The Buffalo Sabres were missing a ton of talent on Monday night, but that didn’t stop them from defeating the Boston Bruins at TD Garden by a score of 3-2.

The big story heading into the game was Buffalo’s injuries. Scratched from the Sabres’ lineup were Tim Connolly, Thomas Vanek, Patrick Kaleta, and Raffi Torres.

Filling in for the injured players was Buffalo’s tremendous trio of young talent: Tyler Ennis, Nathan Gerbe, and Mark Mancari.

All three players had solid games, and Ennis broke up several Boston offensive rushes.

Other than the injured players, there were very few things missing from the Sabres’ game in arguably their most well-balanced win of the season.

Every forward had at least 11 minutes of ice time, and not one forward had more than 17:16.

Rookie sensation Tyler Myers continued his hot streak with a goal and an assist. He now has nine points and is a plus-four in his last eight games.

“It was really big for us, especially with the spot they’re in and the desperation they have,” Myers told the Associated Press after the win. “It was a huge road win for us. As a team right now, we’re focused on moving forward.”

Derek Roy assisted on Tim Kennedy’s game-winning goal in the second period to give him his 18th point this month. The goal marks Kennedy’s sixth point in eight games since being moved onto Roy’s line.

Buffalo’s penalty kill stopped both of Boston’s power plays with relative ease due to the play of Paul Gaustad, Mike Grier, and the often under-appreciated penalty killer, Jason Pominville.

Pominville blocked two shots and created a shorthanded breakaway chance for himself with his disciplined play on the penalty kill.

Despite letting in a soft goal late in the third period, Vezina favorite Ryan Miller stopped 40 of Boston’s 42 shots to preserve the victory.

The only blemish on Buffalo’s game was the play of defenseman Andrej Sekera, whose lack of hustle in the first period led to Boston’s first goal.

Sekera, considered an offensive defenseman, has just one point in his last 14 games.

Sekera played in place of Chris Butler, who was a healthy scratch. The two defensemen have switched their role as a healthy scratch back and forth for a majority of the season—it is still a mystery in regards to which player will be the Sabres’ sixth defender for the playoffs.

In the wake of several injuries, the Sabres pulled together for their best team victory of the season.

Read more Buffalo Sabres news on BleacherReport.com

The Vezina trophy is given out annually to the national hockey league goalie who is judged to be “best” at his position.

 

When introduced it in 1927 it was designed to commemorate George Vezina, the great Canadien’s goalie who died of tuberculosis the year before. The trophy was handed to the goalie or goalies who gave up the fewest goals in a season.

 

Back then there was only one goalie per team so the goalie on the team with the lowest GAA was seen to be the best in the league.  

 

Come the 1980-81 season, Dennis Heron, Michel “Bunny” Laroque and Richard Sevigny became the first triumvirate to win the Vezina. However, their names don't resonate down the halls of NHL goaltender greatness. 

 

It became obvious that the award was no longer rewarding the leagues best goaltender. 

 

In this case, a committee of fair goalies playing on the best defensive team in the league won the award. 

 

The William M. Jennings trophy was established the next year to reward the goaltenders on the team that allowed the fewest goals during the regular season. The Vezina would now be given out to the single goalie the 30 NHL general managers deemed to be the best in league.

 

The trophy thus wandered from being a quantifiable certainty to being a matter of opinion among the leagues GM’s.

 

What with the quirky NHL scheduling there could quite easily be very worthy goaltending candidates that a GM will never see play during the season so it’s useful to have some sort of statistical method to help determine the leagues best goalies.

 

The coming of the Jennings trophy also acknowledged that GAA was perhaps more indicative of overall team defensive play than a particular goalie's ability relative to others in the league. 

 

Save percentage, wins and shut-outs are certainly helpful in trying to evaluate a goalie's ability. All these numbers of course can be tainted by how good or bad a defensive team is playing in front of them. 

 

I’ve got no absolute solution for that problem and no perfect way to extract a goalie's contribution and his team's contribution from the various NHL defensive statistics.

 

I've collected GAA, save percentage numbers, wins, shut-outs, and minutes played for every goalie in the league. I’ve also taken the number of saves a goalie has made to date and divided that by number of minutes played, divided by 60, to get an average saves per game number for every goalie in the league.

 

I’ve also looked at the number of shots on goal each goalie’s team is giving up and subtracted their saves per game from that total for another type of goals against average.

 

There's no definitive numerical system for ranking goalies, but this is the result of what I've put together. I'm using the shots on goal that the various teams allow as a rough indicator of a teams defensive ability and an indication of how easy or hard a particular goalie's job is with a particular team.

 

It's much easier to be a goalie in the NHL in Chicago than Florida. Though even without looking at any numbers you probably knew that already.  

 

The cut-off for ranking goalies was a third of their team’s minutes. If a goalie hasn’t played at least a third of his team’s minutes I didn’t bother counting his statistics or using them in the ranking process.

 

Even though I ranked those players, I can’t believe I’d consider a goalie for a Vezina unless he played at least half of his teams minutes. Back-up goalies have a lighter workload and tend to play against weaker teams which makes their numbers better.

 

 

 

Also Rans : These goalies have had great years but don’t make my top five.

 

 

 

Jonathon Quick LA Kings (2.50 GAA, .909 sv pct, 39 W, 4 SO)

 

Jonathon is having a great year for LA helping them to what looks to be their first playoff appearance in years. His numbers are buoyed by the fact that he’s played the second most minutes in the entire league.

 

His 39 wins are tied for second overall with Bryzgalov.

 

He's managed a 2.50 GAA, which is 14th among the goalies in the league who have played at least a third of their teams minutes. He has a fair .909 save percentage. The median save percentage in this group of 42 goalies is .912.

 

He’s playing on a Los Angeles team that gives up the third fewest shots on goal in the league which makes his job easier and perhaps make his numbers better than they should be.

 

 

 

Roberto Luongo Vancouver Canucks (2.48 GAA, .915 sv pct, 37 W, 3 SO)

 

Fresh from winning the starting job for Canada at the Olympics from Martin Brodeur and then winning the gold medal, this looked like a year for Roberto to challenge for the Vezina trophy.

 

Instead, last year's .920 save percentage has sunk to .915. Last year's 2.34 goals against average is now 2.48.

 

He’s still having a good year, but he’s sunk from fifth overall in both categories to 13th overall. He’s fifth in wins, ninth in minutes played and 11th in total saves.

 

That makes him a very good goalie, just not one of the four or five best.

 

 


Henrik Lundqvist New York Rangers (2.42 GAA, .919 sv pct, 29 W, 3 SO)

 

Henrik is one of the league leaders in wins, saves and minutes played.

 

He was a top twenty goalie in every statistical category I looked at, but like last year he grades out as the tenth or eleventh best goalie in the league.

 

Playing for the Rangers certainly hasn’t helped his win total.

 

 


Martin Brodeur New Jersey Devils (2.34 GAA, .914 sv pct, 40 W, 7 SO)

 

Brodeur is in the running as one of the greatest goalies of all-time.

 

Recent performances in the playoffs and at the Olympics this year have shown that age may be catching up with him.

 

He’s the league leader in wins and minutes played and is tied for second in shut-outs behind Bryzgalov.

 

The Devils seem to have recovered their defensive moxy this year and are giving up the second fewest shots on goal in the league, insulating Brodeur from too much pressure.

 

If they can continue to do that in the playoffs he could still perform well there. 

 

 

 

Tuukka Rask Boston Bruins (2.02 GAA, .930 sv pct, 18 W, 4 SO)

 

Tuukka has been platooning with last years Vezina trophy winner Tim Thomas and they each played about a half of their team’s minutes.

 

Rask is the league leader in goals against and save percentage. His four shut-outs are more impressive because he’s played barely 58% of the minutes Ryan Miller has and Miller has five.

 

The Bruins are giving up a 15th worse in the league, 30 shots a game. Throw in the pressure on a goalie playing in front of Boston’s league-worst offense and Rask’s numbers seem more Vezina worthy than some others.

 

Tuukka unfortunately hasn’t played enough games.

 

He’s got just barely over half the minutes that Martin Brodeur has put in this season. A heavier work-load should increase that goals against average and decrease that save percentage.

 

If he manages to up his games played and maintain his other numbers look for the youngster to win a Vezina in the future.

 

 

 

Jimmy Howard Detroit Red Wings (2.29 GAA, .924 sv pct, 30 W, 1 SO)

 

Jimmy has finally supplanted Chris Osgood in Detroit.

 

This is while the Red Wings have slipped back from being defensive leaders in the league to giving up a 13th worst 29.8 shots per game against.

 

Howard has the fourth best save percentage and the sixth best goals against average in the league.

 

He’s taken on a fair workload having played 3,248 minutes so far and he’s tenth in wins with 30. Howard still needs to have his mettle tested in the playoffs but he’s having a break-out season in net for Detroit this year.

 

 

 

Contenders : These are my top five goalies who all have a shot at the Vezina    

 

 

 

Evgeni Nabokov San Jose Sharks (2.43 GAA, .921 sv pct, 38 W, 2 SO)

 

Nabokov has developed a reputation for not being able to compete at the highest level.

 

He’s a great regular season goalie, but he can’t cut it in the playoffs or apparently at the Olympics.

 

Well, Nabokov is having another great regular season.

 

San Jose was last year's tightest defensive team giving up a mere 27.2 shots per game. This year they’re 18th and giving up 31 shots per game. In the face of that onslaught, Nabokov, rather than wilting, has bloomed.

 

Last year's .910 save percentage is now a seventh best .921. His goals against average, despite the extra three shots per game, has shrunk from 2.48 to 2.43.

 

He’s having a Vezina kind of year. It still needs to be seen if he’s having a Conn Smythe kind of year.

 

 

 

Craig Anderson Colorado Avalanche (2.53 GAA, .921 sv pct, 36 W, 7 SO)

 

Anderson's steady goaltending is a major reason for Colorado’s rebound from being the worst team in the western Conference last year.

 

He was baptized in fire with Florida last year, making a league-leading 33.12 saves per game. This year, the mere 32.1 shots per game Colorado gives up must seem like a vacation.

 

Despite almost doubling his work load from last year, Anderson has maintained his numbers. He has the seventh best save percentage in the league, the 17th best GAA, he’s second in shut-outs, third in minutes played, first in total saves made, fifth in saves per game made, and seventh in wins.

 

Anderson has been a saviour for the Avalanche and well worth Vezina consideration.

 

 

 

Miikka Kiprusoff Calgary Flames (2.21 GAA, .923 sv pct, 32 W, 4 SO)

 

After years of steadily decreasing performances, Miikka Kiprusoff has rebounded to become the goalie he was five years ago.

 

His fifth-best save percentage and fourth-best goals against average is one of the few bright spots left on a Flames team ready to miss the playoffs.

 

He’s a top ten performer in every category I looked at but saves per game. It’s a shame to see this performance wasted.

 

 


Tomas Vokoun Florida Panthers (2.45 GAA, .928 sv pct, 23 W, 7 SO)

 

While Craig Anderson managed to escape the shooting gallery, in Florida Tomas Vokoun was left behind.

 

Florida once again leads the league in shots allowed.

 

Vokoun once again is a league leader in stopping that hurricane of shots.

 

He’s third in save percentage, second in total saves and saves per game, second in shut-outs and tenth in minutes played. Playing a lot of games in a high shot environment hasn’t burnt him out yet.

 

There was talk Vokoun was going to be traded at the deadline.

 

If a regular goalie gets stuck with his job in Florida, we’ll see some goals against numbers that we haven’t seen in the league since the early '80s. 

 

 

 

Ilya Bryzgalov Phoenix Coyotes (2.28 GAA, .921 sv pct, 39 W, 8 SO)

 

Bryzgalov is another goalie who appears to be carrying his team on his back into the playoffs.

 

He’s leading the league in shut-outs and is tied for second in wins. He’s fifth in goals against average and seventh in save percentage. Bryzgalov has played the sixth most minutes in the league and has made the sixth most saves.

 

Phoenix has had a middle-of-the-road defense this year, giving up the 12th most shots on goal.

 

Bryzgalov is almost my Vezina trophy winner.

 

 

 

Vezina Trophy Winner —Best Goalie in the League

 

 

 

Ryan Miller Buffalo Sabres (2.20 GAA, .929 sv pct, 37 W, 5 SO)

 

Miller returned to the NHL from an Olympic tournament where he won a silver medal and was chosen first team all-star goalie, best goalie of the tournament and tournament MVP.

 

His numbers in the NHL have been almost as good.

 

He’s got the second-best save percentage and the third-best goals against percentage in the league. He’s fifth in wins, seventh in shut-outs, fourth in saves, ninth in saves per game, and eighth in minutes played.

 

Buffalo, giving up a 22nd worst 31.4 shots per game, looks like a pretty ordinary team without Ryan Miller.

 

Take a look at what Buffalo did last year while Miller was hurt and Lalime was in net.

 

With Ryan Miller they’re looking like Northwest Conference champions. He’s been a good goalie for a while now in the NHL but this year he’s looking like the leagues best goalie.

 

 

 

NHL’s 10 Best Goalies This Season

1. Ryan Miller- Buf

2. Ilya Bryzgalov- Pho

3. Tomas Vokoun- Fla

4. Miikka Kiprusoff- Cal

5. Evgeni Nabokov- SJ

6. Craig Anderson- Col

7. Roberto Luongo- Van

8. Tuukka Rask- Bos

9. Jimmy Howard- Det

10. Martin Brodeur-NJ    

 


Notes: A very few teams had two goalies sharing the duties in nets who were also top twenty goalies as far as save percentage was concerned: Boston, Montreal and St. Louis.

 

Both goalies are providing above average goaltending, but apparently the teams are so bad that only a top ten goalie can succeed with them.

 

That appears to be why Jaroslav Halak and Tuukka Rask have won the starting jobs despite very good play from Price and Thomas. Mason appears to have hung on to the job in St. Louis but he has managed a winning record 25-21-8—unlike Price’s 13-19-5, and Thomas’s 16-17-8.

 

Antti Niemi managed a 16th best save percentage of .913.

 

Behind Chicago’s league best defensive team play, this has translated into 20 wins, six shut-outs and a second-best in the league 2.19 GAA.  

 

Cristobel Huet who has had a miserable year after a good start, has the league's eighth-best goals against average and 26 wins and four shut-outs. This all with the 39th worst save percentage among the 42 goalies who have played at least a third of their teams minutes; a horrible .899. 

 

That Chicago defense makes up for a lot of deficiencies. 

 

My choice last year as best goalie in the league, Niklas Backstrom, and my third place goalie Steve Mason, have fallen on hard times this year.

 

Mason has the second-worst save percentage among the league's starters. This year they’ve only been top 20 in categories like minutes played. Tim Thomas, my second best goalie last year, has fallen—but his numbers are still above average.

 

Nikolai Khabibulin, my fifth best goalie from last year, has fallen off the planet.

 

Marc-Andre Fleury, the Stanley cup champion goalie, is sporting a very ordinary .906 save percentage. He might need to get a little sharper come playoff time.

Read more Buffalo Sabres news on BleacherReport.com

A hat trick, seven goals, win No. 200 and a clinched playoff spot.

All in all, a good night for the Buffalo Sabres.

With a 7-1 blitzing of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Buffalo clinched a playoff berth for the first time in three seasons. After a tough loss to the Ottawa Senators Friday night, Buffalo roared back Saturday at HSBC Arena.

Buffalo experienced deja vu. Tampa Bay experienced a recurring nightmare.

Reminiscent of the game played just nine days earlier, Buffalo's offense exploded. A hat trick registered, a goaltender chased.

Derek Roy notched his fourth NHL hat trick, Buffalo scored three goals with the man advantage and Patrick Lalime made 22 saves for his 200th NHL win.

Without points leader Tim Connolly or agitator-extraordinaire Patrick Kaleta in the lineup, Buffalo was forced to dress seven defensemen and 11 forwards, including Portland Pirate Tyler Ennis.

Buffalo didn't miss a beat.

The Sabres chased Lightning goaltender Antero Nittymaki after he gave up three goals, one coming on even strength and two on the power play. Backup Mike Smith didn't fare much better. They combined to save just 16 of 23 shots.

Officials tossed Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier in the first period after he speared Tim Kennedy, giving Buffalo five minutes on the man advantage. Unlike Friday night, Buffalo capitalized. Derek Roy and Jochen Hecht scored 50 seconds apart and the onslaught continued.

Over the course of the game, 14 different Sabres registered at least a point. Ennis, playing in his first game since Nov. 14 in Philadelphia, recorded two assists. More importantly, he impressed with his smooth-as-butter stick-handling, explosive speed and slick playmaking.

Lalime has waited for this win since Dec. 29 against Pittsburgh. Going 0-4-1 in that span, some confidence is all he needed.

With his teammates doing their jobs, Lalime did his. He stopped 22 shots, including a few point-blank rips from the slot.

Paul Gaustad, Jochen Hecht, Jason Pominville and Adam Mair each lit the lamp for the Sabres. Hecht and Roy each hit the 20-goal mark and Pominville registered his 300th NHL point.

The march to the playoffs continues. All Buffalo needed was a little confidence booster. With eight games remaining and the playoff opponent still a mystery, the Sabres are flying high.

Perfect timing.

 

 

Read more Buffalo Sabres news on BleacherReport.com

The Buffalo Sabres better start praying to the hockey gods that they don’t get matched up with the Ottawa Senators in the first round of the playoffs.

After a 4-2 loss to the Sens on Friday night, Buffalo dropped to 0-4-1 this season against their Northeast Division rivals.

They have been outscored 18-9 by Ottawa in those five games.

“They’re playing a certain kind of system against us and it goes against our group of forwards,” Sabres goalie Ryan Miller told the Associated Press after the loss. “We’ve got to suck it up and play a better game.”

But the struggles against the Senators are nothing new for the Sabres. Buffalo has not beaten Ottawa in nine straight games dating back to last season and has lost 25 of 35 games since the lockout.

The last time the Sabres won against Ottawa was Jan. 6, 2009.

If the Sabres were to match up with the Sens in the first round, this season’s games wouldn’t be the only thing on their minds.

Anyone remember the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals? I’m sure it’s still fresh on Miller’s mind.

Daniel Alfredsson’s overtime goal in game five put the Senators into the Stanley Cup Finals, upsetting the NHL’s best team at the time in the Sabres.

A big reason for Buffalo’s troubles with the Sens this season lies within the Sabres’ power play. They are just 2-24 with the extra man against Ottawa—and don’t think it hasn’t been noticed.

“Our special-teams players didn’t compete hard enough,” Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff told the Associated Press after Friday’s loss. “I was angry with the power play in general. That’s where the lack of compete came in.”

For the moment, Buffalo will be playing the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs. The Sabres are 4-0-1 against the Habs this season.

But there is plenty of time left, and a lot of movement can occur in that time.

If the hockey gods do not favor the Sabres in the closing weeks and Buffalo gets paired up with Ottawa in the first round, it might be an early exit for the boys from Buffalo.

Historically, the hockey gods have not helped the Sabres—see “Brett Hull’s skate” for any further details.

 

Read more Buffalo Sabres news on BleacherReport.com

The Buffalo Sabres continue to showcase late-period heroics. They scored two late goals on Wednesday and beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in a shootout.

It gave the Sabres a seven-point lead over the Ottawa Senators heading into Friday's game against the Sens. Ten games remain in the season and if the Sabres get two points out of the contest, the division title would all but be locked up.

The right players are starting to contribute more. Jochen Hecht is starting to find the net along with his linemates, Tim Connolly and Jason Pominville. Pominville continues to play well towards the end of the season. It's nice to see the scoring won't go to waste as the Sabres aren't fighting for the eighth playoff spot this season.

A big reason for the Sabres success rests with their best player, Ryan Miller. His Olympic performance locked up the Vezina trophy this season. Let's hope he can stay healthy and help the Sabres hoist the Stanley Cup this season.

He is just that good, and let's hope that the overworked won't affect his play this postseason. He's a workhorse. Miller also expects the same from his teammates and it showed after the poor starts that doomed the team after the Olympic break. He, along with some other locker room leaders, made sure the team starts scoring early and it happened often during their Florida trip.

It's nice to look at the standings to figure out which team gets the Sabres in the first round. That's still far from being decided, but it's interesting to evaluate which team matches up well against the Sabres and see the season series with the potential teams.

 

Read more Buffalo Sabres news on BleacherReport.com

Excuse me, Dr. Frankenstein?

Could you make a trip to HSBC Arena and screw the heads back on every Buffalo Sabre except Ryan Miller?

Right from Andrei Kostitsyn's goal at 19:19 of the first period, this game looked to be over.

The Montreal Canadiens, in a brutal dog-fight to stay in the playoff picture, came in to HSBC Arena like a pack of hungry wolves.

Buffalo looked like a fat-and-happy grandfather after a Thanksgiving feast.

The Sabres seemed slow and lethargic—not the team that won three in a row on the road. Passes overshot their targets and shots rang wide. To add to the list of woes, Buffalo took four penalties in a row, starting with Derek Roy going to the box for hooking. Montreal enjoyed almost eight minutes of the man advantage in the second period, outshooting Buffalo 8-1 in that span.

Buffalo's defensemen were caught time and time again rushing into the offensive zone—only to give up the puck and have the Habs break out on numerous 2-on-1's.

Unfortunately for the Canadiens, Buffalo has the best goaltender in the world protecting the net—Vezina Trophy favorite Ryan Miller.

Miller shut the door with a bang - two brilliant back-to-back saves in the second frame and robbing Brian Gionta on a shorthanded breakaway.

For 58 minutes, Montreal owned the ice. They kept the hometown crowd quiet and frustrated the Sabres with crisp passing and neat plays.

But that was for 58 minutes.

On the power play and with Miller on the bench, Buffalo came roaring back. Tim Connolly ripped a slap shot that put the Sabres on the board with just under two minutes to play.

Then, reminiscent of the 2006-07 season, Buffalo continued the onslaught in the waning moments. Center Paul Guastad fired a wrist shot that beat Price at 19:12 of the third period, sending the game into overtime.

Jason Pominville ripped a shot off the crossbar in the extra frame, but to no avail.

Pominville and Thomas Vanek each lit the lamp in the shootout, scoring on shots accurate enough to make even Buffalo Bill jealous. Miller shut the door on Kostitsyn and Mike Cammalleri to seal the win.

The Sabres should not have won this game—but they played with a resilience that showed that this could be the season Buffalo could boast its first ever Stanley Cup.

 

Read more Buffalo Sabres news on BleacherReport.com

Two steps forward, one step back.

A week ago, we were talking about the Canadiens winning six games in a row. More recently, they have lost three straight.

Tonight's 3-2 shootout loss to the Sabres was the most traumatic for the players and their fans.

While some will describe this as a colossal collapse for the Habs in the last two minutes of the game after playing a terrific game, I'm not so sure.

Even though the Canadiens looked good at times in the game, the style of play was not similar at all to the formula used during the winning streak.

Tonight, it was back to special teams and goaltending.

While winning, the Canadiens were very effective at limiting shots on goal by the opposition. Since Feb. 4, the Habs have only allowed 40 shots once. That instance occurred on Mar. 4 in a game against San Jose, with Carey Price in goal.

Tonight, Price faced 42 Sabres shots and it was a shooting gallery. From midway through the second period, the Canadiens were out-shot 31 to 12. A very confident-looking Price was turning everything away.

With the Sabres pressing, the Canadiens were on their heels employing a single-man forecheck, with four players dropping back to clog up the neutral zone.

The boost in Buffalo offense came in the second period, after Sabres coach Lindy Ruff made a strategic move. After the Canadiens had been recipients of the game's first four power plays, Ruff went to work on the officials, berating them at every opportunity.

Ruff's antics appeared to have worked, as Buffalo was not assessed another penalty the rest of the night. Referees called six straight penalties on the Canadiens, including four minutes to Benoit Pouliot.

Montreal's penalty-killers very effectively turned away the Buffalo power play on five of six opportunities. But it was on the sixth that Ruff once again made an excellent tactical decision.

With more than three minutes remaining, Ruff pulled goaltender Ryan Miller, giving his team a six-on-four advantage. Josh Gorges was outmatched in front of the net, and a wide-open Tim Connolly gave the Sabres hope.

With the Habs reeling, fans looked to Canadiens' experienced bench boss to counter with a move or two of his own to preserve the win.

Would Martin call a timeout to settle his team down? No.

Would he send out Andrei Markov and Ryan O'Byrne, his top defensive pair? No.

Would the coach be sure to have his best defensive forwards on the ice? No.

Inexplicably, Coach Martin deployed Andrei Kostitsyn and Mike Cammalleri with Tomas Plekanec. In my opinion, Cammalleri is not strong in his own end when in peak form. This being Cammalleri's first game back after being on injured reserve, he looked out of gas in the third period.

With Cammalleri failing to clear the puck and both he and Roman Hamrlik struggling with coverage, Paul Gaustad got the tying goal only a short time after Price made a miraculous save on Jason Pominville.

Martin's coaching blunders and some undisciplined play spoiled many fine performances, most notably, a statement game from Carey Price. He looked big in the net, moved nimbly, and handled the puck well. Price did his job towards earning a shutout.

Andrei Kostitsyn had two goals and proved he can be a sniper with complimentary linemates.

Sergei Kostitsyn and Tom Pyatt were excellent especially when penalty-killing.

Dominic Moore and Jaroslav Spacek both played well against their former team.

Once again, this team is much better without Maxim Lapierre in the lineup.

"Carey gave us a strong game, and you'd like to win that game, but the penalties made it difficult for us," Coach Martin said. "What you've got to learn from that is the penalties cost us."

Yes, penalties and poor coaching.

The Canadiens must regroup and be ready for their next game on Thursday night when the Florida Panthers visit the Bell Centre.

Rocket's Three Stars:

1. Tim Connolly
2. Carey Price
3. Andrei Kostitsyn

Special mention: Tom Pyatt, Dominic Moore



Player quotes from wire services were used in this report.

(photo credit: Reuters)

Read more Buffalo Sabres news on BleacherReport.com

The Buffalo Sabres have 11 games remaining in the regular season, and hopefully a lot more after that.

The Sabres currently have a five point lead over the Ottawa Senators in the Northeast Division, with three games in hand.

Unfortunately for Buffalo, its 11 remaining games take place over the course of just 19 days. There are also three sets of back-to-back games left for the Sabres.

Six of the 11 games will be played away from HSBC Arena and seven are against Northeast Division opponents.

The Sabres have put themselves in a great position, but they are going to need some big names to step up in the final stretch. Two of those names are Jason Pominville and Derek Roy—and you better believe they will come through.

Over the course of the last three seasons and this season, Pominville and Roy have flourished in the months of March and April.

In the 2006-07 season, the duo combined for 37 points in 19 games. The following season, they combined for 44 points in 17 games. Last season, Pominville and Roy had 33 points in 19 games.

This season has been no different for the two long-time Sabres. In 11 games so far in March, they have combined for 22 points.

Buffalo plays the Montreal Canadiens tonight and the Ottawa Senators on Friday. The Sabres can just about lock up the division if they win the next two games against Montreal and Ottawa at HSBC Arena.

“We definitely don’t want to give them any life,” Jason Pominville told the Buffalo News of the Habs and Sens. “Teams are looking up to us and want to catch us. Our confidence is really high right now. The road trip helped us in every way: offense, defense, special teams, starts, everything.”

Even though the Sabres are on a three-game win streak and have created some big distance between them and the rest of the division, there is still a lot of time left.

“[These games are] just as important as last week,” coach Lindy Ruff told the Buffalo News on Tuesday. “We went on the road and we wanted to look to create a little bit of space. Now we’re back home and don’t want to take last week for granted. We worked hard to get a little bit of distance between us.”

If Pominville and Roy continue to do their job, the Sabres could have the division wrapped up by the weekend.

Read more Buffalo Sabres news on BleacherReport.com

As this excellent NHL season winds down, it's time to consider who will take home what every rookie dreams about - the prestigious Calder Trophy. Awarded to the League's top rookie, the Calder can range from forwards, defensemen, and goaltenders. Columbus Blue Jacket Steve Mason (G) currently holds the title. Previous Calder winners have included Patrick Kane, Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin - so it's safe to say the award is a good indicator of future League stars. These are my Top-5 Calder Trophy Candidates.

Begin Slideshow

It has been a while since a Buffalo Sabre won the Vezina Trophy.

In fact, it's been almost a decade since Dominik "The Dominator" Hasek took home the trophy awarded to the league's best goaltender. Since then, the award has avoided Buffalo like the plague.

Ryan Miller, you're up.

Miller's outstanding play for Buffalo this season could have him hoisting his first ever Vezina in Las Vegas come June.

Miller, taken 138th overall in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, is a favorite to win—and with good reason.

He has posted a league-leading .929 save percentage and 2.20 goals against average this season. Although closely followed by Florida's Tomas Vokoun (.928), a primary reason Buffalo sits atop the Northeast Division is because of the Michigan State product.

He sits second in GAA to the Boston Bruin's Tuukka Rask (2.08)—but Rask has played in just 36 games. Miller has given up four or more goals just seven times this season, but has never let in more than five.

He boasts a career-best five shutouts this season, one against Alexander Ovechkin and the red-hot offense of the Washington Capitals. To put it in perspective, the 'Caps have lit the lamp a whopping 279 times.

When Ryan Miller is hurt or doesn't play well, the Sabres don't make the playoffs. Last season, Miller got hurt and the team struggled. In 2007-08, a lack of a good backup made Miller play in 76 games, exhausting him. 

This season, things are different.

He has been, by far, Buffalo's best player, winning 36 of the 61 games he's played. When Buffalo's defense gets beaten, count on Miller to bail them out. When the clock strikes 0:00 of the third period and the game goes into overtime, Miller has eight victories.

With a good grip on the Northeast Division, Head Coach Lindy Ruff can rest Miller more often, letting backup Patrick Lalime get some playing time.

Miller's stats this season are good—very good. He has become one of the league's superstars and an American hero after his stellar play for Team USA in the Olympics.

Keep up the good work, Ryan Miller.

You can lead your team to its first ever Stanley Cup victory.

As for the Vezina? You've got it locked up.

Read more Buffalo Sabres news on BleacherReport.com