Category Archives: Sabres/NHL

Preseason Overreactions: Visiting Leafs defeat Sabres in surprisingly entertaining exhibition

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 10.45.41 PMNothing better than a Friday night game featuring two regional rivals, right? Maybe not for the 3,000-ish fans who probably ate their tickets and didn’t come to First Niagara Center, but for everyone who came to see some hockey, it was a treat.

Beginning a home-and-home set in Buffalo, the Toronto Maple Leafs knocked off the Sabres in a very heated preseason tilt by a score of 6-4.

Sabres goaltender Michal Neuvirth had an awful game, surrendering four goals on his first seven shots against and struggling on his way to the loss. In his first action of the preseason, Neuvirth finished with 16 saves.

“I was having a tough time finding the puck tonight,” Neuvirth said after the game.

(AD: The Sports Geek: Your sports betting resource – How to bet on NHL Hockey)

The game was noticeably chippy, as three-ish fights broke out (not sure Tyler Myers and Toronto’s Sam Carrick going at it really counted) as Drew Stafford, Chris Stewart and Cody McCormick all picked up majors for fisticuffs.

Buffalo’s offense did have some life, most notably the stick of Chris Stewart, who tallied twice in the first period. The Sabres also got goals from Jake McCabe and Cody McCormick, but they trailed for the final 44:39 of the game.

James Reimer made 34 saves for the Leafs, as these two teams meet again on Sunday at Air Canada Centre.

  • Safe to bet that Jhonas Enroth has a good chance to roll into the season as the team’s starting goaltender. Just a thought.
  • Hell of a game out of Chris Stewart. His backhand goal early was fantastic, a great shot from that position. If he shows he can be a solid power forward for this team, that’ll be great for when they deal him before the deadline.
  • Was honestly surprised at how few Leafs fans were in attendance. Friday night, cheap tickets… what’s the excuse? Traffic?
  • Tim Schaller made his quasi-debut for the Sabres, and he probably earned himself a recall at some point during the season. Numbers game may force him out to start the season, but he’s the kind of guy Ted Nolan is going to adore.

Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions: All-American Prospects Game

027_WEB_Prospects20140925_mediumThursday’s All-American Prospects game at First Niagara Center was nice. It wasn’t great, but it was nice.

The third edition of USA Hockey’s showcase of draft eligible prospects, held in Buffalo for the second time after an affair in Pittsburgh, ended with Team Grier (led by the Sabres legend) defeating Team Olczyk (led by noted horse racing fanatic) by a score of 6-3.

But a couple big name coaches weren’t the story. The story was Jack Eichel, the hotshot prospect who’s going to be the not-so-terrible consolation prize in the Connor McDavid sweepstakes next April.

Eichel, the Boston University freshman who is a sure-fire top-2 pick in next summer’s NHL Draft, was conspicuous throughout the night. Tallying one goal and one assist, the eyes were clearly on him, and not just because he’s a dead ringer for Lindsey Buckingham, notably of Fleetwood Mac.

No, Eichel was the main attraction on the night, and he didn’t disappoint. He was dynamic with the puck, showing great poise and vision, setting up Jeremy Bracco for an early goal, and then a fine finish late in the third to win him the MVP. He’s going to be a fantastic NHL player, and if the Sabres do their job and finish dead last this season, it’ll be alright if it’s not their logo getting pulled out of that envelope belonging to the #1 overall pick.

Some thoughts:

  • It’s great that the Sabres have gotten this event going and will be hosting again next year. Before then, they really need to re-evaluate how they market it. With 16,000 season ticket holders getting free tickets, more being given away and likely tepid individual sales, they announced just over 7,000. I doubt there was that many in the house, and the lower bowl looked so bad that 300 Level ushers were telling fans to move down to the 100 Level. It’s a cool event that should be really interesting. They just don’t seem to know what to do with it.
  • One way to engage fans more? Get the players’ junior/college teams involved. Get some awareness for the junior system in the United States. Build the context for the depth of the American game. If you beat people over the head with the fact that Eichel is playing at Boston University or that other top prospect Noah Hanifin is at Boston College, maybe people will make a point to tune in if they’re on television. Build the demand. Even if you’re the Buffalo Sabres, you’re better off if people give a shit about hockey.
  • Biggest improvement from the 2012 game to the 2014 game? Uniforms. Game looked clean, players seemed easier to identify than last time. Minor thing, but I noticed it.
  • Hanifin is going to be a rock for whatever team that drafts him. Hopefully the Sabres are done and have their guy by the time he’s getting picked, but with some guys, you can just tell. He’s gonna be good.
  • It’s really hard to get a good read on players in an event like this. The best stand out. Some guys can surprise. But I’m not gonna act like I know a player’s game from how they look in an all-star event. Gotta see them at the club level.

That’s about it. Gonna have to see when BU will be on television this season.

Preseason Overreactions: Sabres shutout Carolina, game result means nothing

20140923Real hockey was finally back at First Niagara Center for the first time since April on Tuesday night. Well, if you count preseason as real hockey. It kind of is. But it doesn’t count.

The scoreboard said 2-0 in favor of the Buffalo Sabres, who used a strong 35-save performance out of goaltender Jhonas Enroth to earn the victory over the visiting Carolina Hurricanes.

Drew Stafford and Tyler Ennis scored for Buffalo, as their line with Matt Moulson combined for both goals. All three were on the score sheet on each tally, with Ennis and Stafford finishing with a goal and assist each and Moulson assisting on both.

“We’ve got great chemistry, there’s not really much else to say,” said Stafford. “I think we can be an extremely effective line, from here on.”

Neither team made it through the game without incident (surprisingly not involving Patrick Kaleta) as Buffalo defenseman Mark Pysyk was injured on his first shift of the game, and Carolina lost forward Jordan Staal in the third period. Coach Ted Nolan said after the game that Pysyk would be “out a little while,” which could mean anything. The news seemed more dire for Carolina, as Staal was seen on crutches after the game, and if the play was any indication, could be out for months.

Buffalo returns to action Friday night as the Toronto Maple Leafs visit for the first of a home-and-home set.

  • Patrick Kaleta made his return to the NHL lineup (if you think preseason counts) and made it through the game without any remarkable issues. He did try to run a Hurricanes player through the Zamboni doors in the corner during the third, but otherwise behaved himself. You’d have to assume Nolan wants him around, and it’s on him not to screw up.
  • Kaleta’s linemate, Mikhail Grigorenko did an admirable job making it look like he wasn’t annoyed having to play with him and rookie Brendan Lemieux. Grigorenko’s strong play could help make the decision to send Reinhart back to junior. Just throwing that out there now.
  • Sam Reinhart didn’t shine, but later in the game, you began to notice some solid play. He made a very patient play with the puck in the defensive zone, the kind of confident move you’d expect of a savvy veteran, not a recent draft pick. He might end up playing every preseason game to help get him up to speed, but I’m still not sure he needs to be in the NHL quite yet.

Read the rest of this entry

Out of mind

103927_0912181930001837862_STDIt’s now mid-August.

In a few weeks, the Sabres’ prospects will be hitting the ice in Traverse City, Michigan. In about a month, they’ll be hitting the First Niagara Center ice for training camp. Hockey is just around the corner, and to be honest, it’s the furthest thing from my mind.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had one hell of a summer.

Over the last few years, with the local hockey team willing itself to new levels of my personal apathy through everything from on-ice performance to professional incompetence, I’ve fallen in love again. Not with the Sabres, my grade school soulmate, the burden I’ve carried. But with American soccer.

(Don’t worry this isn’t really a soccer post, so you can keep reading. Or don’t. Like I really give a fuck, you already clicked the link.)

I’ve always loved traveling for games. I started going to Sabres road games as soon as I could. I’ve been fortunate enough to hit almost half of the league’s buildings for games where my team is the home’s opponent. It’s something that keeps the fan’s soul fresh, experiencing something new, developing that bond with the team. Going to home games is great, and many are blessed with the ability to attend them regularly, but there’s diminishing value in being in FNC these days. But every time you wear your jersey in another team’s building, you get that rush that just maybe you’re going farther for your team. It’s a badge of honor.

That brings me to soccer. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions: Blackhawks beat Sabres as world is reminded Pat Kane is from Buffalo

477501903_slide

There aren’t many games this season that are a hot ticket. When Chicago comes to town, that’s it. And it’s not because they’re the Stanley Cup champions and one of the league’s premier teams. Well, not just that. But you’d be shocked to learn that one of their star players, Patrick Kane, is actually a Buffalo native. Did you know this?

If you didn’t, it’s true. Pat Kane is from Buffalo. And like clockwork, Kane was the star, scoring the opening goal in a 2-1 Blackhawks win over the Sabres. It was a good night for narratives.

Check here for more Buffalo and other NHL Hockey news.

Buffalo was able to keep the game close with some stellar goaltending from Jhonas Enroth, but Kane’s early tally and Chicago captain Jonathan Toews’ third period marker were enough to knock off the Sabres. Enroth would stop 29 of the 31 shots he faced.

The Sabres were only able to solve Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford once that counted, as Drew Stafford jammed home a loose puck in the crease midway through the first period for his 11th of the year. Tyler Ennis would beat Crawford again later in the period, but the goal was waived off as Ennis was given a minor penalty for hooking Crawford.

Cory Conacher picked up an assist in his debut with the Sabres, setting up Stafford’s goal.

  • So many Blackhawks fans there. I’m sure these guys were really upset their Hawks gave up on Jean-Pierre Dumont so soon back when that trade was made.
  • Really, really impressed with what Conacher added to the lineup. The line of Conacher, Ennis and Stafford was by far the team’s best offensively. If Conacher gets top-6 minutes, he’s gonna put up some nice numbers here. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Good for him, good for the Sabres, and good for Canisius.
  • Speaking of Stafford, he’s long overdue for some dumb hat trick. Still an outside chance he can get to 20 goals with all the big minutes he’s going to get. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions: There actually was a hockey game tonight

475668991_slideIt’s hard to sum up this game tonight. There was a game. It was an NHL regular season hockey game. It counted in the standings, but no one who has a twitter or was around people likely got invested in this game. It was a sideshow.

The impending trade of Ryan Miller finally happened. The impending trade of Steve Ott finally happened. And in one instant, the sense of dread on the horizon became a reality. And the Sabres played on.

While the team out on the ice walked away with a 4-2 win over the visiting San Jose Sharks, there’s not much to take from it. Jhonas Enroth was sensational. Brian Flynn scored again. Tyler Myers actually had a really good game.

And now, two points later, everything is different. The fact the team is currently riding a three game win streak out of the Olympic break is completely irrelevant. The soul of the team is forever changed. And even while Cody Hodgson, Matt Moulson, Flynn and Myers scored in a Sabres win at home on a Friday night, it doesn’t seem quite right. You don’t normally spend the third period’s television timeouts applauding for guys who aren’t on your team.

But the game’s a final, and Sunday, the team will take off out west for a roadtrip, and some of the guys on the plane may not be coming back to Buffalo on the same plane. They may have played their last game here. Matt Moulson, who scored the game winner tonight in maybe his last game as a Sabre (god, we can do this for everybody) wasn’t a story tonight.

There was a game. And I don’t think it matters too much right now.

  • Picked a hell of a game to show up late. Team was already out for warmups by the time I got to the press box.
  • Funny that you naturally didn’t want to put two and two together when Tim Murray missed his WGR spot at 5:30. It’d be too easy to assume there’d be a trade. Turns out, there was.
  • Good to see Enroth step up and have a game like that when he needed to grab the reins and earn a shot at being the #1 guy for the rest of the way. He will be. He’ll get his shot. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions: Late strike in 3rd, quick strike in OT push Enroth to win

475122617_slide

Wednesday night at First Niagara Center had loss written all over it. Coming into a game against Boston (who’s good), on the second night of a back-to-back against a rested team, with Jhonas Enroth in goal (who hadn’t won since October), the obvious was pointing to a loss.

And it was pretty damn close to being one. But that is why they play the game.

Matt Moulson’s tying goal with 53 seconds to go sent the game to overtime and Matt D’Agostini‘s fantastic finish 22 seconds into the extra session gave the Sabres their second win in as many nights, this time taking down the Boston Bruins with a 5-4 overtime win.

D’Agostini ended the game early into overtime by beating Boston goon Zdeno Chara to a loose puck in the Boston zone. D’Agostini went in on Bruins goaltender Chad Johnson, deked to the backhand and tucked it past him for the winner.

“I think he just thought he had time to go back and retrieve the puck,” D’Agostini said. “I kind of just snuck up behind him. I heard their bench screaming. I tried a little sneak attack on him in there, so it was good that I got by him and snuck it through the pad.”

Buffalo tied the game in a scramble around the net in the final minute. Likely goner Matt Moulson poked home his 16th of the year to send the game past regulation.

The Sabres also got goals from Zemgus Girgensons, Brian Flynn and Tyler Myers in just their 11th home win of the season.

Enroth, winning his first game since October 25th, made 29 saves.

  • Buffalo, with the win, is five points behind 29th place Edmonton with a game in hand. It’s good to be in a place where winning can be fun. Because winning should be fun.
  • Don’t know what it is about playing Boston, but Brian Flynn always seems to be flying when they do. Of course he’s a Massachusetts boy, so it does make some sense. His pass on the Girgensons goal was phenomenal. Deserved first star.
  • Really happy for Jhonas Enroth. Dude needed that win. Great way to get it, too. Needed a confidence boost. Read the rest of this entry

Overreaction: Miller holds back Hurricanes in last minute win

474892745_slideWe don’t know if Tuesday night was Ryan Miller’s last game with the Sabres. It might be. Then again, any game could be anybody’s last, because, you know… life.

But the impending NHL trade deadline is making these things more of a reality. And Miller made a hell of a case to be someone teams want on their squad against the Carolina Hurricanes, stopping 36 shots and even adding two assists in a 3-2 win in Buffalo’s first game back from the Olympic break.

Christian Ehrhoff scored twice for the Sabres, including the winner with 43.4 seconds remaining in regulation. Tyler Ennis also added a third period goal for Buffalo, who was outshot 38-18 on the night.

“Sometimes the hockey gods are good to you,” Ehrhoff said.

Ennis’ goal put the Sabres up 2-1 with less than eight minutes to go, but a fine individual effort from Carolina’s Alexander Semin tied the game at 2-2 with four minutes exactly on the clock.

Eric Staal also scored for Carolina.

Buffalo now hosts Boston on Wednesday night to continue a stretch of three games in four nights at First Niagara Center.

  • The word “Latvia” came up more than I’m comfortable with during this game. Let’s not be them.
  • How about that game out of Ville Leino? He was good. Drew two penalties, and was generally effective possessing the puck. Not bad for starting the game between Matt Ellis and Cody McCormick.
  • Not sure I’m comfortable with the idea Tyler Myers has an “A” on his sweater. I don’t want him to be looked at as part of the core. There was one play with the Sabres on the powerplay, where he got caught with the puck at the blueline near the bench. With the team changing and trying to get onside, he just fired it into the corner, completely unaware that Christian Ehrhoff was alone and waiting for a pass at their own blueline. Simple play could’ve retained possession if he sends it back to Ehrhoff. Myers gives the puck away. The problem with Tyler is between the ears. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions: Penguins (talented) beat Sabres (not so much)

467052031_slideMaybe if you watched the first ten minutes of this game, you thought the result might be in doubt. If you watched the last fifty, you knew better.

Even despite jumping out to a quick 1-0 lead on the Eastern Conference leading Penguins, the Sabres couldn’t take advantage of early chances before the giant awoke. The result of that is Pittsburgh dominating Buffalo en route to a 5-1 decision in the last game at First Niagara Center before the NHL’s Olympic hiatus.

Drew Stafford scored just under six minutes into the game, but that would be the only time Penguins’ netminder Marc-Andre Fleury would be solved. Buffalo got other chances, but Matt Ellis and Zemgus Girgensons couldn’t quite get it done and the lead was nothing but tenuous.

Then the beast came to life.

A rough hit from Steve Ott on Penguins star Harry Zolnierczyk seemed to rile up the NBC darlings. Zolnierczyk would tie the game late in the first period, and it was over from there. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin each scored highlight reel goals in the second, and Brian Gibbons and James Neal added third period insurance goals.

“That’s a good team over there that’s obviously playing extremely well,” Ott said. “We shot ourselves in the foot with a couple of turnovers in the second, but there’s no lack of passion. Every guy is out there working hard trying to compete.”

Ryan Miller, looking to impress Team USA coach Dan Bylsma on the other bench, was solid but helpless, making 29 saves and getting hung out to dry on many occasions.

  • Lots of Penguins fans in the crowd at FNC. Games against Pittsburgh are the right time to play the “Hey Penguins fan, do you know who Lasse Pirjeta or Tomas Surovy is?”
  • Speaking of those guys, we’d all love to have a guy like Malkin or Crosby right? Here is a good reminder of what it takes to get one of those guys. Embrace it, because in the end, we’ll have guys on our team scoring goals like those in the second period. And I’ll take that over hearing the word “compete” on a daily basis 11 times out of ten.
  • Mike Weber on the first Pittsburgh goal, top to bottom, was a complete mess. Sabres were possessing the puck well, moving up ice, and he gets it and fires it into the corner. Pittsburgh easily collects it, goes the other way and he chases them into the corner. By the time he gets there, the puck is headed to the front of the net and Zolnierczyk has all the time in the world to beat Miller. That shift in itself gets him cut from good teams. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions: Capitals’ stars Ovechkin & Green star in overtime win over Sabres

465692425_slideThings didn’t start well for Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth. They didn’t end well either.

Three times the Buffalo Sabres erased deficits to force overtime, but the Washington Capitals prevailed in a 5-4 overtime loss at First Niagara Center.

Enroth was beaten twice early by Washington’s engimatic star, Alexander Ovechkin, to give the visitors a 2-0 lead in the first five minutes. Ovechkin would add two assists, including the set up of Mike Green’s overtime winner exactly one minute into the extra period.

The Sabres did show a lot of compete, as they battled back from 2-0, 3-2 and 4-3 deficits to force the game past regulation. Cody Hodgson scored twice, once to tie the game at 2-2 and later to make it 4-4. Buffalo also got goals from Christian Ehrhoff and Phil Varone, who scored his first NHL goal in the second period.

Enroth battled throughout the night, but in the end, came up with another loss to fall to 1-10-5 on the season, making 30 saves.

It’s hard to win with this team, I guess.

  • Few things are more enjoyable than being at a game and seeing a kid score his first goal in the National Hockey League. It’s the greatest milestone in hockey, and it’s a lifetime of hard work coming full circle. Congrats to Phil Varone, who’ll keep that puck the rest of his life.
  • I’m not sure if Ted Nolan knows or supports line matching. I wonder because he willingly put the fourth line featuring noted shutdown winger John Scott out against Washington’s top line. Almost bit them in the ass, as Washington got a great opportunity but didn’t score. If you’re worried about winning, that shouldn’t happen.
  • Also on Nolan, I’ve taken the time to focus and wait for him to say the word “compete” during a postgame press conference. The buzzword of all buzzwords wasn’t a focus. Read the rest of this entry
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,381 other followers