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Overreactions, Preseason Edition: Kids help Sabres beat Hurricanes

It’s good to be back.

In the Buffalo Sabres’ return to their home rink for their first home game of the preseason slate, a squad littered with young talent overcame a sloppy first 30 minutes to storm away with a 5-2 win over visiting Metropolitan Division rival, the Carolina Hurricanes.

Johan Larsson, acquired at last year’s trade deadline in the Jason Pominville deal, scored twice for Buffalo, who moved to 3-0-0 on the preseason campaign.

Trailing 1-0 after one period of play, Joel Armia scored his first of the preseason to tie the game. After surrendering another goal just minutes later, Larsson scored his first of the game, tipping in a Brayden McNabb point shot to deadlock the score after two periods.

Buffalo would go on to score three unanswered goals in the third, led by Cody Hodgson’s redirection of a Thomas Vanek pass with just under six minutes to go. Larsson and McNabb (who finished with a goal and two assists) would score insurance goals before the clock ran out.

The Sabres also got a very strong performance out of Ryan Miller, who played his first full game after splitting duties with Matt Hackett in Wednesday’s win over NHLBettingTips.com Metropolitan Division underdog Columbus. Miller stopped 34 of 36 shots to get the win.

While an undefeated record in preseason only means so much, the Sabres now face a home-and-home with Toronto. The Leafs will visit First Niagara Center on Saturday night for a Hockey Night in Canada broadcast.

  • Really like Johan Larsson’s game tonight. The guy does everything you’d want him to do. He goes to the net, wins draws (71% on 17 draws) and shows a lot of hustle. He could force his way into a roster spot, but if he doesn’t, he won’t be in Rochester long.
  • Best guy on the ice for Carolina tonight? You guessed it: Andrej Sekera. Led Carolina with 23:03 of ice time, showed a lot of possession of the puck, and save for the two third period goals he was on the ice for, was really, really good. The Canes are gonna love him. Compher better pan out.
  • Brayden McNabb’s game has been hit-or-miss for a little while, but tonight his work in the offensive zone is evident in the boxscore. That shot can generate a lot of opportunities, whether it’s going straight in, or he’s putting it in places that guys can tip it. He needs to show that if he wants to stick. Read the rest of this entry

Instigator Podcast #23 featuring WGR’s Pat Malacaro (Jan. 29, 2013)

So me and Chris Ostrander of Two In the Box do this podcast sometimes, and we’re always trying to get guests. This episode, we have WGR 550’s Pat Malacaro joining us.

The topic of the day is Mikhail Grigorenko, what the Sabres should do and why. Beyond that, we have a solid version of Plus/Minus, talk Tyler Myers, faceoffs, The Bills Mafia and more.

If this is your first time experiencing the Instigator, thanks. Follow us on twitter, @3rdManIn or @2ITB_Buffalo. More importantly, follow Pat at @PatWGR.

Overreactions, Amerks in Buffalo Edition 2: Electric Boogaloo

Cody Hodgson

Hey look… there’s hockey in Buffalo! What a concept!

Before a record crowd of 19,070 at First Niagara Center, the Rochester Americans defeated the Lake Erie Monsters by a score of 4-1.

Thanks to two goals from Cody Hodgson and tallies by Mark Mancari and Nick Tarnasky, the Amerks never trailed and controlled most of the play. Brayden McNabb had two assists and Mancari, T.J. Brennan, and Max Legault also added helpers.

Despite the two meetings between the teams leading to a combined 13 goals in each matchup, David Leggio was solid in net for Rochester, stopping 36 of 37 Lake Erie shots, and as my man Marshawn Lynch said, “It don’t get no better than solid.”

Rochester moves to 15-11-2-1 on the season, good for 9th in the AHL’s Western Conference. They are a mere three points behind 4th place Abbotsford.

The Amerks head back to Rochester for another game tomorrow night against Binghamton. As for First Niagara Center, it goes back to darkness. For now.

  • Excellent to be back in the building. There’s snow on the ground, and the five block walk from my car to the arena in bone-chilling cold was refreshing. Wouldn’t be mad at all if they could figure shit out and get a season going.
  • Brayden McNabb picked up two assists, but for the majority of the game looked really shaky. Passes were off, just sloppy in general. He cleaned it up near the end, and made a nice play going to the net on Tarnasky’s goal. He was on the verge of a roster spot if there would’ve been a season, but I’m wondering how fast he’s slipping with Pysyk looking good and Brennan playing lights-out. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, Amerks in Buffalo Edition

(I can’t find any acceptable shots in Americans gear)

First Niagara Center has been noticeably empty this October, but for at least one night, there was some hockey at the foot of Washington Street.

Buffalo’s AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans (the team also known as the Amerks) hosted the Hamilton Bulldogs in front of a content crowd announced of almost 11,000 at the Sabres’ home rink. Featuring young bucks who’d have likely been in blue and gold like Cody Hodgson and Marcus Foligno, the Amerks defeated the Bulldogs 3-1.

Hopping out to a first period lead on a bouncing shot from the point off the stick of the mighty Joe Finley, the Amerks surrendered the lead with about eight minutes left in the second on a goal by Hamilton’s Michael Bournival. Cody Hodgson answered right back to retake the lead at 2-1.

T.J. Brennan added an insurance goal with Rochester on a two-man advantage late in the third to secure the victory.

Williamsville native David Leggio had 36 saves in his hometown for the Americans.

While no other Amerks games are scheduled for First Niagara Center, pending the current labor situation with the big leagues, that can change.

  • Cody Hodgson looked like the most polished player on the ice. Makes sense, but still. Hard to judge what the offseason training did for him because you don’t know what the talent disparity between leagues is, but he’s putting up numbers. Which is nice.
  • Really impressed with Mark Pysyk, he seemed very mature for it being his sixth professional game. Smart with the puck.
  • They announced the crowd at 10,896 or something like that, but from experience in minor league ticketing, good luck finding anywhere near that many in the building, staff included. Couldn’t have been more than 9,000 fans here. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 80th Edition: Good thing the Leafs are awful, or this could’ve sucked.

It can’t ever be easy, can it?

Backs against the wall, playoff hopes on the line, hated rival in town, coming off a tough loss with chances to stay in the playoff picture fading faster than a Luke Schenn tee-shot, the Sabres were guaranteed to come out strong and make a statement.

There’s no guarantees, apparently. But who gives a shit if they come through at the end, right?

Spotting the clubhouse-bound Maple Leafs a 3-0 lead, the Buffalo Sabres made the most rousing of rousing comebacks, fighting back for a 6-5 overtime win. Derek Roy scored the game winner on a powerplay at 3:29 of overtime to tie Buffalo with Washington at 88 points for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

An epic goal by Jordan Leopold with 1:53 remaining in regulation tied the game at five, erasing a two goal deficit in the final ten minutes.

“Today was one of those days where we could’ve found ourselves losing that game 5-0,” Leopold said. “It didn’t work out that way, because we decided to dig in and push it all the way.”

Alexander Sulzer scored twice, Roy added another and Tyler Ennis also scored for Buffalo, who at one point or another, trailed 3-0, 4-2 and 5-3 before sending it to overtime.

Ryan Miller, despite the five goals allowed on the statline, made several phenomenal saves in stopping 20 of 25 shots he faced to get the win.

Buffalo’s scant playoff prospects remain alive until Thursday, when a matchup with the Flyers in Philadelphia and a Florida/Washington battle await. Until then…

…Wow.

  • In the final 43:29 of the game (second, third, and overtime periods) Buffalo outshot Toronto 36-12. It shouldn’t have been as close as it was.
  • Marcus Foligno, the well deserved first star of the night, was an absolute force. Throwing huge hits, dropping the gloves, picking up assists and overall being a pain-in-the-ass for the Leafs. And remember, there was a debate over whether the team made a mistake giving up on Zack Kassian.
  • Alexander Sulzer came to the Sabres with the following career totals: 74 games played. One goal. Seven assists. In 15 games with Buffalo, three goals, five assists and a good chance to get a nice contract this offseason. Read the rest of this entry

3MI Roadtrip Recap: Toronto

(In place of a traditional “Overreactions” post, which would be extremely tardy, this is 3MI Roadtrip Recap. A mix of what the postgame blogs usually look like and a look into the trip. Hope you like it. If you don’t, well, go lay down on train tracks.)

Preamble

It’s about as close to being at the center of the hockey universe as you can get. Saturday night in Toronto. Hockey Night in Canada. Nationwide up north and on NHL Network in the United States.

The aura of the Air Canada Centre is something that has to be experienced. And it’s something that I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to experience. Multiple times. Many, many times.

So when you look at the calendar and see Sabres at Leafs on a Saturday night at the end of March, two thoughts come to mind:

  1. Going to games in Toronto is awesome.
  2. The Leafs will be eliminated from playoff contention by then.

Which brought us to Saturday, which was as big as big games could get after losing Friday night to Pittsburgh.

So me and my buddy headed up north for the day. A nice afternoon of watching hockey at Real Sports Bar & Grill across the street from the ACC and some Saturday night hockey. Got standing room only tickets off StubHub at box office price. Can’t beat it.

Sabres @ Maple Leafs
Viewed at: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

If you want to write the book called “How to fuck up your playoff chances in a game you should win,” I’ve got a suggestion for what you can include.

Making the short trip north for a showdown with a free-falling Toronto Maple Leafs, who came into Saturday riding an 11-game winless streak at home, who happened to be starting their fourth-string goalie because their third-string goalie got shelled the game before, Buffalo proceeded to back away from any decent shot at a playoff spot.

Unable to beat Ben Scrivens or shut down a struggling offense, the Buffalo Sabres dropped a 4-3 defeat at the hands of the golf-course-bound Leafs in Toronto.

Ryan Miller was unable to rebound from a rough outing the night before, giving up four goals for the second straight night. He made 25 saves in the loss.

“We scored some goals tonight, so I didn’t need to be perfect,” Miller said. “But I needed to make another save or two.”

Tyler Ennis, Ville Leino, and Drew Stafford scored for Buffalo, who never led at any point. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 71st Edition: Um… It’s not over yet.

With the Sabres just a few points out of a playoff spot, with more than ten games remaining, the season isn’t over yet. It’d be foolish to think otherwise.

Conversely, with your opponent trailing by a mere one goal with time running out, it’s not over yet. It’d be foolish to leave your head firmly planted inside your ass and let them tie the game before the clock expires. That just happened.

Again.

For the second game in a row, the Buffalo Sabres surrendered a tying goal in the waning seconds of regulation, this time off the stick of Colorado’s Jamie McGinn with just 1.6 seconds on the clock. Unlike Monday night, they failed to rebound, falling 5-4 in a shootout.

Buffalo held three separate one goal leads that disappeared. Marcus Foligno opened the scoring just 1:39 into the game. After Colorado tied it seven minutes later, Drew Stafford scored shorthanded to take a 2-1 lead. Colorado would answer with a David Jones goal in the final minute of the opening period.

The Avalanche grabbed their only lead of the night early in the second on a Gabriel Landeskog goal. They led until Marcus Foligno tied it at 3-3 with just under nine minutes remaining in the second.

Alexander Sulzer’s first goal as a Sabre appeared to give Buffalo the lead that would get them to the win, but McGinn’s goal spoiled the night.

Peter Mueller of the Avs scored the only goal in the shootout, as Semyon Varlamov stopped Brad Boyes, Jason Pominville and Tyler Ennis to get the win.

Ryan Miller was strong, but not strong enough, stopping 38 of 42 shots for the Sabres, who earn one point but sit three points behind 8th place Washington with 11 games left on the schedule.

  • Nice moment for Marcus Foligno, scoring that early goal. It ignited the crowd, and his first jump has been highly anticipated from the time they drafted him. He had a phenomenal game. Scored twice, added three hits and finished +3 in 14:41.
  • Speaking of rooks, Brayden McNabb quietly made his return to the lineup after being recalled from Rochester. Needless to say, he looked shaky. Played just 13:17 and looked uneasy. With Myers out for at least the next two games, lets get Andrej Sekera an extra IV or something.
  • The Foligno-Ennis-Stafford line was superb tonight. Stafford and Foligno both scored and provided a physical presence. Ennis was Ennis, dancing around the ice and picking up three assists. They looked really good. Unfortunately, their line was the only line that showed up. Read the rest of this entry

3MI Roadtrip Recap: University of Sabres Doubleheader

In place of a traditional “Overreactions” post, which would be extremely tardy, this is 3MI Roadtrip Recap. A mix of what the postgame blogs usually look like and a look into the trip. Hope you like it. If you don’t, feel free to move to the Congo.)

Preamble

Not often that you get opportunities to see your team play twice in one day. Well, sort of.

Couple weeks ago a buddy of mine alerted me that the Rochester Americans were playing a weekday morning game in Toronto. He suggested we go for the 11am start. Oh, and the Sabres were hosting the Bruins the same night. What are the odds? Luckily, getting a day off work was feasible, and it worked out great. Easy drive Sabres game didn’t start until 7:30. Plenty of time.

So we hit the road early and headed up the QEW to Toronto to see the Sabres’ minor-league affiliate play the Leafs affiliate to start one hell of a day.

Rochester Americans @ Toronto Marlies
Viewed at: Ricoh Coliseum, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The Amerks have had their struggles with injuries. With Joe Finley out with a lower body injury, facing a Toronto team they’ve had tough games against this season, things didn’t get much better.

Getting an early start in front of thousands of school kids, the Rochester Americans lost 4-3 to the Marlies at Ricoh Coliseum.

Rookie Zack Kassian scored twice for Rochester, who now sits 9th in the AHL’s Western Conference.

Max Legault scored the other goal for the Amerks. David Leggio made 21 saves in the loss.

Rochester struggled offensively for much of the game, generating just ten shots through two periods. Kassian’s second goal came with under four seconds left.

  • Kassian looked like the Kassian we know. Wasn’t throwing his weight around, but strong physically and good around the net. He’s not going to be the player everyone wants him to be. He’ll be good though.
  • Made an effort to watch Dennis Persson as much as I could. Seems like he’s slowly becoming a bit steadier. His selection was always assumed to be under the intention that he’d grow into a Henrik Tallinder-type, and I can see it. Tallinder took his sweet time developing. Persson is progressing slowly as well. Not ready to say “bust” yet. He was -2 on Wednesday.
  • If you’re into roadtrips, I highly recommend heading up to Ricoh for a game. Beautiful little AHL arena. Very intimate environment.
  • Travis Turnbull is a guy that can be a mainstay on the Amerks for a few years. A joy to watch. Plays with a lot of intensity and spunk. Had a nice scrap with Toronto’s Kelsey Wilson. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 43rd Edition: “It was an important game for us.”

On the verge of a seven-game road trip and two and half weeks away from First Niagara Center, the Sabres desperately needed to end the month’s home schedule on a high note.

It wasn’t very high, but high enough.

Thanks to two first period goals from the team’s fourth line, solid goaltending, and the team’s leading scorer coming through as usual, Buffalo was able to secure a split to the home-and-home with Toronto, as they pulled out a 3-2 win at First Niagara Center.

Matt Ellis opened the scoring at 1:05, banking in a shot from behind the goal line. The rare fortunate bounce was followed up by Gaustad ripping a wrister past Jonas Gustavsson less than three minutes later.

“We haven’t got many of those,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff admitted in his press conference, referring to the team’s bad luck of late.

Buffalo’s two early goals were answered by the Maple Leafs before the end of the first, as they scored two goals in just 2:46 to even the score.

The tie was broken with just over five minutes remaining in the second, as Thomas Vanek threaded a beautiful pass to Jason Pominville at the back door for the All-Star’s 15th of the season. The Leafs defense failed to notice the captain sneak around the goal to the backside of the crease.

“We should’ve had the coverage in front of the net,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said after the game.

Ryan Miller made 24 saves for the win, and allowed two goals or less in consecutive games for the first time since October. Jonas Gustavsson allowed three goals on 25 shots to a team he shutout a few days before.

The game wasn’t without the reemergence of the story of the season, as Brayden McNabb left the game with what could be a concussion. Ruff reported that he did in fact visit the “quiet room” and is out for tomorrow’s game on Long Island.

  • Getting goals from guys like Paul Gaustad and Matt Ellis is the difference between this being a competitive team and an average team. That depth in offense is crucial. The second and third lines didn’t contribute any themselves. Thanks to Gaustad, Ellis and Patrick Kaleta (two assists) chipping in, they got two points.
  • I’ll say there were probably a solid 9-10,000 Leafs fans in the building.
  • Derek Roy came out extremely strong and overall had a pretty solid game. He was doing good things with the puck down low, created a couple chances too. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 41st Edition: Help

You can’t win if you don’t score. The Buffalo Sabres should know.

A superb effort from Jhonas Enroth went to waste, and Buffalo continued their free fall, losing to the team stolen out of Atlanta by a score of 2-1 in overtime.

“It’s tough to win a game with one goal,” said Enroth

The rookie netminder collected his second consecutive overtime loss, making 39 saves on a night where, unlike many games of late, the team got strong goaltending.

Tyler Myers opened the scoring midway through the second period, tapping in a beautiful pass from captain Jason Pominville. It would be the only time the Sabres would beat goaltending legend Ondrej Pavelec, who stopped 31 of 32 shots.

Buffalo dropped to 18-19-4 on the year, and at the season’s midpoint, sit in 11th in the East, five points out of a playoff spot.

  • Tyler Myers got a goal. He was also on the ice for both goals against. I’m wondering if he’s the kind of player that Lindy Ruff can build around under the current system in place. Sometime I’ll explain that a bit more.
  • Ville Leino was pretty solid in his return. The Leino-Brad Boyes-Drew Stafford combo was alright in generating pressure, but no results means it doesn’t matter.
  • Thomas Vanek played just 13:31 thanks to Tyler Myers drilling him with a slap shot. If Vanek goes down, ever, this team is fucked. Read the rest of this entry
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