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Buffalo Sabres

The Philadelphia Flyers vs The Buffalo Sabres 10-25-2016; Kulikovs and Comebacks



Philadelphia Flyers

The Philadelphia Flyers made an amazing comeback in their 10-25-2016 game against the Buffalo Sabres despite a savage hit on Jakub Voracek.

Photo by Patrick Smith via Getty Images

In the Philadelphia Flyers game against the Buffalo Sabres on 10-25-2016, power plays and penalties shaped the vast majority of this game.  All but one of the regulation goals resulted from a power play.  A third period penalty committed by Dmitry Kulikov against Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek changed the momentum and outcome of the game.  It is like the Flyers are realizing the importance of power plays and penalties or they read well researched articles by beat writers.  It is probably the first option.

Notwithstanding, before the intricacies of penalties and their consequences, the other relevancies will be examined.  After serving a suspension earned during the preseason, Flyer defenseman Radko Gudas has returned to the ice.  Apprehension of his behavior on his return is justified. His team knows the importance of not taking penalties, especially since they are so crucial right now.  Whether he will end up an asset or a liability has to be proven.

Withal, after his fantastic performance last year during March’s play off push, he has show he can rack up goals and not just penalties.  He has often shown himself leaning towards physically aggressive play, but last years 5 goal in 10 game streak has raised expectations.  It would be nice if he was playing in a manner that fans have grown accustomed to.  He would be paying his hockey alimony.  While the Philadelphia Flyers do need an enforcer, they need him not to make poor decisions, unnecessary hits and most all, they need goals.  He can take this season as a new start and present to he world a well round player who contributes to his team.  During his season debut, Gudas committed no penalties and played in a composed and self controlled manner.

Now, on to the first period.  What relevant things happened in the first period?  Nothing.  No one scored.  This makes 6 first periods with out scoring out of seven games played by the Flyers.  There are some interesting theories as to why.  They need time warming up and starting.  Each game has a starter who will develop anaphylaxis is the Flyers score in the first 20 minutes of play.  There is a fear that scoring in the first period will cause cancer to form in puppies and kitties.  The team erroneously believe it is something only done in Luxembourg.

Another possibility is they need motivation that comes from outside the game.  A need for a come back or hit against a player may provide motivation that cannot come from anywhere but the rink.  Science has not yet come up with a conclusive evidence.  The Philadelphia Flyers have often received criticism for not playing a full 60 minutes of hockey.  A reason has not yet offered .  On the bright side, the Flyers lead in scoring attempts, tallying 11 shots on goal versus the Sabres 8.

“We played some bad hockey.  We know we’re a better team than this,” said Flyers Captain Claude Giroux.  “Our work ethic got us back in this game. Emotions and fans behind us, it was a fun third period….We need everyone in this locker room if you want to be successful.  If individually you play some good hockey, if everyone does that, as a team you will be good.”

The second period saw the start of scoring and consequences.  Buffalo came out hot and Tyler Ennis scored first at just 2:06 into the period.  Then, the penalties began to shape the game.  The power play that allowed Matt Maulson to score at 3:56 came from Claude Giroux’s boarding penalty.  Shayne Gostisbehere was hooking and Matt Moulson rang up his second goal of the night at 15:43.  The Flyers goalie Steve Mason replaced Michael Neuvirth after he was pulled following the third goal.  This was the 2nd time being pulled in his 3 starts.  The Flyers tallied 8 shots on goal, while the Sabres made 11.  The second period ended with the Philadelphia Flyers down 0-3 to the Buffalo Sabres.

Dave Hakstol shared his teams aspirations, “We wanted to go out and play hard for each other in the third period, tough situation down 3-0 in your building, back-to-back night, not a whole lot going right.”

From the second period, the Philadelphia Flyers saw that to keep the opponent from scoring, it helps to either not commit penalties or be very effective at penalty killing.  They also saw that having a one man advantage may help them score goals for their own team.  So they decided to use that to their advantage in the third period.  Philadelphia rookie Travis Konecny scored his first N.H.L. goal on the power play at 4:30. He was assisted by Ivan Provorov and Mark Streit and put the Flyers on the board, albeit down 1-3.

At 16:40, Sabre Dmitry Kulikov hit Philadelphia Flyer Jakub Voracek in a manner not adequately punished by the 2 minute charging penalty levied against him.  The hit came late.  Voracek obviously no longer was in possession of the puck and Kulikovs skates clearly leave the ice.

Travis Konecny reflected on his first NHL goal and what happened after; “I felt excited — everyone was excited we got a goal on the board, what got us motivated to go was when we saw that hit on Jake. It’s not what you want to see, one of your best players go down like that … that got us motivated to go.”

See the aforementioned hit below.


Voracek’s head was down, although this does not mean that it is his fault for receiving a late and skate leaving hit.  Although hockey and the rest of the world are different, by comparison a person does not deserve an assault to their person for walking through a poorly lit parking garage.

There is debate as to whether Kulikov was head hunting or not.  Voraceks head was down.  Kulikov had enough time to change his hit to a cross check if he couldn’t help himself and had to deliver a late hit while leaving the ice.  It is reasonable to say the head was the target.  There was also enough time to see that Voracek no longer had the puck.  Kulikov had time to change his mind regarding his actions.  He could have tried going after the puck if he couldn’t find any other way to occupy his time.  He made conscious choices that were outside the lines of play.  Giving out a 2 minute penalty for a hit deserving a 5 minute major, ejection from the game or possible suspension sends the message that such actions are acceptable.  It also demonstrates that rules are made, but enforcement is not even.

Voracek mandatorily taken off the ice for evaluation due to N.H.L. protocol.  This upset Voracek and in a fit of anger, he broke his stick in half.  He later joked about the multiple attempts needed to bisect his equipment, saying that he needed to hit the gym because he couldn’t break his stick.

Fortunately, Voracek was unhurt and cleared to play; “I felt pretty good.  As soon as I got up, I was a little shaky, but that’s normal, it was a big hit. I was feeling pretty comfortable that I was going to be able to come back, and that’s what happened.”

The dishonorable hit set in motion events that the Sabres may still be towel snapping Kulikov for; the Philadelphia Flyers come back and victory.

During the resulting power play, Brayden Schenn made it a one goal game at 2-3, with 2:54 left in regulation.  Claude Giroux and Mark Streit assisted.  After another penalty, Mark Streit tied the game 3-3 while on the power play with 1:51 remaining.  The Flyers made an impressive 19 shots on goal in their furious attempt at a comeback against the Sabres 5.  The Philadelphia Flyers and Buffalo Sabres were going into overtime after 60 minutes of play.

“I feel it getting better game by game. It’s nice to get on the board tonight and hopefully that builds confidence,” said Flyers forward Brayden Schenn.

Overtime came and went with out a victor emerging.  Philadelphia Flyers fans were nervous going into the shootout as the team has had well known struggles with shoot outs in the past.  Gratefully, goalie Steve Mason was strong and aggressive in net, truly stopping pucks like a boss.  Claude Giroux scored first and none other than Jakub Voracek made the game winning goal, beating the Sabres 4-3.  It is his 3rd goal in as many games.

“You try different things and we did shootout practice a week ago and I did very well so, you try what works, they both tried going five-hole and it was good to get the saves with some goal support in the shootout,” said replacement goalie Steve Mason.

The Philadelphia Flyers success in this game comes down to some fairly simple principles;

  • They kept the number of penalties down and each team had only 4.  Given Buffalos ability to turn power plays into goals, self control was key.
  • They capitalized on their own power plays.  In a game where Philadelphia didn’t score any even strength goals, being a man up was tremendously helpful, although it was not everything.
  • They kept their hope alive.  Many teams down 0-3 could possibly quit.  Tying the game in 3 the last three minutes is not possible if you do not think and play like you can or will win.
  • They served revenge in the smartest way possible.  With 3:20 left in the game and being down by 2, some teams may go for pay back with their fists, elbows and anything they could use to hurt the opposing team.  It is very tempting.  Instead, the Flyers kept their head in the game, didn’t commit more penalties and for this tied the game, leading to an eventual triumph.

Some of these principles may seem to over lap and some times they do, but they also played independent parts at independent times.  They are applicable in every game and in some cases, be the difference between a win and a loss.

Voracek has similar veiws; “It was amazing, they didn’t get frustrated and go after Kulikov. They got focused and tried to tie the game up. We’ve been down so many times this season and come back. That’s the big character of this group.”

Steve Mason, Travis Konecny, Brayden Schenn, Mark Streit, Claude Giroux get a gold star on their forehead and Jakub Voracek gets his in the location of his preference.

For the win, Claude Giroux gets an ooey gooey grilled cheese sandwich of victory, because that is what winners eat.


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Arizona Coyotes

Solutions For The 6 NHL Teams That Need Captains



Entering the 2017-18 NHL season, six teams do not have a player wearing a “C” on his jersey, Arizona, Buffalo, Carolina, Nashville, Toronto and (for obvious reasons) Las Vegas. Though captaincy in the NHL really is just a formality on paper, every team needs a player in that role to be a leader and hold teammates accountable.

Though potentially none of these could happen, each of the six teams has a player who is the favorite and should be named captain.

Arizona Coyotes- Oliver Ekman-Larsson (D)

The essential Arizona Coyote, Shane Doan, retired yesterday after spending his entire career with them. The last active player who was on the original Winnipeg team, Doan had been the captain of the Desert Dogs since 2003 and was also the longest tenured captain in the League. Losing its franchise cornerstone is a big blow to Arizona, but they have a stalwart more than ready to step up. Oliver Ekman-Larsson is one of the NHL’s top offensive defensemen and has been the Coyotes most potent threat in recent years, even if last season was underwhelming for him. No one else on the team is a viable candidate, but that doesn’t matter because Ekman-Larsson is the overwhelming favorite for the C. With Doan now retired, Arizona is his team.

Buffalo Sabres- Jack Eichel (C)


There’s been a lot of contention regarding Eichel’s candidacy to be Buffalo’s captain. He obviously has the talent and the poise, but some fear that he’s too young still, though Edmonton made Connor McDavid its captain this season and he scored 100 points. Buffalo effectively released former captain Brian Gionta this offseason and new Head Coach Phil Housley has not yet named a replacement. Eichel is the face and future of the Sabres and is ready for the responsibility after maturing a great deal during the Sabres’ frustrating past season. If not in Housley’s eyes, Ryan O’Reilly is also an easy choice.

Carolina Hurricanes- Justin Faulk (D)

The ‘Canes have not had a captain since longtime star Eric Staal was traded to the Rangers at the 2016 Deadline and instead went with four alternates last season, Jordan Staal, Victor Rask, Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk. Of the four, Faulk is easily the best choice. A rising star in the NHL and very capable two-way defender, Faulk has all the tools to lead Carolina out of the gutter. Still young at only 25, the Hurricanes aren’t going to let their golden goose go anywhere any time soon. Giving him the C is a no-brainer.

Nashville Predators- PK Subban (D)

Sportsnet Canada.

Like Arizona, Nashville has a vacancy here because Mike Fisher retired after leading the franchise to its first Stanley Cup Final. Not a bad way to go out, especially when you get to go home to Carrie Underwood. Besides Fish’s excellence, the team’s head-turning run was propelled by the ever-dynamic PK Subban. Say what you want about him, but he’s easily one of the most electric players in the League and would make a great captain. His leadership helped fill a huge void after the team shocked the world with the trade of its former captain, Shea Weber. The Predators have the tools to dominate again, and Subban deserves the captaincy honor. Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi could also do the job.

Toronto Maple Leafs- Tyler Bozak (C)

“What stuff are you smokin’, idiot??” I’m sure you’re thinking. Yeah I know this one is a bit out of left field, but it makes sense when you think of it (plus I couldn’t be totally predictable with the list). Auston Matthews is fresh off a great rookie season and the Calder Trophy, yes. But there’s still no rush to put the C on the youngster. I know this may also seem hypocritical since I just said that Buffalo should give theirs to Eichel, but it’s just not the same case. Tyler Bozak has been on the Leafs since 2009 and is a seasoned veteran, fresh off a career year. Giving him the captaincy is a smarter move than Matthews because, unlike Eichel, Matthews hasn’t proven he can handle the pressure yet. Bozak as captain will allow the Leafs’ core of young stars that also includes Morgan Reilly, Mitchell Marner and William Nylander to continue to mature. The same could be said for new acquisition Patrick Marleau, but Bozak has been there the longest and deserves it most.

Vegas Golden Knights- Deryk Engelland


The Vegas Golden Knights have not yet named a captain for their inaugural season. Marc Methot seemed to be the easy choice but he was traded to Dallas. Now the Toronto Sun suggested this and it confused me at first, but it actually makes a lot of sense. While Deryk Engelland is relatively unknown in the NHL and an modest, stay-at-home defenseman, he would be a perfect fit for Golden Knights’ captain. Engelland played two years in the ECHL for the Las Vegas Wranglers and Vegas hockey fans know who he is. He’s the closest thing to a homemade player that the team has and fans would instantly recognize him as the team’s captain. There are other choices like Jason Garrison and James Neal, but Engelland is a familiar face to Las Vegas and fans would love him as the leader.

Agree/disagree? As always, be sure to take to Twitter to let me know how brilliant or stupid I am.

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Buffalo Sabres

Sabres Fire General Manager Tim Murray, Head Coach Dan Bylsma



Missing the NHL Playoffs for the sixth-year has an impact on a team. Especially the Buffalo Sabres.

The Sabres announced Thursday that they fired both Sabres fired general manager Tim Murray and coach Dan Bylsma.

Murray had backed Bylsma returning for a third season as Sabres coach as recently as last week but admitted that the future of both Bylsma and himself rested with team owner Terry Pegula.

“After reviewing the past season and looking at the future of our organization, Kim [Pegula] and I have decided to relieve General Manager Tim Murray and Head Coach Dan Bylsma of their duties,” Terry Pegula said in a statement. “We want to thank Tim and Dan for their hard work and efforts that they have put in during their tenures with the club. We wish them luck. We have begun the process to fill these positions immediately.”

It’s been rumored that Buffalo’s 20-year-old franchise cornerstone Jack Eichel may not want to sign long term with the Sabres because he is tired of losing.

Eichel has one year left on his entry-level contract. The team and Eichel can start negotiating a contract extension on July 1st.

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Buffalo Sabres

Eichel Flourishing Despite Sabres’ Struggles



The Buffalo Sabres aren’t a bad team, but they aren’t a good team either. Predicted to be a playoff team this season, inconsistent goaltending and (at times) questionable coaching has killed the team’s chances and they seem bound for watching the postseason for the sixth straight year. Despite this, however, 20-year-old Jack Eichel is not struggling at all and is quietly having a phenomenal season.

Eichel sprained his ankle the night before Buffalo’s season opener back in October and he missed 21 games as a result. Many were questioning how the injury would effect the young gun, but it’s very clear that it hasn’t. Eichel is scoring at a torrid rate and currently has one less point than games played. He leads the Sabres with 45 points (18+27) despite playing in just 46 games.

Courtesy of USA Today.

While it may be very sad that Buffalo’s leading scorer is a guy who missed a fourth of the season, it is also a testament to Eichel’s incredible ability.  He is currently 14th in the NHL in points per game with .98, and while that may not seem super impressive, it is when you consider that he trails only the likes of Tyler Seguin and John Tavares. Also, with only half of the season played at this point, that is formidable to say the least, so much so that The Hockey Writers recently called him one of the NHL’s most underrated players.

Eichel is also riding an 11 game point streak currently. The Hockey Writers stated that if he played the whole 82 games this season, he would score 80 points. Eichel obviously will not reach that mark, but it is worth noting that he is currently on the same level as his 2015 Draft contemporary, Connor McDavid.

McDavid is having an incredible season in Edmonton and will undoubtedly be a finalist for the Hart Trophy, currently leading the NHL with 74 points. However, since Eichel returned on November 29, he and McDavid have the same points total. Had Eichel not missed the first 21 games, he could possibly have just as many as McDavid.

Since his return, Jack Eichel has been on the same level as Connor McDavid. From ESPN.

There’s many reasons why Eichel doesn’t get the same attention that players like McDavid, Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine get. For one, he’s American (we all know the NHL doesn’t like them) and plays for a small-market American team. If he played for a large market and/or Canadian team, Eichel would be the talk of the League right now. He’s proving more and more that he should not be slept on. The kid who is destined to be an elite threat is on the cusp of becoming one.

The fact that the Sabres are playing so poorly yet Eichel is thriving is a testament to how good he is becoming. He has been a bright spot for the Sabres in a frustrating season.

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