Buffalo Sabres are quietly East's hottest team

kaleta.jpgWhile the Capitals, Penguins and Devils sleep walk their way into the playoffs, the Buffalo Sabres are quietly rounding into the hottest team in the East. To me, their situation echoes Vancouver’s in the West; they may not have much in the way of sexy talent, but they have an elite Olympian in net and could make plenty of noise.

Finishing strong has been a great formula for post-season success. Last year, the Penguins went from possibly missing the playoffs to a raising the Cup while the Hurricanes and Ducks made people sweat seemingly out of nowhere.

Aside from a 4-2 loss to also-hot Ottawa, the Sabres have been on fire lately. They’ve won seven of their last eight games and – in many cases – have done so with resounding victories. In the eight games, the Sabres outscored their opponents 35-17. While their penalty kill has been impressive (allowing only 4 PP goals in the 8 games), the most interesting thing is that Buffalo is generating the scoring-by-committee approach that made them so dangerous in the Briere-Drury days.

In a 6-2 shellacking of the Panthers last night, the Sabres threw 41 shots on net with Raffi Torres collecting three assists. When the team destroyed the Lightning 7-1, Derek Roy had three goals and one assist. Jason Pominville has been hot of late too, with two three point outbursts in his last eight games played. Of course, you can’t forget Tyler Myers, one of the leading Calder trophy candidates who already has 46 points for the year. Although the Sabres lack a 30-goal scorer, they have five 20-goal scorers and 13 players with at least 10 goals.

Of course, everything revolves around the all-world goaltending of Ryan Miller, but this team could be truly interesting if their offense stays hot.

Here are a few other interesting tidbits about the stealth Sabres.

  • They are 28-0-0 when leading after the second period.
  • Buffalo is six in the league in five-on-five play.
  • The Sabres win 78% of the time when they score first.
  • They have the league’s third best penalty kill percentage.

So, am I saying that the Sabres are going to win the Cup? No, I’m not quite sure that their offense can maintain its hot streak and their defense often hangs Miller out to dry. Still, with all the attention placed on the other three elite Eastern teams, it’s clear (to me at least) that Buffalo should not be underestimated.

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    Malcolm Subban in stable condition, suffered fractured larynx

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    The Boston Bruins updated Malcolm Subban‘s condition a day after the goaltending prospect was hospitalized after being struck in the throat with a puck.

    “Malcolm Subban was struck in the throat with a puck Saturday night during pregame warmups. He was transported to Maine Medical Center and was diagnosed with a fractured larynx. He stayed overnight at Maine Medical Center and was transported to Mass General Hospital on Sunday for further evaluation. He is in stable condition and will be sidelined indefinitely. The team will provide additional details when they become available.”

    Awful news, although at least he’s in stable condition.

    PHT will stay tuned for further updates regarding the 22-year-old.

    Subban did tweet a thanks for support:

    A little context makes that a little sad, too.

    Fight video: Zack Kassian racks up penalty minutes, faces Brian Strait

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    Pulling Anders Nilsson didn’t stop the bleeding for the Edmonton Oilers. Instead, it really just spread the “wealth.”

    The New York Islanders are up 7-1, so don’t be surprised if there’s some ugly stuff in the final frame.

    Zack Kassian is an author of at least one outburst, as he was tagged with 19 penalty minutes for a display that included fighting Brian Strait, as you can see in the video above.

    It’s not the only fight stemming from the blowout, either, as Eric Gryba just tangled with Matt Martin.

    Could there be more?

    Isles chase Nilsson from Oilers’ net in less than 12 minutes

    Edmonton Oilers goalie Anders Nilsson, of Sweden, makes pad save against the Colorado Avalanche during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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    There was a time when Anders Nilsson seemed like the best bet in the Oilers’ net this season. This … is not that time.

    Less than 12 minutes into Sunday’s game, the New York Islanders roared to a 3-0 lead, and that was enough for Edmonton to give Nilsson the hook.

    He allowed those three goals on 10 shots, so to be fair, that’s a pretty impressive chunk of chances (almost a shot on goal per minute).

    Still, the Oilers were likely hoping to give Cam Talbot a breather, and instead he was rushed into action. Nilsson hadn’t played since Jan. 19, and he’s only appeared in three games in 2016.

    As if this didn’t sting enough for Nilsson, consider the fact that he began his NHL career with the Islanders, who eventually decided he wasn’t worth keeping.

    Ovi scores 30th as Caps beat Flyers for third straight victory

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    Alex Ovechkin scored to join Wayne Gretzky and Mike Gartner as only players with at least 30 goals in each of their first 11 NHL seasons, and Matt Niskanen netted the game winner as Washington beat the Flyers 3-2 at Verizon on Super Bowl Sunday.

    Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz replied for the Flyers, who suffered their second straight loss.

    The win was the Capitals’ third in a row.

    It didn’t always look as though Washington would emerge the victor, however. The Caps were out-shot 35-30 on the day and looked disjointed at times, finishing with 12 giveaways (Philly was credited with just five, for comparison’s sake).

    But good teams find ways to win when they’re not playing especially well, and the Caps are a pretty good team — especially when Braden Holtby is on his game.

    Holtby, atop many Vezina lists at the moment, had another terrific outing on Sunday, making 33 saves, perhaps none better than this one on Mark Streit in the second period:

    Holtby’s counterpart, Steve Mason, had a solid outing as well, finishing with 27 stops.

    Looking ahead, the Caps will now head out on a three-game Western Conference swing through Minnesota, Nashville and what promises to be a high-octane game in Dallas on Feb. 13.

    The Flyers, meanwhile, will now kick off a three-game homestand against Anaheim, Buffalo and New Jersey.