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Overreactions, 2/48 Edition: Sabres beat Leafs, Earth orbits around Sun

20130121 pominvilleLast season, the Toronto Maple Leafs accomplished something incomprehensible: they swept the season series with the Sabres at the Air Canada Centre.

Luckily, we’ve had enough of that shit.

In the first of two meetings in the center of the hockey universe, Buffalo, fresh off a season-opening win over the Flyers, headed up the Queen Elizabeth Way and defeated the Leafs by a score of 2-1 in Toronto’s home opener.

Buffalo jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Cody Hodgson and American hero Jason Pominville. A late powerplay goal by Toronto’s Nazem Kadri, with the teams skating 6-on-4 made it close, but the Sabres held on.

Ryan Miller was strong in net for Buffalo, stopping 34 of 35 shots. For the second game in a row, he was also the beneficiary of not one but two disallowed goals. In 42 career games against Toronto, Miller now has a record of 28-14.

Thomas Vanek also registered an assist on Pominville’s game winner to retain the NHL scoring lead with six points.

Buffalo sits at 2-0-0 on the season, and next heads to Carolina for the first game of a home-and-home Thursday in Raleigh. Toronto, well, they’re still struggling with that expansion to a 12-team league.

  • At some point, someone other than Vanek, Pominville or Hodgson is going to have to create a goal. They’ve been in on everything so far, and it’s not a concern yet, but it will be soon.
  • Ryan Miller looked locked in most of the night, and made some very good saves. Overall, he seemed completely in control.
  • John Scott with 1:58 of ice time and a fight, which, was alright I guess. After two games, he’s spent 4:08 on the ice and 5:00 in the box. Again, this can’t last. 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, 31st Edition: Sabres power past Leafs

It was a recipe for disaster.

The Buffalo Sabres have struggled mightily to win games at First Niagara Center all season. Friday night was the first visit of the reenergized Toronto Maple Leafs this season. With them, came their legion of rowdy fans. For once, there was electricity in the air at First Niagara Center.

The Sabres responded.

On the strength of a four-point night from Thomas Vanek and three powerplay goals from the extra-man unit, Buffalo erased two second period deficits on their way to a 5-4 victory over their cross-border rivals.

Vanek scored twice for the Sabres, who also got goals from Drew Stafford, Tyler Ennis and Andrej Sekera during a four-goal second period. Three of the four came on the powerplay, as Toronto took 23 minutes in penalties during the second.

“We need to get our swagger back, especially when we have the lead,” said Vanek, who leads the Sabres with 16 goals. “Sometimes that’s all it takes. There’s no miracle to it. Everyone here is a good player, so when we get the lead we have to go for the next one and bury a team. We didn’t quite do that, but I think it was a step in the right direction.”

Ryan Miller got the win, making 29 saves.

  • Former Sabre Tim Connolly’s return was the big story coming in, but at the end of the night, he didn’t spoil the party. Connolly was -1 and was 13-of-23 on faceoffs in 16:33 of ice time.
  • Mike Weber’s return has really helped transform the Sabres defense into something a bit more effective physically. With Buffalo sporting Weber, Robyn Regehr and Brayden McNabb on the blueline Friday, they packed a good amount of punch. That physical edge was lacking without Weber in the lineup.
  • Big ups to Toronto’s penalty kill for the confidence boost to the Sabres’ powerplay. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, Edition 68: Blowing it

Okay, it’s not that big of a deal. They lost a game. They lost a game they were winning. They let a third period lead slip away.

To Toronto.

Just when the Sabres had an opportunity to go for the jugular and get Toronto out of the playoff picture, they let the Leafs stick around too long, and Toronto is still alive. Buffalo fell at the Air Canada Centre by a score of 4-3.

The lack of killer instinct is really the issue here. The Sabres had many chances to add insurance but they couldn’t get it done. Even with an injury depleted lineup, missing Paul Gaustad, Drew Stafford and Chris Butler, the team was in position to win.

But even after allowing an equalizer, it took Phil Kessel banking a shot in off the skate of Steve Montador for Toronto to take the lead they needed.

“They got lucky,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said about the Leafs. “(The) puck went off the skate, sometimes you’ve got to live with that.”

Buffalo now heads home to play their first home game in over two weeks against the awaiting Ottawa Senators.

  • Jochen Hecht had a really good night for being out for four games. A goal, +1, six shots on goal and he was the Sabres’ best faceoff man.
  • Mark Parrish got the recall for the game with all the injuries. He was -2, had 0 shots and 0 points in almost 13 minutes of ice time. He’s not going to contribute much, it doesn’t look like he has anything left. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, Edition 51: Sabres beat Leafs. Sky also blue.

I told you the Sabres would cover the spread. You degenerates should’ve listened and put some money down.

For the third time in three tries this season, the Buffalo Sabres met the Toronto Maple Leafs and walked away with two points. The Sabres breezed past the Leafs by a score of 6-2.

Getting a pair of goals from the emerging Drew Stafford, the outcome was never in doubt.

“I’ve said it before that if we want to get into the playoffs we have to make sure that we deserve to go in and do the right things to get the wins,” Vanek said. “I think in Pittsburgh we kind of just sat back and let them take the game to us.”

It was a very encouraging performance for Sabres fans, seeing the team dominate and walk away with a win.

Then again, it was the Leafs.

Some thoughts on Saturday night’s game:

  • Looking at the scoresheet, the names of the goal scorers are the ones you’d expect to see: Jason Pominville, Drew Stafford, Paul Gaustad, Tim Connolly and Thomas Vanek. If the team expects to make the playoffs, the guys who are supposed to score gotta be the ones getting the job done. Read the rest of this entry

A few musings from the Sabres’ first preseason game

Since the game wasn’t on in the Buffalo area, I, along with a couple guys from my school, headed across the border to Fort Erie to catch the Sabres/Leafs game on TV. Here’s what I need to say:

  • If there’s one thing I hate more than anything else I hate, it’s losing to the damn Leafs. Even in the preseason. To hell with them.
  • Marek Zagrapan was clearly the best Sabre on the ice tonight.
  • Jhonas Enroth’s quasi-NHL debut definitely could’ve gone smoother, but other than a few mistakes (like completely forgetting about stopping the puck on Moore’s shorthanded goal) he was pretty solid.
  • The veterans in the game tonight didn’t seem to set themselves apart from the rookies. I don’t blame them for not being up for the game, considering they just reported on Friday, but I don’t know if that should be considered disheartening or not.
  • Ryan Miller looked average.
  • I officially believe that Dylan Hunter has no business ever playing the NHL, and I hope somebody in Sabres management starts to agree with me. He’s a hard worker, but he lacks what we call “talent.” Read the rest of this entry

Leafs making it look like they’re struggling

You never see me have sympathy for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Ever.

But I saw this little tidbit in the news, that might not seem like anything major to anyone else, sticks out to me.

Wendel Clark and Doug Gilmour will have banners raised at the Air Canada Centre in separate pregame ceremonies this season to honor their achievements with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Clark’s No. 17 banner will go up on Nov. 22 before a game against the Chicago Blackhawks, and Gilmour’s No. 93 will be raised Jan. 31 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

It’s nice that they’re honoring former players, but as we in Buffalo know, that could be done just to sell tickets (see: retiring Danny Gare and Pat LaFontaine’s numbers in ’05-’06). The Sabres weren’t quite sure they’d be selling out every game, so they went ahead and retired 16 and 18, and in my opinion, really lowered the standards for judging which Sabres are legends. But they sacrificed that honor to fill the building. Read the rest of this entry

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