Overreactions with 62 to go: Sabres beat Sharks (again) on wild weather day in WNY

459205408_slideIt’s fairly common for the region to figuratively groan every time Western New York gets attention for bad weather. It happens, but the locals will always argue that the summers are real nice and it snows more in other places and the people are great and yada, yada, yada… but with a national television audience tuning in, it was a night about the weather.

With up to five feet of snow (accurate) burying parts of metropolitan Buffalo, including areas just minutes from First Niagara Center, the Buffalo Sabres continued their dominance of the San Jose Sharks, picking up a 4-1 win in front of an estimated crowd of about 6,200. It was the Sabres’ eighth straight win against the Sharks, who haven’t won in Buffalo since 2005.

“It was strange at the beginning, but I think the people that were here certainly gave us a boost and how hard they fought even to be here,” said Sabres coach Ted Nolan.

Brian Gionta scored twice for Buffalo, his first two goals as a Sabre. Model American and hockey god Brian Flynn added a goal and an assist, while Nic Deslauriers added the opening goal for Buffalo.

Michal Neuvirth stopped all ten shots he faced, but had to leave the game after the opening period with a lower-body injury. Jhonas Enroth entered the game in relief and stopped 19 of 20 San Jose shots to pick up the win.

Brent Burns scored for the Sharks, who account for two of Buffalo’s three regulation wins this season.

  • The injury forced goaltending coach Arturs Irbe, a former Shark who’s been out of the NHL for a decade, to suit up as an emergency goaltender in case Enroth went down. Irbe spent five seasons with the Sharks, including their inaugural season in 1991-92.
  • Buffalo finished with fourteen shots on goal, their third lowest total of the season. The 30-14 shot difference was near identical to the 30-15 shot totals in the Sabres’ win over the Sharks in San Jose last month.
  • I tweeted it before the game, but that’ll be one of the more memorable games of this season and maybe of this whole rebuild. I haven’t seen the building that empty since the bankruptcy days over a decade ago. Read the rest of this entry

Thoughts on Dom as Hasek enters Hockey Hall of Fame

2014 Hockey Hall Of Fame Induction - Press ConferenceAs you go through life, there’s always moments where you take a figurative step backwards and say to yourself, “Man, I got old quick.”

Tonight will feature one of them.

Sabres legend Dominik Hasek, along with Peter Forsberg, Mike Modano and other hockey legends will be officially enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame tonight. The ceremony will be broadcast on NHL Network, and I’m really excited to watch.

These guys, these names, were names that were the stars of the game when I really got into hockey as a kid. They were the faces on the hockey cards I collected. They were the guys I traded for on NHL ’96 when I was trying to load up my team. They were guys I mailed letters to hoping to get an autograph in return. They were idols.

And now I’m old and they’re going into the Hockey Hall of Fame, an honor one only receives after time has passed since they’ve left the game.

Lots of time has passed since Dominik Hasek was here. It’s been just over 13 years since he quickly skated to the bench after allowing Darius Kasparaitis’ game winner in Game 7 of the 2001 Eastern Conference Semifinal against Pittsburgh, the last time he touched the ice as a Sabre.

It’s been almost as long since he forced his way out of town, orchestrating a trade to Detroit late in the night before he could have become a free agent. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 63 to go: Sabres crush Leafs in convincing and hilarious fashion

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Any time the Toronto Maple Leafs are in town, it’s dreaded. Thousands of thousands of the worst, most obnoxious jackasses that come through the doors of First Niagara Center all season routinely leave their mark.

Tonight, they left jerseys on the ice. They left beer cans. And they left without two points.

The Buffalo Sabres, with a home crowd in Leafs gear booing them as they took the ice, played their best and most complete game of the season. With a 6-2 win, the throngs of visitors and their opponent went home angry and disgusted.

It was great. Really. Really great.

Zemgus Girgensons scored twice and Buffalo got rock solid goaltending from Michal Neuvirth, stopping 32 of 34 Toronto shots.

“It’s hard enough when you don’t win games,” said Girgensons. “Today was absolutely different how we played.”

Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford, Matt Moulson and Tyler Myers also scored for the Sabres.

“It was a fun one,” said Ennis.

David Clarkson and Phil Kessel scored for Toronto, who lost to the Buffalo Sabres.

  • Buffalo registered a season-high 35 shots on goal. The previous high was 32, twice. They registered 30+ just three times before tonight, and won none of those games.
  • Brian Flynn on that second goal was super dreamy. Tyson Strachan ripped the puck around the wall and Flynn took off immediately, beats Reimer to the puck and is cool as the other side of the pillow in finding Girgensons in the high slot. Great play. Super duper.
  • Understated with the goalscoring output is how well Neuvirth played. Made some huge saves early to keep the Leafs off the board until late in the second period. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 66 to go: That Crosby guy is an okay hockey player

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The best hockey player in the world was at First Niagara Center tonight, and spoiler alert: he doesn’t play for Buffalo.

Sometimes, it’s just a joy to watch a generational talent just light it up, and Penguins forward Sidney Crosby did just that. Crosby tallied an assist on each of Pittsburgh’s first five goals, as the visiting Pens cruised, leaving the hometown Sabres with a 6-1 defeat.

Zemgus Girgensons scored late in the second period to make it 5-1, but it was answered by a goal by Evgeni Malkin. Pittsburgh also got two goals each from Kris Letang and Predators legend Patric Hornqvist. But it was the Crosby show.

The game looked a lot like this:

Buffalo’s Jhonas Enroth was thrown to the wolves, giving up six goals on 39 shots. The Sabres struggled to generate offense, getting outshot 11-4 in the opening period and 26-12 through two periods.

  • Enroth didn’t even speak after the game, but it’s not like there’s much for him to say. He’s 1-7-1 on the season and on average is facing almost 37 shots a game.
  • The locker room after games is turning into a contest of “How many guys are left in the room when they open the door?” Guys don’t want to talk, and it’s usually the same things being said. Tonight, it was Josh Gorges, Brian Gionta, Drew Stafford and Zemgus Girgensons who really spoke. Cody Hodgson and Torrey Mitchell milled around. But everyone else just got the hell out of there. What can they say?
  • Gionta had a team best 17 Corsi For and a team best 4 Corsi Against. Good game for him. He assisted on the Girgensons goal. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 67 to go: Neuvirth can’t do everything

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There wasn’t a lot of hope for good hockey with the 29th and 30th place teams in the National League facing off at First Niagara Center, but there was at least a lot of action.

If you were Michal Neuvirth, there was too much.

Neuvirth was impressive, but had to bear the brunt of 52 Edmonton shots, as the visiting Oilers handed the Sabres a 3-2 loss for their first road win of the season.

Noted Oiler-killer Drew Stafford and Matt Moulson scored for Buffalo, with Moulson finally snagging his first of the season. The two goals were enough to give the Sabres a lead in the final ten minutes, but the Oilers finally took control, with Mark Arcobello and Boyd Gordon adding the tying and winning goals.

“They were just throwing it at the net, and sending guys with traffic,” said Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges. “To be honest, we should take a page out of their book.”

Edmonton finished with 85 shot attempts, and their 52 shots on goal were both a season-high for them and a season-worst for the Sabres.

Buffalo is right back at it Saturday night, with the Penguins in town.

  • The Sabres should trade Drew Stafford immediately after the next game against Edmonton, because his stock will never be higher. He always seems to score against them. Should’ve placed a bet on it before the game.
  • Congrats to Oilers rookie Iiro Pakarinen, who scored his first NHL goal and now convincingly holds the title of my favorite name in the National Hockey League. The title was previously vacated by legendary Slovak forward Branko Radivojevic.
  • Neuvirth is going to have an aneurysm at some point this season. He was very aggravated after the game, calling for his post game presser earlier than normal. He seems sick of being bombarded every game. And there’s 67 games left!
  • Absolutely wonderful job by the Sabres on the pregame ceremonies for Hockey Fights Cancer night. The Jim Kelly/Rick Jeanneret puck drop was great. Only thing I would’ve liked to see is the ads on the boards in monotone lavender like other teams have done.
  • It amazes me that Ted Nolan felt that he just had to get Andre Benoit back in the lineup tonight. He was on the ice for a team-worst 41 shot attempts against, as well as the first two Edmonton goals. Play him more and see what happens: goals, for the other team.
  • The look of relief on Matt Moulson’s face was obvious. Hopefully they start going in more often for him. Not too often, we’ve got a tank to worry about. But he’s the kind of guy you like to see succeed. He wants to be here, amazingly. Appreciate that.
  • Attendance was listed at 17,490. In-house was probably closer to 15,500. Lots of empties for a Friday night.
  • Edmonton had 85 shot attempts. 29th place, terrible Edmonton had 85 shot attempts. What a mess.
  • Saw an Oilers beat writer tweet wondering why the Sabres would ever trade Tyler Myers. This means one thing: someone might actually want him. Sell. Sell. Sell.

3MI Three Star Selections
1. Michal Neuvirth, Buffalo
2. Iiro Pakarinen, Edmonton
3. Mark Arcobello, Edmonton

Official Three Stars of the Game
1. Teddy Purcell, Edmonton (2 assists)
2. Iiro Pakarinen, Edmonton (Goal (1))
3. Michal Neuvirth, Buffalo (49 saves, 3 GA)

Quote of the night:

“They wanted to win more than us… good for them.” — Buffalo Sabres goaltender Michal Neuvirth

Overreactions with 68 to go: Neuvirth shines in shootout loss to Habs

458483678_slideFor 60 minutes, fans were treated to some of the most monotonous, unremarkable hockey that has been played in First Niagara Center, which is saying a lot.

But five thrilling minutes of four-on-four hockey weren’t enough to decide the game, and thanks to a skills competition, Montreal walked out of Buffalo with two points after handing them a 2-1 shootout loss.

Drew Stafford scored the only goal for Buffalo, but goaltender Michal Neuvirth was sensational all night. While the Habs struggled to get shots on goal early, Neuvirth was sharp all night, stopping 31 of 32 shots, including 16 of 17 over the final 25 minutes.

Montreal’s Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau scored both in regulation and in the shootout to propel the Canadiens to the win.

Buffalo now faces a weekend back-to-back where they host Edmonton and Pittsburgh on Friday and Saturday.

  • This might’ve been Brian Gionta’s best game as a Sabre. Facing his former team, he didn’t tally a point but did manage to score in the shootout. He was noticeable, much more noticeable than he has been.
  • Good for Nic Deslauriers stepping up to scrap and try to make an impression. He got fed some fists to the face, but you appreciate the effort.
  • Tyler Myers was credited with the primary assist on the Stafford goal. Great work by him taking the puck himself, trying to deke through his own teammate Tyler Ennis, and losing control of the puck in such a way that it coasted right through a defenseman to Stafford on the doorstep. They all look the same in the boxscore. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 71 to go: Bruins drop Sabres in overtime

458129820_slideFor the first time since Columbus Day, the Buffalo Sabres scored a goal at First Niagara Center. Take what you can get, I guess.

Not one, but two goals weren’t enough for the Sabres to claim their first home win, as the Boston Bruins came back in the third period to tie it before Brad Marchand scored the winner just over a minute into overtime to have Buffalo a 3-2 overtime loss.

Drew Stafford and Tyler Ennis scored for Buffalo. Jhonas Enroth made 34 saves. My original game recap vanished into cyberspace so here’s a list of bullet point comments, representing each of Buffalo’s 15 shots on goal.

  • Not sure why Ted Nolan’s spent so much time keeping Ennis, Stafford and Matt Moulson apart. They tore it up in preseason and were very effective in this game. This team is devoid of talent, so maybe keep the limited amount you have together.
  • If Sabres/Bruins is a tough sell for you, you’re not doing a good job of selling it. Maybe 14,000 people in the building for one of the team’s biggest rivalries. Terribly soft secondary market. Pretty weak.
  • Another game where you feel terrible for Jhonas Enroth. First goal is off Mike Weber. Second goal is debatable. Third goal he gets hung to dry. Not much he can do.
  • Torrey Mitchell isn’t exactly good, but his pass on the Ennis goal was fantastic. Did a great job threading that through the defense.
  • Sam Reinhart should’ve been on a plane to British Columbia last weekend.
  • Good on Chris Stewart for stepping up and fighting Milan Lucic. Jack up that trade value. Especially in front of a Boston team rumored to be after a deal. Those guys love that fighting stuff. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions: Believe the hype. McDavid shines, Otters defeat IceDogs in Buffalo

Connor McDavidIt should’ve been expected.

For many in Buffalo feeling conflicted about the merit of the tanking that’s totally not going on this season, tonight was the first glimpse at the prize waiting to be claimed: Connor McDavid.

And the Erie Otters forward showed why.

In front of a large crowd at First Niagara Center (announced at 11,391 and realistically around 9,000), McDavid and his teammates put on a show, with Erie defeating the Niagara IceDogs by an 8-4 final.

The first period was enough for people to see, as McDavid tallied three assists and showed his flare on almost every shift, propelling the Otters to a 4-2 lead. He’d add a goal in the third to push his point total through the first 10 games of the season to 29 (9+20), extending his league lead.

McDavid’s linemate Alex DeBrincat (2016 Draft eligible) scored twice, as did Kurtis MacDermid (LA Kings free agent signing). Troy Donnay, Patrick Murphy and Shaun Bily also scored for the Otters, who sit 9-0-0-1 on the season.

Niagara’s Jordan Maletta (undrafted) had two goals, while Graham Knott (2016 Draft eligible) and Cody Payne also scored for the visitors from across the border.

Buffalo native Stephen Dhillon ended up getting cleanup duty in the IceDogs’ goal, stopping 11 of 13 shots in 27:09, just his second OHL appearance.

Some thoughts on the night:

  • I’ve seen Connor McDavid play four times. He has 15 points in those four games. This was an average night for him. It’s incredible.
  • Lots of talk about Erie’s Dylan Strome (who could also be a top-5 pick in this summer’s draft) heading into tonight, warning fans not to forget about him. To be honest, he looked solid, you can see the talent, but he was unremarkable. Hard to stand out when you’ve got #97 on your team, but he reminded me of the times I saw Niagara’s Brendan Perlini last season. Perlini was targeted as a top 10 pick, and went in the first round to Phoenix, but never really stood out or showed star quality. I’m sure I’ll see Strome again, but first impression wasn’t great. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 76 to go: Bruins bury hard-working Sabres

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After a notably poor performance in the opening period of last night’s loss to Florida, the Buffalo Sabres came out flying against the Boston Bruins on Saturday night. Outshooting the visitors 16-12, it was a much better start for the struggling Sabres. Except for that whole scoreboard thing, of course.

A goal by Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton near the midway point of the first period held up, and Boston rookie goaltender Niklas Svedberg collected his first NHL shutout as the Sabres lost by as score of 4-0.

Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug and Carl Soderberg also scored for Boston, who collected just their third win of the young season.

Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth, starting for the second consecutive night, put in an admirable effort, stopping 32 shots and falling victim to some traffic in front of him. Unfortunately, the admirable effort

“Everybody’s frustrated when you lose,” said forward Cody Hodgson.

Buffalo extends their scoreless streak to 142:06, having last scored a goal Tuesday in Carolina. They now head west, with their next game in Anaheim on Wednesday.

  • Losing isn’t a bad thing, considering the endgame of this season, but it’d be cool to see some competent offense once in a while.
  • Brian Gionta, Tyler Ennis and Matt Moulson were on the ice for three goals against. Gionta has been highly ineffective to this point and he’s wearing a big letter on his chest. It’s still only six games in, but it’s becoming disconcerting.
  • The Sabres are going to end up being slumpbusters for a lot of teams this season. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 77 to go: Panthers beat Sabres… There’s really 77 more of these?

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Coming off a win on Tuesday night in Carolina, it’d be expected that the Sabres would see the opportunity to keep it going and come out strong. That, they did not.

The visiting Florida Panthers jumped on the Sabres early, peppering goaltender Jhonas Enroth with shots, outshooting the home team 16-3 in the opening period. Despite Enroth’s valiant effort, Buffalo fell 1-0 on a second period goal by Panthers forward Sean Bergenheim.

“It’s frustrating,” said Sabres forward Zemgus Girgensons. “You feel bad for the goalie.”

Buffalo would turn it on over the final forty minutes, but couldn’t crack Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo, who registered his third consecutive shutout against the Sabres. Luongo hasn’t allowed a goal against Buffalo in 178:49, dating back to then-Sabre/now-Panther Brad Boyes’ (who had an assist tonight, of course) tally on March 3, 2012.

It was a very forgettable outing for Buffalo, who looked at times incompetent in front of the announced crowd of 17,364.

“We’re not happy,” said coach Ted Nolan after the game. “No one’s gonna help us get out of this except ourselves.”

The Sabres return to action Saturday, as division rival Boston comes to town for the first matchup between the teams this season.

Hey, we’ve got 77 more games of this. Fasten your seat belts.

  • Tonight was the first chance I’ve had to see Panthers rookie defenseman Aaron Ekblad play in the NHL, and he might have been the best defenseman on the ice for either team. Very poised, made great decisions with the puck… this kid is going to be a stud. I knew it when I saw him play with Barrie against the Niagara IceDogs last year, and less than a year later, he’s in the NHL to stay. Can’t feel bad about missing out because the Sabres never had a chance to pass on him. But he’s gonna be good.
  • Nicolas Deslauriers is Marcus Foligno without the hands or bloodlines.
  • At this point, it’s just a matter of playing out the nine games he gets without counting a year off his contract before Sam Reinhart goes back to Kootenay. Team low 7:09 of ice time. He’s just a body here. There’s zero reason Brian Flynn can’t be in the lineup doing what Reinhart does while the kid gets minutes in juniors. Read the rest of this entry
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