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SYLVESTER'S BLOG: PLAYOFF PUSH

Tuesday, 03.10.2009 / 10:50 AM / Blogs - Kevin Sylvester
By Kevin Sylvester  - Sabres "Hockey Hotline" Host
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SYLVESTER\'S BLOG: PLAYOFF PUSH
Buffalo Sabres (Photo: Getty Images)
Before you read any further, here are the disclaimers to this blog:
  • I have not cross-referenced the remaining schedules of the other teams in the Easter Conference Playoff race.
  • I have not checked strength of schedule for the Sabres or other teams in the Easter Conference Playoff race.
  • I am not John Nash, but I admired Russell Crowe’s performance in “A Beautiful Mind”.
  • This is just based upon experience, observation, and positive thinking.
Here goes…

What’s it going to take for the Sabres to make the playoffs?  Based upon last year’s Eastern Conference standings, 94 points gets you in.  Boston and Ottawa each had 94 points to grab the final two spots, with Buffalo four points out. 

The Sabres currently have 73 points with 16 games to be played, including tonight’s game in Philly.  That means, 21 of 32 points need to be won over the next four and half weeks.  In an effort to keep it simple, I have broken down how the Sabres may go 10-5-1 to make it with all the aforementioned disclaimers in play:


3/10 at Philly: 4-3 shootout loss.  Gets the extra point needed as a foreshadow to the 10 wins.

3/12 vs. Florida: 3-2 win. Defeat the Panthers who will struggle for two weeks without Nathan Horton [finger].  

3/14 vs. Atlanta: 4-1 win.   Back-to-back home victories will get everyone feeling good.

3/17 at Ottawa: 4-3 OT win.  St. Patrick Lalime gets most satisfying victory of his season.

3/20 vs. Philly: 3-2 loss.  A surprisingly defensive Flyers team halts a three-game win streak.

3/21 at NYR: 2-0 win.  Ryan Miller returns exactly one month after the Scott Gomez hit that caused the ankle injury.  Could I have written this any other way?

3/25 vs. Florida: 3-1 win.  Miller gets second win in a row.

3/27 vs. Toronto: 5-2 win.  Dominic Moore nets hat trick against the team that dealt him.

3/28 at Montreal: 3-2 loss.  The Habs play a tough third period and get a phantom penalty call against Jochen Hecht for interference late in the game that results in the power play winner.  This plot seems familiar, so I apologize if it’s plagiarized.

4/1 at Atlanta: 3-1 win.  No fooling.

4/3 at Washington: 4-3 loss.  Barack Obama will be in attendance and meet with Lindy Ruff after the game to get a real gauge on stimulus dollars needed in WNY.

4/4 vs. New Jersey: 2-1 loss.  Great goaltending dual between Miller and Martin Brodeur, and back-to-back losses shake the faithful.  

Photo: Getty Images
4/6 vs. Detroit: 3-2 win.  Buffalo wins a physical battle and Detroit wishes it traded for a goaltender back in March.  The nation gets to hear Rick Jeanneret on VS. as he is an emergency fill-in due to food poisoning.

4/8 at Toronto: 4-1 win.  Derek Roy has a four-point night, setting up all four goals- two scores by Thomas Vanek, one by Drew Stafford, and the other by Moore.

4/9 at Carolina: 3-2 loss.  We all believe the Sabres are better, but if I say they win here then it defeats my premise of 10-5-1 and the great storyline to follow.

4/11 vs. Boston: 2-1 shootout victory.  Many will call this the game of the year in the NHL.  The Bruins need a win to secure the top spot in the Eastern Conference and home ice, while the Sabres need the two points to surpass Carolina for the eighth spot (The Canes will have lost earlier in the day to NJ). 

Buffalo trails 1-0 through most of the game, but Vanek deflects a point shot from Jaro Spacek on the PP with 1:30 remaining sending HSBC Arena into a standing ovation. 

Overtime is tense and features two crossbars by the Sabres.  In the shootout, Drew Stafford leads off with a goal, using Ales Kotalik’s backhand top shelf move.  Phil Kessel comes right back and pots one for Boston surprising Miller by doing a spin-o-rama.  

Tim Connolly gets robbed trying to go high glove on Tim Thomas.  Blake Wheeler tries fellow Golden Gopher Thomas Vanek’s around the world shot, but Miller snares it right off his stick.  Jason Pominville is the third shooter for Buffalo and decides to use his “Ottawa shot”, wide on the left wing and then hard to the net and jams it by Thomas. 

It’s all down to David Krejci for the Bruins.  He drives hard to the net, stops, and then tries backhand to forehand, but Miller poke checks the puck to the corner and the Sabres are in. 

This game foreshadows the first round, as the Caps lose that night to Florida (the Panthers just won for pride), and the Bruins one point from the shootout loss gives them the top seed in the East. 

Game One is Thursday, April 16th at TD Banknorth Garden.

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