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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

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, 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

Overreactions, 4/48 Edition: Vanek can’t do everything

20130125 canes celebrate

Well, the defense tightened up a bit at least.

After dropping a 6-3 decision the night before in Raleigh, the Buffalo Sabres again took one in the loss column, a 3-1 defeat to the Carolina Hurricanes.

Thomas Vanek scored the lone goal for Buffalo, his third of the campaign, to open up a 1-0 second period lead. (AD: Click here to visit BetOnIt.org to learn more about betting online) Vanek has been on the ice for all 11 goals the Sabres have scored this season.

“Thomas is off to one hell of a start,” said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff. “He’s played awesome.”

Unfortunately, that one goal wasn’t going to be enough, as Carolina tied it a few minutes later on Alexander Semin’s first goal as a Hurricane. Jay Harrison’s point shot at 15:10 of the 3rd found the back of the net behind Ryan Miller to give Carolina the lead, and Jeff Skinner’s empty netter sealed it.

Dan Ellis, yes, that’s right, Dan Ellis, was superb in goal for Carolina, stopping 40 of 41 shots.

“Coming into Buffalo and getting a win is not easy, and he was a big of a part of that win tonight,” Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said after the game.

The Sabres did get a solid night out of Ryan Miller, who stopped 39 of 41 shots. But when you don’t have goal support, it’s tough to put it on the goaltending.

“You need to win these games or at least get to overtime,” said Miller after the game. “I need to make one more save.”

Buffalo next heads to Washington for a Sunday matinee with the winless Capitals.

  • Lindy deemed Tyler Myers’ play tonight as “Okay” after the game, and while he did settle in and play decent defense at times, that’s irrelevant due to the egregious mistakes he made. The absolutely mindless play that created a 3-on-0 break for Carolina in the second period is completely unacceptable for what is expected of him. The only thing stopping me from saying he’s been Buffalo’s worst defenseman is the fact Robyn Regehr has possibly been worse.
  • I avoided mentioning it above, but what the fuck is the point of having Mikhail Grigorenko here? Ruff gave an acceptable reasoning as to why he tried putting other lines out for defense. You know what? Fine. But you just made a budding franchise-cornerstone-type offensive center prospect skate with John fucking Scott. This develops him how? Playing him 6:48 a night when your team can’t score goals helps you how? Send him back to Quebec and let him get relied on for 20+ minutes a night. Don’t make him play with fucking plugs.
  • Andrej Sekera: team leading 22:18 TOI. Most shots by a defenseman. Most takeaways. Most blocked shots. Best defenseman in a Buffalo uniform tonight. Was excellent jumping into the rush and busted his ass to get back. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 67th Edition: On to the next one

As game time approached Wednesday night at First Niagara Center, the signs of a “trap game” started popping up. Whether it was Lindy Ruff sticking Ryan Miller in net again, the dreaded “first game back after a road trip” game, a late scratch of Andrej Sekera due to illness… you could find your reasons.

Buffalo responded with an effort that got them the result they needed.

Before a surprisingly lively crowd, the Sabres came home and in the end, took care of business, knocking off the Carolina Hurricanes with a 3-2 overtime victory on the strength of captain Jason Pominville’s powerplay goal 56 seconds into the fourth period.

After falling into an early hole and facing a one goal deficit after one, the Sabres had grabbed a 2-1 lead just 1:02 into the second on goals by Tyler Myers and Thomas Vanek. Carolina would later tie it up and the teams remained deadlocked after 60 minutes until the American hero, Pominville, ended it.

Ryan Miller made 22 saves for Buffalo, moving to 7-1-2 in his last 10 starts.

The Sabres now sit 10th place in the Eastern Conference at 70 points, just two behind 8th place Winnipeg with 15 games to go.

  • Thomas Vanek’s ice time in his four-game streak without a point: 17:41, 17:45, 12:09, 16:20. Tonight: 19:47, two points. Likely due to the above-the-norm amount of powerplays, but noticeable.
  • Big ups to Carolina’s Jussi Jokinen for taking three, yes, three minor penalties tonight. The way they’re calling games, penalties don’t get called often. Takes a supreme effort to pull that off.
  • Alex Sulzer had a pretty solid game as a late replacement for the apparently sick Andrej Sekera. Three blocked shots, two shots on goal, and a snipe off the pipe that could’ve broken the tie in the second period. Looked good in his home debut. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 40th Edition: Losing games good teams win

It was a promising start that materialized into nothing.

With Buffalo buzzing around the Carolina net early, it looked like the Sabres came to play. Ryan Miller was even stopping the puck. The results didn’t follow.

At the end of the night, it was the Sabres, after going unbeaten in regulation in their last eight visits to RBC Center, that walked away empty-handed, losing 4-2 to the Hurricanes.

“They’re only really good opportunities if you bury them,” Ruff said. “We work to get position offensively. It was good. Not converting isn’t any good.”

As usual, it was the leading scorers showing up without help, as Buffalo got goals from Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville.

Miller looked like he was going to play the type of game that could get the team a win. Stopping all 15 Carolina shots in the first, he limited Carolina to Justin Faulk’s powerplay goal in the second through two periods and 23 shots.

In the end, it was Buffalo’s futile attempts at offense than led to the team’s demise, as a pressing pinch on a four-on-four led to a two-on-one and Chad LaRose’s game winner in the third. Miller finished with 31 saves.

The team’s center situation also got even more dire, as Derek Roy went down with an injury early in the first and did not return. Ruff indicated that he will miss some time with the damage.

  • Paul Gaustad is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. He is currently counting $2.3 million against the cap. He has three goals in 37 games this season. If this team doesn’t turn the ship around soon, take the draft pick at the deadline and run.
  • Again, the lack of secondary scoring is the team’s biggest issue. The team’s top line (Jochen Hecht, Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek) have scored the team’s only goals in nine of 40 games this season. The team is 2-7-0 in those nine. The two wins were shutouts. If the rest of the team doesn’t chip in, the team dosn’t win. End of story.
  • Lots of jokesters on twitter seemed pretty happy about Roy being hurt. First, being pleased about the guy who’s supposed to be the team’s best center is pretty lame. Second, you can’t trade someone who’s hurt. Everyone that wants him gone is stuck with him unless he’s healthy. Think, McFly. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 19th Edition: Sabres are winners, Canes are losers

Coming off the worst performance of his career, Jhonas Enroth showed that he can recover from a weak effort. Recover, and then some.

Enroth registered his first shutout of the season and a first period powerplay goal by Jason Pominville was all the offense the Sabres needed in a 1-0 win over Carolina.

Enroth made 34 saves after allowing five goals on Wednesday night against New Jersey.

“After a game when you play like that, you just want to get out there again,” Enroth, said. “I’m happy I got the start right after that game.”

Carolina was able to throw 14 shots on Enroth in the third period, but the rookie was up to the challenge, moving to 6-1-0 on the season.

Pominville scored his seventh of the season on a feed from Thomas Vanek, as the pair remain in the top-5 in the NHL in points. The Sabres finished 1-for-2 on the powerplay.

With the win, Buffalo is just one point behind Philadelphia for first place in the Eastern Conference.

  • Big rivalry game in Carolina, huh? I could tell by all the empty seats. Some ‘Canes fans seem to claim that they avoid going to Sabres games because they don’t want to deal with the Sabres fans. Wimps. Considering they’re the ones who think it’s a rivalry, they don’t seem to care enough about it to actually show up.
  • Tyler Myers, in my opinion, had a better game in Carolina than he did Wednesday against New Jersey. He seemed much better in the defensive zone, and seemed a little smarter in deciding when to rush the puck, save for trying to carry the puck on a rush while the team was shorthanded, leading to an odd-man rush the other way. Still some issues, but he’s been better.
  • Overall, it was a good night for the defense. Sekera was sublime. Leopold continued his strong play and even Regehr looked good. Enroth stopping every shot helped too. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 3rd Edition: Sabres can’t weather the storm

The conditions in the Buffalo area on Friday night were far from perfect. In a way, the bad weather was a harbinger of things to come.

On a night expected to be a celebration of hope, it was the dark clouds of stormy weather and the Carolina Hurricanes that put a damper on the evening, as the Buffalo Sabres dropped a 4-3 decision in their home opener at First Niagara Center.

The Sabres jumped out to a lead twice in the first period on goals by Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy, only to have both cancelled by the Hurricanes. The damage was done after Buffalo had taken a 2-1 lead in the first, with Carolina adding two shorthanded goals, one by Brandon Sutter at the end of the first and one by Tim Brent in the second, to give the visitors the lead.

“We didn’t take care of the puck at all tonight,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “We created a great number of opportunities, but we gave up some beauties. And all those beauties were given up because of plays we didn’t need to make. … We burned ourselves tonight.”

A late third period goal by Drew Stafford to tie the game was answered moments later by Carolina’s Jeff Skinner on a powerplay to give the ‘Canes a win.

Ryan Miller had 30 saves in the loss, while Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward made 39 stops to get the win.

  • I’m gonna go ahead and say Andrej Sekera was Buffalo’s best defenseman. Tyler Myers made a great play on the Stafford goal, but ‘Rej was dynamic all night.
  • The powerplay obviously had problems, as evidenced by the two shorthanded goals they allowed. But it wasn’t even bad giveaways that made them look bad. Carolina’s penalty kill just gave them nothing. The Hurricanes were collapsing into shooting lanes and the Sabres weren’t moving the puck around enough to handle it. It seemed like the point men kept trying to get that point shot from the high slot instead of working the points and getting the PK out of position. After looking good in the first two games, it was a dreadful night on special teams for Buffalo. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, Preseason Edition #1: Success isn’t always perfection

Well, it’s good to be back, isn’t it?

Hitting the ice for the first time in the newly-named and remodeled First Niagara Center, the Buffalo Sabres opened the 2011 exhibition slate with a 3-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.

Earning goals from Paul Gaustad, Nathan Gerbe and an empty netter from Patrick Kaleta, the team came back to get the win on the strength of 11 saves from Jhonas Enroth.

Sure, the game presentation still sucks ass, but who cares when the buildings full and the team wins, right? I’ll save that for another post. I won’t let that ruin the insight on the game.

Points to make after a meaningless win:

  • It seemed to me like a lot of the rookies played very tentative. The Zack Kassian-Luke Adam-Marcus Foligno line was ineffective for most of the night. It took a while for Alex Biega and T.J. Brennan to settle in. They seemed afraid of making mistakes.
  • Yes, the Sabres failed to crack the scoresheet with Brian Boucher in net for Carolina, but they really didn’t generate any offense whatsoever anyways. Opportunities were limited until the third period.
  • Zack Kassian is going to need at least a year in the AHL. I’ve been fully unimpressed with him in this game, at camp and in the one game I saw from Traverse City. The tools are clearly there. But he’s not ready. Read the rest of this entry

Sabres announce 2011 preseason schedule

The countdown is now on: 90 days until the Buffalo Sabres hit the ice to begin the 2011-12 season.

This morning the organization announced their preseason schedule, a move that comes weeks before it has in the past.

The Sabres will begin their preseason slate at home on Monday, September 19 when the Carolina Hurricanes visit HSBC Arena. The Sabres will then travel to Montreal to play the Canadiens on Wednesday, September 21. The team will participate in a home and home series with the Toronto Maple Leafs starting at the Air Canada Centre on Friday, September 23 and then at HSBC Arena on Saturday, September 24. After a game on the road in Columbus the following day (Sunday, September 25), the team will travel to Washington on Friday, September 30 to face the Capitals.

The Buffalo Sabres will also play an exhibition game against Adler Mannheim at SAP Arena in Mannheim, Germany, on Tuesday, Oct. 4, as part of the 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere Challenge to complete the 2011 preseason schedule.

As expected, you have your home-and-home with Toronto, with one of them likely being a blowout win for the Sabres. You have your Wednesday night TSN game against Montreal, which will probably be on NHL Network as well.

Full credit to the Sabres for doing this earlier this year. Last year, the preseason schedule was announced by the team on July 8. Fans in recent years have been able to piece together the entire slate based on other teams beating them to the punch. Not so much this year. Good to see. Read the rest of this entry

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