Thursday, September 15, 2011

Buffalo vs. New York: The Championship Game at the 2011 NHL Prospects Tournament

It’s safe to say the MSG Network got its dream matchup in the championship game of the 2011 NHL Prospects Tournament, as the New York Rangers and the Buffalo Sabres – despite both being beaten in their final round-robin game – got the nod to determine who had the better crop of young stars in the Empire State.

Things looked a bit mismatched on the face-off, as the hulking first line of the Sabres (consisting of Luke Adam, Zack Kassian, and Marcus Foligno, all standing either 6’2” or 6’3”) towered over the Rangers’ starting group of forwards of Ryan Bourque, Christian Thomas, and Jonathan Audy-Marchessault (all three are listed at 5’9”). The speedy New York forwards would have the pace matched by Buffalo early on, as Phil Varone sprung free on a rush which Rangers’ goalie Scott Stajcer would turn away.

Meanwhile, the Rangers’ Carl Hagelin showed the best speed of the tournament when he turned on the jets, skating past Sabres defenders – and drawing a slash on Buffalo blueliner Brayden McNabb. Blake Parlett would pinch deep for a couple of pokes in front of Sabres’ netminder Nathan Lieuwen on the power play, but would be denied. Buffalo pushed the attack with their power play chances, but the Rangers’ penalty killers showed no fear in stepping in front of shot from the Sabres’ PP unit, as demonstrated by Bourque and Michael St. Croix.

Buffalo would eventually strike first with the man advantage. With Jyri Niemi off for interference, Adam snapped a Jerome Gauthier-Leduc feed past Stajcer just over halfway through the first for a 1-0 Sabres advantage. Just over three minutes later, Foligno notched his second goal in as many games on an assist from Kassian. But the Rangers got on the board 19 seconds after Foligno’s goal on J.T. Miller’s howitzer blast from the slot. New York had a slight edge in shots at 10-9, but were down 2-1 on the scoreboard after one period.

Things got interesting about 4 minutes into the second when Buffalo’s Corey Tropp dropped the gloves with New York’s Jason Wilson, after Wilson took umbrage to Tropp’s questionable hit in the corner. Bourque continued to bounce around the rink like a pinball, spinning around defenders with the puck and ricocheting off Sabres when he didn’t. He tied the game 2-2 just before the halfway mark of the period on a busted play. Audy-Marchessault tried to feed a wide-open Thomas on the right wing, but the pass didn’t quite click. Bourque scooped up the loose puck after it deflected off Thomas’ stick and wristed it past Lieuwen for his fourth goal of the tournament.

Bourque’s aggressiveness would hurt his team later when he was whistled for a slash, but St. Croix continued to work hard with an antagonistic fore-check on the PK. Meanwhile, the Sabres’ Daniel Catenacci would get his bell rung on a hit along the boards behind the Buffalo net where he took his time getting back to his bench. The physicality of the period took its toll on the offense, as both teams mustered only 6 shots apiece in the frame and headed into the third period knotted up at 2-2.

Tropp would skate in all alone along the left boards and beat Stajcer short-side just 1:28 into the third as the Sabres reclaimed the lead at 3-2. The Rangers – normally a third period force up to this point in the period – seemed a bit rattled by the early goal and did not tally their first shot on goal until nearly seven minutes into the frame. Buffalo plugged up any room to move for the New York attackers, only adding the Rangers’ frustrations. Catenacci was sprung free on a breakaway, scoring with 5 minutes left, and Kassian notched an insurance marker on another breakaway with 2:13 to go to clinch it for the Sabres.

FINAL SCORE: Buffalo 5, New York 2

Buffalo claimed the NHL Prospects Tournament title in their first year of the tournament, matching Carolina’s feat of two years ago.

In the 3rd place game, Anthony Nigro scored 1:51 into double overtime to give the St. Louis Blues a 4-3 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

8th place – Carolina
7th place – Detroit
6th place – Dallas
5th place – Minnesota
4th place – Columbus
3rd place – St. Louis
2nd place – New York
1st place – Buffalo

1998 – Nashville
1999 – St. Louis
2000 – St. Louis
2001 – St. Louis
2002 – Washington
2003 – Minnesota
2004 – St. Louis
2005 – Columbus
2006 – Columbus
2007 – New York
2008 – Dallas
2009 – Carolina
2010 – Minnesota
2011 – Buffalo

No comments:

Post a Comment