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On Pominville’s return to Buffalo

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I’m sure you guys are past arguing about whether or not the Sabres should’ve done anything for former Sabres captain Jason Pominville when he came back to Buffalo on Monday. Don’t care, I didn’t really get my two cents in yet, so deal with it.

In his first game back with his new team, the Minnesota Wild, Pominville was the storyline, before and after the game, earning the first star and notching the game winning goal in a 2-1 Sabres loss. The Sabres organization decided not to do anything special, didn’t bother to recognize him during the game, just went about it like any other game.

And the great part? They got killed for it afterwards. The Buffalo News got in on the action, as Mike Harrington tore the decisionArtvoice’s Puck Stop just did another piece about it.

From Harrington:

Pominville was different. His trade was a good deal for both sides. He didn’t ask out at all. Fans understood. It would have taken a quick PA announcement welcoming him back to Buffalo and thanking him for his years of service, a quick Jumbotron clip of his famous overtime goal in Ottawa. Let the fans applaud. Thirty seconds. Done.

From Kulyk & Farrell:

Jeers to the Sabres front office and game ops crew for not giving their former Sabres captain any love on the HD board. The script was simple: first TV timeout you run the highlight reel of the overtime series clinching goal against Ottawa in 2006 (“Now do you believe! These guys are good! Scary good!”), then show Pommers on the bench and let the fans do the rest. A goose bump moment stolen from the fans. But hey! The kiss cam and dancing recycling bins sequences were epic.

Or, the team could’ve taken a history lesson and did something really nice. Like they did in November 1997, when former captain Pat LaFontaine made his first appearance in Buffalo since being traded to the New York Rangers. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 31/48 Edition: Wait, I thought this team was bad?

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Sabres forward Steve Ott did score the game deciding goal, but he did a better job summing up the night in the locker room after the game.

“That’s fun,” said Ott.

Buffalo came back from an early 2-0 deficit to tie the game at three before the end of the second and held on in the third to get the game to overtime before they eventually downed the Toronto Maple Leafs with a 5-4 shootout win in front of 19,070 raucous fans, in both teams’ colors, at First Niagara Center.

“Honestly that’s easy energy you can take from the crowd,” added Ott.

The game got off to a wild start as Buffalo John Scott dropped the gloves with Toronto’s Fraser McLaren as Leafs tough guy Colton Orr tried picking a fight with Sabres pest Patrick Kaleta. Orr was booted from the game and Buffalo started off with a four minute powerplay which they failed to capitalize on.

Toronto would open up the scoring with two goals 1:16 apart just minutes later, beating Ryan Miller twice on five shots in the opening period. Tyler Ennis scored late in the period to cut the deficit to one.

The physical play continued to escalate throughout the game, and Toronto regained their two-goal lead on Mikhail Grabovski goal about nine minutes in. Buffalo would storm back on goals 0:45 apart by Marcus Foligno and Jason Pominville to tie the game, and then take the lead early in the third on a Christian Ehrhoff powerplay goal.

Leafs leading scorer Nazem Kadri would tie the game six minutes later, and except for a lot of hitting, the game was unresolved through 65 minutes of play.

“It was nasty and chippy and that’s the way it should be,” said Foligno.

Drew Stafford tallied in round 2 of the skills competition and Ott would score the shootout winner as Miller stopped 5 of 6 Leafs shooters, complementing his 30 saves through regulation and overtime.

Buffalo, with the win, sits just four points out of 8th place with 17 games remaining. Just when you thought they were out, they suck you right back in.

  • John Scott, as much as he gets bashed, may have had his most effective game as a Sabre in 3:02 of ice time. He was able to bait Leafs forward Phil Kessel into a coincidental minor, which is a trade you take any day. And he had some fun after the game.
  • Marcus Foligno always seems to step his game up when they play Toronto. Not just on the scoresheet (has six points in six career games) but as a physical presence. Makes you wish they played the Leafs more often.
  • The drumline in the arena looks dumber and dumber each game. Yes, having someone lead chants is great until they stop, and then everyone else does. You’re creating sheep instead of putting the onus on the fans to make their own noise. Band-aid over a bullet wound. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 22/48 Edition: New invention called “winning streak” all the rage in Buffalo

20130302 millerwinThere was as much reason to expect less as you’d think there was. In the end, the Buffalo Sabres found a way to get it done.

Fresh off an apparently invigorating trip to Florida, where they claimed two wins in a row, they tacked on another in the confines of First Niagara Center without their leading scorer, taking a 4-3 shootout win over the New Jersey Devils.

Jason Pominville scored twice off feeds from Cody Hodgson to lead the way. The team twice surrendered leads shortly after gaining them, including a third period dandy from New Jersey’s Andrei Loktionov that tied the game at 3-3.

Pominville and Tyler Ennis scored in the shootout and Ryan Miller stopped both New Jersey shooters to secure the win.

“We’re getting more resilient as a team now, and I think that’s a good sign for us,” said coach Ron Rolston. “When I first got here if we would’ve gave up the third goal, it might’ve been a different result.”

Jochen Hecht also scored for Buffalo, his first of the season and his first goal since December 2011. Adam Henrique and Sabres legend Steve Bernier added goals for New Jersey, who got 20 saves from Johan Hedberg and a point in the standings.

It was also a nice win considering they were missing scoring sensation Thomas Vanek. In his absence, Brian Flynn made his NHL debut.

“The guys did a nice job of battling and we pulled one out,” said Miller, who made 28 saves.

The Sabres take off tonight for New York, where they face the Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night.

  • Lots of chatter after the game about how good the crowd was. It wasn’t remarkable to me. The baseline is so far off with this place, it must’ve just seemed like it since people were actually loud for once. It’s supposed to be, at minimum, like this all the time. It’s certainly not the on-ice product spurring all of it, because that game was a mess. Just gotta get people in the mood. Not sure what it was today, but it was dead silent all through the first.
  • Marcus Foligno’s hit on Alexei Ponikarovsky was beautiful. Just solid.
  • Speaking of hits, near the end of regulation, Robyn Regehr destroyed Ilya Kovalchuk from behind with the puck nowhere in the area. Should’ve been a penalty, and it wasn’t. Officiating overall was pretty awful today. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 16/48 Edition: Sabres lose to Penguins, unimaginative post titles abound

20130217 regehrIt didn’t start well, and it sure as hell didn’t end well.

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

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

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, 1/48 Edition: Thomas Vanek is all man, baby.

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There may have been some reason to worry about the fact that the Buffalo Sabres were about to play their first game in nine months. Of course, their opponent, the Philadelphia Flyers, had a chance to shake off their rust beforehand, and they were motivated by their loss to Pittsburgh the day before.

Didn’t really matter.

Sabres LW Thomas Vanek had a career night pitching in on every goal as Buffalo dispatched the Flyers with a 5-2 victory in front of a national audience on NBC. The Austrian superhunk scored twice and added three assists to take over the NHL scoring lead on day 2 of the 2013 season.

“That’s one team I really like to beat, and it’s one team I really hate to lose to, so I feel pretty good right now,” coach Lindy Ruff said after the game.

Buffalo took an early lead on a powerplay goal by Sabres newbie Steve Ott. Philadelphia stormed back early in the second, scoring twice to take the lead. Then it was all Vanek. With less than five to go in the second, he deked Ilya Bryzgalov out of his jockstrap to tie the game. Then Vanek added helpers on a go-ahead goal by Tyler Myers and the insurance marker by Cody Hodgson late in the third.

He also added an empty netter for good measure, and linemate Jason Pominville tallied three assists.

“We scored timely goals,” Vanek said after the game. “It’s nice to get a win obviously, but if we would’ve lost, we would’ve talked about ‘It’s just one game with many more to go,’ so it’s the same mindset really.”

Buffalo was the beneficiary of two goals wiped out by the officials, one for goaltender interference and another because the official blew the whistle prematurely. Ryan Miller stopped 27 other shots to earn the win.

Sitting atop the Northeast Division, the Sabres head to Toronto tonight for tomorrow’s game against the Leafs.

  • First and foremost, kudos to the Sabres PR department for the additional access for bloggers this season. A few selected, premier sites were given full locker room access, this esteemed one included. There’s also open voting for the three stars of the game, which I will now include my selections and the actual ones in each Overreactions. Pretty surreal experience for me personally, but I’m not complaining.
  • Tyler Myers had the game winning goal and was overall terrible for the entirety of the night. Ended up with a team high 23:11 TOI and only credited with two giveaways. Was extremely shaky all game. If he’s gonna be the horse, he has to tighten it up.
  • Scott Hartnell is a piece of shit. Any time your team faces him, remind your players “Heads up, don’t duck,” because they’re gonna end up being boarded at some point. Read the rest of this entry

3MI Roadtrip Recap: Washington

(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.)

Preamble

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

Overreactions, 73rd Edition: Sabres bolt ahead and beat Tampa

Games have tended to slip away from the Sabres lately.

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

Overreactions, 69th Edition: Sabres get it done in Ottawa

In the spot they’re in, the Sabres are going to put themselves into a good spot if they find a way to assert themselves and grab games early. Saturday night in Ottawa, they never led for a second. But they left Canada’s capital with two points.

Erasing a one-goal deficit not once, not twice, but three times, the Buffalo Sabres found a way to win, earning a 4-3 shootout victory over the Ottawa Senators.

Tyler Ennis scored the decisive goal in the shootout.

Buffalo got yet another strong game from Ryan Miller, who made 33 saves, some in spectacular fashion before stopping two of three in the shootout.

Three times Ottawa took a lead, but they were all answered by the Sabres. Nathan Gerbe scored midway through the second to make it 1-1. Ennis tied the game at 2-2 with less than 20 seconds left in the middle period. The clutch goal to send it to overtime was scored by Marcus Foligno, his first career goal in his 2nd NHL game with 5:54 left on the clock.

“It was good to see us get pucks to the net, and we got a couple of nice bounces and that comes from just putting the puck in good areas,” Miller said. “They all count and they were a little bit dirtier. We needed it.”

It was an impressive effort from the Sabres to rebound, as Ottawa capitalized on Buffalo errors to jump ahead throughout the game. A Tyler Myers turnover at the blueline led to Erik Condra’s shorthanded goal. A breakout pass into Cody Hodgson’s skates set up Erik Karlsson’s first goal of the night. The third goal was a lost battle in front that led to Karlsson banking a shot off Miller and in from behind the goal line.

Buffalo now heads home, where they have Sunday off before facing Montreal at First Niagara Center on Monday.

  • The most important contract Darcy Regier has to get signed this summer is Tyler Ennis. The much discussed “second contract” is going to be key for the team’s cap situation for the next few seasons. Getting this guy signed for a reasonable rate is important. Injuries have kept his totals down this season, which should help, but Ennis is going to be a star by the time he has to sign his next deal. The most dynamic player in the organization, Ennis could be the team’s #1 center in a few years.
  • When Marcus Foligno came up earlier in the season, it was blatantly obvious he was not ready for the NHL. Seems like a totally different player now. I’d prefer to keep him in Rochester longer to continue development unless injuries provoke recalls, but you see why Zack Kassian was expendable. Solid 16 minutes from the rookie.
  • The defense is going to have to make a concerted effort to aim for the blade of Cody Hodgson’s stick instead of the blade of his skates. Read the rest of this entry
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