Nothing 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.
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.
We 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
Then the third period of the team’s fourth preseason game started.
Blowing a two goal lead in the final ten minutes of regulation, the Buffalo Sabres couldn’t beat James Reimer in time to save the win as they fell 3-2 in a shootout to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The game was decided by a shootout after a spirited overtime, and it took 30 (yes, 30) shooters to decide the winner. Jhonas Enroth was beaten by Jay McClement in the 15th round of the shootout, and Reimer stopped all 15 shooters he faced.
“I thought our game for 50 minutes was really, really strong,” said Sabres forward Steve Ott. “The last ten minutes, we cost ourselves.”
Enroth was solid in net for Buffalo, stopping 32 of 34 shots in addition to 14 of 15 in the shootout.
The Sabres got goals from Mark Pysyk and Marcus Foligno, while Jamie Devane (sounds fake to me) and McClement scored for Toronto. Reimer made 38 saves for the Leafs.
These teams meet again tomorrow night in Toronto, in what should be the last chance to impress for at least a few players.
- Brian Flynn really picked up his game from the other night, and his hustle gave him a few chances to make a mark. He needs another game like this to really make his case to stick around with a guy like Zemgus Girgensons in a good spot to make the team.
- People really hate Patrick Kaleta. Man, he was running around trying to hit anything the first few shifts of the game.
- Jamie McBain had a pretty solid game, but I’m not sure he’s going to make the team still. It’s obvious they were really trying to give him a solid look, as he had a team high 27:02 TOI, but I think that shows more that he’s on the fence than that he’s got a spot. Read the rest of this entry
Buffalo overcame an early 2-0 deficit only to blow a third period lead on their way to a 4-3 defeat in front of a national audience on Hockey Day in America.
Ryan Miller was fuming afterwards.
“It’s 3-3, get to overtime. It’s 3-2, fucking make them come all the way down. We work too hard,” said Miller, who made 31 saves, many of which were quite good. [full audio below]
Pittsburgh scored twice in the opening 1:27 of the game on goals by Pascal Dupuis and Sidney Crosby. Buffalo crawled back one on a Cody Hodgson goal five minutes later.
In the second period, Thomas Vanek scored his league-leading 12th goal of the season on a two-man advantage to tie the game. It would remain deadlocked until Steve Ott gave the Sabres the lead just past the five minute mark of the third period.
That lead would not even last two minutes as Dupuis scored his second of the game to tie it on a gorgeous pass from Kris Letang.
“We had a real good third period going until that moment,” said coach Lindy Ruff. “Chances were way down our chances were way up. We were putting some heat on them, we didn’t take advantage.”
Pittsburgh would take the lead at 17:56 of the third period on a goal by former Golden Gopher Paul Martin.
“It’s up to us be better in our zone,” said captain Jason Pominville, whose line was on the ice for two of the three Penguins goals at even strength.
Buffalo falls to 6-9-1 on the year and 3-4-1 at First Niagara Center.
- Didn’t know if you knew this, but that Sidney Crosby? He’s good. In 22 games against the Sabres, 12 goals, 20 assists. Yeah. He’s good.
- Lots of Penguins fans in the crowd today. Combination of proximity, Pittsburgh’s winning and the lack of desire Sabres fans have to actually go to games can be blamed. When you have so many season ticket holders, you shouldn’t see such a large traveling contingent. That’s your own fault.
- Christian Ehrhoff was fantastic today. Team leading 24:18, two assists. He’s the team’s #1 defenseman. The contract it took to sign him can be considered a steal any day now. Read the rest of this entry
“It’s disappointing. It’s embarrassing to miss the playoffs,” Sabres goalie Ryan Miller said. “We have a lot of talented players on this team and we just didn’t get it going early enough this season.”
And so it ends.
Despite a rousing run to insert themselves back into the playoff race, all postseason hopes are gone after a 2-1 loss in Philadelphia Thursday night.
Ville Leino gave Buffalo a 1-0 lead in the second period, but the Flyers rebounded in the third period, tying the game on a Marc-Andre Bourdon goal six minutes into the period.
With the Sabres holding on trying to send the game to overtime and earn at least one crucial point, Philadelphia rookie Matt Read took advantage of Robyn Regehr’s defensive zone miscue to add the dagger with 4:21 remaining.
“We just didn’t finish,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “We had our chances, and we didn’t get the kind of shots we needed. There were far too many chances by the wayside.”
What should’ve been a mad scramble to tie the game turned into a circus, as Philadelphia dominated possession in the final minutes and the Sabres were unable to create good opportunities to tie the game.
Thanks to Washington’s victory over Florida, Buffalo is officially eliminated from playoff contention and will finish 9th in the Eastern Conference. The Sabres will miss the postseason for the first time since 2009.
“We did this to ourselves,” Miller said.
- Buffalo’s tentative play for most of the game put them in the spot that in the end did them in. They sat back for most of the game, and it was one mistake that turned into the difference. Dangerous way to play against a team that’s so strong.
- Rough night for the Sabres’ best line of late, as Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford and Marcus Foligno were on the ice for both Philadelphia goals.
- No blame goes to Ryan Miller for this one. While his goals allowed the last few games had taken a bump, Miller was outstanding and made the saves needed to keep Buffalo in position to win. Not on him. Read the rest of this entry
(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, blow me.)
Sometimes you gotta just say “Fuck it.“
Having a few good friends living in the DC region, a trip to the Verizon Center had been on the docket as a possibility for a while. This week’s game had multiple arguments against the viability of the trip. Leading the way was the fact it was on a Tuesday. It was just something like “Alright, I’ll keep an eye on Southwest Airlines deals into BWI and see if there’s a good deal and then I’ll consider it…” until days kept creeping up on March 27 and all of a sudden the magnitude of the game became apparent. Just a week prior, I’m sitting at work texting a friend about maybe going and a song comes on and it’s time to show a cut from Sting’s new album.
So Monday after work, I hit the road for my friend’s place outside Baltimore. We and a couple of her friends got tickets for a somewhat reasonable price on StubHub over the weekend. So after a brief seven hour drive, it was a good night of sleep that stood between me and the day of the next biggest game of the season.
I had been to Washington and the area multiple times on various road trips over the past few years, including a trip last summer to catch a Nats game and a USMNT game. It’s a beautiful city, tons of stuff to do, a hell of a lot of fun. I had done the basic stops on the pilgrimage all Americans should make before, but it didn’t stop a return visit to the Museum of American History, which is always mind-blowing.
A few hours touring around downtown DC led to pre-game beers led to the game. Oddly, I had little to no stress about the game, mainly due to the fact it was such a mess finding my way down there and the looming overnight drive I had waiting for me. But here it was. Read the rest of this entry
There was the “give up a late goal to force overtime and lose in the shootout” one last Wednesday. And then the “come back to tie it and blow multiple chances to seal the win in a shootout” one in southern Florida on Saturday.
Tonight, the Sabres made sure that wasn’t happening again.
Holding a two goal lead after 20 minutes, Buffalo used a four-goal second period to pull away en route to a 7-3 win over Tampa Bay.
Jason Pominville and Marcus Foligno each scored twice for Buffalo, who kept pace with the victorious Washington Capitals and sit just two points behind them for the final playoff spot in the East.
“We were able to capitalize on a couple of rushes and made some good plays on our power play,” Pominville said. “When they have to change their game plan and open the game up, I think it falls into our style of play. We’ve got guys that have speed and can make you pay, and we did.”
Drew Stafford, Corey Tropp and Brad Boyes also scored, as the Sabres defeated the Lightning for the first time this season.
Ryan Miller made 24 saves to get the win, as his counterparts, starter Dustin Tokarski (four goals allowed on 15 shots) and Dwayne Roloson (three goals allowed on 23 shots) didn’t fare as well.
- Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford and Marcus Foligno are absolutely sublime right now. A combined three goals and four assists tonight, these guys look phenomenal together. Ennis’ move to center has singlehandedly rejuvenated Stafford, and Foligno has probably played his last AHL game, unless the Sabres miss the playoffs.
- Good to see Jason Pominville pick up a couple nice goals, getting him to 27 on the year. He’s had a great season, and he should have a good look at breaking the 30-goal mark. Hey, somebody ought to be able to get that many.
- Corey Tropp with an absolute beauty on a nice setup from Thomas Vanek. Tropp is the future of the bottom six on this roster. Decent size, good energy and solid hands. He’s developed into a hell of a player. Read the rest of this entry
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.
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
This time, it’s a 4-1 defeat to the team formerly known as the Atlanta Thrashers at an AHL arena somewhere in Canada.
Drew Stafford scored the lone goal for Buffalo. Failing to beat goaltending icon Ondrej Pavelec more than once isn’t going to get anyone very far.
Special teams wasn’t an area of strength on this night either, with the powerplay leaving empty handed after two opportunities and the penalty kill allowing two goals on four chances.
“You’ve got to win that battle,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said about the special teams. “We had a tough time getting shots through. They got theirs.”
The solution to the team’s problems getting points continues to elude the roster and coaching staff, and the season continues to slip past the point of saving. Ryan Miller, who started extremely strong in this game, stopping 18 of 19 shots in the first period and making key stops on many of the 30 shots he faced through two periods, couldn’t have stolen this one.
Another game, another search for answers.
- His play of late hasn’t been stellar, and his name keeps popping up when talking trades, but Derek Roy made a subtle and crucial play on Buffalo’s only goal. With Nathan Gerbe and Drew Stafford charging ahead with a two-on-one break, Roy made a nice positional play that prevented a second Jets player from getting back into the play. Roy cut right in front of the defender to open up the passing lane that Gerbe was able to use to get the puck over. If Roy doesn’t make that play, that puck doesn’t get through, and there’s no goal. Watch the replay. Didn’t seem like anyone else noticed it.
- Ryan Miller did play extremely well early, but without any offense, he’s not going to be able to sit back and weather the storm the whole game. The inability to carry offensive pressure is putting more on him to do everything to keep the game close. He faced 19 shots in the first period. That’s on the team defensively to limit that number. 19 is embarrassing. Read the rest of this entry
Strong starts have been finding a way to fade lately at First Niagara Center. Less than a week after blowing a first period lead to Philadelphia, Buffalo found a way to do it again.
Despite allowing an early goal, Buffalo was dynamic through most of the first period, generating good opportunities and heading to the locker room with a lead. As we’ve seen recently, those leads tend to get away.
Drew Stafford left Senators defenseman Jared Cowen alone in front to put the puck past Ryan Miller 45 seconds into overtime to hand the Sabres a 3-2 overtime loss.
Miller was strong for Buffalo, making a season high 41 saves.
Buffalo got goals from Paul Szczechura and Tyler Ennis. Szczechura’s was his first in a Sabres uniform.
Now, Friday approaches as the Sabres conclude a five game homestand with exactly one win so far to show for it. Up next is the Toronto Maple Leafs, two points ahead of Buffalo.
- Tonight was the kind of game that I was expecting from Zack Kassian when he got the recall. Used his body well, did alright in the offensive zone, and didn’t throw his weight around. That’s how his game has always come across to me. He’s been playing atypical of that lately, but he was back to what I’d assume is his old self tonight. Credited with zero hits on the night. Hell, even Gragnani got credited with a hit.
- Mike Weber was really good in his return to the lineup. Tied for the team lead with three hits and was overall strong for his 16:31 on the ice. With the way some other guys have been struggling and Myers still on the shelf, Weber just needs to play well and he should stay in the lineup for a while.
- Marc-Andre Gragnani was completely ineffective as a 12th forward. He did get a lot of minutes on the powerplay (3:39) but his lack of use at even-strength renders the viability of him in this capacity to a minimum. Guy needs to sit down for a game or two.
- Ville Leino, your key offseason addition down the middle: 14:49 TOI, -1, 1 shot and a solid 1-for-10 on faceoffs. By the way, Tim Connolly, who everyone ran out of town out of sheer stupidity, scored two goals tonight for Toronto. Read the rest of this entry