What Went Wrong: Buffalo Sabres

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The Sabres headed into the playoffs on a hot streak as well as having had to fight tooth and nail to make the postseason. Would they have a let down or not? Turns out they did when matching up against the Philadelphia Flyers as they lacked a killer instinct as well as the ability to find someone to keep an eye on Daniel Briere. Sure they pushed Philadelphia to seven games and made a valiant effort, but ultimately things failed for Buffalo and Game 7 incorporated a lot of those shortcomings.

1. Ryan Miller was far too average
Let’s look at a pair of stats from the playoffs:

Goalie A: 2.10 goals against average with a .934 save percentage
Goalie B: 2.93 goals against average with a .917 save percentage

Goalie A was Brian Boucher against Buffalo while Goalie B was Ryan Miller. You’re confused now aren’t you? You should be especially considering that Miller had two shutouts.

In four losses, Miller was very much average. With a team as banged up and shorthanded as the Sabres were, having Ryan Miller be very middle of the road killed them. It’s stunning to see that Boucher’s numbers look incredible in comparison but considering the problems the Flyers had in goal all series long, that should give you a good idea for how Miller actually played.

2. No defensive presence
Take a look at who the Sabres defensemen are and tell me if you can spot a guy that you’d refer to as a shut-down defenseman. Steve Montador? No. Jordan Leopold? Nuh uh. Tyler Myers? Not yet. Any of the guys you could pull off that roster on defense is not a guy most teams would find confident in putting out on the ice in a situation where you need to stop the other team or else. A lot of those guys are very useful and productive… But they don’t come with that physical means of play or the kind of snarl it takes to win in the playofs.

3. Not enough talent
It makes sense for a 2 seed vs. 7 seed match up to have a big discrepancy in talent and that was the case here. While the Flyers could run three pretty steady and useful lines at you to score along with a full army of quality defensemen, the Sabres had no ability to really keep up with that. Factoring in injuries to Tim Connolly and Jason Pominville, things were that much more desperate even with getting Jochen Hecht and Derek Roy back for Game 7. There’s little chance either player was a full 100% and those are battles the Sabres cannot win.

4. Just couldn’t finish
In both Games 5 and 6, the Sabres held sizable leads and couldn’t finish things off in regulation. The inability to put the Flyers away once they were down and seemingly out of it was an obvious bad sign for them. Getting up by two or three goals and holding the lead has been a major issue all over the playoffs but for Buffalo, their failure to keep the lead in Game 6 was their ultimate undoing in the series. When it’s a game where you can wrap up a series, there’s no good excuse for allowing the opponent to dominate you to win the game. The combination of poor defense and a not very Ryan Miller-like Ryan Miller made this all possible. Getting sub-par performances from Drew Stafford and Tim Connolly made things even more difficult on the other side of the puck.

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The Sabres can build off this defeat in a lot of ways. While their team will no doubt look a little different next season, the Sabres have hope. With new ownership in place they’ll be active in free agency and looking for forward help, most likely up the middle at center. They’ll be back at it next year and with Ryan Miller getting a bit more time off to breathe the Sabres should be that much more dangerous.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports
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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.