Game Three A.H. brings a familiar foe to town tonight, namely the defending New York State Champs. Call it a hunch, but I'm guessing there won't be as many Sabres fans in attendance at tonight's game at the Verizon Center as there were back on April 7. Granted, it's a Monday night this time around (as opposed to a Saturday afternoon), but a .500 Buffalo team just doesn't bring 'em out of the woodwork the way a 30-games-over-.500 Sabres team does.
Anyway, the Sabres have been rolling of late, winning four straight (three of which were victories over Montreal) and outscoring their opponents 15-5 in those games to get back to .500 (10-10-1). Their power play has gone 4-for-12 and their penalty kill has been 12-for-14 over that stretch, which has certainly helped in piling up the wins. And, like the good Sabres teams of recent years, balanced scoring is the name of the game - despite being in the top third of the League in goals per game, they don't have a single player in the League's Top 70 scorers (Derek Roy's 17 points leads a team that has nine double-digit point-getters - contrast that with the Caps' four).
The Sabres have had trouble winning away from home - their three road wins is tied for the second-fewest in the League - but they'll face a Caps team whose three home wins are tied for the fewest in the League. Then again, the Caps are undefeated at home under Bruce Boudreau. Let's see if they can't keep the streak - and hope - alive.
Why The Sabres Will Win:
"Because Thomas Vanek has started taking over games and controlling play, even when he's not on the scoresheet. Because the penalty kill just held the top PP in the league to 1/9 over the course of two nights. And because the young guys are finally starting play like they really believe they don't need Drury and Briere instead of just saying it." - Top ShelfElsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
"The Sabres will win the battle of the basement-dwellers for one reason: the turnaround has begun. Four games really is a winning streak. Lindy, and the Sabres will beat the Caps on the back of Thomas Vanek to move above .500." - In The Crease
"The Caps are on a coach-killing high...which might be cause for alarm if the Sabres weren't on an even more potent rediscovering-their-moxie-after-recovering-from-a-bad-break-up high. The Caps' journey toward self-discovery is just beginning, but the Sabres are back in the game for reals." - The Willful Caboose
Michael Nylander isn't worth what the Caps are paying him. At least that's what a guy at ESPN.com says, so you know it's true.... Boudreau's just like John Tortorella with less hair.... Since was already throwing a Larry Brooks piece (of garbage) at you yesterday, I decided it would be too much to also make you read something from Bruce Garrioch, so I saved it for today. Apparently GMGM is the next in line to be fired (not that I wholly doubt the veracity of what Garrioch says on this point), and Olie Kolzig will soon be an Oiler. I'm sure.... Ten years ago tonight the Caps sent Rod Langway's number five to the rafters prior to the final game to be played at the Capital Centre in Landover. In that game, Peter Bondra became the second player to score 250 goals with the team (Mike Gartner, of course, was the first).... Finally, I think I stumbled upon a new marketing opportunity for Coach Boudreau(x) and, perhaps, Jeff Schultz.
Hart: Ryan Getzlaf (2G, +2, 4 SOG, 2 hits, 83% faceoffs won)
Ross: Jamal Mayers, Todd Bertuzzi, Ryan Getzlaf, Francois Beauchemin (2 points each)
Norris: Francois Beauchemin (2A, +1, 3 hits, 2 SOG, 2 blocked shots)
Vezina: Roberto Luongo (27-save shutout win)
Richard: Jamal Mayers, Ryan Getzlaf (2G each)
Calder: Mike Smith (W, 39 saves on 41 shots against)
Aiken: Alex Tanguay (0 points, -2)