Tag: standings analysis

Buffalo Sabres

Sabres’ weird win might be a metaphor for their season


If you’re the type of person who analogizes things constantly like me, the Buffalo Sabres’ comeback-filled 6-5 OT win against the Toronto Maple Leafs wasn’t shocking. Instead, it was really a microcosm of both teams’ seasons.

Toronto opened the game with a stunning 3-0 lead, much like they raced off out of the gates with a high-powered offense. Even Phil Kessel stuck to the script, supplying assists on all of those tallies.

Sabres fight back

Much like during this season’s rougher moments, the Buffalo Sabres could have thrown in the towel with that big deficit in mind – not to mention an endless deluge of Internet snark building – but they refused to do so. That being said, they sure didn’t make it look easy … unless you think they really have a flair for the dramatic.

Buffalo dominated the second period 2-0 with a 19-6 shot advantage. Things could have fallen apart two more times in the third period, too. Clarke MacArthur made it 4-2 just a minute and a half in but Derek Roy collected a power-play tally to give Buffalo hope. Jake Gardiner then seemingly put things out of reach by skating around the Buffalo defense and made it 5-3, but it shockingly wasn’t over.

One more comeback

Alexander Suzler scored his second goal of the game to make it 5-4 about 15 minutes into that manic final frame, yet the tying goal might have been the most symbolic moment.

As PHT’s Joe Yerdon points out, the scramble in front of Toronto’s net that resulted in the 5-5 Jordan Leopold tally in many ways tells the story of the Leafs’ lost season. In a way, it tells Buffalo’s story too – they keep coming back and finding ways to win, even if it’s nowhere near as pretty as anyone expected.

It’s pretty hard to deny the beauty of a wild Buffalo crowd after Roy scored the overtime power play game-winner, though. That’s a moment that was a beauty for any hockey fans without a horse in this increasingly crazy race.

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Standings update

For now, let’s ignore the Florida Panthers’ place in the eighth place mess, even after they coughed up an embarrassing 5-4 OT loss to the Winnipeg Jets tonight. Here’s what the race between Washington and Buffalo looks like after the Sabres’ surge:

8. Washington: 88 points, 36 regulation/OT wins and two games left – vs. Florida (Thursday) and at Rangers (Saturday)
9. Buffalo: 88 points, 32 regulation/OT wins and two games left – at Philadelphia (Thursday), at Boston (Saturday)

As you can see, the Capitals hold the tiebreaker advantage so the Sabres need to finish with one more point to take the eighth seed. The nice thing about Thursday’s Panthers-Capitals game is that Florida has incentive to at least fight for a win since the Southeast title hasn’t been clinched yet. On the other hand, the Rangers have even less on the line than the Flyers and Bruins, so Buffalo’s best chance to “control its destiny” is if Washington finishes with a point or less on Thursday.

It all sets up for a stretch run that should be as dramatic and ridiculous as every day-to-day development so far.

That being said, it might be hard to top tonight’s theatrics.

This just in: Darryl Sutter is “not Nostradamus”

Darryl Sutter
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Rob Scuderi didn’t offer any excuses to Rich Hammond when asked about the Los Angeles Kings’ “missed point” from a shootout loss against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday. Dustin Brown spoke about coughing up a lead.

Yet in the grand scheme of things, well-known source of sunshine/head coach Darryl Sutter seemed pretty upbeat about the Kings’ work in their four-game road trip and the last two nights in particular.

(on whether this was a “good’’ trip, and almost a “great’’ trip…)
SUTTER: “Yeah, I think so. Heck, that’s what I told them. We got three out of four (points) in a day. And five out of six in less than four days. I think if you’d have said that, at any other time than right now, you’d say it was great.”

(on being able to control their fate with three games left…)
SUTTER: “Big point. I’m not a philosopher or Nostradamus or nothing. I can’t do any of that stuff. We got our 91st point tonight, and hopefully it’s a big one.”

So, to review: good but not great trip; Sutter is not Nostradamus.

Anyway, the Kings are currently in control of the Pacific Division lead even though the Phoenix Coyotes also have 91 standings points. The Kings, Coyotes, San Jose Sharks (90 points) and Dallas Stars (89 points) all have three games left while the Colorado Avalanche (88) have two remaining.

Los Angeles has a home game against the Edmonton Oilers and then that home-and-home with the Sharks to end the season. Ultimately, the Kings will only have themselves (and perhaps the Sharks) to blame if they don’t make the playoffs.

Just don’t ask Sutter to make predictions.

Capitals, Sabres react to changing fortunes

Montreal Canadiens v Washington Capitals

When the Buffalo Sabres clearly outclassed the Washington Capitals 5-1 on Tuesday, it seemingly provided evidence of two teams going in the wrong direction. The Caps disappointed again while that victory marked the fifth in a row for Buffalo.

That turned out to be true, only it seems that game was a turning point for the Capitals and perhaps the peak of the 2011-12 season for the Sabres.

Things are pretty bad for Buffalo now, something that isn’t lost on the team. Ville Leino told the Buffalo News’ John Vogl that much:

“Tuesday we have to win,” Leino said. “Otherwise, we don’t have a chance.”

With a two-point gap between Washington and Buffalo and three games left for each team, it would seem like Leino is being a bit dramatic. Yet with the Capitals’ tiebreaker advantage, it’s more like a three-point difference.

The Sabres are struggling with two consecutive regulation losses but the Caps seem aware that they haven’t exactly gotten their edge with dominant wins. They beat both the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens 3-2 via shootouts after coughing up leads.

Mike Knuble discussed the results with CSNWashington.com’s Chuck Gormley.

“We’d love to do it with a little more ease but the bottom line is we got the two points and Buffalo didn’t,” Knuble said. “We’ve said all along we’re shooting for at least eight out of 10 points (in their final five games) and we’re heading into the right direction.”

Indeed, if the Capitals get four more points, they’d make the playoffs even if the Sabres win out. Washington has five more regulation/OT wins than Buffalo, so the only way the Sabres are taking the eighth spot is by finishing with more points.

Then again, maybe Buffalo can take advantage of another falling team in the Florida Panthers, so ultimately, it’s all about carving out as many points as possible. As the stretch run shows, fortunes can change pretty quickly.

West update: Now the Kings lead the Pacific Division

Kings Oilers Hockey

I’m a big fan of parity in the NHL, but for those who glorify the days of stability and a handful of teams running roughshod over competition, this has been a dark month or two. The Pacific Division might be the greatest enemy of consistency, as the top spot is being treated like a hot potato going from the San Jose Sharks to the Dallas Stars and finally to the Los Angeles Kings after tonight’s results.

To keep with the tradition of wide-ranging West impact updates, I’ll go ahead in order of where the teams rank as of this writing.

(3) Los Angeles 4, Edmonton 1

The Kings beat down a beaten down Edmonton Oilers team tonight to (more than a little bit ridiculously) take the division lead. Jonathan Quick needed a laughable 13-for-14 save night to beat the Oil while four different Kings found the net.

(4) Nashville hops over (5) Detroit (read here); (6) Chicago was idle

Vancouver Canucks kick around Stars down to seventh place

Hopefully the Dallas Stars didn’t get too comfy in third place because the second place Vancouver Canucks destroyed them 5-2. There really wasn’t much of a doubt about this one, as the Canucks just looked downright better than the Stars. (Probably because, at least at this moment, they very much are.)

(8) Phoenix was idle

(9) San Jose was idle, too, but …

The road to the playoffs looks like it will go through the Sharks – in one way or another. First, San Jose begins a home-and-home with the Stars on Saturday. There isn’t much of an excuse for them to be worn out against Dallas tomorrow considering the fact the Stars got kicked around tonight. (Oh, and Ray Ratto points out that the Stars are an ugly 1-10-2 on the tail end of back-to-backs this season.)

If that wasn’t big enough, the Sharks’ final two games of the season are a home-and-home set against the current Pacific leader Los Angeles. It’s anyone’s guess what exactly will be on the line then, but it’s hard to imagine those games being anything but huge.

Finally, moving on from the Pacific-specific teams but certainly a Pacific-relevant development:

(10) Colorado deals a big blow to (11) Calgary

The Avalanche face some tough odds to make the playoffs, as they’ll likely need to root for a lot of two-point games and extreme results (up-and-down won’t cut it). If nothing else, they probably won’t need to worry much about the Flames after handling them by a score of 4-1.

Colorado also has some positives to build on for next season, particularly with the stretch run work of Semyon Varlamov, who stopped 38 out of 31 shots to keep the Avs alive – for the moment.

East update: An ideal night for idle teams

Washington Capitals v Boston Bruins

There weren’t a ton of playoff-relevant games for the Eastern Conference tonight, yet it seemed like the big ones had some awfully interesting ripple effects. The number one theme was that it was a good night for idle teams, but here’s a roundup of what happened.

Idle Bruins clinch

The second seed isn’t a guarantee yet for the Boston Bruins, but another playoff berth is. They didn’t play on Friday but the Pittsburgh Penguins made it official when they beat the Buffalo Sabres in a 5-3 game that had a playoff atmosphere, according to Dan Bylsma via Mike Harrington.

Perhaps an even better night for the Capitals

The good news for Boston and the Washington Capitals more-or-less intertwined tonight, which is amusing (and telling of the stretch run’s whims) since they were going toe-to-toe on Thursday. Obviously, that Sabres loss is the biggest deal for the Capitals since it places Washington in eighth and Buffalo in ninth place for tiebreaker reasons – each team now has four games left – but it’s also big for the purpose of higher aims.

Considering the Florida Panthers’ surprising recent struggles, a Southeast Division title bid isn’t totally out of the question for the Capitals. The gap is now four points and Washington actually holds tiebreakers there, too – plus they’ll host what could be a huge game between the two teams on April 5.*

So yeah, tonight’s biggest winners didn’t even play. Let’s move on to the active ones that are left, though.

Time is running out for Penguins

There are plenty of good things for Pittsburgh to take from Friday. They beat the Sabres 5-3. Sidney Crosby became the seventh-youngest player to reach the 600-point plateau while Pascal Dupuis extended the NHL’s best points streak of the season to 13 games. (Click here for that story.)

Still, it’s looking likely that they’ll need to carry all their positivity into a challenging first round series against the formidable Philadelphia Flyers. The New York Rangers maintained their Atlantic Division/Eastern Conference lead at five points thanks to a demonstrative 4-1 victory against the Montreal Canadiens.

An April 5 meeting could shave that difference down to three points if Pittsburgh wins in regulation, but the Rangers hold the tiebreaker advantage and each squad only has three games remaining aside from that. It’s rarely safe to assume anything in this crazy stretch run, but the Blueshirts’ odds of winning the East’s top seed are extremely high.

In fact, their biggest competition might be for the Presidents’ Trophy. They took a one-point lead over the idle St. Louis Blues for that award today, so it wasn’t a great night for idle teams in every way.

(Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the Carolina Hurricanes are officially eliminated from playoff contention. If only they had more time …)

* – To extend the good for Washington and Boston talk, a weaker Southeast naturally makes it that much more likely for the Bruins to grab the second seed.