Blog Archives

Welcome to the homestretch: Now what?

462497766_slideThursday’s Sabres/Oilers matchup might have been the most anticipated of the back half of the Buffalo Sabres’ season.

The hyperbole was in overdrive as 30th place Buffalo took on 29th place Edmonton, with just two points separating the two and a Sabres win enough to push them past the Oilers on a tiebreaker for the moment. It went about as well as you’d expect for a team riding a 12-game losing streak, with Edmonton claiming a 3-2 win, pushing said streak to 13.

Then the team traveled to Vancouver, and the result was much of the same, as two goals by Chris Stewart were hardly enough to match the Canucks in a 5-2 loss.

(AD: SPORTS BETTING INFO)

The wheels came off of this season a long time ago, but looking ahead, there isn’t much reason to think this is going to end anytime soon. Vancouver out-Corsi’d the Sabres 70-29, one night after the 29th place Oilers racked up a 74-37 tally against the struggling Sabres. Struggling might not be a strong enough term.

This roster isn’t strong, but they’re not even playing the type of game that gives them a chance to win. The unsustainable (called it, by the way) streak through November-December was a combination of puck luck and strong goaltending. If the goaltender of the night is not standing on his head, this team’s got no shot in any given game.

They’ve got no confidence, which is fitting since their coach is known as a motivator. Their scorers aren’t scoring, with guys like Matt Moulson in slumps that date back to mid-December. Cody Hodgson can’t even stay in the lineup, much less earn a position on a scoring line or powerplay unit. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 36 to go: We’ve reached the bottom

461692462_slideIt finally happened.

After an incredible run through November and December, just over a month removed from a streak where the Sabres improbably won 10 of 13 games, they have parachuted to dead last. And despite an improved effort Saturday night against the visiting Flyers, the 4-3 loss, combined with Edmonton’s shootout win over Florida puts the Sabres in 30th place.

Buffalo scored late in the opening period to take a 1-0 lead on a goal by Zemgus Girgensons, but the Flyers would take over in the second and controlled the game from there. Power play goals from R.J. Umberger and Mark Streit gave Philadelphia a lead, and they wouldn’t trail again.

Tyler Ennis would score his 10th of the season late in the second, but the Flyers would add two more in the third. A late marker by Girgensons, his second of the night and 13th of the season wouldn’t be enough.

Michal Neuvirth was solid in net for the Sabres, stopping 28 of 32 Flyers shots in the loss. Rob Zepp made 24 saves for the Flyers.

It’s been three weeks since the Sabres’ last win, and it may be much longer until the next.

  • Maybe Tyler Myers’ best game in a long time. He was good. Logged a lot of minutes (27:33).
  • Very, very quietly, Chris Stewart is racking up points. His two assists tonight gave him 14 points on the year. It was his first multi-point game of the season and he has four points in his last five games.
  • Cody Hodgson played 5:57 tonight. Drew Stafford? 9:05. Who needs offense when you’ve lost 10 in a row? Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 38 to go: A banner night for Hasek is a loss

461498764_slide

It’s been a rough year.

If you’re a Sabres fan, it’s been rough. If you’re a Buffalo Sabres season ticket holder, it’s been even rougher. Every game is draining, both emotionally and financially. It’s long been discussed (here on this blog and increasingly elsewhere) that the organization tends to be sloppy with things like marketing and game presentation, but this was going to be a special night.

It was underwhelming.

After a short, subdued ceremony to honor the greatest goaltender in franchise history and possibly the greatest player to ever wear the uniform, the Sabres dropped their eighth in a row, falling by a 3-1 score to the visiting Detroit Red Wings.

Mike Weber’s second period goal, his first of the season, would be the only offense the Sabres could muster.

Buffa461501680_slidelo fell behind midway through the opening period, as Darren Helm scored shorthanded to give the Wings a 1-0 lead. Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar would add second period goals and the result was never in doubt.

Czech native Michal Neuvirth made 27 saves for the Sabres, while fellow Czech Petr Mrazek got the win for Detroit, stopping 25 shots.

One game on the schedule stood out as important for the fans. Tonight was that one game.

The game wasn’t thrilling. Little about the night was.

  • Seriously, the organization should be embarrassed about that. You don’t retire numbers often. This organization has arguably retired some numbers undeservedly. There isn’t a chance to do this better next year. There isn’t anyone close to being a candidate right now. It could be decades before we do this again. This should’ve been a seminal moment in team history, and it was completely underwhelming.
  • Little fanfare for Zac Dalpe’s Sabres debut. Honestly didn’t even notice him on the ice until near the end of the first period.
  • Whoever designed the patches the players wore tonight needs to take a lap. Uninspired and weak design. You’re retiring a number, why is the logo the primary focus of the patch?
  • Twenty years from now, the Sabres will be hit with a rash of injuries and will recall Matt Ellis from the Rochester Americans. The guy will never go away. That’s not an insult or anything. Ellis just seems like he’s always around and he never really hurts you. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 46 to go: Sabres storm back in 3rd to beat Isles

460861224_slideFor most of Saturday night’s game, the result looked inevitable. For the final 13:21 of regulation, it became nothing but a bunch of questions.

Three Sabres goals in a span of 5:12 during the third period brought Buffalo back from a 3-0 deficit before Tyler Ennis scored the shootout winner in a 4-3 shootout win over the New York Islanders.

Nick Deslauriers, Zemgus Girgensons and Chris Stewart all tallied goals in the explosive comeback, with Islanders call-up Kevin Poulin, in his second start in back-to-back nights, getting shredded to force overtime.

New York had opened up a 3-0 lead thanks to an early goal by Nick Leddy and two goals from nephew-of-Buffalo-legend John Tavares. They carried that lead into the third period where it all fell apart.

Deslauriers opened the scoring by ripping a rebound past Poulin at 6:39. After Drew Stafford took a dubious goaltender interference penalty, Deslauriers rifled a pass from inside his own blueline to a streaking Girgensons, who made it 3-2 with his second shorthanded goal.

“We always believed, but we got lucky,” Deslauriers said. “The puck just popped out at me. I took a shot and it went in. From there, we built momentum and Girgensons buried a nice goal.”

Less than two minutes later, the lead was officially gone, as Stafford fed Stewart, who cut in front of Poulin and tucked it home to tie the game.

Ennis scored the only goal of the shootout, and Jhonas Enroth stopped all three Islanders attempts after making 33 saves in 65 minutes of play.

Buffalo now heads to Ottawa for a game with the Senators on Monday night.

  • The Sabres lost defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen during the game, as he apparently caught the bug that has been sidelining guys for the last couple weeks. Nolan said after the game there would be a recall coming. (UPDATE: Sabres have recalled Mark Pysyk from Rochester)
  • I don’t see the benefit of having Johan Larsson playing 9:23 on the wing with Cody McCormick and Patrick Kaleta rather than 18-20 in all situations with the Americans. This team isn’t very good. Pick up a plug off waivers or call up Matt Ellis, let Larsson keep developing with more minutes. 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

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 63 to go: Sabres crush Leafs in convincing and hilarious fashion

459057304_slide

Any time the Toronto Maple Leafs are in town, it’s dreaded. Thousands of thousands of the worst, most obnoxious jackasses that come through the doors of First Niagara Center all season routinely leave their mark.

Tonight, they left jerseys on the ice. They left beer cans. And they left without two points.

The Buffalo Sabres, with a home crowd in Leafs gear booing them as they took the ice, played their best and most complete game of the season. With a 6-2 win, the throngs of visitors and their opponent went home angry and disgusted.

It was great. Really. Really great.

Zemgus Girgensons scored twice and Buffalo got rock solid goaltending from Michal Neuvirth, stopping 32 of 34 Toronto shots.

“It’s hard enough when you don’t win games,” said Girgensons. “Today was absolutely different how we played.”

Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford, Matt Moulson and Tyler Myers also scored for the Sabres.

“It was a fun one,” said Ennis.

David Clarkson and Phil Kessel scored for Toronto, who lost to the Buffalo Sabres.

  • Buffalo registered a season-high 35 shots on goal. The previous high was 32, twice. They registered 30+ just three times before tonight, and won none of those games.
  • Brian Flynn on that second goal was super dreamy. Tyson Strachan ripped the puck around the wall and Flynn took off immediately, beats Reimer to the puck and is cool as the other side of the pillow in finding Girgensons in the high slot. Great play. Super duper.
  • Understated with the goalscoring output is how well Neuvirth played. Made some huge saves early to keep the Leafs off the board until late in the second period. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 66 to go: That Crosby guy is an okay hockey player

458649636_slide

The best hockey player in the world was at First Niagara Center tonight, and spoiler alert: he doesn’t play for Buffalo.

Sometimes, it’s just a joy to watch a generational talent just light it up, and Penguins forward Sidney Crosby did just that. Crosby tallied an assist on each of Pittsburgh’s first five goals, as the visiting Pens cruised, leaving the hometown Sabres with a 6-1 defeat.

Zemgus Girgensons scored late in the second period to make it 5-1, but it was answered by a goal by Evgeni Malkin. Pittsburgh also got two goals each from Kris Letang and Predators legend Patric Hornqvist. But it was the Crosby show.

The game looked a lot like this:

Buffalo’s Jhonas Enroth was thrown to the wolves, giving up six goals on 39 shots. The Sabres struggled to generate offense, getting outshot 11-4 in the opening period and 26-12 through two periods.

  • Enroth didn’t even speak after the game, but it’s not like there’s much for him to say. He’s 1-7-1 on the season and on average is facing almost 37 shots a game.
  • The locker room after games is turning into a contest of “How many guys are left in the room when they open the door?” Guys don’t want to talk, and it’s usually the same things being said. Tonight, it was Josh Gorges, Brian Gionta, Drew Stafford and Zemgus Girgensons who really spoke. Cody Hodgson and Torrey Mitchell milled around. But everyone else just got the hell out of there. What can they say?
  • Gionta had a team best 17 Corsi For and a team best 4 Corsi Against. Good game for him. He assisted on the Girgensons goal. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions with 67 to go: Neuvirth can’t do everything

458595084_slide

There wasn’t a lot of hope for good hockey with the 29th and 30th place teams in the National League facing off at First Niagara Center, but there was at least a lot of action.

If you were Michal Neuvirth, there was too much.

Neuvirth was impressive, but had to bear the brunt of 52 Edmonton shots, as the visiting Oilers handed the Sabres a 3-2 loss for their first road win of the season.

Noted Oiler-killer Drew Stafford and Matt Moulson scored for Buffalo, with Moulson finally snagging his first of the season. The two goals were enough to give the Sabres a lead in the final ten minutes, but the Oilers finally took control, with Mark Arcobello and Boyd Gordon adding the tying and winning goals.

“They were just throwing it at the net, and sending guys with traffic,” said Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges. “To be honest, we should take a page out of their book.”

Edmonton finished with 85 shot attempts, and their 52 shots on goal were both a season-high for them and a season-worst for the Sabres.

Buffalo is right back at it Saturday night, with the Penguins in town.

  • The Sabres should trade Drew Stafford immediately after the next game against Edmonton, because his stock will never be higher. He always seems to score against them. Should’ve placed a bet on it before the game.
  • Congrats to Oilers rookie Iiro Pakarinen, who scored his first NHL goal and now convincingly holds the title of my favorite name in the National Hockey League. The title was previously vacated by legendary Slovak forward Branko Radivojevic.
  • Neuvirth is going to have an aneurysm at some point this season. He was very aggravated after the game, calling for his post game presser earlier than normal. He seems sick of being bombarded every game. And there’s 67 games left!
  • Absolutely wonderful job by the Sabres on the pregame ceremonies for Hockey Fights Cancer night. The Jim Kelly/Rick Jeanneret puck drop was great. Only thing I would’ve liked to see is the ads on the boards in monotone lavender like other teams have done.
  • It amazes me that Ted Nolan felt that he just had to get Andre Benoit back in the lineup tonight. He was on the ice for a team-worst 41 shot attempts against, as well as the first two Edmonton goals. Play him more and see what happens: goals, for the other team.
  • The look of relief on Matt Moulson’s face was obvious. Hopefully they start going in more often for him. Not too often, we’ve got a tank to worry about. But he’s the kind of guy you like to see succeed. He wants to be here, amazingly. Appreciate that.
  • Attendance was listed at 17,490. In-house was probably closer to 15,500. Lots of empties for a Friday night.
  • Edmonton had 85 shot attempts. 29th place, terrible Edmonton had 85 shot attempts. What a mess.
  • Saw an Oilers beat writer tweet wondering why the Sabres would ever trade Tyler Myers. This means one thing: someone might actually want him. Sell. Sell. Sell.

3MI Three Star Selections
1. Michal Neuvirth, Buffalo
2. Iiro Pakarinen, Edmonton
3. Mark Arcobello, Edmonton

Official Three Stars of the Game
1. Teddy Purcell, Edmonton (2 assists)
2. Iiro Pakarinen, Edmonton (Goal (1))
3. Michal Neuvirth, Buffalo (49 saves, 3 GA)

Quote of the night:

“They wanted to win more than us… good for them.” — Buffalo Sabres goaltender Michal Neuvirth

Overreactions with 68 to go: Neuvirth shines in shootout loss to Habs

458483678_slideFor 60 minutes, fans were treated to some of the most monotonous, unremarkable hockey that has been played in First Niagara Center, which is saying a lot.

But five thrilling minutes of four-on-four hockey weren’t enough to decide the game, and thanks to a skills competition, Montreal walked out of Buffalo with two points after handing them a 2-1 shootout loss.

Drew Stafford scored the only goal for Buffalo, but goaltender Michal Neuvirth was sensational all night. While the Habs struggled to get shots on goal early, Neuvirth was sharp all night, stopping 31 of 32 shots, including 16 of 17 over the final 25 minutes.

Montreal’s Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau scored both in regulation and in the shootout to propel the Canadiens to the win.

Buffalo now faces a weekend back-to-back where they host Edmonton and Pittsburgh on Friday and Saturday.

  • This might’ve been Brian Gionta’s best game as a Sabre. Facing his former team, he didn’t tally a point but did manage to score in the shootout. He was noticeable, much more noticeable than he has been.
  • Good for Nic Deslauriers stepping up to scrap and try to make an impression. He got fed some fists to the face, but you appreciate the effort.
  • Tyler Myers was credited with the primary assist on the Stafford goal. Great work by him taking the puck himself, trying to deke through his own teammate Tyler Ennis, and losing control of the puck in such a way that it coasted right through a defenseman to Stafford on the doorstep. They all look the same in the boxscore. Read the rest of this entry
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,534 other followers