Category: Sports

 

More on DePo

Reading the post-DePodesta analysis today has me wondering what sort of man Dodger owner Frank McCourt really is. It’s been two years since the McCourts took the reigns of baseballs second-most storied franchise, and LA and their fans have nothing but chaos to show for it.

When DePodesta cleaned house last off-season, the moves made sense to me. It’s like he was saying that they couldn’t win the series as the team was comprised, and why not take a couple years to build it up into a World Series team? I am perhaps foolish enough to assume that he ran that plan by the owner, and that McCourt gave it his support. So why the change of heart less than one year later? First, McCourt is widely disliked by Dodger fans. He may just be insecure enough to try to take the easy way out and fire DePodesta. Or, he could be one of those guys who just wants to win, and win now. The problem is, after two years of following McCourt, I have no idea what scenario seems more likely.

In reading the LA Times today, Ross Newhan mentioned that Ken Rosenthal of The Sporting News had written that Tommy Lasorda has been poisoning the relationship between McCourt and DePodesta. I stopped reading Rosenthal after this years preseason predictions that had him predict Barry Bonds would be the MVP, Felipe Alou would be the Manager of the Year, and that the Giants would cruise to a runaway win in the West. Newhan calls Rosenthal “respected”, but I call him a hack. Still, in this case I believe him (probably because I wrote the same thing yesterday.)

If that indeed is the case, I fear that McCourt is taking advice from a poor source. As a Dodger fan, I love what Tommy has meant to the franchise, but his time is past. Long past. And Lasorda strikes me as the baseball “old guard” type who would be personally insulted by the Beane/DePodesta types and would work hard to discredit them. Usually this is done out of ignorance, and the thought that these statistical-minded managers let their computers pick their rosters, even though nothing could be further from the truth.

My problem wih the DePodesta matter isn’t that he was fired, it’s that they let the coach go, and then the GM. It also stems from the fact that DePo wasn’t given an opportunity to shape his roster to his liking. All I know is that two years from now, some Dodger GM will be reaping the benefits of an outstanding farm system, one which was preserved under DePodesta as part of his rebuilding plan. As Newhan said in his article today: “At some point, the McCourts need to look in the mirror and let one of the people they have hired play out a blueprint.” I couldn’t agree more

 

Sabres at Hurricanes Tonight (Plus thoughts on last night)

Tonights (or more properly, this afternoon’s) matchup features what has to be two of the leagues biggest surprise teams. Carolina is second in the NHL in points, trailing the Red Wings by a mere point for the overall lead. The Sabres are fifth overall, and after last nights action continue to trail Ottawa by three points in the Northeast Conference. Carolina has cooled off a bit of late, going 6-4 over their last 10 games, while Buffalo is 7-2-1 over the same span. Before Friday’s puzzling loss at home to Pittsburgh, Carolina had won nine straight home games.

Center Eric Staal is burning up the league right now, and leads his team with 74 points (36G, 38A).

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff was true to his word last night as he juggled lines frequently, so I won’t even try to guess what this afternoons lines will look like.

As for last night, the game never even felt like it was close, even when Florida tied it at two in the second. You could see from the players body language that Buffalo was going to win, and that Florida expected to lose. A few little things I noticed:

– Andrew Peters is an awful hockey player, and his goon mentality often hurts the team in small ways. At one point early in the third he was looking for someone to drop with him, but couldn’t find any takers. As the play progressed, Florida cleared their zone with a pass along the boards. Peters had the forecheck, and he continued deep into the zone long after the puck was out in an attempt to hit the Florida defenseman. Florida ended up turning the puck over in the neutral zone, and Buffalo had numbers coming into the Florida end but they had to pull back because Peters was still deep in the Florida end thanks to his looking to goon it up. A wasted scoring opportunity.

– From the “What does Kevin Know?” Department: After the first period I turned to the Missus and was complaining about Thomas Vanek. He had shown nothing at that point, and I commented that he was loafing, and that for a goal-scorer he sure managed to avoid being near the puck. (She was unimpressed with my analysis, by the way.) Two periods and two goals later, I wasn’t looking so smart. However, I stand by my analysis. Vanek simply does not work hard, but when he gets the puck he can do amazing things. He is, however, very young and hopefully his teammates efforts will rub off on him.

– Vanek would do well to copy Paul Gaustad’s efforts. He is the hardest working player on the ice every night. Jason Pominville is a close second.

– I don’t know why I never noticed, but in the absence of all our players, Mike Grier and Jay McKee are wearing the “A’s.”

– Taylor Pyatt’s obliteration of Steve Motador in the third sucked all remaining life out of Florida. They just mailed it in after that. On a related note, for a guy I was ready to send to Rochester as recently as two weeks ago, Pyatt has been very impressive. He made two huge plays in Florida’s end by using his size on the boards that had me wondering what he may turn into if he keeps plaing hard. (Apparently, Montador has a broken nose now.)

– Finally, how do the Sabres keep winning? So many injuries…Hecht, Briere, Connolly, Mair, Kalinin…all out last night. It’s really amazing that Andrew Peters and Jiri Novotny are in games and the Sabres are still winning. Incidentally, the second Florida goal was all on Novotny. In his inexperience he broke up ice when he was supposed to be covering for his d-man. Result was a two-on-one and a Florida goal. Another young player who will learn.

 

Buffalo Sabres Lose 3-2 to NJ Devils

For the second game in a row the Buffalo Sabres played poorly in the first two periods and lost by a score of 3-2. The Sabres were facing a rookie goaltender, Scott Clemmensen, and only managed to put 11 shots on him through two periods. Thanks to some great saves by Ryan Miller early on the Sabres were only down 1-0 heading into the third period. Buffalo came out flying in the third and put 16 shots on net. With the score tied 2-2 late in the third Henrik Tallinder took a delay of game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass. The Devils scored on that power play to go ahead for good, 3-2.

I was shocked at how poorly the Sabres played in the first and second period. With the exception of Maxim Afinogenov and Ryan Miller the Sabres looked overwhelmed by the Devils. New Jersey deserves credit for their excellent fore-checking. They gave the Sabres defensemen fits the entire game. The Sabres defensemen looked like rookies tonight. Defense was a concern for the Sabres going into the season and tonight highlighted why. They turned the puck over in their own end and at the opposite blue line and had difficulty knocking the Devils off the puck down low. If that continues other teams are going to take advantage of it the same way New Jersey did tonight.

New Jersey was able to get on the scoreboard first when Briere and Numminen both let former Sabre, Erik Rasmussen get position in front of the net and one-time a pass from behind the net past Miller. The Devils went up 2-0 when Rory Fitzpatrick misplayed the puck at the Devil’s blue line and allowed a New Jersey breakout. Scott Gomez fired a shot past Miller from up high that Miller probably should have saved. He wasn’t screened and he was square to the shooter – he should have stopped it.

After starting the game 0-4 on the power play the Sabres scored on their fifth attempt. Briere made a nice move to the net from along the goal line and tried to pass the puck through the Devil’s crease. It ended up deflecting into the net off a Devil’s skate. The second Sabres goal was the result of some great checking by Hecht and Grier. Grier ended up with the puck behind the Devil’s net and backhanded a pass out to Chris Drury who one-timed it past Clemmensen for his first goal of the season.

The momentum was on the Sabres side until Henrik Tallinder shot the puck over the glass in his own end and took a delay of game penalty with six minutes left in the third. New Jersey scored on that power play when Brylin redirected a Rafalski shot from the point past Miller. The Sabres continued to apply pressure but couldn’t get the tying goal past Clemmensen, even after pulling Miller for the extra attacker.

The big picture for the Sabres is that they have lost two games in a row for the first time all season and are now only two games over .500 at 6-4. Their schedule doesn’t get easier anytime soon. They’ll be on the road again tomorrow night against the Islanders who are a dangerous 5-5 team. With Marty Biron scheduled to get his first start of the season it could end up being a three game losing streak if he’s rusty. The Sabres can avoid that by getting back to fundamentals and start shooting the puck on net more. Prior to the past two games the Sabres were averaging 35-40 shots on net. Now they are passing the puck around and trying to play “fancy” hockey. As a result, their shots on net are down and they are losing. Lindy Ruff needs to get them firing the puck from all angles again and swarming to the net for loose rebounds. That’s how they are going to win games.

 

Buffalo Sabres defeat the Florida Panther, 5-3

The Buffalo Sabres had been 0 for 3 in games against the Florida Panthers so far this season and were looking to finally get a “W” against this team. Buffalo outplayed Florida in the decisive third period and earned that win. Buffalo rookie, Jiri Novotny, scored his first NHL goal and Thomas Vanek scored twice as the Sabres lit up Roberto Luongo for five goals.

JP Dumont scored the lone goal of the first period at the 17:29 mark. Dumont used some great hand-eye coordination to bat a pass from Ales Kotalik out of the air and past Luongo. Novotny followed that up at 5:02 of the second period to put the Sabres up 2-0. Jason Pominville worked the puck down low to Derek Roy behind the goal line to Luongo’s left. Roy passed the puck out to Novotny who was alone in front and quickly fired it past the goalie.

Up by two goals, Buffalo let their guard down a little and let Florida back into the game. Former Sabre Chris Gratton got Florida on the scoreboard at the 10:49 mark when he knocked down Teppo Numminen during a scrum in the Sabres crease and then knocked the puck past Ryan Miller. Just over five minutes later Johnathan Sim tied it up at 2-2 after a two on one break into the Sabres zone. Numminen was the lone Sabre back and he couldn’t break up the cross ice pass from Juraj Kolnik to Sim. Sim got the pass and flipped a shot past Miller high on the stick side.

Buffalo regained the lead 3-2 with less than a minute left in the period on Vanek’s first goal of the game. Max Afinogenov was tripped from behind but still managed to pass the puck to Vanek in the slot to Luongo’s left. Vanek had his back to the net when he got the pass but he quickly spun to his left and fired the puck past Luongo on the short side.

Vanek increased the Sabres lead to two goals five minutes into the third period on a wrap-around goal that went in on Luongo’s right side. Vanek used his speed to get to the outside and continue around behind the net and managed to beat Luongo to the far side.

After that goal, Taylor Pyatt and Steve Montador both got fighting majors after a spirited scrap. Pyatt came out on top after he popped Montador in the nose and he started bleeding all over the ice. The Sabres have to be happy to see Pyatt willing to drop the gloves. He’s a big player who can grind it out in the corners and take some punishment in front of the net but a player needs to be willing to drop the gloves every now and then. It gives your opponents one more thing to worry about. It also indicates that Pyatt’s wrist is completely healed.

Late in the third period Buffalo had a five on three power play that they failed to capitalize on. The Sabres did finally score while the Panthers were still one man down though. Toni Lydman took a shot from the right point into traffic in front of the net. The puck was stopped but Pominville picked up the loose puck and shot it past a screened Luongo.

Buffalo was up 5-2 at this point with only 3:34 left in the game but Florida wasn’t ready to quit just yet. They came back and scored 15 seconds later to make it 5-3. Another two on one break by Florida led to the goal. It was very similar to the second Panther goal. Jay McKee picked up Nathan Horton but couldn’t stop the right to left pass to Mike Van Ryn. Van Ryn tipped the pass past Miller who couldn’t get square to the shot in time.

The game ended with Buffalo still on top 5-3. It was a huge win for Buffalo from a mental standpoint. They came back strong after a lackluster performance against Montreal on Thursday night and beat a team that they had lost to three times this season. The win puts Buffalo (76 points) back in fourth place in the Eastern Conference behind Carolina (80 points), Ottawa (79 points), and the NY Rangers (78 points). The Sabres travel to Carolina tonight for a 5:00 PM start against the Hurricanes tomorrow. That will be Buffalo’s final game before the Olympic break.

 

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