The Buffalo Sabres love coming to Florida. They beat Tampa on Thursday night 6-2 and have won nine of their last ten games against the Lightning. As for the Panthers, Buffalo has won five of the last six, which included a 5-2 win way back in October of this season.
Jason Pominville had a hat trick in Buffalo’s win over Tampa on Thursday and has 21 goals which is second behind sniper Tomas Vanek for the Sabres who has 23. Another bright spot for the Sabres has been Tim Connolly, who has played every game this year and is their point leader with 62. Connolly has a history of concussions and has finally seemed to have gotten past that for awhile.
Ryan Miller in case you’ve been living under a rock, has been their most valuable player so far this season and could pretty much win the award for the NHL as well. Miller who played on the U.S. Olympic team has been tremendous for the Sabres this season. 34-15-8 with a .929 save percentage, a 2.21 GAA and five shutouts. He’s been the backbone of the team.
Coached by ex Panther assistant, Lindy Ruff, the Sabres are much like the Phoenix Coyotes who just left town. No real superstar, but get contributions from everyone and all players buy into the system that the coaching staff preaches. Ruff also is the longest tenured coach in the NHL with one team. He’s been coaching the Sabres since 1997 and in 902 games has 438 wins. He has directed the Sabres to three conference finals and one Stanley Cup Final.
How would things have turned out for Florida had we kept him? Obviously we’ll never know.
The Panthers meanwhile are 2-4-2 on home ice since February 1st and are continuing to struggle with their power play. They have allowed at least one power play goal in each of their last six games. That might continue as Buffalo has at least one power play goal in each of their last five games in Florida.
Coming off a disappointing loss to Phoenix where the wheels feel off because they just can’t finish off anyone, the Panthers will try to rebound and play spoiler. Their chances of making the post season are nill, even though the mathematicians haven’t said so, if you’re a realist, you know it to be true.
Rusty Olesz watch: No scoring for 19 consecutive games. Will tonight be twenty? Probably, but let me ask you this. Why isn’t he watching from the press box? Where’s the accountability? Where’s the discipline? Why do we have to continue to let him and others like Kreps and Campbell play when we need to take a look at our younger players like Michal Repik?
The Panthers season is over for all intended purposes.
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