1. The Leafs have scored 4 goals on the Sabres in 6 of the last 9 regular season meetings largely on the back of an aggressive and physical forecheck. The sens were able to eliminate the Sabres in large part because they hit the Sabres into submission. Were any changes made to the team to help battle the perception/reality that the Sabres are an easy team to intimidate?
The reality is that the Buffalo Sabres are softer than a freshly baked cookie. They did nothing in the off-season to become a more physical team which is something that should be criticized more than the loss of Chris Drury and Daniel Briere. Darcy Regier finally tried to add some toughness last week with the signing of Nolan Pratt but he played in one game before getting injured. The only real physical players on the team are Paul Gaustad and Adam Mair and Adam Mair is now out of the lineup as well. Ales Kotalik is a player who can play physical and is more productive when he does but he doesn't do it on a consistent basis.
2. The departures of Briere and Drury, who chased the almighty buck over the summer, were big blows to fans that had dreamed up scenarios in which both could be kept and that in a worst case scenario assumed at least one would stay. How much of the blame for their departure has to be laid at the feet of Darcy Regier for his negotiation-stance/tactics?
Management has already admitted that maybe they had the wrong policy in place and they have obviously changed that policy (signing Jochen Hecht to a four year extension). Most of the blame has to rest with the players, Daniel Briere was obviously chasing the money dating back to last year when he failed to pay the price in the playoffs and Chris Drury could have played in Buffalo for the same ammount of money that he is playing for with the Rangers. Drury made a decision that he wanted to play for his hometown team and not the Buffalo Sabres plain and simple. [Ed.'s Note: Having been to Buffalo for hockey and football games I completely agree with his decision.]
We have been told that Chris Drury was willing to sign for $5 million last year but how was Sabres management supposed to know how much the cap would go up? People quickly forget that the Sabres were right up against the cap last year, so much so that they played a few games shorthanded with less than 20 players. [Ed.'s Note: Nice to know that JFJ isn't the only GM that struggles with the finer points of the cap.]
3. Despite averaging 3.07 goals for a game the Sabres are also allowing 3.21 goals per game which is 26th in the NHL. Ryan Miller currently has a GAA of 2.81 and a Sv% of .899 both ranked 23rd in the NHL. Is this a result of Miller playing poorly or more that the Sabres defense resembles that of a major midget team?
Everyone talks about the departure of Chris Drury and Daniel Briere being responsible for the Sabres below .500 record but scoring has not been the problem. It is the goals allowed that has been an issue for the Sabres and there are many factors involved in why. First of all Ryan Miller was extremely average in the early portion of the season. A result of trying to do too much and also the unfortuante passing of his cousin Matt Schoals in early October. Miller has had the words "Matt Man" written on the back of his goalie mask for a couple of years as a tribute to his cousin who was battling leukemia. The defense has been better recently but were awful in the early part of the season. In a game against Carolina, the Sabres "shutdown pair" of Toni Lydman and Henrik Tallinder were on the ice for five of the six goals allowed. [Ed.'s Note: Are you sure they weren't Andy Wozniewski and Bryan McCabe in disguise?] If that isn't an indication at how bad this defense was early on I'm not sure what is.
4. With the plethora of happy memories to choose from in the Battle of the QEW which is your favourite? Does that feel like choosing your favourite Hollywood starlet?
It's tough to narrow it down to just one memory because there are so many to choose from. I can say one thing for sure...the Sabres were the happiest orginization in the league when the Leafs came back to the Wales/Eastern Conference. [Ed.'s Note: The Leafs feel the same about the Habs.] If I had to pick just one memory it would have to come down to Dwayne Roloson playing unexpectedly against the Leafs in the 1999 Eastern Conference Finals. I still remember watching the game and my reaction when I found out that Hasek wasn't playing and Roloson was, as you can imagine my reaction was different at the end of the game than it was when it started. [Ed.'s Note: My reaction involved the development of 5 new curse words that are still in use today. In retrospect, that loss is a little less shocking.]
5. The last two games in Buffalo have featured ridiculous comebacks and scoring outbursts by Sabres teams that have largely been controlled and held in check. What do you predict for tonight's game?
Any game featuring these two teams is usually very frustrating for the fans of both teams while very entertaining for the casual fan. I predict the final score will be 15-14...ok let's be serious it will be 5-4 and I'll be a homer and say Buffalo will be victorious.