The last time the Caps travelled to Buffalo to face the Sabres, they were 3-1-0 (and about to get waxed). Nearly five months later, the Caps head north again with a record just above the Bettman .500 mark (the Caps may have racked up more than half of the standing points available to them, but they do not have a winning percentage above .500 - they've won 31 of 67 games. But that's a topic for another day.) and a much greater sense of urgency.
The big question for the Caps is whether or not Cristobal Huet (back spasms) will be able to go. If I had to bet, my money would be on "nuh uh," which would be unfortunate, as Huet is 2-2-0 with a 2.01 GAA and .932 SV% against the Sabres this year. Olie Kolzig? 0-2-0/3.56/.877. Brent Johnson? 0-1-0/7.00/.867. Yikes.
At the other end of the ice, even though he played last night in Philly, expect to see Ryan Miller in net (Jocelyn Thibault has become more or less unstartable - he hasn't started since January 21 and has only made four appearances all year in which his GAA was under 4.14).
You know what the Sabres bring to the table - depth and speed (and tonight, some desperation to boot). The Caps, when they're on their game, can skate with (or right past) anyone. When they're off, however, this Buffalo squad is exactly the kind of team that can blow the Caps out of a building. Which Caps team shows up will determine the outcome of tonight's game - we have a pretty good idea which Sabres team will be there.
Oh, and Sabre fans - please boo Alex Ovechkin. He really hates it. It gets him way off his game.
Finally, on a personal note, a very good buddy of mine is from Buffalo (Lewiston, actually) and is a huge Sabres fan. Yesterday, we received a gift from he and his wife for our newborn. Included in the box was a Sabres outfit for the baby. I told him we're not really using cloth diapers, but I'd be happy to make an exception in this case.
Why The Sabres Will Win:
"Because of the history so far this season.The Sabres have outscored the Caps, 15-7, winning all three games. In those three games, Ovechkin has three goals, but is carrying a plus/minus of -3. Of course, he'll also get booed for the Danny Briere incident." - Dispatches From The AudElsewhere 'Round the Rinks:
"They have to. Simple as that. If they want to stay in the playoff picture, they have to beat the Caps." - Top Shelf
"Two reasons. One, who was the second-leading goal scorer behind Alexander Ovechkin last month? Thomas-$52 million dollar baby-Vanek. And defenseman Henrik Tallinder's injury means that Andrej Sekera (Brian Campbell who?) will be logging almost thirty minutes. Chock up another win for the blue and gold." - In the Crease
It may be a four-way Calder race, but there can be only three finalists. Who goes? I say Jonathan Toews (though some may disagree - h/t to EMac on the video link).... Speaking of Toews, it's good to see Matt Pettinger's making friends out West.... A Joe Finley profile in a local paper? Are we dreaming?... Here's today's Hockey Name du Jour.... Finally, one year ago today we discussed some stomach-churning gossip, saw a Caps prospect get some props, and were lied to by statistics.
- Hart: Craig Anderson (40-save shutout win)
- Ross: Martin Erat, Maxim Afinogenov (3 points each)
- Norris: Ville Koistinen (G, A, +4, 2 BkS)
- Vezina: Craig Anderson (40-save shutout win)
- Richard: Martin Erat (3G)
- Calder: Ville Koistinen (G, A, +4, 2 BkS)
- Aiken: Martin Biron (L, 5 goals allowed on 13 shots against in 45:57 of work)
1) Not only will the sabres be without the recenty traded Brian Campbell on their backline, but after an injury last night to Henrik Tallinder they may be a bit thin on D.
2) Huet or not, this is(should be) a different team than the one that was in Buffalo last time.
One big difference between Kolzig and Huet that I haven't seen discussed much is their ability in shootouts. I'd be curious to see a statistical comparison. My sense from watching the two of them is that Huet is far superior. It is inevitable that the Caps will get into several shootouts the rest of the way, and they absolutely must win them. The problem, of course, is that you never know which game will end in a shootout, and coaches seem reluctant to pull a goaltender for the shootout. We'll need Huet in nets for those, if I'm right about their abilities.
@ Faux's second point:
OUT: Hanlon, Pothier, Erskine (?), Clark, Pettinger, Fleischmann (?), Motzko, Nylander, Johnson (?)
IN: Boudreau, Huet (?), Fedorov, Gordon, Cooke, Schultz, Eminger (?), Fehr (?), Laing (?)
Phew. I thought that there was a way Brian Campbell might suit up for the Sabres even though he'd been traded.
Your sense would be wrong -
Huet is 2-3 with an .615 SV% in shootouts this year, Olie is 2-4 with a .676 SV%.
Last year, Huet was 2-3/.429 and Olie was 1-5/.471.
Two years ago, Huet was 1-2/.667 and Olie was 4-5/.659.
Career totals are 5-8/.556 for Huet, who has faced 36 shots, and 8-12/.632 for Olie, who has faced 95 shots.
As a regular watcher of Sabres hockey you can never tell which Sabres team is going to show up, but as long as Tim Connelly is playing they can be downright dangerous.
I don't know why they'd boo AO again; they boo Danielle when he comes to town now, too.
Having said all that, I hope the Caps take another 2 points tonight.
@ Hotdog88gt: Connolly played last night and the Sabres have said that he'd be sitting out the second of back-to-back games for the rest of the season (he's got a lingering hip injury), so I guess we'll see whether or not he dresses.
JP: "Dresses?" Is that a coy swipe at Briere? ;-)
Using that old philosophy that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, shouldn't AO now be a friend of Sabre fans?
Please destroy Miller as you did Thomas. Make him cry. I want to see a temper tantrum so bad that he gets pulled.
Nah. They still hate him, as much now for that silly Hulk Hogan "lemme hear ya" move after he scored when the Caps were getting pasted.
And, of course, they're jealous.
they may have won 31 out of 67games, but they havent completely LOST 36 out of 67 games either. so everyone just needs to agree to disagree when it comes to what is .500 hockey, and not declare themselves the authority when its an arbitrary designation anyway.
Let the record show that I, as the authority, and the points argument makes sense with regards to a .500 record.
Oh, let the record show that I, as the authority, hate hate hate 3 point games.
Thanks for the data, JP. Those are some depressing stats. Guess we just need to score more in the SO.
yea its surprising that there is a goalie in the league worse in the SO than kolzig, and hes also on our team .
I agree with Rage - OTL's are, for all intents and purposes, ties and should be counted as neutral when talking about above/below .500 as a benchmark for a team. Plus since the NHL uses points it makes sense to figure out what percentage of points a team's picked up.
Regarding Kolzig and the shootout - he's stopped 23 of 34 shots but 12 of them were the one night against Edmonton he was on fire. Take out that one great game and he's 11 of 22 (50%, .500).
You guys are wrong. How can one have a ".500 winning percentage" when they've won more games than they've lost?
".500" may mean half the possible points have been obtained, but don't call it a "win percentage" then. Call it a "pointspercentage" or something.
And why should we count OT/SO losses as ties, but not count OT/SO wins the same way?
uh, i kinda see what youre saying, but the fact is, you get two points for an ot/so win, but one for an ot/so loss, which is still one more than you get in a "real" loss
Buffalo lineup changes for tonight, per the Buff News:
Henrik Tallinder and Tim Connolly are out, Dmitri Kalinin and Clarke MacArthur are in.
I'll take those swaps.
Hey, like, what's going on, guys?
Oh, yeah. Almost forgot:
And isn't the term "chalk one up", not chock?
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