Matthews: The Sabres Are On A Roll

THE SABRES ARE ON A ROLL: WILL HOME ATTENDACE PICK UP THIS WEEK?

The Buffalo Sabres have won six straight games – each by one goal -- to improve to 13-6-2 and the rest of the NHL is taking notice.

Buffalo climbed 10 spots to No. 10 in this week’s ESPN NHL Power Rankings.

It will be interesting to see if the fans respond for home games at KeyBank Center Wednesday against Philadelphia and Friday afternoon against Montreal.

Entering this week, Buffalo ranked 23rd in average home attendance: 16,650 (87.3 percent capacity).

Some things to like about these Sabres:

Success in the clutch: the six-game winning streak includes two in overtime and two in shootouts.

Efficient penalty killing: 51-of-62; 83.3 is sixth-best in the NHL.

Road warriors: 7-4-1 on the road; 6-2-1 at home.

More-balanced scoring and a deeper defense than in recent past seasons.

A solid 1-2 goalie punch: Carter Hutton 9-6-1; 2.61 GAA; .917 save percentage; Linus Ullmark 4-0-1 record; 2.65 GAA; .922 save percentage.

ADRIAN BELTRE SHOULD BE A CINCH FIRST-BALLOT HALL OF FAMER

When Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre announced his retirement on Monday after 21 big-league seasons, one observer wrote that he is “a likely future Hall of Famer.”

“Likely Hall of Famer”?  In my book, he’s a cinch first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Beltre was a .286 career hitter, with 3,166 hits (16th on the all-time list); 477 home runs; 1,707 RBI; 1,151 extra-base hits; 14th all-time); and six Gold Gloves for fielding excellence. He finished in the top-10 for league Most Valuable Player six times, including second in 2005.

He always was a team leader with the Dodgers, Mariners, Red Sox and Rangers, a fan favorite at every stop and a credit to the game.

The first-ballot Cooperstown clincher: He is the all-time MLB hit leader among foreign-born players. He passed Ichiro Suzuki this season.

BOB’S WEEK 12 “BEST BET’: STEELERS OVER THE BRONCOS

The Pittsburgh Steelers were fortunate to erase a 16-0 deficit and beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 20-16. They figure to be more focused Sunday at the Denver Broncos.

The Steelers have far more firepower and will be out to pad their lead in the AFC North.

Bob’s “Best Bet” for Week 12: Pittsburgh 30, DENVER (+3 ½) 13.

Thursday’s games

(home teams in CAPS)

Chicago 30, DETROIT (+4) 21 – The Bears are the better team on both sides of the football but if Chicago backup QB Chase Daniel (two starts in his nine-year NFL career) starts for Mitch Trubisky (sore shoulder), the Lions would have a big chance.

DALLAS (-7 ½) 24, Washington 13 – The Cowboys are 5-5 and the Redskins are 6-4 but the Cowboys have the momentum and the home crowd and Washington starting quarterback Alex Smith is out for the season with a broken leg.

NEW ORLEANS (-13) 37, Atlanta 28 –The Saints have won nine straight games but the Falcons have enough firepower to stay close most of the way.

Sunday’s other games

Jacksonville 21, BUFFALO (+3) 13 – Assuming Josh Allen starts at quarterback for the Bills, how sharp can he be against a strong defensive unit due for a top effort?

Cleveland 24, CINCINNATI (-3) 20 – The Browns have closed the talent gap and a mild upset would be no shock.

New England 38, NEW YORK Jets (+9 ½) 17 – The Patriots were embarrassed 34-10 at Tennessee in their last game and that should be bad news for the discombobulated Jets.

PHILADELPHIA (-6) 23, New York Giants 14 – Banking on the disappointing Super Bowl champions to show some pride and frustrate Giants QB Eli Manning.

TAMPA BAY (-3 ½) 35, San Francisco 20 – The high-powered Buccaneers are due to get a complete game from one of their erratic starting pitchers.

CAROLINA (-3 ½) 24, Seattle 17 – The Panthers are a much better team at home (5-0) than on the road (1-4).

BALTIMORE (-11) 28, Oakland 13 – This is a generous spot to the Raiders but I can’t see the Raiders winning two games in a row and I think Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson’s legs will help get the job done.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-12) 27, Arizona 10 – The Chargers figure to be fired up after wilting late and handing host Denver a 23-22 win last week.

INDIANAPOLIS (-10) 30, Miami 17 – The Colts are doing a great job protecting QB Andrew Luck and they should win their fifth game in a row if that continues.

MINNESOTA (-3 ½) 31, Green Bay 24 – The Vikings have the home field and the talent edge on Sunday night

Monday night’s game

HOUSTON (-6) 28, Tennessee 17 – The Texans started 0-3 but have won seven straight games since and have emerged as one of the NFL’s most-balanced and confident teams.

Warning: These picks could be hazardous to your wealth. I’m coming off my all-time worst week picking NFL games for “Best Bets”. I was 0-11-1 against the Las Vegas point spread and needed the Kansas City Chiefs +3 ½ (they lost 54-51) to salvage a 1-11-1 record ATS.

In our “Bob versus Listeners Contest”, the listeners were 5-7-1 ATS and took the lead for the season at 76-75-6 to 74-77-6.

BRADY VERSUS RODGERS ROAD RECORDS? NO CONTEST

Success on the road is a big reason why I rate New England’s Tom Brady above the other great active veteran NFL quarterbacks:

Tom Brady – 298 starts...230-68...Home 133-24...Road 97-44

Drew Brees – 271 starts...158-113...Home 87-48...Road 71-65

Eli Manning – 236 starts...122-114...Home 61-55...Road 61-59

Ben Roethlisberger – 229 starts...155-73-12...Home 84-30... 71-43-1

Phillip Rivers – 211 starts...117-94...Home 66-39...Road 51-55

Matt Ryan – 178 starts...103-75...Home 59-31...Road 44-44

Cam Newton 125 starts...71-53-1...Home 42-21...Road 29-32-1

Andy Dalton -- 123 starts...68-53-2...Home 37-22-2...Road 31-31

Matthew Stafford – 138 starts...64-74...Home 38-30...Road 26-44

Ryan Fitzpatrick -- 126 starts...50-75-1...Home 29-33-1...Road 21-42

Russell Wilson – 118 starts...78-39-1...home 45-13..Road 33-26-1

Aaron Rodgers – 168 starts...107-60-1...Home 64-16-1...Road 43-44.

NBA SHORT SHOTS

LeBron James returns to Cleveland with the Los Angeles Lakers Wednesday night.  The Cavaliers have an NBA-worst 2-13 record and veteran guard JR Smith is doing his best to get traded. After Monday night’s loss to Detroit he said management doesn’t care about winning.

The Toronto Raptors are an NBA East-best 13-4 and Kawhi Leonard has played great – when he plays. He has missed five games for “rest.” Could that hurt his league MVP hopes? Why not?

NHL SHORT SHOTS

Coaches are falling like leaves in the NHL. The St. Louis Blues fired Mike Leo Monday night and the Edmonton Oilers gave Todd McLellan the boot Tuesday. That’s four coaches axed already this season.

The NHL General Manager of the Year Award began in 2010. Naturally, no Buffalo Sabres GM has won it. But Buffalo second-year Jason Botterill has to be among the favorites this year. The Pegulas might have made a great hire.

SHORT SHOT

Alan Busenitz, an excellent relief pitcher for the Rochester Red Sings the past two seasons, has been granted his release by the Minnesota Twins to sign with Japan’s Rakoten Eagles.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...

Wednesday, November 21

Dede Westbrook 25...Justin Tucker 29...Ryan LaMarre 30...Brie andf Nikki Bella 35...Alex Tanguay 39...Danny Kanell 45...Michael Strahan 47...Ken Griffey Jr. 49...Troy Aikman 52...Jerry Fontenot 52...Olden Polynice 54...Thomas Everett 54...Cedric Maxwell 63...Eamonn Coghlan 66...Alberto Juantorena 68...Earl Monroe 74. Goldie Hawn 73 is invited to the birthday party.

Thursday, November 22

Ju Ju Smith-Schuster 22...Brock Osweiler 28...Austin Romine 30...Drew Pomeranz 30...Oscar Pistorius 32...Derrick Johnson 36...Joe Nathan 44...John Parrella 49...Boris Becker 51...Eric Allen 53...Gene Atkins 54...Steve DeOssie 56...Darryl Grant 59...Mark Malone 60...Greg Luzinski 68...Billie Jean King 75...Yvan Cournoyer 75...Jacques Laperriere 77. Scarlertt Johansson 34, Mark Ruffalo 51 and Jamie Lee Curtis are invited to the birthday party.

Friday, November 23

Spencer Ware 27...Ross Stripling 29...Nicklas Backstrom 31...Justin Turner 34..Brodrick Bunkley 35...Asafa Powell 36...Saku Koivu 44...Jamie Sharper 44....Vin Baker 47...Steve Alford 54...Johnie Cooks 60...Andrew Toney 61...Luis Tiant 78. Miley Cyrus 26 and Robin Rene Roberts 58 are invited to the birthday party.

Saturday, November 24

LiAngelo Ball 20....Chris Herrmann 31....Jimmy Graham 32..Ryan Fitzpatrick 36....Ben McDonald 51...Henry Bibby 69...Steve Yeager 70...Rudy Tomjanovich 70...Dave Bing 75...Paul Tagliabue 78...Oscar Robertson 80.

Sunday, November 25

Dennis Smith 21...Trevor Booker 31...Nick Swisher 38...Donovan McNabb 42...Octavio Dotel 45....Mark Whiten 52...Cris Carter 53...Anthony Newman 53...Bernie Kosar 55...Blair Bush 62...Bucky Dent 67...Bob Kelly 68...Joe Gibbs 78.

ON THIS DATE IN SPORTS...

November 21

93 years ago (1925), Red Grange played his final football game for the University of Illinois and signed with the NFL Chicago Bears. Rochester Jeffersons owner Leo Lyons said he was among the bidders for Grange’s playing rights. The Jeffersons went dormant for a few years and then folded...84 years ago (1934), the New York Yankees purchased center fielder Joe DiMaggio from the Pacific Coast League San Francisco Seals...45 years ago (1973), Pete Rose was named National League MVP...41 years ago (1977), Eddie Murray of the Baltimore Orioles via the 1976 Rochester Red Wings was named American League MVP.

November 22

68 years ago (1950), the Fort Wayne Pistons beat the Minneapolis Lakers 19-18 in the lowest-scoring NBA game...59 years ago (1959), the Boston Patriots entered the NFL...53 years ago (1965), Muhammad Ali beat Floyd Patterson via 12th-round KO in the second defense of his heavyweight boxing title...52 years ago (1966), Steve Spurrier won the 32nd Heisman Trophy...32 years ago (1986), 20-year-old Mike Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion when he stopped Tre vor Berbick in the second round...27 years ago (1991), Patrick Ewing signed a record two-year $18.8 million contract with the New York Knicks.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING...Bob’s next News Radio WHAM 1180 column will be posted Monday, November 26...Bob’s next radio show will be Friday...Wednesday:  Colgate at Syracuse U. basketball Wednesday night (pre-game show 6 p.m.). Thursday: NFL tripleheader.

 

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