Like the steel engines from which they take their nickname, the Yaroslavl Locomotive of the Russian Superleague rumbled over their playoff opponents to easily win the championship of the top Russian hockey league. The Locomotive accomplished the feat in the minimum number of games, going undefeated in the post-season (9-0).
Yaroslavl was the top team in Russia during the regular season, as well, so their playoff success was not a big surprise. During their run to the championship, the Locomotive scored 28 goals in 9 playoff games, while allowing just 9 goals against. The defeated opponents included the Soviet Wings, the Magnitogorsk Metallurgists, and Yaroslavl’s opponent in the finals, the Kazan Leopards.
While most hockey fans would likely recognize only one name from the Yaroslavl roster (Andrei Kovalenko), many Buffalo Sabres’ fans are fairly familiar with one of the younger players on the Locomotive, former 2000 1st round pick Artem Kriukov. Artem appeared in 5 of Yaroslavl’s 9 playoff games, registering 1 goal and 8 PIMs in those contests. Kriukov was a healthy scratch in the other 4 contests, with the Yaroslavl coaching staff favoring a more veteran lineup in games against tougher opponents.
After sitting out the opening round victory over the Soviet Wings, Artem had a solid series vs. Magnitogorsk. The high point of Kriukov’s post-season action came in the deciding game against the Metallurgist, where he scored his lone playoff goal, and earned the 3rd star award for his strong play througho Read more»
Inside of many hockey players is a frustrated golfer. Or you would think that based on the number of players who hit the links in their spare time.
In their first 25 years of existence, the Buffalo Sabres did their part to bolster the hockey-golf connection, with the team regularly scheduling tee times in mid-to-late April as a result of early elimination from the playoffs, or, less regularly, due simply to a failure to make the post-season party.
The Sabres of recent vintage have had a little less time to enjoy the great outdoors, given their extended playoff runs in 4 of the past 5 post-seasons. That run of good fortune will come to an end this year, however, as the club will find itself in the uncustomary position of missing the playoffs altogether. A late-season surge by the Sabres was simply not enough to overcome a season of mediocre (or worse) performances, with the team officially being eliminated in the final week of the 01-02 season.
Perhaps as a show of solidarity, the majority of Buffalo’s North American prospects have hung up their skates for the summer, as well. The golf courses of North America will seemingly be littered with hockey players and coaches who list the Sabres as their employer or affiliate.
For starters, the Sabres’ minor league club, the Rochester Americans, barely got their undergarments wet, as they q Read more»
Team toughness, or a lack thereof, seemingly has played a role in the Buffalo Sabres’ fall from playoff contention this season. A steady exodus of gritty players, including the likes of Mike Peca and Doug Gilmour, has left the Buffalo lineup a little short of the spirit and leadership necessary for success in the NHL.
While Buffalo may not have many prospects that have the combination of skill and grit found in players like Peca and Gilmour, they do have youngsters in the organization that could provide enough toughness to keep Buffalo’s opponents on edge in the years to come. One of those prospects, LW Andrew Peters, is currently filling the role of enforcer for the Rochester Americans of the AHL.
Peters was the first of three 2nd round picks the Sabres made in the ’98 NHL Draft, where he was drafted with the pick acquired in the deal that sent Pat Lafontaine to the New York Rangers. Andrew spent most of his junior career with the OHL’s Oshawa Generals, but was moved to the Kitchener Rangers during his final junior season following a dispute with then-Oshawa coach George Burnett.
Peters’ main claim to fame in juniors was his fighting ability, as he amassed 452 penalty minutes in his 3-year OHL career. Andrew also showed flashes of skill during his draft year, but that part of his game has gone largely unfulfilled since that time. The St. Catherines native saw limited ice time during his first season with Rochester, but has steadily played a larger role this season, flashing the pugilistic skills that Read more»
The Buffalo Sabres in recent years have built up solid depth at the right wing position via trades and good drafting. Some of this talent is already on the Buffalo roster, but there are still a couple of good prospects in the pipeline. One of those prospects, Norm Milley, is currently playing for the Rochester Americans of the AHL.
Norm was selected by Buffalo in the 2nd round of the 1998 NHL Draft, one of three 2nd round picks the Sabres made in that draft. The Toronto native starred for the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL, where he spent four seasons prior to turning pro in the summer of 2000. Milley set or tied several team records in Sudbury, and finished his junior career as the second-leading scorer in Wolves history. While the gentleman one point ahead of Norm on Sudbury’s scoring list (Jamie Matthews) may not be familiar to a lot of hockey fans, the two names directly after Milley’s, Ron Duguay and Mike Foligno, should be a little more recognizable to long-time NHL followers.
Milley turned in a solid first season in the AHL last year, earning Rochester’s Rookie of the Year award. His second season with the Amerks got off to a bit of a slow start, but Norm has come on in the season’s 2nd half to remind the organization why he was a high draft pick. Milley’s strong play recently earned him his first call-up to the NHL, where he picked up his first NHL point.
I had a chance to interview Norm following a recent Amerks practice. Below is a transcript of that conversation, with my questions bein Read more»
Back in 1988, in the 5th round of the NHL Draft, the Buffalo Sabres drafted a player out of the OHL by the name of Rob Ray. Rob had totaled 590 penalty minutes during his junior career, so it was clear that the Sabres were looking to add some muscle to a team that had developed a reputation for being soft.
Fourteen years and 3000+ penalty minutes later, Rob has shown that a little bit of talent can go a long way in the NHL, if you work hard enough. The man known as “Razor” has won the hearts of a generation of Sabres fans while simultaneously pummeling a legion of NHL tough guys. There is little doubt, then, that Rob will be crowned Buffalo’s all-time enforcer once he decides to hang up his skates, a possibility that grows greater with each passing day.
Ray will turn 34 in June, an age that often signals the end of a professional hockey player’s career. While Rob may not yet be contemplating retirement, the day is surely not far off, which means the Sabres will have to find a worthy replacement for their all-time penalty minute leader. Luckily for Buffalo, there are a few candidates waiting in the wings, with no one player having a definite advantage over the others.
The obvious choice to replace Ray would be current Sabre LW Eric Boulton. Eric has earned his place in the NHL the hard way, coming up through the ECHL and AHL to surprisingly land a spot on Buffalo’s roster last seaso Read more»