Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sabres V Hawks Pregame Notes

This is one of those games that you don't fully expect to win (kind of like the Pens / Flyers last night, heyyyyyyyyyooooooo, but hey, look what happened). The Hawks are sitting in 4th in the West, have guys like Kane and Toews, Havlat and Campbell, Seabrook and Keith, with seemingly a reenergized fanbase fully behind their resurgence. I'm not saying, I'm just saying.

You can't help but notice a lot of similarities between the Sabres of 05-06 coming out of the lockout and this years Blackhawks team. Prior to the lockout in 03-04, the very young Sabres had a 37-34-7-5 record. Good, but not good enough to slide into the playoffs. Then as we all know, post lockout the Sabres came out flying, bolstered by a vastly improving youth movement including Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, and Brian Campbell (with a little help from two other pretty important veteran guys).

Last year, the very young Blackhawks were 40-34-8. Good, but not quite good enough to slide into the playoffs. Now this year, the ridiculously talented youth movement of the Hawks led by Toews, Kane, and Versteeg (with a little help from some veterans in Patrick Sharp and Brian Campbell), see themselves on that same trajectory towards the top.

I've wonder though, in the Salary Cap era, will the talent in Chicago be dismantled and bungled like it was in Buffalo? Guess we will have to wait and see.

Campbell has been there, done that. His leadership must be invaluable to those young guys coming of age in Chi-Town. As a matter of fact, the Buffalo News talked to him about this peculiar case of deja vu. I've always liked Soupy, and we have talked about him here before. But now to the matter at hand.

What we have here is an old fashioned hum dinger. The Hawks sit at 23-10-7 with 53 points, The Sabres are 21-16-5 with 47. Fairly even right? Wrong. This puppy is being played at the United Center, where so far this season they are 13-2-4. Oh wait, no, 13-1-4, since 1 home game was played at Wrigley Field, doesn't count. Their only loss at home came to, guess who, the San Jose Sharks on November 16, losing 6-5. Since then, they've outscored opponents on home ice 29-8, winning those last 7. Looks good for the Sabre faithful eh?

Well maybe, the Sabres are one of the better road teams, going 5-2-1 in their last 8 away from HSBC, with wins coming at Boston, New Jersey, and Pittsburgh. They have a 90% road PK, and nearly a 25% road PP. What's that all mean? Nothing really, I'm just trying to give myself hope.

Lalime (2-5-1, 3.09) gets the start for the Sabres against his old team, while Huet (10-7-3, 2.45) is probable for the Hawks. Lalime hasn't played since the 3-2 loss at Washington the day after Christmas. Hopefully playing against his former employers will be a little added incentive for him to play well, plus, with this huge stretch of road games for the Sabres, I'd look to see him in net a couple more times in the coming weeks to spell Miller. Huet lost his last start, giving up 3 to Nashville.
Tonight it looks like Teppo Numminen, Nate Paestch, and Andrew Peters take a seat. Butler stays in the lineup and Tallinder rejoins Lydman on the blueline. There will be more on the Sabres defense situation shortly.
Lindy has gotten a tad upset with his guys lately, with this report coming from Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News.
Near the end of practice Tuesday, Ruff exploded at his forwards for some lax work during a drill. The coach fired a puck off the glass, unleashed an expletive-laced tirade and even threatened to throw his team off the ice before continuing.
He's just plain old bad ass.
Interesting to note, the Hawks offense is ranked 3rd, averaging 3.52 goals per game, while the Sabres rank 18th at 2.76. Yet Patrick Kane leads the Hawks with 42 points and Derek Roy leads with 40. Remember when the Sabres were that balanced?
Should be a good one tonight, pretty much up and down. I'll be watching the 1st period of Caps/Pens then switching over at 8:30 for this one.

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Fact: BanginPanger is not meant as an insult to the one and only Darren Pang, nor do I claim to be him. The views and opinions presented on BanginPanger are of my own, and no other namesake of the site, the NHL, Buffalo Sabres, Washington Capitals, or anyone else.