Author Archives: Eric Schmitz

Overreactions with 48 to go: Sabres can’t hold on to late lead, fall to Bruins in OT

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After the previous night’s debacle, heading into Boston against a rested Bruins team, one would’ve reasonably expected a decisive result against the favor of the Sabres. Buffalo didn’t go down easy. In fact, they almost had a heck of a win.

Despite tired legs, and losing both their captain Brian Gionta and dreamboat winger Marcus Foligno in the first period, the increasingly depleted Sabres surrendered a late lead before allowing the extra-time winner in a 4-3 overtime defeat in Boston.

Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton’s second of the game with 1:31 remaining forced the extra session, and it was Loui Eriksson who netted the winner at 2:14 of overtime to hand Buffalo the loss.

Hamilton opened the scoring in the first period, but second period markers by Sabres defensemen Andrej Meszaros and Rasmus Ristolainen would give Buffalo a brief lead. “Brief” would be exactly one minute, as Boston’s Chris Kelly answered Ristolainen’s goal exactly a minute later, tipping in a Zdeno Chara point shot.

460762632_slideThe Sabres would take the lead in the third on New Hampshire native Tim Schaller’s first National Hockey League goal. Schaller, recalled from Rochester last night, beat Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask on a wraparound early in the period. Hamilton would tie it later on in the period.

Jhonas Enroth stopped 33 shots in the overtime loss, as he filled in for an ill Michal Neuvirth, who was expected to start.

  • Sabres coach Ted Nolan said after the game that Marcus Foligno would be out for a while. It’s assumed he hurt himself in the fight with Boston’s Matt Bartkowski. Sort of a shame he’ll be out, as he’d been on a pretty solid run of good play of late.
  • The Bartkowski hit on Gionta is one of those predatory hits that show a lack of respect between players. You don’t line a guy up like that to get control of the puck. You line him up to take advantage of his prone position. There may not be any supplemental discipline, as he already was assessed a major and game misconduct. Just a scummy hit.
  • Good for Tim Schaller, scoring his first NHL goal in front of his family and close to home. He said on the postgame that he went to Bruins games all the time growing up. Dream come true for the kid, who has earned his looks for the Sabres this season.
  • At what point should an adult ask people to stop calling him “Dougie?” Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 49 to go: Avalanche bury crumbling Sabres

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With pregame rumors of a Johan Larsson call-up circulating, there was speculation as to what could possibly necessitate the move. Turns out Matt Moulson’s late scratch due to being sick would be what is referred to as a “harbinger.”

Missing their top left winger, and losing Patrick Kaleta due to illness and Tyler Myers to injury, the Sabres were on their heels all night and dropped a 5-1 decision to the visiting Colorado Avalanche.

In a fitting tribute to the discourse around the team this season, 2006 first overall pick Erik Johnson took a pass from 2013 first overall pick Nathan MacKinnon and beat Jhonas Enroth just 2:23 into the game.

It was all downhill from there. Colorado’s Cody McLoed would score shorthanded five minutes later. That 2-0 lead would hold through the third period, when Alex Tanguay and John Mitchell would score to put the game away.

Larsson made his whirlwind night memorable, burying his first career NHL goal with 6:33 left to make it 4-1. Tanguay would add an empty netter and the Sabres fell 5-1 for the second straight game.

Enroth made 22 saves in his first loss since December 4th. Calvin Pickard stopped 28 of 29 for the Avs.

  • Good for Johan Larsson to finally pick up his first NHL goal. Tonight was his 34th National Hockey League game. He’s not supposed to be some elite goalscorer, but at some point the points had to come. Nice way to cap off the day for him.
  • Ted Nolan brushed off the idea that it could be mumps that ailed Moulson and Kaleta. Could just be a flu bug, but hey, who knows. He’s not a doctor.
  • Missing Tyler Myers for an extended period of time will really aid the tank. Not so much in the way the team will be worse per se, but that guys like Andre Benoit and Andrej Meszaros might have to get more ice time.
  • The Sabres did a great job with the Make-A-Wish kid who dropped the puck for the ceremonial face-off. The kid was in the locker room helping interview players after the game. Really cool experience for him.  Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 52 to go: Zadorov’s OT winner extends Sabres’ streak

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For once, as this has been a rare occasion this 2014-2015 season, you can look at a game that the Sabres won and say to yourself, “They deserved the win.” Tonight was just one of those nights.

Nikita Zadorov‘s goal 29 seconds into overtime was the gamebreaker, as the Sabres defeated Florida, 4-3.

“I probably never had that big a goal in my life,” said Zadorov. “It’s a great feeling and I’m going to try to do it again.”

The young defenseman, fresh off a debate about whether or not he’ll be allowed to go play for Russia in the upcoming IIHF World Junior Championships in Toronto and Montreal, received a cross-ice pass from Tyler Ennis and ripped the winner past Panthers goaltender Al Montoya.

Cody Hodgson, Marcus Foligno and Brian Gionta also scored for Buffalo, which has now unreasonably won nine of their last 12.

Hodgson, who was stuck in the press box last game due to his lack of production, broke things open just 2:06 into the game, taking a pass from Patrick Kaleta and ripping it past Montoya.

“He got exactly where goal-scorers have got to get to,” said Sabres coach Ted Nolan.

Sean Bergenheim, Jimmy Hayes and Jussi Jokinen scored for Florida, who turned a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead before Gionta’s equalizer. Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth stopped 25 of 28 shots for the win.

Buffalo closes their four game homestand Monday against Ottawa.

  • This was just the third time this season that the Sabres outshot their opponent. Buffalo finished with 32 shots on goal, just ahead of Florida’s 28. They are 3-0-0 when outshooting their opponent.
  • Seriously, just three times in 30 games. That’s ridiculously terrible.
  • Nikita Zadorov is a star and he’s rapidly moving up the list of “Easiest guys to root for.” Kid is very charismatic and more importantly he’s very good at playing hockey. Part of the Sabres’ surge is due to the fact he’s been getting minutes.
  • That Tyler Myers breakout pass to Brian Gionta’s tying goal was fantastic and the finish was beautiful. That’s a hell of hockey play. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 53 to go: Sabres keep inexplicable run going, beat Flames 4-3

460334184_slideThe season is still young enough where the expected results don’t yet match the sample size. The Sabres, by far the worst team in the league in just about every category, somehow can’t find a way to get run over on a nightly basis where it matters most.

The regression is coming, but we’re not there yet.

Getting outshot 45-19 and out-attempted 76-36, the Buffalo Sabres, on the strength of a huge night from their top line, defeated Calgary 4-3.

Matt Moulson scored his second of the night with 7:29 remaining to give the Sabres a tenuous lead they wouldn’t surrender. Tyler Ennis would finish with three assists and Latvian god Zemgus Girgensons added a third period goal and an assist to pace the Sabres. Marcus Foligno scored Buffalo’s other goal.

“It wasn’t one of our better games,” said Sabres coach Ted Nolan. “But, it does show that the belief factor is starting to creep in.”

Jhonas Enroth was the workhorse again, stopping 42 of the 45 shots he faced. He’s come away with a win in 7 of his last 9 starts.

Buffalo has now won 8 of their last 11, and continue their homestand Saturday night against noted division rival Florida.

  • Tyler Myers and Josh Gorges… they did not have a good game. On the ice for every Calgary goal, Gorges himself was responsible for two of them, losing battles that quickly ended up behind Enroth. Myers was on the ice for 36 shot attempts against by the Flames.
  • Good that Marcus Foligno tallied a goal, but besides being smart enough to stand by himself on the back end of the goal crease, that goal was all Drew Stafford. Stafford made a great play to defend the puck behind the net and slide it cross-crease to an awaiting Foligno.
  • Really, really phenomenal game from Tyler Ennis. The top line has been playing very well and the result tonight is mainly on them. Read the rest of this entry

Chris Stewart: the paradox of the expendable, ideal Sabre

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Sabres fans always seem to be sort of conflicted about who they’re supposed to like. Who fan favorites are supposed to be. Who should be part of the core and who’s ripe to be run out of town. It seems like it’s a case-by-case basis.

There’s one guy on this current Sabres team that fits the bill for what Buffalo sports fans seem to love.

459847500_slideWorks hard? Check.

Fights guys? Check.

Scores goals? Check.

Hits people? Check.

Seems like he’s the full package. Except that no one’s really embracing him, regardless of the fact that he’s likely out the door at some point in the near future.

Since the Sabres acquired him in the deal that sent captain Steve Ott and franchise cornerstone Ryan Miller to St. Louis before last year’s trade deadline, Chris Stewart‘s shown he has the tools. The production has been underwhelming (as it is with just about everyone else on the roster), as he’s notably been cold with just three goals in 25 games, good for a tie for fifth most goals on the team. But he’s not someone who doesn’t have a track record.

Stewart broke into the NHL in 2008, scoring 11 goals in 53 games with Colorado in 2008-09. He followed that up with consecutive 28 goal seasons, one with the Avs and the other split with Colorado and St. Louis. He’s posted double-digit goal totals every season in the NHL, never less than 15 in a season since his rookie year, and he’s still on pace to break 10 despite his well-below-average shooting percentage this season (5.5%). Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 57 to go: Latvia defeats Tampa in a shootout

459856786_slideRiding a hot streak coming into Tuesday night’s game against the first-place Lightning, anyone could’ve respectably expected the Sabres run to come to an end. The team’s winning ways have been marked by stellar goaltending and puck luck, things that people who use logic and evidence would consider “unsustainable.”

But Ted Nolan knows how to get his boys to grit out wins, so the streak continues.

A late Zemgus Girgensons goal forced overtime, and the Buffalo Sabres walked away victorious in the shootout, defeating Tampa Bay 2-1.

Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis scored in the shootout for Buffalo, who’ve now won six of their past seven. But the star was goaltender Jhonas Enroth, who made 26 saves and kept the Lightning off the board for the first 49 minutes of the game.

“Obviously the confidence is a little bit higher now,” Enroth said.

Ondrej Palat scored for Tampa Bay, who were limited to two shots as a team in the opening period.

“The one thing we are doing is we’re getting better and we’re working on certain things,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “Part of getting better is that resiliency, to keep going and keep going.”

The teams head to Florida to complete their back-to-back on Thursday.

  • That game was absolutely brutal to watch. Forget the result, that wasn’t entertaining hockey. But that’s Ted Nolan for you.
  • One of the few players who jumped out at me as playing well was Nikita Zadorov. Kid has been really good all year. In fact, he’s been so good it might be a good idea to let him go play in the World Juniors.
  • I get that Girgensons has been playing well, but let’s take a step back on the All-Star talk. It’s a bunch of Latvians voting like crazy. If every team gets a guy, then maybe he’s that guy. But he’s not even top 100 in scoring. Relax. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 59 to go: But really, how about that Ennis goal?

459693712_slideWhen the season is going like it is, it’s hard for a lot of fans to convince themselves to turn on a game. Some might not see the value in it if the team’s this bad. Some just don’t care to unless the team is good.

But then something will happen, like Tyler Ennis‘ ridiculous acrobatic goal, and reaffirm that there’s a reason to tune in every night. You don’t know what you’re going to see, or in the case of someone who didn’t take the time to watch or sold their tickets, what you’re going to miss.

Ennis’ goal early in the first period gave Buffalo a lead they’d eventually surrender, but a fortunate bounce in the final minutes gave the Sabres a 2-1 win over the visiting Canadiens, snapping a winless skid against Montreal.

Matt Moulson tapped home a loose puck into a vacated net after a stanchion on the boards knocked it away from Habs goaltender Carey Price.

“It must be a lucky day, so I’ll take it,” said Moulson.

P.A. Parenteau scored a powerplay goal early in the third period to tie the game, poking in a puck from underneath Jhonas Enroth’s skate.

Buffalo has now won four of five and is undoubtedly a lock for a playoff spot.

  • Obviously we don’t want this team to be winning too many games this season, but I’ll take a dumb luck, last second win over Toronto/Montreal at First Niagara Center eight days a week.
  • Maybe the best game Andrej Meszaros has played as a Sabre. Was solid in both ends.
  • The Nikita Zadorov-Rasmus Ristolainen pairing has been on the ice for one goal against all season, Jori Lehtera’s second in the 6-1 loss to St. Louis. That was November 11th.  Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 60 to go: Sabres get back on right track, lose to team that was the Thrashers

459625692_slideYou’d almost expect the Sabres to come out flying, riding a three game winning streak and having one game in the last eight days. But you’d be disappointed.

Buffalo came out flat, surrendered an early power play goal, and eventually fell to the team now called the Jets by a 2-1 score.

Patrick Kaleta‘s celebrated return to First Niagara Center ice was a storyline through the night, as his roughing penalty at 3:06 led to the opening Winnipeg goal.

Late in the second period, he was drilled into the boards from behind by Winnipeg’s Adam Lowry, drawing a major penalty. Buffalo wasted no time, surrendering a shorthanded goal 14 seconds into the penalty, with Michael Frolik taking advantage of an Andre Benoit giveaway.

“It was tough,” said Sabres defenseman Andrej Meszaros. “The puck was bouncing. We didn’t execute. We didn’t do anything on the power play.”

Chris Stewart would pull the Sabres within one at 5:30 of the third period, cashing a breakaway for his second of the season. But Buffalo couldn’t find a way to get the equalizer and dropped back into dead last in the league.

Jhonas Enroth made 24 saves for Buffalo, falling to 3-9-1 on the season.

  • Rasmus Ristolainen was fantastic. Him and Nikita Zadorov were by far the Sabres’ best defense pairing.
  • Andrej Meszaros on the other hand was solid. Solid in the way that he played the Andrej Meszaros game that we’ve grown to expect, and that he was both awful and sometimes barely competent.
  • Announced attendance was 18,442. Couldn’t sell out the night before Thanksgiving? That’s weak. Read the rest of this entry

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

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