Sabres-Bruins goalie duel will be battle of little things; more notes
Across North America and even in some pockets of hockey-heavy Boston, the perception seems to be that if there is an advantage for Buffalo in its first-round series with the Bruins, it's that the Sabres have
Miller has been to the playoff party and acquitted himself well. He was the standout performer at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver where he came within a shot of beating the mighty Canadians for the gold medal. He's also Buffalo's leader, more so than even captain
But what was left largely unsaid until Bruins coach
Chances are you've barely heard of
"Who cares? Really," Julien replied when asked if the Sabres might have an advantage with Miller's experience. "If they think that's an advantage, good for them. We feel very confident in Tuukka and we also feel very confident in the guy that's with him (
Julien is not just blowing coach's smoke for the sake of building the black and gold's confidence. Rask, a former Toronto prospect dealt to Boston by the since-fired
Miller played in 69 regular season games to Rask's 45 and started every game in the Olympics. That workload takes a toll, and one could argue that Miller was overworked this season. One could also argue that the Bruins, who play a strong defensive game, gave Rask more support than Miller sometimes got from his mates. And given what we saw from several goalies with little or no playoff experience when the tournament opened on Wednesday night, there's no reason to suspect that Rask is going to falter just because Miller is at the other end of the ice.
"I don't worry about any media hype," Rask said when confronted with the obvious questions. "You don't worry more about what he's doing. It's the playoffs and you play your game."
Okay, that statement doesn't have the same weight of authority as when
"Not much rattles him," Julien told the
Those desperate days have led the Bruins not only to the postseason despite having the worst offense of any team in the playoffs, they've also made Boston believe it can win.
"He just got better and better," Julien said of his 23-year old netminder. "It got to a point where he was so good that you couldn't do otherwise than keep putting him in. A lot has been said about Timmy. But it's not Timmy. It's what Tuukka has done. If you look at Timmy's stats compared to a lot of No. 1 goalies around the league who are playing a lot, he's right up there with them. We just have a goaltender who's surpassed those stats. He's No. 1 in goals-against and No. 1 in save percentage. Logic took over. It's as simple as that."
Thomas' goals-against this season (2.56) was similar to
Like Miller, Rask plays a butterfly style. But at 6-feet 2-inches tall, he takes away much of the top portion of the net even when he's down on his pads. Also like Miller, he is exceedingly calm in the crease and seems to see the game in a slow-down fashion, knowing well in advance where the puck is and where it is going and acting accordingly. If he has a weakness -- and it's one born of inexperience rather than inability -- it's in his puck-handling. Expect to see the Sabres channeling their shoot-ins to areas that force Rask to play the puck behind his own net. It's a small thing, but it could be a difference-maker in games that are likely to be decided by a single play.
"People talk about the two goalies a lot," Rask said regarding the expected showdown with the higher-profile Miller. "It's more about six guys on the ice for each team and doing all the little things that are going to make an impact."
The goalie whot does those little things just a tiny bit better is the one likely to carry his team to the second round.
No surprise that
It's also no surprise that Waddell went upstairs. There's a fractured ownership situation in Atlanta and a widespread agreement that none of its owners know a thing about managing a sports and/or arena business, so Waddell was the most qualified of the candidates for the president's position.
If there is anyone who didn't deserve what he got, it would be head coach
"Absolute disappointment," Anderson said. "From last year, I don't like to use the word rebuilding mode, but that's what we were in. Two years later, I think we left the house in pretty good order. We almost made the playoffs. I wish we had. It might have been the difference in my job and some other guys' jobs."
Anderson got ripped by some players, notably
We told you weeks ago that the Tampa Bay Lightning should fire both GM
It's an old hockey lesson not well-learned in Tampa: when there is feuding in the ranks, the easiest and often best thing to do is clear out all the opposing forces and bring in people who will work together even if they sometimes clash. Most importantly (and what Lawton and Tocchet apparently failed to understand) is that when you do clash over concepts or player personnel, it needs to be behind closed doors.
We also wrote that the team's new ownership needs to make every effort to get out from under
Lecavalier's contract is hard to move and it will be harder still because of his high cap hit (in excess of $7 million), low goal production, and the fact that a team willing to make a trade can't cut a salary deal (leaving some of the hit on the team looking to move the contract), but it's not impossible. Lecavalier might actually rebound with a change of scene and there are teams with enough cap room to take him on. The big question is whether there's a GM with the courage to take that chance.
I, for one, would put Toronto's
Toronto has three smallish centers in its lineup and any one could easily be replaced. Lecavalier has size, the ability to win faceoffs and battles in front of the net, and even if he doesn't rebound to his old 50-goal form, he would be a godsend to the Leafs if he even got to 30 and worked some magic as a playmaker as well.
Not accusing the good people who manage the lease at Jobing.com arena in Glendale, Arizona of being shortsighted, but wouldn't it have been in their own best interests to have approved lease concessions to both
Had the group approved two admittedly dissimilar leases, it would have forced the NHL to select the team's new owner after a mini-bidding war for a sale price because both ownership sides would have gotten all they could out of Glendale. Presumably that could have led to more money for the NHL owners, but most importantly, it would have forced one side or the other to step up with a promise to not move the team out of the area. Isn't that why the league went to court and a to-the-death battle with
There are people in and outside of hockey who think that Reinsdorf was the preferred partner all along and that Ice Edge was little more than a stalking horse used to get him the concessions he wanted. He has them now. Ice Edge is left with nothing and it appears that the good people of Glendale, and the few that are hockey fans, will also come out with nothing but guarantees that they will be the ones who will pay with their team if Reinsdorf doesn't get the revenues he needs.