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Overreactions, 39th Edition: Secondary scoring shows up in Sabres win

In the Sabres’ recent struggles, it’s been the absence of the team’s second line on the scoresheet than would appear to be the difference between getting two points, one point or none on any given night.

For once, they showed up and got two.

Third period goals by Drew Stafford and Nathan Gerbe broke a 2-2 tie and provided the margin of victory in Buffalo’s 4-3 win over Edmonton.

“We’ve talked about it enough. Bottom line is guys knew we just needed to go out there and get it done,” Stafford said. “It feels good to get those two points. Now, hopefully we can string a few together.”

Even after falling behind 1-0, it was the usual suspects that got the Sabres back in it. Jason Pominville tied it up with his 13th of the year late in the first period. Jordan Leopold’s 7th on the season made it 2-1 before the Oilers tied it back up.

In the third, it was Stafford and Gerbe putting the game away. Edmonton closed it to a one-goal game late, but it didn’t change the outcome. Stafford was in on the last three Sabres goals, and finished with a goal and two assists.

Ryan Miller won for the fourth time in his last five starts at home, making 23 saves.

  • Zack Kassian needs to go back to Rochester. He’s having issues playing well enough to stay in the lineup, and he’s earning ice time by default. Another passive effort from someone who’s supposed to be earning a spot as a physical presence. Don’t damage his development by letting this poor play go unpunished.
  • Mike Weber was really good. He’s settling in very well after starting the year as a scratch. With the defense decimated by injuries, Weber is being relied upon right now. Good to see a solid effort.
  • Jordan Leopold has seven goals this season. The rest of the defense combined has ten on the year. Even after scoring 13 in 71 games last year, Uncle Leo is on pace for a similiar total. Guy has been a stud. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 38th Edition: Sabres drop the ball on NYE

Jhonas Enroth was as good as he needed to be.

The rookie, getting his first start in three weeks, was solid for the Sabres, stopping 44 of 46 shots through regulation and overtime. Unfortunately, the goal support didn’t do quite enough to get the effort into the win column.

In a spirited affair at First Niagara Center, the celebrations were muted despite Enroth’s big night, as Ottawa’s Bobby Butler scored in the fifth round of the shootout to hand Buffalo a 3-2 shootout loss.

“I felt good out there tonight,” Enroth said. “I was a little bit nervous before the game, but I told myself to relax and compete. Usually when I do that, it works out well for me.”

Shootout markers by Brad Boyes and Jason Pominville were cancelled by Ottawa, and extra rounds shooters Derek Roy and Drew Stafford failed to beat Sens goalie Craig Anderson.

Buffalo falls to 17-17-4 on the year, good for 11th place in the East.

The Sabres twice jumped into the lead in the first 60 minutes on goals by Brad Boyes and Paul Gaustad, the third of the season for each. Both leads were eventually answered by Ottawa.

  • The bottom six has been taking a lot of flak here lately for not putting the puck in the net. Tonight, they chipped one in. But with the top line not producing like they have been, they didn’t get that third goal that would’ve been the difference. Three goals should win you a lot of hockey games. Top line gets one, secondary scoring gets one, depth gets one. If all three groups chip in, you’re in really good shape.
  • For fuck’s sake, you’re really gonna play the Chicken Dance between regulation and overtime? No wonder the place is so passive. Holy shit, it’s the most intense part of the game. The game is on the line and you think it’s a good time to dance? How the fuck is this shit allowed? Fuck.
  • Hopefully this strong performance is enough to convince Lindy Ruff to keep going back to Jhonas more often. When the backup isn’t playing lights out, he’s too tempted to stick with Miller. The team has three back-to-backs in the next 19 days. He shouldn’t even think about not splitting them. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 35th Edition: Sabres bust a cap on Washington

That was a hell of a start.

The previous statement isn’t facetiousness, as one would expect with the way the Buffalo Sabres have been playing, especially at home. No, that’s legit.

Opening the scoring just 51 seconds into the game on a Jason Pominville powerplay goal, Buffalo stormed out to an early lead with four first period goals en route to a 4-2 win over Washington.

The returns of forwards Jochen Hecht and Brad Boyes from injury proved to be of great benefit, as the team’s persistent attack in the opening 20 minutes made the difference.

The Sabres chased Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth after Christian Ehrhoff made it 3-0 just eleven minutes into the game with a snipe to the top corner. Brayden McNabb tallied his first NHL goal to close the scoring in possibly the best period of hockey Buffalo has played all season.

“We got everybody going early, we got the fans into it, and we got the bench going,” Pominville said of the early spurt. “You always want to get that first goal, and for us to get it that early was huge for the team. To generate more chances and score more goals after that was big. We limited their chances, and probably could have put a few more away.”

Ryan Miller made 20 saves in the win. Matt Ellis also scored for Buffalo.

  • One of the team’s biggest problems since they’ve been struggling has been the lack of scoring outside of the top line. Tonight, it was two defenseman and a fourth-liner providing the margin. But even with them chipping in, look at the scoresheet: all the top offensive players made an appearance. Pominville got the goal, but Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, Drew Stafford, Jochen Hecht and Brad Boyes all picked up assists. When the guys you rely on come through, good things happen.
  • Boyes was really good in his return to the lineup. That additional firepower outside of the first line has been desperately lacking of late. He picked up an assist on the McNabb goal.
  • He was named the second star, but I would still like to point out that Jordan Leopold had another phenomenal game.  Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 33rd Edition: Alright… okay…

Tuesday night’s game was one of those nights where maybe you’re not quite sure how to react anymore. Maybe you just laugh. Maybe you snap. Who knows at this point.

In an effort to reassert themselves after Saturday’s debacle in Pittsburgh, the Sabres came out and worked hard early. Unfortunately, the goals never came,  bad mistakes did them in, and they walked away from another game on the wrong end of the result.

With Marcus Foligno and Derek Whitmore making their NHL debuts, a depleted Buffalo squad just didn’t do enough to get it done, falling to the Ottawa Senators, taking a 4-1 loss at Scotiabank Place.

Jordan Leopold scored for Buffalo, who now sits in 10th place in the Eastern Conference with the loss.

Ryan Miller, who attracted some deserved criticism after being chased twice against the Penguins, rebounded with a strong game in which he seemed to make the saves he needed to, but didn’t get enough help from his teammates offensively. Miller finished with 35 saves on 38 shots, as the Sens outshot Buffalo 39-23.

“I thought the first 40 was a pretty even game,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “We knew we couldn’t play run and gun with them, but I thought we created some good opportunities, but didn’t take advantage of them.”

The Sabres now head to Toronto, where they’ll play their last game before the holiday break.

  • Derek Whitmore, under the circumstances, was outstanding. After a full travel day Monday coming off three games in three nights, he was energetic and created good pressure offensively. With that performance, he’s definitely not first on the list to go back to Rochester. Or shouldn’t be, at least.
  • Now that we’re getting that far the depth chart, you’re finally seeing a guy get called up and just show he’s not ready yet. Marcus Foligno is going to be a good NHL player. He’s got natural talent and a good game. But he’s not gonna earn a spot for a year or two. It showed tonight.
  • Thank god Jordan Leopold’s chipping in goals, because no one else on the blueline is. Leopold now has six goals on the year. Every other defenseman that’s suited up this season have combined for eight goals. That’s not good. Read the rest of this entry

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, 24th Edition: Sabres teach new class, call it “Losing To Shitty Teams 101″

Tonight, the New York Islanders moved two points of the struggling Anaheim Ducks for sole possession of the 28th best record in the NHL. They have one team to thank for it: the Buffalo Sabres.

For the second time in five days, the Sabres lost to a team in 15th place in their conference. Blame the injuries. Blame the bounces. Blame the bad luck. Doesn’t matter what you want to blame it on, it all ends in a 2-1 loss.

Jochen Hecht scored Buffalo’s only goal in the third period, as Islanders goaltending Al Montoya was the star of the night, stopping 30 shots in the win.

“He was sound in the net and he made sure there were no good second opportunities,” Roy said. “That’s partly our fault. We have to get to the net a little better.”

Buffalo looked a combination of listless and disjointed, depending on when you were jolted from the slumber induced by the frequently uneventful play. There were brief moments of intrigue, one being Zack Kassian’s first scrap in the NHL with Matt Martin of the Islanders.

Unfortunately, there was more cringeworthy moments to consider than glimmers of quality. Jordan Leopold, arguably Buffalo’s best defenseman over the last few weeks, left with an upper body injury and did not return. An extended five-on-three late in the third yielded nothing. Ville Leino blew a slam-dunk goal that could’ve tied it with just minutes left. A poor effort all around.

Jhonas Enroth finished with 28 saves for Buffalo.

  • The potential loss of Leopold could be devastating. He’s been superb for weeks. While the strong performance of all Amerks being recalled is encouraging, this is a loss from the top of the barrel, not the bottom.
  • Christian Ehrhoff has been playing his best hockey of the season lately. He was on the ice for 32:48 Tuesday night. That’s more than half the game. The guy is a horse. Andrej Sekera was really good too, and made a nice play that led to the Sabres goal.
  • The First Niagara Center continues to be a place where the Sabres don’t play well. The atmosphere is awful on a regular basis, and it seems little effort is being done to change that. The crowd is always dead. The music is habitually awful. Seriously, in a tie game, midway through the third period, what moron thinks “Oh, you know what would get this crowd rocking? The fucking Chicken Dance!” Is this a joke? Seriously. If I would’ve actually paid for my ticket in, I might be even more disgusted with that. Completely embarassing, and in no way should that idiotic behavior be allowed to happen.
  • At some point, can Nathan Gerbe get called out for doing nothing? Hasn’t scored a goal in almost a month, and other than an inspiring effort against Boston last week, hasn’t brought much energy. He was flat out awful Tuesday night.
  • The Ville Leino signing looks worse by the day. The idea of Leino being here for another five seasons after this one is borderline vomit-inducing. He’s been better, but his style is frustrating and the results aren’t there. This guy is supposed to be a key cog. He’s been anything but.
  • Jhonas Enroth made the saves he needed to. Like with any goaltender, it’s all about goal support. If you can rely on a goalie to hold the other team to two goals, you should be able to win a lot of games. Not when the offense is M.I.A. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 22nd Edition: Yikes.

When you go play a team that’s in 30th place out of 30 in the league, usually it helps to put forth a little effort.

Coming off one of the more emotional efforts of the season before the holiday, the Sabres came out lifeless and allowed the last-place Columbus Blue Jackets lay a beat-down on them, taking a 5-1 loss.

Jordan Leopold scored for Buffalo.

“I don’t know if I’ve seen it this bad before,” said Buffalo’s Lindy Ruff, the league’s longest-tenured coach. “I think we’ve got seven regulars out of the lineup. We need to make better plays than we did tonight. Obviously when you’re short-handed you’ve got to be good with the puck.”

And make that eight regulars, as defenseman Robyn Regehr left the game with an upper body injury.

Jhonas Enroth took the loss, allowing four goals on 18 shots before giving way to Drew MacIntyre, who stopped 15 of 16 he faced.

  • Buffalo had a good number of opportunities early in the game to take the lead and it bit them in the ass. Jochen Hecht had a glorious opportunity that he decided to pass on. They left the door open for Columbus, and by the time they finally beat Columbus goalie Curtis Sanford, it was too late.
  • Lindy Ruff waiting a long time to shuffle lines, as there wasn’t major shuffling until midway through the third period. With the Vanek-Hecht-Pominville line being ineffective, Ruff decided to break up the scoring duo who’ve carried the team through the first quarter of the season instead of just getting them away from Hecht. Not quite sure why. Derek Roy was having a decent game at the dot, you’d think the logical move would be to put Roy in the middle there as he was a few games ago. Guess not.
  • Zack Kassian picked up an assist in his NHL debut, but exhibited the play that will disappoint many fans who see him as a physical presence. He registered one hit on the night. Read the rest of this entry

Delayed Overreactions, 21st Edition: Sabres make their point against Bruins

The goal in each game is to win. Those two points are what the teams play for.

On Wednesday night, the Buffalo Sabres got one point, but still walked away with somewhat of a victory.

With the hockey world watching to see how the Sabres would respond in their first matchup with the Boston Bruins after the Milan Lucic hit on the still-sidelined Ryan Miller, the team succeeded in showing their mettle, albeit losing in a shootout by a score of 4-3.

Paul Gaustad got the business out of the way early, challenging Lucic in an early scrap, despite it happening 11 days after many argue it should have. Buffalo used the energy to jump out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Christian Ehrhoff and Thomas Vanek.

“It was an unfortunate incident in Boston, and I give credit to Milan for fighting,” Gaustad said. “It’s something where guys don’t have to, and he did. I wanted to step up after I thought I could have done more in the (earlier) Boston game.”

Boston climbed back within one early in the second, only to be answered by T.J. Brennan’s first NHL goal in his first NHL game. The Bruins continued to press, and tied the game at three early in the third on a powerplay goal by Zdeno Chara.

It went to a shootout, where Tim Thomas stopped all five Sabres shooters and Benoit Pouliot ended it after Jhonas Enroth had stopped the four previous Bruins to shoot.

Enroth finished with 36 saves on the night.

Sure, they didn’t win the game, but arguably, they won some respect.

  • A very nice debut for T.J. Brennan. He didn’t get a regular shift early on, as Lindy surely wanted to ease him into such an intense atmosphere. He converted the chance he got, and played a very simple game. A great step forward for a kid who is likely gonna stick around a while.
  • By the way, kudos to the game presentation for stepping up and doing a new intro. The environment was much better, and the crowd responded. Unfortunately, they still don’t have it quite right, as the heavy start faded after the first period and the crowd was pretty lifeless in the second and thirds. The music is so crucial, and you can tell what an effect playing more appropriate music. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You don’t have to beat people over the head with “go run through that brick wall” music the whole night.
  • Not having Brad Boyes available for the shootout may have been the difference. Jhonas Enroth made the saves he needed to, but the skaters need to score. Unfortunate that they failed to take advantage of the situation.
  • I’ve never seen a player jump into hits more than Brad Marchand did Wednesday night. Even when trying to lay out Nathan Gerbe, who’s even smaller than he is, Marchand feels the need to leave his feet. Total scumbag. Read the rest of this entry

Delayed Overreactions, 20th Edition: Come on, really?

I’m sure if someone would’ve told you before the game that Paul Bissonnette was going to score the game winner, they’d either have been a) drunk, b) a jackass, or c) one of his handful of relatives who came down from Welland for the game.

Well, the infamous fourth line plug was the hero.

On the strength of four goals and a stellar performance from goalie Mike Smith, the Phoenix Coyotes beat Buffalo 4-2.

Luke Adam and Patrick Kaleta scored for the Sabres, who got 25 saves from Jhonas Enroth in his second loss of the season.

Smith was the star, though, making 43 saves to stymie a Buffalo offense that seemed on the verge of opening the floodgates throughout the first period.

“We missed too many opportunities,” Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. “Point blank. We missed empty nets. We hit a few posts. It isn’t good enough. If you want to win a game and come out with that much energy, you have to put those chances away.”

  • Not quite sure what Tyler Myers was doing on the eventual winning goal. If he sticks with Bissonnette, the opportunity gets eliminated. Instead he’s behind the goal chasing butterflies and the puck is in the net.
  • Two Sabres did not register a shot on goal: Robyn Regehr and Ville Leino.
  • Jordan Leopold continued his solid run, adding two assists. He seems to be the steadiest defenseman on the roster lately. He and Christian Ehrhoff played over 26 minutes, and ended up even on the night. Leopold hasn’t been a minus player in the game since October 27.
  • Jhonas Enroth looked shaky coming off his first shutout of the season the night before. While he stole two points Friday night, he didn’t do much to duplicate the effort Saturday. If Miller is out an extended period, you’d think that Enroth isn’t going to be able to play every back-to-back. Maybe Friday in Columbus might be a good time to get Drew MacIntyre a game. Can’t run the kid into the ground. He’s vital right now. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 19th Edition: Sabres are winners, Canes are losers

Coming off the worst performance of his career, Jhonas Enroth showed that he can recover from a weak effort. Recover, and then some.

Enroth registered his first shutout of the season and a first period powerplay goal by Jason Pominville was all the offense the Sabres needed in a 1-0 win over Carolina.

Enroth made 34 saves after allowing five goals on Wednesday night against New Jersey.

“After a game when you play like that, you just want to get out there again,” Enroth, said. “I’m happy I got the start right after that game.”

Carolina was able to throw 14 shots on Enroth in the third period, but the rookie was up to the challenge, moving to 6-1-0 on the season.

Pominville scored his seventh of the season on a feed from Thomas Vanek, as the pair remain in the top-5 in the NHL in points. The Sabres finished 1-for-2 on the powerplay.

With the win, Buffalo is just one point behind Philadelphia for first place in the Eastern Conference.

  • Big rivalry game in Carolina, huh? I could tell by all the empty seats. Some ‘Canes fans seem to claim that they avoid going to Sabres games because they don’t want to deal with the Sabres fans. Wimps. Considering they’re the ones who think it’s a rivalry, they don’t seem to care enough about it to actually show up.
  • Tyler Myers, in my opinion, had a better game in Carolina than he did Wednesday against New Jersey. He seemed much better in the defensive zone, and seemed a little smarter in deciding when to rush the puck, save for trying to carry the puck on a rush while the team was shorthanded, leading to an odd-man rush the other way. Still some issues, but he’s been better.
  • Overall, it was a good night for the defense. Sekera was sublime. Leopold continued his strong play and even Regehr looked good. Enroth stopping every shot helped too. Read the rest of this entry
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