabres over the Devils, 5-4, tonight at the Prudential Center.
Tyler Ennis’ goal at 8:54 of the third period tied the game, 4-4
Tyler Meyers went behind the net to gain a loose puck. He came to the side of net, and Henrik Tallinder came to cover the defenseman. He slid a pass through the crease to Ennis, who had an open net to shoot into for his third goal of the season.
That’s the third lead the Devils coughed up tonight.
Colin White made a great play while shorthanded to deny Jason Pominville of a decent scoring opportunity. With Jason Arnott in the box for hooking, Pominville received a long pass from his own zone. He found a way to spin around White, but the Devils defenseman spun around and knocked the puck off his stick.
There were six goals scored in the second period, including three by the Devils. They can’t seem to score three in a game sometimes.
Jamie Langenbrunner put the Devils back on top, 4-3, at 18:01 of the period.
Henrik Tallinder fed Langenbrunner the puck from the point, and the Devils’ captain took it behind the net. Langenbrunner then spun around in the left circle and put a shot toward the net. The puck caromed in off the skate of Sabres’ defenseman Chris Butler for his third goal of the season.
Meyer’s goal at 13:50 of the second period tied the game, 3-3.
Ex-Devil Rob Niedermayer held the puck along the goal line, and the entire defense came to the puck. The center threaded a pass to Meyers, who pinched down into the left circle. The Sabres’ defenseman had all the time in the world to pick his spot, and beat Johan Hedberg high to the blocker side for his fourth goal of the season.
Jason Arnott’s powerplay goal at 12:01 of the second period put the Devils ahead, 3-2.
With Ennis in the box for hooking, the Devils moved the puck around the point. Andy Greene fed Arnott a puck at the left point, and the center blasted a shot on net. The puck found its way through a screen and past Jhonas Enroth for Arnott’s second goal of the game.
It’s the first multi-goal game for a Devil this season.
David Clarkson’s goal at 7:58 of the second period tied the game, 2-2.
Alexander Vasyunov started the play, carrying the puck down along the side boards and around the back of the net. The rookie shot the puck towards the net, where Clarkson was crashing. The right-winger kept his stick on the ice and deflected the puck past Enroth and into the top of the net for his second goal of the season.
The Sabres scored two goals in 13 seconds to take a 2-1 lead over the Devils.
Roy gave the Sabres a 2-1 lead at 5:35 of the second period. Roy received a pass from Vanek and skated the puck over the blue line. He blasted a slap shot from the low slot that beat Johan Hedberg for Roy’s eighth goal of the season.
Thirteen seconds earlier, Pominville tied the game at 1-1. Tim Connolly took a shot from the point that Hedberg stopped, but a rebound went to the slot. Pominville collected the rebound and beat the Devils’ goalie for his first goal of the season.
Hedberg kept this game scoreless here early in the second period. The Devils made a blind pad save on a shot, and stopped two Buffalo stuff attempts from the side of the crease to keep the Devils ahead.
Arnott’s even-strength goal at 10:12 of the first period gave the Devils a 1-0 lead.
Rookie Mattias Tedenby began the play after creating a turnover in his own zone. He feathered the puck up to Arnott in the neutral zone, who passed the puck to Patrik Elias along the boards. Elias skated the puck down the side boards and blasted a slap shot on net. Enroth made the initial save, but couldn’t stop Arnott as he crashed the net. The center whacked the puck home for his fifth goal of the season.
The assist for Tedenby is his first career NHL point.
The Devils almost pushed the lead to 2-0 at 7:23 of the second period. Dainius Zubrus tripped a man in the Devils zone, but the Sabres kept control of the puck. Enroth made his way to the bench for the extra skater, giving Buffalo an extra skater. An errant pass by the Sabres went through the Devils defensive zone and back down toward their own net. Clarkson, who could not touch the puck, shielded Sabres defenseman Shaone Morrisonn as the puck slowly slid toward the net. But it wouldn’t go in, as the puck trickled wide.
Hedberg came up with a big save to keep the game scoreless. Ennis drove to the front of the net, and looked to have the right side of the net open. Hedberg flashed the pad and made a skate save to deny Ennis and keep the game scoreless.
Ilya Kovalchuk had the first good scoring chance of the night. The left-winger skated through three Sabres defenders, and came alone to the front of the net. Kovalchuk sent the shot wide, however, so it was yet another missed scoring chance for the Devils.
Here were the starting lineups for tonight’s game:
Tim Connolly – Jochen Hecht – Jason Pominville; Jordan Leopold – Steve Montador; Jhonas Enroth
Patrik Elias – Jason Arnott – Mattias Tedenby; Andy Greene – Anton Volchenkov; Johan Hedberg
The Devils continue to look for their first win on home ice tonight against the Buffalo Sabres. This is the third meeting between the two teams this season. They’ve split the season series, 1-1-0. The Sabres won the most recent meeting, 6-1, on October 23.
Both starting goalies are out with injuries tonight, leaving the backups to win the game. Johan Hedberg will get the start for the Devils, his third consecutive game. Jhonas Enroth will start for the Sabres.
Devils rookie right-winger Mattias Tedenby makes his season debut tonight. He’s the eighth Devils rookie to make his season debut this season.
Throughout the offseason, The Devils’ Den will take an in-depth look at the Devils’ 2010-2011 schedule. The Devils, who finished first in the Atlantic Division and second in the Eastern Conference, will look to extend their consecutive playoff streak to 14 straight seasons. Today, I take a look at the team’s matchup with the Buffalo Sabres.
Sabres vs. Devils – Historical Data
The Devils are 46-63-17-2 in 128 regular-season meetings. The Devils average 2.92 goals per game against Buffalo, but they allow Buffalo an average of 3.40 goals against. The Devils faced the Sabres four times last season, going 2-1-1 in those matchups. In their first meeting of the season on October 28, 2009, the Sabres defeated the Devils, 4-1, in Buffalo. Clark MacArthur and Tim Kennedy scored first period goals to put the Sabres ahead, 2-0. Andy Greene cut the lead in half with a second period powerplay goal, but the Sabres would ice the victory with two goals in the final period.
The Devils shut out the Sabres, 3-0, on December 7, 2009. Brian Rolston and Travis Zajac scored first period goals, giving the Devils an early lead. Niclas Bergfors added a third goal on the powerplay in the second period. That would be all the offense Martin Brodeur needed, as the Devils’ goalie made 22 saves for the victory.
In the third meeting, Buffalo defeated the Devils, 2-1, in a shootout. Adam Mair scored the first goal of the game, giving the Sabres a one-goal lead heading into the second period. Rolston scored the equalizer, and the team’s played to a 1-1 draw after overtime. All three Devils shooters were unsuccessful in the shootout, but Jochen Hecht and Jason Pominville scored to give the Sabres the victory.
The fourth and final meeting between the two teams ended the regular season. In that game, the Devils defeated the Sabres, 2-1. After a scoreless first period, Thomas Vanek and Travis Zajac scored second period goals to tie the game at one. In the third period, after Buffalo pulled goalie Patrick Lalime, Devils’ captain Jamie Langenbrunner fired home an empty-net, powerplay goal to give the Devils the win. That victory clinched the number two seed in the Eastern Conference for the Devils last season.
Devils vs. Sabres – This Season’s Matchup
The Devils and the Sabres will once again face each other four times during the regular season. The schedule makers put three of their four matchups early in the season, as the teams will have 75 percent of their season series finished before December.
The Sabres didn’t make several big splashes in free agency this summer. After losing Henrik Tallinder to the Devils, the team signed Jordan Leopold to a three-year contract and Shaone Morrisonn to a two-year deal. They also formed former Devils’ center Rob Niedermayer to a one-year contract. Despite the lack of a big-name signing, the team still possesses one of the best goalies in the game, Ryan Miller. The Sabres are always a tough matchup, and I would expect them to continue to be a tough opponent next season.
Other Important Stats
Both Rolston (two goals, one assist) and Langenbrunner (one goal, two assists) led the team in scoring against Buffalo last season…the Sabres had four players lead in scoring against the Devils – Pominville, Kennedy, Steve Montador and Derek Roy.
The Matchup: The Buffalo Sabres (45-26-10) face off against the New Jersey Devils (47-27-7). This is the fourth and final meeting between the two teams. The Sabres lead the series, 2-1-0.
The Last Sabres Game: The Sabres defeated the Ottawa Senators, 5-2, last night. After sitting out the past six games, Thomas Vanek returned to the lineup and scored four goals to pace the Sabres. Goalie Ryan Miller finished with 28 saves for his 41st win of the season.
The Last Devils Game: The Devils defeated the Islanders, 7-1, last night. Patrik Elias tallied two goals, and five other Devils scored in the rout. Martin Brodeur stopped 18 shots for his league-leading 44th victory.
The Last Sabres – Devils Game: The Sabres defeated the Devils, 2-1, in a shootout on January 27. Jochen Hecht and Jason Pominville scored in the shootout, and Miller blanked Zach Parise and Jamie Langenbrunner.
Tonight’s Matchup: It all comes down to the final game of the season for these two teams. The Devils only need a point from tonight’s matchup to clinch the second seed in the Eastern Conference. To do it, they’ll have to face a tough Sabres team. And why not have an exciting game to end the season.
The Devils aren’t taking their collective foot off the pedal. Brodeur will get the start in net, even though The Sabres will turn to Patrick Lalime for tonight’s contest. Lemaire believes there’s no reason to rest Brodeur, because the Devils won’t have their playoff opener until Wednesday at the earliest. Brodeur should get the start. Not only has he played well lately, he’s also 5-1-2 in his last eight games, and he’s allowed six goals in his past six games. He’s found his stride, and there’s no reason for Brodeur to sit for four or five days.
The Devils have played well the past few games, and they have to do more of the same in tonight’s contest. Keep firing pucks on net and pressuring the Sabres. While the Sabres have Vanek back, they’re also missing a few players and will be weaker in goal. If the Devils can bring the same intensity and passion we saw last night, they should be able to jump ahead and get to the Sabres early.
Just a few final notes: If the Devils give up five goals or less, they will win the Jennings Tropy (fewest goals against). If they give up six goals, they’ll share the trophy with the Boston Bruins. Travis Zajac will also be the only Devil to play in all 82 games, extending his consecutive games streak to 319. Paul Martin will play in his 400th N.H.L. game.
Gametime is 5 p.m., and you can catch all the action on MSG Plus and WFAN.