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Overreactions: Panthers edge Sabres in regulation

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If anyone’s been seriously concerned about “the tank” lately, they’ve been seeing some issues. The Sabres, heading into Tuesday night, had picked up points in five of their last six (2-1-3), and more impressively in nine of their last ten (6-1-3) at First Niagara Center.

So with a strong run putting them on the brink of passing 29th place Edmonton, for at least one night, the heroic march to the 5th overall pick was stalled, this time by their historic Atlantic Division rival, the Florida Panthers. Despite two early goals by Drew Stafford that put the Sabres in front, a few deflections and an inability to finish late chances left Buffalo on the losing end of a 4-3 decision.

Ryan Miller struggled on his way to finishing with just 18 saves, getting beat three times in the first period on deflected shots. Florida scored twice in 52 seconds in the final minutes of the period, and the 3-2 lead would be a sustained advantage.

Florida’s Nick Bjugstad widened the gap with a second period snipe to make it 4-2, and Tim Thomas would weather the storm in the Panthers net over the final 20 minutes. Thomas stopped 15 of 16 Buffalo shots in the third period to hang on for the win.

Steve Ott would score his 100th career goal on the powerplay 8:36 into the final period, but the Sabres failed to tie it and took the loss in regulation.

  • Tyler Myers got a lot of love after the last game (arguably more than merited) and he followed it up with a relative dud, which the stats back up. He activated offensively a few times early, but overall, he was unimpressive in his own zone. We need to have a real conversation about this guy.
  • This space does not hesitate to rip on game presentation, but they’ve done an excellent job recognizing milestones over the PA. They even have graphics ready. It was good to see them make a big deal out of Ott’s 100th NHL goal. Now if they could only put the goal information in writing on the scoreboard, we’d be all set there.
  • By the way, the music was a mess. Absolutely way too relaxed and chill for a game as close as that. Can’t lull the crowd to sleep like that.
  • The boxscore isn’t kind to Miller, but hard to blame him much on the first period goals. Yes, as he said after the game, his positioning could’ve been better, but still, deflections. He’s the kind of guy who goes out of his way to take responsibility for things, which is incredibly admirable. But other than the Bjugstad snipe (which was gorgeous) he’s taking the heat a little more than he needs to. Read the rest of this entry

Sabres deal T.J. Brennan to Florida

brennanThere had been discussion arguments on twitter about the roster moves the Sabres would have to make before Saturday afternoon’s game against Ottawa. Forwards Ville Leino and Tyler Ennis were ready to come back from injury, and the Sabres needed to make room for them in the 23.

First thing they did was send Mikhail Grigorenko back to Quebec, his junior team in the QMJHL. Then, Darcy Regier got his trade shoes on.

Defenseman T.J. Brennan, who’s struggled to get in the lineup all season, was dealt to the Florida Panthers in exchange for New Jersey’s 5th round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft.

Brennan, 23, had played in just 10 games with the Sabres this season, registering a goal in a loss to Carolina on March 5. He registered just one goal in 11 NHL games last season well, when he scored his first NHL goal in his first NHL game against Boston on Thanksgiving Eve 2011.

The offensive production expected of him never consistently materialized at the NHL level. He had been tearing it up in the AHL, with 14 goals and 35 points in 36 games this season before the lockout ended and he was forced to be recalled to the NHL due to his contract. While other players were safely waived and reassigned, Brennan, who was the Amerks’ leading scorer and one of the top scoring defenseman in the AHL, had no chance of clearing despite not being able to crack the top six in Buffalo.

In the end, Regier decided it was time to cut the cord and either waive or trade him, and they got a draft pick in return instead of letting him go for free. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 9/48 Edition: Sabres not so Super, lose to Panthers

20130203 sabres suckHey, what a shocker… a Buffalo team loses on Super Bowl Sunday.

Yeah, I know. Lame and easy. But an afternoon that could’ve ended pleasantly in Buffalo will now only create more headaches. The Sabres jumped out to a 3-1 second period lead en route to a 4-3 loss to the Florida Panthers.

“We played stupid I guess,” said superhuman star winger Thomas Vanek. “We had some great chances, didn’t even hit the net on some of them. We need to be smarter.”

Vanek, the NHL’s leading scorer, extended his lead with a goal and two assists, giving him 19 points in eight games.

Cody Hodgson also tallied a goal and two assists, and Alexander Sulzer added his second goal in three games for Buffalo. But the story was the missed opportunities, not only to score, but to prevent goals. Tyler Ennis had a breakaway in the second period which he did not convert. Marcus Foligno, Mikhail Grigorenko, Jochen Hecht, and Drew Stafford all had notable scoring opportunities which were not finished.

Shawn Matthias, George Parros, Peter Mueller and former Sabre Brian Campbell scored for Florida, who won their first road game of the year.

The burden of Buffalo’s third game in four nights appeared to take it’s toll in the end, and the Sabres have just a one day break before they head to Ottawa on Tuesday.

“I thought our energy was, compared to yesterday, was great for the first 40 minutes,” said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff in his post game press conference. “We gotta do some things different… that’s obvious.”

Buffalo now has lost six of their last seven after starting 2-0 on the shortened year.

“It just got away from us,” said Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, who stopped 29 shots.

  • The George Parros goal was the epitome of a trainwreck for Buffalo. Alexander Sulzer makes a terrible play at the point to turn the puck over. Sulzer and the nearby Marcus Foligno get beat up the ice to create the rush. Christian Ehrhoff aimlessly slides through the slot to stop the play. Tyler Ennis glides up behind Parros as he beats Miller with a weak shot. In reality, that was the first nail in the coffin. The team was mailing it in from that point on.
  • Marcus Foligno played a career-high 21:46, more than all but Christian Ehrhoff and Jordan Leopold. So, yeah… about that. What?
  • Tyler Myers has been getting rightfully killed for his awful play, and he was an orange paint job away from being an actual pylon on the tying goal. But I guess it wasn’t all bad, because he ended up even. He was on the ice for the tying and winning goals against. It could be worse! Read the rest of this entry

Instigator Podcast #9: Southern Aggression

Not even snow in late April could stop the ninth version of “The Instigator Podcast” featuring Chris Ostrander of Two In the Box and myself.

This week we discuss the NHL playoffs, first round surprises, how fun it is to watch Vancouver lose, southern market success and another game of Plus/Minus.

Comments, suggestions and good drink recipes can be directed to us. Let us know below or on twitter, @3rdManIn or @2ITB_Buffalo.

Overreactions, 28th Edition: Is it over yet? Cool. Wait, they won?

There are plenty of games throughout the year where the Sabres might come out and play a strong game, or it might be a fun game to watch, but at the end of the night, they just can’t get it done.

Scratch that, reverse it.

In one of the more tedious stretches of 60 minutes we’ll see this season, the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers couldn’t determine a winner. Thankfully, it didn’t last much longer than that.

Jason Pominville‘s breakaway goal 2:19 into overtime gave the Sabres their second home win in the last four weeks as they defeated Florida 2-1.

“It wasn’t a pretty one, but we got it done against a team that was going really well,” Pominville said. “We talked about trying not to hand them opportunities by giving pucks away, and we were better with the puck. You want to generate more, but at the same time I thought we stuck with it.”

Ryan Miller made 22 saves for Buffalo, who also got a goal from Derek Roy in the first period.

The two points were surely worth a game that the NHL marketing department would probably love to burn the tape of. The teams combined for nine shots in the third period.

Buffalo, despite the win, took a couple losses on the night. Jochen Hecht got hurt blocking a shot in the third, while rookie Corey Tropp should miss some time after being rocked by Florida’s Dmitry Kulikov in the first period.

But still, a win’s a win.

  • Paul Szczechura has been really good in each game he’s played for the Sabres. Showing to be a phenomenal depth signing this offseason. That pass to Pominville? Szczweet.
  • Speaking of sweet, the effort all around on Buffalo’s first goal was beautiful. Brayden McNabb with the great effort to get the puck out. Tyler Ennis with the nice play to push it up ice, and Drew Stafford threading a perfect pass to Derek Roy, who made no mistake. Pretty.
  • Jordan Leopold’s return to the lineup was noticeably good for the defense. Leo had an assist on the winner and was solid in 20 minutes of ice time. Sabres should get a big boost if he keeps up his play from before the injury.
  • Ryan Miller had a really good night. Can’t fault him on a five-on-three. Made the saves he needed to. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 10th Edition: Late lead slips away, Sabres lose

How quickly things can change.

After Jason Pominville’s powerplay goal gave Buffalo a 2-1 lead with just over seven minutes remaining, of all things, a Panthers penalty turned the tide and Florida scored two late goals to sneak away with two points in a 3-2 final.

It was Florida’s Marco Sturm earning a five minute major by boarding Jordan Leopold with 6:45 remaining that elicited a retaliatory minor by Drew Stafford. With the teams skating four-on-four, Nathan Gerbe was called for tripping and obtained an extra minor for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Sabres killed off the brief four-on-three advantage, but Panthers forward Tomas Fleischmann tied the game with both teams a man short.

Just seconds after the major penalty expired, Jason Garrison ripped a shot past Ryan Miller with 1:43 remaining in regulation to give Florida the win.

When asked about Gerbe’s extra minor penalty, Lindy Ruff put it simple.

“Unacceptable,” the coach said in his postgame press conference.

Ryan Miller finished with 33 saves after being peppered by 31 shots in the final two periods. Jose Theodore made 24 saves to get the win.

“We have to wake up and do what it takes to play a system in this league,” Miller said. “You’re not going to get away with making cute plays, you’re not going to be able to carry the puck in…you’re not going to have that luxury. Too many mistakes, myself included. We’re all accountable here.”

Thomas Vanek scored Buffalo’s other goal, as the team falls to 6-4-0 on the season.

  • Mike Weber, we’ll see you Wednesday. The guy has to play. The defense as a whole isn’t playing well enough to merit keeping him out of the rotation again.
  • Offensive zone trainwrecks, defensive and discipline lapses aside, Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville both scored. They are now each on three game point streaks, and are both in the top five in the league in points. Leading by example.
  • Credit Drew Stafford for standing up for his teammate. Showing that kind of tenacity earns you respect. But in the game situation, he’s gotta know better to not go over the edge. Get in his face and shove him against the boards. Realize that there’s a penalty coming, especially at that point in the game. Read the rest of this entry

3MI LIVE: Sabres vs. Panthers

We’re LIVE on the air from the press box at First Niagara Center, where tonight the Buffalo Sabres host the Florida Panthers.

Buffalo (6-3-0) looks to extend their home winning streak to a season-high two tonight against Florida (5-4-0), after finally winning their first of the season at the FNC on Thursday night against Columbus.

Florida is coming off a heartbreaking 4-3 loss to the lowly Ottawa Senators, a game in which they allowed the winning goal by Nick Foligno with just 2.5 seconds left in regulation.

The teams met last week in Sunrise, a 3-0 whitewashing by the Sabres. The goaltending matchup will be the same as that game, with Ryan Miller in net for Buffalo and former Hart Trophy winner Jose Theodore in net for Florida.

We will have live updates throughout the game, with commentary, so keep checking back during the game.

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Warmups // Same lineup out on the ice for Buffalo, save for Miller being first out as the starter. The Florida Panthers and South Buffalo heartthrob Tim Kennedy at the other end.

Scratches // The expected for Buffalo. Mike Weber, Jochen Hecht and Tyler Ennis. For Florida, it’s Keaton Ellerby, Sean Bergenheim and Mikael Samuelsson.

Starting lineups // Florida goes with Theodore in net, Dmitry Kulikov and Mike Weaver on the blueline, and Scottie Upshall, Marcel Goc and Tomas Kopecky up front. Buffalo starts the Gaustad line, Sekera and Ehrhoff, and Ryan Miller.

17:46 1st // Ville Leino makes a nice play in the corner, pulling sort of a dummy and drawing a defenseman to him to create a great scoring opportunity for Drew Stafford. Very smart play. I like it.

14:31 1st // Andrej Sekera cuts off a breakaway pass by forcing a decision on a potential odd-man break. A smart, aggressive defensive play eliminates a possible scoring chance for Florida as the puck goes harmlessly to the corner. Miller stops play after an easy shot.

10:01 1st // Brad Boyes banks the puck in off the skate of Matt Ellis. Play is reviewed. Replay seems to show skate swung forward towards net. Ref says no goal. Right call.

9:02 1st // Tyler Myers takes the first penalty on another weak shift by his pairing and the Gaustad line. Not sharp at all tonight, but it’s early.

Read the rest of this entry

Looking Ahead: Previewing the Sabres’ homestand

With seven games under their belt in the 2011-2012 season, the Buffalo Sabres head into somewhat-unfamiliar territory: an extended stay in Buffalo.

To this point, the team has played exactly one game at their home rink this month, a loss to Carolina on October 14. They’ve been superb on the road, sweeping a set overseas and winning their first three away games in North America before Saturday’s loss in Tampa.

Now, the Sabres will face that same Lightning team as they open a five game set at First Niagara Center. Only a point back of Toronto (yes, Toronto) for the division lead, a strong showing at home could be extremely beneficial to widening the lead on the rest of the Northeast Division, which, heading into Tuesday, sits 12th (Boston), 13th (Ottawa) and 15th (Montreal) in the East.

The Sabres have plenty to be happy about and plenty to be unhappy about. Thomas Vanek is scoring goals like they want him to, leading the team with six. The top line of Vanek, Jason Pominville and Luke Adam have combined for 11 goals and 25 points in the team’s seven games to date. At 5-2-0, they are getting to a solid start.

But there’s other stuff that is of some concern. The team was awful on Saturday in Tampa, so they’re coming off their worst outing of the year. Tyler Ennis is out for a few weeks with a high ankle sprain suffered in that loss. Ville Leino, the key offseason addition at center, has been relatively atrocious and asked Lindy Ruff to be moved to the wing.

So, they got that going for them. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 6th Edition: Flawless

The best way to describe that effort has to be the word “flawless.”

Continuing their road trip in Florida, the Buffalo Sabres won their third in a row, beating the Panthers 3-0.

Thomas Vanek scored two goals and Ryan Miller made saves on all 22 shots he faced to push Buffalo to 5-1-0 on the season. Buffalo carried the play for most of the game, outshooting the hosts 38-22, including 14-6 in the third period.

“I thought that was probably our best game of the year when it comes to supporting the puck, coming out together, coming out with speed,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said.

Vanek opened the scoring early in the second period, deflecting a Jason Pominville pass past Jose Theodore. Pominville would score himself with three minutes remaining in the period, taking a pass from Ville Leino at the side of the crease and knocking it in.

The Sabres’ leading goal scorer, Vanek, would add the insurance marker on the powerplay in the closing minutes.

It was an overall dominating performance where Buffalo made it obvious that they were the better team tonight. As a rebound from Tuesday’s sluggish showing in Montreal, where the team still netted a win, fans couldn’t ask for a better effort.

  • Ryan Miller did get the shutout, but he was rarely challenged and face few shots of high quality. Another strong effort out of him, but it does raise doubt whether Lindy Ruff will stick to his word and get Jhonas Enroth another start on the roadtrip. With the next game being the concluding match of the trip, and Miller coming off two great efforts, it’d be understandable to expect Ruff to stick with the hot hand as he has historically. With the team firing on all cylinders regardless of who’s in net, I’d still think it’d be better to stick Enroth back in for the Tampa game.
  • Ville Leino was demoted to the “fourth line” with Brad Boyes after the two had a few bad games. The good news is that with Cody McCormick along side the pair, they looked alright. Leino did add an assist, was a +1, and incredibly won 50% of the four faceoffs he took. Nice effort out of Leino. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, Edition 74: Standing ground

It really wasn’t about what the Sabres did Friday night at HSBC Arena.

Sure, they defeated Florida 4-2 to gain another two points in the standings. The important result of the night, coupled with Carolina’s win over Tampa Bay, was that Buffalo didn’t let the ‘Canes close any of the three-point gap that separates the two teams.

Drew Stafford led the way with two goals and an assist, and the Sabres eliminated Florida (and Ottawa) from playoff contention.

Jason Pominville scored the opening goal early and Stafford’s second of the night came just 13 seconds after Jordan Leopold made the game 3-1 in the third period.

“Once you get that one goal, the crowd gets into it and the momentum shifts,” Pominville said. “And then we got another one off the bat, and the building kind of exploded. It’s a fun building to play in when it gets like that.”

Ryan Miller made 22 saves and allowed just one goal in the first 59:57 of the game before Florida added a meaningless tally at the end.

  • Anyone else notice how I need to make mention of Tyler Ennis being all over the place (in a good way) almost every game. Added two assists, both on very smart plays, and now is just seven points back of the rookie scoring lead. Read the rest of this entry
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