• When this much is at stake, who can blame Sabres fans for cheering for losses?

    Ken Campbell
    Buff fans

    In a discussion with a GM recently, this is how he described Connor McDavid: “When you draft a guy, you hope that maybe someday he’s going to be an all-star. You look at this guy and you’re thinking Hall of Fame.”

    This is not some crazed fan or a yahoo who calls into sports talk radio. This is a person who makes player personnel decisions for a living and has seen thousands of prospects over the years. And he’s bang-on in his assessment. Read more

  • Phil Kessel, David Booth get into fight at Maple Leafs practice

    Jared Clinton
    Phil Kessel and David Booth (via Global Toronto/YouTube)

    A sure sign that a team’s situation is reaching its boiling point is when fights start to break out in practice. That’s exactly what happened this afternoon in Toronto, and from two unlikely combatants.

    During Maple Leafs practice Friday afternoon, Phil Kessel and David Booth — they of seven combined NHL scraps — got into a dust up and had to be separated by teammates. Toronto is in the midst of a seven-game slide, and there’s little doubt the fight was nothing more than frustration boiling over in Toronto. Footage of the wrestling match between the two surfaced thanks to Toronto’s Global News: Read more

  • Top five best-case-scenario first-round NHL playoff matchups

    Brian Elliott, Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews. (Dilip Vishwanat/NHLI via Getty Images)

    With the end of the NHL’s regular-season approximately two weeks away, attention has settled on the possible first-round playoff showdowns. Many, if not most of the specific post-season berths won’t be finalized until closer to the final games on Apr. 11, but it’s not too early to start crossing fingers in the hope that some teams will wind up facing particular opponents and provide viewers with maximum entertainment value right out of the gate. Here are the top five best-case scenario first-round matchups this year:

    5. Montreal vs. Ottawa. There are a few ways the Senators can take on the Canadiens in the first round, and most of them involve the Habs fending off Tampa Bay to retain top spot in the Atlantic Division, while the Sens hold on to the final wild card berth. Both results are entirely possible, and if it does happen, Canadian TV executives will be shimmying down the avenue as they celebrate the massive ratings that are sure to ensue. Read more

  • Ekman-Larsson’s 21 goals the most by a Swedish defenseman – and he’s only getting started

    Jared Clinton
    Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Norm Hall/Getty Images)

    It didn’t look like much – a quick shot from the blueline that found its way past Buffalo Sabres goaltender Matt Hackett – but Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s 21st goal of the season was a huge one. With the marker, he became the first Swedish defenseman to ever score 21 goals in a season.

    You read that correctly. On a list of blueliners that includes Hall of Famer Borje Salming, soon-to-be Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom and active defensemen Victor Hedman, Alex Edler, Niklas Kronwall and Erik Karlsson, Ekman-Larsson became the first to 21 goals. And it’s not even surprising because with each passing game Ekman-Larsson only better. Read more

  • Ilya Kovalchuk snaps, gives Alexander Radulov vicious slash

    Jared Clinton
    Ilya Kovalchuk takes down Alexander Radulov with a slash (via KHL/YouTube)

    Ilya Kovalchuk has been in the news lately due to reports regarding his potential exit from the KHL and return to the NHL. Thanks to a Paul Bunyan-esque chop to the legs of Alexander Radulov, he’s grabbing headlines for another reason.

    The slash came in the first game of the KHL’s Western Conference Final, which pits Kovalchuk’s SKA St. Petersburg against Radulov’s CSKA Moscow. With St. Petersburg down 3-0 and Radulov in control of the puck, Kovalchuk approached Radulov from behind and tagged his ankle with a violent chop. Read more

  • Tanking Lite: Time for the NHL’s lower middle class to get crafty

    Brian Costello
    Calgary Flames v Colorado Avalanche

    The fact there are a surprisingly low number of teams looking for a berth in the post-season – realistically, only 18 teams are battling for 16 spots – means there’s a good chance we’ll see some Tanking Lite™ to joining Tanking™ the final two weeks of the regular season.

    Florida (4.4 percent according to sportsclubstats.com), Dallas (1.0 percent) and San Jose (0.9 percent) are mathematically still alive to make the playoffs, but those numbers will dwindle to zero in short order. That means we pretty much know right now 12 of the 14 teams that will miss the playoffs.

    We already know Buffalo, Arizona and Edmonton are in snail race for 30th place and the best odds (20 percent) to win the draft lottery and the right to select generational talent Connor McDavid. And we already know the 30th place will have a 100 percent chance or winding up with McDavid or Jack Eichel, the other future franchise player.

    We also know the 2015 draft is a deep one. Besides these two projected superstars, there are a half dozen others who would be in the conversation for first or second overall any other average draft year. Noah Hanifin, Dylan Strome, Mitch Marner, Ivan Provorov. Throw in Zach Werenski and Matt Barzal. So getting a pick in the top six or eight will be pretty special.

    Read more

  • Watch Cam Ward make the glove save of the year, rob David Perron

    Jared Clinton
    Wardedit

    To all those goaltenders out there who have made outstanding saves this season: we’re sorry. We really are. You did your best, but it’s going to take a miracle save to come close to beating out Cam Ward for the best glove stop of the season.

    Ward’s monster glove save has all the elements necessary for a great save. Was it made in desperation? Check. Did he have to cover a lot of ground to make the stop? Check. Were there fans thinking the Penguins were about to score before Ward reached out? Absolutely. And not only did Ward extend to his physical limit to snare David Perron‘s shot, he did it in a one-goal game. Read more

  • Don’t openly cheer against your own team, Buffalo fans

    Ryan Kennedy
    At least the players were happy they scored (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

    There is a very obvious subtext to the Buffalo Sabres’ 2014-15 campaign that all of us are aware of. Since the team is in a rebuild and this summer’s draft features not one but two incredible prospects in Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, winning was not something that Sabres fans were overly concerned about.

    But openly cheering against the Sabres at First Niagara Center? That’s weak (chicken wing) sauce, folks.

    Read more