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.
The Matchup: The Buffalo Sabres (4-9-2) face off against the New Jersey Devils (4-10-1) at the Prudential Center. This is the third of four meetings between the two teams this season. The teams have split the season series so far, 1-1-0.
The Last Sabres Game: Buffalo defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs, 3-2, in a shootout Saturday. Trailing, 2-0, in the second period, Buffalo began their comeback. Derek Roy scored his seventh goal of the season at 18:56 of the period to cut the deficit in half. Jochen Hecht scored his first goal of the year with 14 seconds left in regulation to tie the game, 2-2. After a scoreless overtime, the teams moved to a shootout. Thomas Vanek scored in the second round, but John Mitchell answered right away in the third. Tyler Ennis would play hero, scoring the game-winning shootout goal in the fifth round. Jhonas Enroth finished with 23 saves for his first win of the season.
The Last Devils Game: The Devils were blanked by the Rangers, 3-0, Friday night at the Prudential Center. Brandon Dubinsky began the scoring, giving the Rangers a lead, 1-0, at 7:35 of the first period. Brian Boyle extended the lead, putting the Rangers ahead by two with a powerplay goal at 19:24 of the second period. Dubinsky would strike again, netting his second goal of the game with a shorthanded tally at 3:41 of the period. That put the Rangers ahead, 3-0, and ended any hope of a Devils win. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 33 shots for the shutout.
The Last Sabres – Devils Game: The Sabres blew out the Devils, 6-1, at the Prudential Center on October 23. Drew Stafford and Tyler Meyers staked the Sabres to a lead, 2-0, after the first period. The Sabres blew it open in the second period, scoring three goals and chasing starter Johan Hedberg from the game at the 8:17 mark of the period. Vanek recorded two goals in the win.
A Battle of Backups: When the Sabres and Devils square off, it’s usually a battle of the great goaltenders. That’s the matchup we watched in the first meeting, when Martin Brodeur out-dueled Ryan Miller. With both goalies ailing, the teams will rely on their backups to bring them a win.
Tonight’s Matchup: The Devils did what we asked from them in their last game. They thoroughly outplayed the Rangers, but a few mistakes and bad bounces cost them the game. They need to replicate that same effort tonight. It should be a welcome sight that Ryan Miller won’t be between the pipes Buffalo, giving the shooters more confidence, something this team desperately needs.
One of the Devils beat writers spoke at length about the power of positive thinking, especially within the Devils locker room. The team needs to keep a positive attitude throughout this entire ordeal. We’ve all been stuck in a rut or, in my case, played on terrible sports teams. It’s difficult to not let frustration creep in and dictate the style of play, etc. If the Devils continue to create opportunities, it should pay off. But, then again, how many times have we said that this season…
I would like to see another strong start by the team today. Put shots on net, generate turnovers, and keep the pressure on Buffalo. This is a team just as fragile as the Devils right now. If the Devils can get to them early, they may cause Buffalo to let frustration set in first. That could lead to more chances, and, God willing, more goals.
Gametime is 7 p.m., and you can catch all the action on MSG Plus. Also, join us for a live game blog tonight, beginning at 6:45 p.m.! Here’s tonight’s potential line combinations:
FORWARDS: Ilya Kovalchuk – Travis Zajac – Jamie Langenbrunner; Patrik Elias – Jason Arnott – Mattias Tedenby; Dainius Zubrus – Rod Pelley – David Clarkson; Alexander Vasuynov – Adam Mair – Stephen Gionta
DEFENSEMAN: Henrik Tallinder – Andy Greene; Alexander Urbom – Olivier Magnan; Matt Taormina – Anton Volchenkov
GOALIES: Johan Hedberg, Martin Brodeur
The Matchup – The Colorado Avalanche (2-1-0) face off against the New Jersey Devils (1-2-1) in the first and only meeting of the season.
The Last Avalanche Game – The Avs defeated the Detroit Red Wings, 5-4, in a shootout Wednesday night. Down 3-2 after the second period, the Avs tied the game on a goal by Daniel Winnik at 4:43 of the third period. Patrick Eaves put the Red Wings back ahead, scoring a shorthanded goal at 7:52 of the period. But Colorado would answer back, with David Jones tying the game at four apiece at 11:24 of the third. The teams went to the shootout, and both Peter Budaj and Jimmy Howard kept the puck out of the net. But in the sixth round, Brandon Yip beat Howard, scoring the game-winner in the shootout.
The Last Devils Game – The Devils defeated the Buffalo Sabres, 1-0, in overtime on Wednesday in Buffalo. Both Ryan Miller and Martin Brodeur kept the game scoreless through regulation, with both making big saves. In the overtime period, Jamie Langenbrunner skated the puck to center ice, and fed a pass to rookie defenseman Matt Taormina. The rookie brought the puck deep into the zone, and momentarily lost it. He regained the puck and fed a pass to Ilya Kovalchuk, who went down to one knee and blasted a shot over Milller’s blocker for the game-winning goal
The Last Avs – Devils Game – Last season, the team’s only faced each other once, on January 16. The Avalanche struck early, with Chris Stewart giving Colorado a 1-0 lead 3:17 into the first period. T.J. Galiardi scored a late period goal to extend the lead to two. The score remained 2-0 until the third period, when Rob Niedermayer cut the lead in half. But the Avalanche would add a late insurance goal to win the game, 3-1.
The Devils wouldn’t leave the game completely healthy. Early in the second period, Patrik Elias took a vicious hit from Ryan Wilson. Skating down the right side, Wilson met Elias with a shoulder to the chest. The Devils’ left-winger laid on the ice for several minutes, but waved to the crowd as he was taken off the ice.
For a full preview of the historic matchup between the teams, click here.
Finally Full – The Devils will finally have a full roster to play tonight. After the team moved injured Brian Rolston to the LTIR, the Devils recalled Jacob Josefson, Tim Sestito and Matt Corrente from Albany of the AHL. All three are expected to play tonight, with Josefson making his NHL debut.
Tonight’s Matchup – Wednesday’s game was the best of the young season for the Devils. They played a complete game, were aggressive on the forecheck, and made the smart plays. They only scored one goal, but that’s what sometimes happens when a great goalie is in the net.
So, what does the team need to do tonight? Repeat that performance from Wednesday. The Devils need to pressure the Avs and their young forwards and defenseman and force them into mistakes. They need to be strong on the puck and make the right decision. Most importantly, the Devils need to skate hard for 60 minutes. As I said above, the team finally has a full four lines to play. That means every player should be busting it out there because they have the extra legs.
The Devils also need to pressure Craig Anderson. He’s a good goalie, but he’s no Ryan Miller, and he’s given up at least three goals in all of his starts this season. If the Devils can cause pressure early and often, they may be able to jump out to an early lead.
Game time is 7 p.m., and you can catch all the action on MSG Plus.
Here’s tonight’s projected lines from the morning skate:
Forwards: Zach Parise – Travis Zajac – Ilya Kovalchuk; Patrik Elias – Jason Arnott – Jamie Langenbrunner; Dainius Zubrus – Jacob Josefson – David Clarkson; Rod Pelley – Tim Sestito – Adam Mair
Defenseman: Henrik Tallinder – Andy Greene; Colin White – Matt Taormina; Alexander Urbom – Matt Corrente
Goalies: Martin Brodeur, Johan Hedberg
The Devils, dare I say this, needed a win tonight in Buffalo. With the injuries piling up and another game with a shorthanded team, the Devils came to Buffalo with several question marks. The teams remained scoreless, trading chances throughout regulation. When overtime started, the Devils got the better opportunity, and they finally converted, as Ilya Kovalchuk‘s first goal of the season gave the Devils a 1-0 overtime win over the Buffalo Sabres.
1. Kovalchuk’s First Goal Wins The Devils’ First Game
The Devils had several chances throughout the game, but Ryan Miller and some ill-timed misses kept the game scoreless. Heading into overtime, it seemed like the Devils were on the doorstop, but couldn’t knock down the door. That would all change on one shot.
The Devils, as they had for two of the three periods in tonight’s game, dominated the flow of overtime. The team already had three shots on net as Jamie Langenbrunner handled the puck at center ice. Instead of passing to Kovalchuk, Langenbrunner sent the puck to a streaking Matt Taormina, who carried the puck to the left circle. Taormina momentarily lost control of the puck, but quickly gained it back. The rookie defenseman sent a pass to Kovalchuk in the circle, who dropped to one knee and rifled a shot on net. The puck hit the crossbar but found it’s way into the net for the game-winning goal, his first of the season.
2. Martin Brodeur and Miller Duel It Out
Whenever Brodeur and Miller play on the same ice, the ability to score goals decreases dramatically. Nowhere was that more evident than at the HSBC Center tonight. Both goalies made incredible stops to keep the game scoreless until overtime. Miller made several key saves, including stoning Langenbrunner on the crease with 5:10 left in the third period. But Brodeur equaled the effort, making a game-saving stop on Derek Roy in the second period. It only seems fitting that Brodeur would shut out the Sabres for the Devils first win of the season.
Brodeur now has 111 career shutouts, 23 of which have ended in 1-0 scores. It’s also his fourth career 1-0 overtime shutout win.
3. John MacLean Wins His First Game
Coach MacLean earned his first victory as an NHL head coach tonight, which always deserves congratulations. But it was the fire he lit during the pre-game skate that laid the foundation for the Devils solid game tonight. During the morning practice, MacLean got tired of watching the Devils go through practice with a listless attitude. After a missed pass occurred in a drill, MacLean stopped practice and let go a profanity-raced tirade at the team. After practice, he continued to prod the team through the media, believing the team didn’t have “an air of professionalism that we have to be ready to play the game.”
The team came out and played their most complete game of the night, and I believe it was that tongue-lashing that made the Devils play their best.
MacLean said his first win was a relief.
“I’m excited that we got it,” MacLean said to Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record. “It’s always good to get the first one out of the way. I’m more excited about how hard they played tonight.”
Continue reading for the rest of the recap!
Ilya Kovalchuk’s first goal of the season gave the Devils a 1-0 win over the Buffalo Sabres tonight at the HSBC Center.
Rookie defenseman Matt Taormina began the play, causing a turnover in the Sabres zone. He passed the puck to Kovalchuk, who went to one knee and blasted a slapshot from the left circle. The puck hit off the crossbar and found the back of the net for the game-winning goal.
The Devils outshot the Sabres, 10-6, in the third period. They lead in shots, 32-22.
Miller answered with another nice save at 5:10 of the period. Langenbrunner received the puck on the doorstep, but Miller stacked the pads and made the save.
Brodeur made two nice saves to keep the game scoreless at 13:38 of the third period. Thomas Vanek took a sharp-angle shot that Brodeur saved. He left a rebound that was whacked at the net, and Brodeur turned that attempt away.
So far tonight, Brodeur has made 20 saves.
The Devils lead the third period in shots, 6-2. They’ve put 32 shots on Miller tonight.
The Devils have created some great chances in this period. Adam Mair almost burned his former team, but sent a one-timer wide of Miller at 2:52 of the period.
The Sabres almost scored a fluke goal only 53 seconds into the period. Dainius Zubrus came off the ice on a bad line change, giving Buffalo a 3-on-2 opportunity. Roy sent the puck towards the net, and Brodeur had to dive to his right as the puck bounced wide of the net.
Buffalo outshot the Devils, 15-11, in the second period. Devils still lead in shots, 26-16.
Interesting stat: The Devils and Sabres combined for three goals or less in three of the four meetings last season.
The Devils are 0-for-3 on the powerplay tonight. They’ve created some great chances, but in a scoreless game, those missed opportunities get frustrating.
Buffalo is outshooting the Devils, 9-5, at 10:28 in the second period.
Martin Brodeur just made a great save at 16:09 of the second period to keep the game scoreless. Derek Roy was able to drive around Devils’ defenseman Andy Greene, and chipped a puck on net. Roy then collected the rebound and put another shot on Brodeur, but the Devils’ goalie stuck the right pad out and made the save.
The Sabres have come out with more jump in this period, and Brodeur has made some great saves to keep this a scoreless game.
The Devils did everything but score in the first period. They outshot the Sabres, 15-2, but Miller was there to make several big saves. As Ken Daneyko just said on the intermission report, that was the Devils best period of hockey this season. But it will be important to see if the Devils can carry this effort. The team has struggled to give a consistent effort for 60 minutes, and it’s one of the reasons why the Devils still lack a win.
Mark Fraser and Cody McCormick dropped the gloves at 12:18 of the first period. Both McCormick and Patrick Kaleta hit Fraser high earlier in the period, and Kaleta went off for a charging penalty. Both landed some good punches, but neither went down and the fight ended in a draw.
The Devils are 0-for-2 on the PP tonight, but it isn’t a lack of chances that’s kept them off the scoreboard. During the Devils last PP opportunity, the team created several chances in front, but Ryan Miller and the penalty killers stood tall and thwarted the Devils opportunities.
Andrej Sekera almost gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead at 12:54 of the first period. Sekera held the puck at the point and faked the shot, getting a Devil to go to the ice. He then ripped a shot on net through a screen, but it rang off the left post.
Early in the first period, the Devils lead the shot category, 6-0. John MacLean ripped into the team for being laissez-faire and not having an air of professionalism. It seems like the team has responded to that criticism.
Here were the starting lineups:
Dainius Zubrus – Adam Mair – David Clarkson; Henrik Tallinder – Andy Greene; Martin Brodeur
Jochen Hecht – Derek Roy – Drew Stafford; Jordan Leopold – Steve Montador; Ryan Miller
The Devils are looking for their first win of the season. The team will only have 16 skaters dressed for tonight because of injuries to Anton Volchenkov (neck, broken nose) and Brian Rolston (sports hernia). Rolston will undergo surgery Thursday to fix the hernia, and will be placed on injured reserve. The Devils will have a full compliment of skaters for Friday’s game against Colorado.
Miller recevied 23 first-place votes, three-second place votes and two third-place votes. Ilya Bryzgalov finished second with five first-place votes, 16 second-place votes and six third-place votes.
Brodeur finished in third place with one first-place vote, six second-place votes and nine third-place votes.
This was the first time Miller won the Vezina trophy. It’s the second year in a row an American goaltender picked up the trophy (Tim Thomas won last year).
It was pretty shocking that Brodeur finished third. Going into the night, I figured that Miller would win the award, especially because the voters would take into account his Olympic performance. The Olympics don’t matter to the vote, but playing that well will get noticed no matter the rules. I know Bryzgalov played well, but I believe Brodeur outplayed the Phoenix goalie last season. Maybe the whole “Devils defensive system” caught up to Brodeur this year. Either way, he somehow finished third.