Before the Capitals and Bruins squared off in Game 7 last night in Boston, I predicted that all three of the Game 7’s that were to be played this week would go into overtime. Well, that’s one down and two to go.
Regardless of the outcome, the least surprising thing about last night’s game was how long it took to be decided. When Joel Ward scored at 2:57 of overtime, it was the ninth time in 15 overtime games (60%) this spring that a game has ended in the first five minutes of sudden death. Taking it one step further, 11 of the 15 games (73.3%) have been decided in the first 10 minutes.
Ending a game in the first 10 minutes of overtime has been the trend over the past seven postseasons. Of the 122 overtime games played since the lockout, 74 have ended in the first 10 minutes – an overwhelming 61 percent of the games. It’s also not uncommon for a game to end in the first five minutes like it did last night. Ward’s goal marked the 47th time in 122 games (38%) since the 2006 playoffs that a team has scored the game winner in the opening five minutes of overtime.
This year’s playoff teams are also going to overtime at a record pace. With 15 of the first 46 (32.6%) requiring extra time, they are on pace to play 29 overtime games. That would break the Stanley Cup Playoff record set in 1993, when 28 of 85 games went into overtime.
Following is a chart that breaks down the number of overtime games that have been played over the past seven postseasons, specifically detailing exactly at what point in the game the winning goal was scored.
|YEAR||TOTAL OT GAMES||FIRST 5 MINS||FIRST 10 MINS||10-15 MIN MARK||LAST 5 MINS||DOUBLE OT||TRIPLE OT||QUAD OT|
Three Buffalo Sabres prospects remain in the hunt for their respective league championships in the Canadian Hockey League playoffs. The champions from the OHL, WHL and QMJHL will then advance to the 2012 Memorial Cup in Shawinigan, Quebec, from May 18-27. The four-team round-robin tournament will also include the host Shawinigan Cataractes.
Catch up with each of the three players below, along with links to follow their live game action.
Drafted: 2010, 1st round (20th overall)
Contract Status: Signed 3-year entry level contract (June 2, 2011)
Pysyk, Edmonton’s captain, has five points (2+3) in 10 games this postseason. Both of his goals have come on special teams – one SHG and one PPG. He carries a plus-3 ranking into tonight’s Game Three, along with eight penalty minutes. The 20-year-old Pysyk had 38 points (6+32) and 83 PIMs in 57 games this season, and also won a bronze medal with Team Canada at the World Junior Championship.
UP NEXT: Edmonton leads Moose Jaw 2-0 in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Championship series. Game Three will be played tonight in Moose Jaw at 9 p.m. ET (Click here to listen live)
Drafted: 2010, 3rd round (68th overall)
Contract Status: Signed 3-year entry level contract (December 30, 2011)
Gauthier-Leduc has averaged a point per game during the postseason, totaling 13 points (6+7) in 13 games for the Oceanic. The 19-year-old led all Canadian Hockey League defensemen in goals (28) this season, and his 74 points in 62 games were tied with Spokane’s Brenden Kichton for the most among all CHL defensemen.
UP NEXT: Rimouski leads Halifax 2-0 in their best-of-seven President Cup Semifinal series. Game Three will be played tonight in Rimouski at 7:30 p.m. ET (Click here to listen live in English or French)
Drafted: 2010, 4th round (98th overall)
Contract Status: Unsigned
Shipley, who turned 20 on Sunday, has played in all 13 playoff games for the IceDogs this spring as they’ve already rolled to series wins over Oshawa (4-0) and Brampton (4-2). He has posted seven points (5+2) in 13 games, with his five goals coming in three consecutive games against Oshawa. Shipley is coming off the second 20-goal season of his junior career, recording 22 goals and 49 points in 63 games played.
UP NEXT: Niagara leads Ottawa 2-1 in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Championship. Game Four will take place on Wednesday in Ottawa at 7 p.m. (Click here to listen live). Niagara will host Game Five at the Gatorade Garden City Complex in St. Catharines on Friday at 7 p.m. (Click here for ticket info)
On the heels of last night’s stirring 6-5 overtime win against Toronto, the Buffalo Sabres received some bad news today regarding defenseman Tyler Myers. Following practice at First Niagara Center, head coach Lindy Ruff confirmed that Myers will not be available for the team’s final two regular season games this week in Philadelphia and Boston.
“He won’t be on the trip. Tyler’s out. It’ll be a period of time,” said Ruff. “What time frame that is? It’s more than just this week.”
Ruff wouldn’t divulge any specific details of the injury, only saying that Myers has a “bad foot.” Myers has missed the past two games after taking a shot to the foot late in Friday’s loss to Pittsburgh.
The absence of both Myers and Christian Ehrhoff has created a noticeable void on the Buffalo blueline. The Sabres have allowed 14 goals in their past three games (including an empty netter vs. Pittsburgh), after surrendering just three in their previous four – victories over Washington, Minnesota, New York Rangers and Montreal. In last night’s game, Toronto jumped out to a 3-0 first period lead on just 13 shots on goal.
Not only have the Sabres missed the offensive skills of Myers and Ehrhoff, but other players have been forced into extra ice time in unfamiliar roles. Andrej Sekera misplayed a puck into a first period shorthanded goal for Toronto on Saturday, and was on the ice for all three of Toronto’s first period goals last night. After averaging around 18 minutes in his previous three games, Alexander Sulzer has averaged 23 minutes a night in the past two games. Jordan Leopold has led the Sabres in ice time over the last three games, eclipsing the 25 minute mark each night.
Ruff realizes the challenges that lie ahead for his blueliners, but also knows that tightening up defensively and limiting scoring chances will be the keys to sustaining their push for a playoff spot.
“We went through that game, we went through the first period, went through the chances, and emphasized the importance of staying inside some of the mistakes we made. Some of it was lack of communication. Some of it was the coverage. But we do have to tighten up, there’s no secret," Ruff explained. "That’s on myself and my staff to make sure that we tighten up those areas so it’s not a game where you give 16 or 17 (chances). We’ve got to get it back to the norm, which is somewhere around 10 or 11, in that area. And not give up the high quality.
"We worked hard on that this morning, went through that with the players. We understand that we know how to play, and we know how to play in our own end. It should be an easier fix. Some of it is adapting to the players we have in. Some of it is just system related."
The Buffalo Sabres will be missing their top two defensemen again tomorrow when the Toronto Maple Leafs come to town, in the back end of the home-and-home series that started with a 4-3 Toronto win on Saturday at the Air Canada Centre.
The news isn’t so good on Christian Ehrhoff, who was injured in Washington last Tuesday. Ruff did rule out Ehrhoff for the rest of the regular season, but said there’s a chance he could return for the playoffs if the Sabres were to qualify.
The absence of both players creates a huge void on the Buffalo blueline, and that was evident in Saturday’s loss to the Maple Leafs.
“If you take two of your top defensemen out of any team in the league, you’re a different team. You can go to almost any team and that’s the case,” said Ruff. “I thought we did some good things in the game, but we made some mistakes. We had some players in situations maybe they hadn’t been in, and it allowed Toronto to get the upper hand.”
LISTEN TO COMPLETE LINDY RUFF INTERVIEW
In other injury news, Matt Ellis has been cleared to play and could be ready to go on Tuesday if needed. Ellis has missed the last 10 games since injuring his knee in Ottawa on March 10. Nathan Gerbe continues his recovery from an upper body muscle strain. Ruff classified him as a “maybe” for Tuesday, saying that he could be at the point where he’s able to return to game action.
Buffalo’s red-hot 10-4-2 run through March enable the team to get back into playoff contention, and it also contributed to a pair of Sabres receiving monthly individual honors from the NHL. Ryan Miller was named as the NHL’s Third Star of the month, and Marcus Foligno was recognized as the league’s Rookie of the Month.
“It’s amazing what has happened this month, not just for myself, but the run the team has gone on,” said Foligno. “At the same time, it’s an honor to be Rookie of the Month. There are some great players in this league. For me to come in like I did and have success with Ennis and Stafford has been huge. I have to give those guys a lot of credit for my success.”
LISTEN TO COMPLETE MARCUS FOLIGNO INTERVIEW
Miller compiled a 10-3-2 record with a 2.17 goals-against average, .930 save percentage and two shutouts while starting 15 of Buffalo’s 16 March games. He won five straight starts from March 19-27, and went 10 consecutive games without suffering a regulation defeat (March 7-27, 8-0-2). Miller has started 11 straight games; 21 of the last 22 games; and 31 of Buffalo's last 33.
Despite joining Ilya Bryzgalov and Evgeni Malkin as the league’s monthly award winners, Miller’s focus continues to be on one thing: winning the next game. That’s something they didn’t do in either game over the weekend.
LISTEN TO COMPLETE RYAN MILLER INTERVIEW
Buffalo’s two weekend losses, combined with Washington’s shootout win over Montreal on Saturday, leaves them two points back of the Capitals for eighth place in the Eastern Conference – with each team having three games left to play. However, Buffalo can’t finish the season in a tie with Washington because the Capitals own the tiebreaker. A win by Washington tonight in Tampa would almost force the Sabres to run the table with three straight wins to end the season in order to keep themselves in the postseason conversation.
“We just need to win and take care of our business,” Miller said today. “The focus becomes Tuesday. We had a tough weekend. We didn’t do what we needed to do. We didn’t play the way we probably needed to play. We’ve gotta do the job now and see how it falls.”
“To say it’s a big game is an understatement,” said Robyn Regehr. “It’s the biggest game we’ve faced all year.”
The Sabres head into the Verizon Center tied with the Capitals in points at 84, but occupy ninth place by virtue of the tiebreaker. The calendar may say March, but this is definitely going to have a playoff-like atmosphere.
“To be honest, every game since I’ve been up here has felt like a playoff game,” said rookie Corey Tropp.
Even the veterans like Thomas Vanek know what Tropp is talking about.
“Every game has had a playoff feel to it,” said Vanek. “It’s been like that since January.”
Head coach Lindy Ruff says there’s not much that he needs to say to his team at this point, because they know exactly what’s at stake.
“It’s an opportunity that we’ve worked hard for,” explained Ruff. “You get to play the team that’s right there in the standings with you. It’s big points for both teams.
Ruff said that Patrick Kaleta and Nathan Gerbe have been cleared to play, and would be available to the team on Tuesday. Gerbe has missed the last six games with an upper body muscle strain, while Kaleta has been out for the past three games with a hand injury.
For the second time in the past three weeks, Ryan Miller was recognized by the NHL as one of the “Stars of the Week.” Miller was named the league’s second star for the past week, joining Evegni Malkin (first) and Alex Ovechkin (third) in receiving the weekly honors.
Miller led the NHL with four wins last week, posting a 1.26 goals-against average and .956 save percentage during Buffalo’s four-game winning streak. He made 24 stops in a 7-3 victory at the Tampa Bay Lightning March 19, recorded his career-high sixth shutout of the season in a 3-0 win against the Montreal Canadiens March 21, stopped 26 shots in a 4-1 triumph at the New York Rangers March 23 and closed the week with 24 saves in a 3-1 victory against the Minnesota Wild March 24. The 2009-10 Vezina Trophy winner is 29-18-7 with a 2.48 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in 56 appearances.
The win allowed the Sabres to pull even with Washington at 80 points for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, but the Capitals hold the first tiebreaker over Buffalo. The Capitals have 35 combined regulation and overtime wins (ROW) this season to Buffalo’s 28.
(Long story short: if the two teams remain tied after the final day of the season, all the Capitals will need is two more regulation or overtime wins in their final nine games to clinch the tiebreaker.)
Simply getting within shooting distance of eighth place is only the first step in a long climb back to respectability for a Sabres team that sat in 14th place as recently as February 16, after being manhandled 7-2 by the Philadelphia Flyers that night.
“We haven’t done anything yet, and that’s the point we’re trying to make,” said head coach Lindy Ruff. “We’ve worked hard to get to this spot, but we don’t have anything. We know how tough the schedule is ahead of us. We can’t take a game for granted.
“There’s teams around you. Winnipeg is right there with Washington, and Carolina has actually moved up a little bit. We haven’t achieved anything; we know that as a team. We know that we’re gonna have to win some games that some people may expect to be too tough of a task for us.
While many point to the return to form of goaltender Ryan Miller as the catalyst for the team’s turnaround, veteran defenseman Robyn Regehr says the entire team’s play has become solidified in all facets.
“We’ve done a better job offensively in capitalizing. And I think we’ve done a better job defensively too – from the goaltenders on out to the defensemen and forwards. So there’s lots of things. All those little things that we keep talking about, those help the team win games.
“With a team in team sports, there’s a lot of moving parts to winning a game. It’s going out and playing the game plan and executing. It’s making sure you have the guys in the lineup to do that. It’s putting in the work and preparation. It all adds up to good positive stuff and wins.”
Ruff said that Nathan Gerbe is finally making some progress in his recovery from an upper body muscle strain that has kept him out of the lineup for the past four games. He will remain in Buffalo and skate on his own while the team travels to New York for Friday’s 7 p.m. game against the Rangers.
Myers was suspended three games for hitting Canadiens forward Scott Gomez into the boards from behind during the team’s last match-up on March 12. Myers was called for boarding on the play and Gomez has not played since. The suspension was the first of Myers' career.
If there is any retaliation coming from the Canadiens tomorrow, Myers told the media after this afternoon's team meeting that he’s not thinking about it.
“I’m going to approach tomorrow night like any other game. It’s in the past. I didn’t mean to hurt him,” Myers said. “That’s not my intention to go in looking to kill a guy, so whatever happens happens. I’m just going to go into that game and focus on getting two points.”
With Myers back, the Sabres have seven healthy defensemen ready to go. Christian Ehrhoff, Jordan Leopold, Robyn Regehr, Andrej Sekera, Alexander Sulzer and Mike Weber round out the back end and one will have to sit. Ruff said that he’d like to keep all seven playing so it’s likely that sixth spot will be rotated on a nightly basis.
“It’s a great situation for us to be in. We would’ve begged to have been this healthy three months ago,” said head coach Lindy Ruff. “For me, it’s tough, but the way the seven guys have played, we’re going to need them all.”
Goaltender Ryan Miller was impressed by the defense’s play during Myers’ absence but he said that he’s excited to have the 6-foot-8 d-man back on the ice.
“I thought our D corps played really well but we do miss his skating ability, his range,” Miller said. “…Everybody looked like they were playing pretty well with their partner so it’s good to see that we’ve got guys able to step in and play. Tyler’s a key part of this team and we need him to be on the top of his game.”
|Lindy Ruff Interview|
|Drew Stafford Interview|
|Ryan Miller Interview|
|Tyler Myers Interview|
With three more games this week, the Sabres know it’s going to continue to be a tough battle to get into the playoffs.
“Obviously we need a little bit of help but we’re not worried about that,” said forward Drew Stafford. “We’re worried about taking care of our own business here. We’re worried about winning our games and then whatever happens is out of our hands.”
The Sabres have nine games to go this season and two more sets of back-to-backs, including this weekend when they travel to play the Rangers on Friday and then come back to Buffalo to host the Minnesota Wild on Saturday. The next three games lead up to what could be a showdown with major playoff implications against Washington on March 27.
“For us, it’s just knowing that we have to take care of two points at a time,” Miller said. “We really just have to keep pace until we can play a team like Washington and hopefully get a swing.”
Jochen Hecht, Patrick Kaleta, Derek Roy and Myers were among the few players who took the ice.
Ruff updated the media on the conditions of Hecht and Nathan Gerbe and Matt Ellis. Ellis has been out since March 11 with a knee injury. Ruff said that while he’s doing a lot better, he still isn’t close to returning to the lineup.
The team had hoped Gerbe would be able to play during the Florida trip. He’s missed the last three games with an upper-body injury.
“He’s just not responding to treatment,” Ruff said. “He’s skated on his own but just can’t quite get over the hump.”
Hecht is still skating in a non-contact role.
He practiced for the first time this morning after missing the Buffalo Sabres’ last five games. Sekera could be back in the lineup for tomorrow night’s game against the Florida Panthers.
“I really didn’t know what it was, but then I figured it out,” the Sabres 25-year-old defenseman from Slovakia said. “I translated it in my cell phone in the Slovakian language and I understood what it is exactly.”
Sekera has been out since the team’s game against Carolina on March 7. He tried going out for warm-ups that night, but ended up being a late scratch.
“Before the game I didn’t feel very well. I felt good all day and then I started going out for warm-up, I started feeling sick. It came out of nowhere. My stomach hurt,” he told the media after practice. “It just hit me. Fever, headaches, I thought it was just a bug.”
Sekera was battling a high fever and after having trouble breathing when walking the stairs in his house, he visited with his doctors. After some x-rays of his chest, they discovered he had pneumonia.
He said that he had been previously hospitalized with pneumonia for about a week when he was a teenager living in Slovakia. As he started feeling better this time around, he began to exercise again and worked to regain the nearly 10 pounds he lost.
|Lindy Ruff Interview|
|Jason Pominville Interview|
|Andrej Sekera Interview|
|Derek Roy Interview|
Sekera is anxious to get back onto the ice and believes that he can play tomorrow, even if it’s not for the 19:20 he’s been averaging this season.
“I will do my best and see how I do from period to period,” Sekera said. “I don’t promise anything. I just want to out, skate well and play a hard game to help this team win some hockey games.”
Head coach Lindy Ruff wouldn’t rule Sekera out.
“He did a lot better. He got through his first full practice so hopefully he could be a possibility for tomorrow,” Ruff said.
Coupled with Tyler Myers missing last game and the next two due to a suspension, Sekera’s illness has opened the door for defensemen Alexander Sulzer and Brayden McNabb to play bigger minutes for the club. When Sekera and Myers return, Ruff and his staff will have to make some tough decisions in terms of who gets into the lineup.
“We’ll have to play the guys who are playing the best,” Ruff explained. “If Sulzer is playing better than somebody, he’ll play. He’s put in a pretty solid stint with us so far and I think him and Christian [Ehrhoff] have played well together, so it’s a decision we’ll have to make.
“Hopefully we have to make a decision like that. That just means we’re healthy.”
Lines from today’s practice:
Thomas Vanek – Cody Hodgson – Ville Leino
Corey Tropp – Derek Roy – Jason Pominville
Marcus Foligno – Tyler Ennis – Drew Stafford
Cody McCormick – Brad Boyes – Patrick Kaleta
Sekera, Ehrhoff, Leopold, McNabb, Myers, Sulzer, Robyn Regehr and Mike Weber all practiced as well.
Nathan Gerbe (upper body injury) did not participate but he skated on his own before practice. Ruff said that he’s “day-to-day” and will travel with the team to Florida.
During practice, Ruff sported a warm-up jacket with stop sign and “Do Not Enter” patches stitched to the back and a yield sign plastered to the front. The jacket was in response to an incident during practice last month when defenseman Jordan Leopold inadvertently knocked Ruff down during a drill, causing the coach to break three of his ribs.
Ruff said the jacket was a gag gift from local professional golfer Dudley Hart and that he only planned on wearing it once. He changed by the time he spoke with the media.
“That was just my on-ice [jacket]. Just a little bit of extra protection,” Ruff joked. “Guys notice the stop sign and the yield so they don’t run me over.”
Click on the player links below to hear full interviews that took place after practice:
Special teams units
PP #1: Vanek-Boyes-Pominville, Leopold-Roy
PP #2: Stafford-Ennis-Kassian, Myers-Ehrhoff
PK #1: Gaustad-Leino or Kaleta, Regehr-Weber
PK #2: Ellis-Gerbe, Gragnani-Sekera
The Devils currently sit in sixth place in the Eastern Conference and fourth in the Atlantic Division. While New Jersey is 11th in the league in scoring and in the middle of the road in goals against, they still have a reputation as a tight checking team that can frustrate opponents.
“They like to clog up things in the neural zone and they do a good job in the D zone trying to surround the puck with a lot of guys. So we've got to be ready,” said Sabres center Derek Roy after this morning's practice. “We were trying to work on spreading the ice out, getting guys up high, trying to create some confusion in the offensive zone.”
CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL DEREK ROY INTERVIEW
Head coach Lindy Ruff called many of the mistakes his team made against Tampa Bay “self-inflicted.” When preparing for New Jersey, he indicated that his team has been working on getting more pucks on net and driving to the goal.
“It had a lot more to do with what we were doing than what Tampa was doing,” Ruff said. “I think almost every team in this league has learned to be frustrating defensively and if you can't frustrate the other team, especially when you have a lead, you usually end up losing the game.”
“I was hoping for last game,” Ruff explained. “Even if I do go back, I think even if I go back tomorrow, I'm going to need help because there are situations where I still can't vocalize loud enough and especially with the crowd, [I won't be able to] react quick enough to have people ready. If I do go back there, I'll have James sort of in the same role.”
Last game, Ruff said four pucks were shot into the bench during Saturday's game and he joked that standing back there may not be the safest place to be.
“Teppo got hit with one of them. I'd like to laugh about it, but I don't want to because I don't want to get hit at the same time,” Ruff said. “If I hang out by the tunnel, there's a good chance I'd probably get hit. If I stay in the same spot I normally do, I won't. I don't think we can change too much.”
Lines from today's practice:
Thomas-Vanek-Derek Roy-Jason Pominville
Nathan Gerbe-Tyler Ennis-Drew Stafford
Ville Leino-Paul Gaustad-Patrick Kaleta
Brad Boyes-Matt Ellis-Zack Kassian
All seven defensemen and goaltenders Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth participated as well.
Winger Cody McCormick did not skate. He suffered an upper-body injury on Friday and Ruff said he's improving.
“Nobody has shut him down so he's still in the procedure of working his way back,” Ruff said.