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Overreactions: Sabres win in overtime, beating Leafs still super fun

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Don’t know what it is about Toronto, but I don’t think anyone cares.

The Buffalo Sabres moved to 13-1-1 in their last 15 visits from the Maple Leafs as Christian Ehrhoff scored 38 seconds into sudden death to give the home team a 3-2 overtime victory in front of throngs of visiting fans.

With a late penalty to Toronto’s Paul Ranger expiring, Ville Leino won an offensive zone faceoff and the puck was worked back to Ehrhoff at the top of the slot. Not long after, the puck was behind Leafs goalie James Reimer and Buffalo had their sixth win in 27 league games.

“I didn’t have the time to do a big wind-up there,” said Ehrhoff “I saw the opening between the legs and I put one through there.”

Matt Moulson and Luke Adam scored for Buffalo, who twice came back from one-goal deficits in the second period.

Phil Kessel and Nikolai Kulemin scored for Toronto, who got 26 saves from Reimer.

“It’s good to see the guys get rewarded for doing the right things,” said Ryan Miller, who finished with 22 saves in the win.

  • Leino, who is a frequent target of derision, was fantastic tonight. Drew the penalty late in regulation and made the key play on both the opening goal and the overtime winner. Really, really good game from him.
  • Two of Buffalo’s three regulation-and-overtime wins (ROW) have come in the two visits from the Maple Leafs.
  • Matt D’Agostini gets the nice +1 on his stat line in his Sabres debut, as he set the screen on Reimer for the game winner. He was good, made some nice plays in the offensive zone and wasn’t a liability at all. Of course, since he didn’t score in his first game, he will be marked as a massive disappointment for life. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, Amerks in Buffalo Edition 2: Electric Boogaloo

Cody Hodgson

Hey look… there’s hockey in Buffalo! What a concept!

Before a record crowd of 19,070 at First Niagara Center, the Rochester Americans defeated the Lake Erie Monsters by a score of 4-1.

Thanks to two goals from Cody Hodgson and tallies by Mark Mancari and Nick Tarnasky, the Amerks never trailed and controlled most of the play. Brayden McNabb had two assists and Mancari, T.J. Brennan, and Max Legault also added helpers.

Despite the two meetings between the teams leading to a combined 13 goals in each matchup, David Leggio was solid in net for Rochester, stopping 36 of 37 Lake Erie shots, and as my man Marshawn Lynch said, “It don’t get no better than solid.”

Rochester moves to 15-11-2-1 on the season, good for 9th in the AHL’s Western Conference. They are a mere three points behind 4th place Abbotsford.

The Amerks head back to Rochester for another game tomorrow night against Binghamton. As for First Niagara Center, it goes back to darkness. For now.

  • Excellent to be back in the building. There’s snow on the ground, and the five block walk from my car to the arena in bone-chilling cold was refreshing. Wouldn’t be mad at all if they could figure shit out and get a season going.
  • Brayden McNabb picked up two assists, but for the majority of the game looked really shaky. Passes were off, just sloppy in general. He cleaned it up near the end, and made a nice play going to the net on Tarnasky’s goal. He was on the verge of a roster spot if there would’ve been a season, but I’m wondering how fast he’s slipping with Pysyk looking good and Brennan playing lights-out. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, Amerks in Buffalo Edition

(I can’t find any acceptable shots in Americans gear)

First Niagara Center has been noticeably empty this October, but for at least one night, there was some hockey at the foot of Washington Street.

Buffalo’s AHL affiliate, the Rochester Americans (the team also known as the Amerks) hosted the Hamilton Bulldogs in front of a content crowd announced of almost 11,000 at the Sabres’ home rink. Featuring young bucks who’d have likely been in blue and gold like Cody Hodgson and Marcus Foligno, the Amerks defeated the Bulldogs 3-1.

Hopping out to a first period lead on a bouncing shot from the point off the stick of the mighty Joe Finley, the Amerks surrendered the lead with about eight minutes left in the second on a goal by Hamilton’s Michael Bournival. Cody Hodgson answered right back to retake the lead at 2-1.

T.J. Brennan added an insurance goal with Rochester on a two-man advantage late in the third to secure the victory.

Williamsville native David Leggio had 36 saves in his hometown for the Americans.

While no other Amerks games are scheduled for First Niagara Center, pending the current labor situation with the big leagues, that can change.

  • Cody Hodgson looked like the most polished player on the ice. Makes sense, but still. Hard to judge what the offseason training did for him because you don’t know what the talent disparity between leagues is, but he’s putting up numbers. Which is nice.
  • Really impressed with Mark Pysyk, he seemed very mature for it being his sixth professional game. Smart with the puck.
  • They announced the crowd at 10,896 or something like that, but from experience in minor league ticketing, good luck finding anywhere near that many in the building, staff included. Couldn’t have been more than 9,000 fans here. Read the rest of this entry

Instigator Podcast #4: IQ Test

Hot off the presses is the big-budget production known as the fourth edition of “The Instigator Podcast” featuring Chris Ostrander of Two In the Box and myself.

In this episode, we talk splitting the weekend, leaving games early, “Hockey IQ” vs. “Sabres IQ”, healthy changes everything (featuring the Incredible Lance Diamond), some fan questions and play some “Plus/Minus” again.

Comments? Suggestions? Are you convinced we’re your baby’s daddy? Let us know below or on twitter, @3rdManIn or @2ITB_Buffalo.

Overreactions, 54th Edition: Dallas goes down

All over Buffalo, fans had to walk away from Friday night’s game happy. Maybe they’re happy from the win. Maybe they’re happy with how it happened. Maybe they’re just rubbing this one in Gary’s face.

Facing a two-goal third period deficit and another nail in the coffin containing the team’s playoff hopes, the Sabres fought back to tie the game and took home the win, defeating Dallas 3-2 in a shootout.

After Thomas Vanek’s powerplay goal made it 2-1 early in the third, it was Derek Roy‘s tying goal with Ryan Miller on the bench and just under 39 seconds left on the clock that sent it to overtime.

Brad Boyes and Nathan Gerbe scored in the shootout for Buffalo. Miller stopped three of four shooters before Michael Ryder missed the net to seal the win. The Sabres netminder stopped 24 shots through 65 minutes.

Buffalo moves into 11th place in the East with the win, eight points behind 8th place Toronto with a game in hand. The Sabres have won five of six and will next face 13th place Tampa Bay on Saturday night.

  • Not sure how Kari Lehtonen wasn’t one of the three stars. He was outstanding for Dallas, making some ridiculous stops. The save on Vanek in the waning seconds of overtime is highlight reel material.
  • Vanek started out playing with Matt Ellis and Cody McCormick. That didn’t last. It shouldn’t have even been a line to start.
  • Can’t believe what possesses so many to leave early in a one-goal game. That’s “hockey IQ” right there.
  • Still not sure how there hasn’t been an overwhelming appreciation of what Tyler Ennis’ return has done for the Sabres. The kid is the most dynamic skater on the roster. Even without being on the scoresheet, he generated many of their best chances, including the pretty between the legs pass to Drew Stafford in the second that was denied by Lehtonen. Adding him down the middle has been key. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 52nd Edition: Nothing’s over yet

The easy thing to do if you’re a fan is to write off this season.

The likelihood of salvaging this season is slightly above zero, that’s not just based on emotion, but the facts. It would take an incredible run of wins to find a way back into the playoff picture. All it takes is winning, right?

Well, seems they’re figuring that out.

After some lights-out defense and goaltending gave them the edge in breaking out of their extended slump, the Buffalo Sabres survived an early hole, coming back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the New York Islanders in a shootout, winning 4-3.

Ryan Miller broke Dominik Hasek’s franchise record for career wins with his 235th, stopping 35 of 38 shots through 65 minutes and stopping Frans Nielsen in the shootout.

“I played with great teams and many great players, so this is very satisfying,” said Miller, a fifth-round draft pick in 1999 who debuted for the Sabres during the 2003-03 season. “And it was a good comeback win for us. We played a solid game, sticking with it and getting chances.”

Nielsen opened the scoring at just 1:39 of the first period, and after Nathan Gerbe tied the game four minutes later, Buffalo faced a two-goal deficit after 20 minutes. Maligned centers Derek Roy and Paul Gaustad scored in the second and third periods to force overtime.

Buffalo survived an onslaught in overtime, as a too many men penalty allowed the Islanders a chance to win, but Miller stopped all nine New York shots in the five minute extra session.

  • It was a good night for some guys having a rough season. Nathan Gerbe hasn’t been scoring like he needs to. Derek Roy has been taking a beating. Paul Gaustad’s been struggling to justify his role on the team. Hopefully it’s a nice boost for them.
  • Travis Hamonic will have to tell me what it’s like to take a slap shot in the face, because I have zero interest in experiencing it for myself.
  • Congrats to Ryan Miller for breaking the all-time wins mark. He’s had some really good years here, and he’ll likely extend that mark much further. Dominik Hasek could’ve had so much more if he would’ve had more to work with while he was here. Or shootouts. That would’ve helped too. Read the rest of this entry

Delayed Overreactions, 51st Edition: Encouraging efforts aren’t always enough

After an extended absence from First Niagara Center, there may have been some hesitation in expecting a welcoming atmosphere. The Sabres had dropped to the basement of the Eastern Conference in the course of their 18 days between home matches, and finally seemed to be turning a corner in their last two games, both tight wins.

But it turned out alright. Not good, but alright.

Welcoming the 1st place New York Rangers to town, the Sabres got a stellar performance from Ryan Miller in a 1-0 shootout loss.

Of course, there’s a fine line between a low scoring game being brutal to watch and intense. The Sabres and Rangers walked the line and a national television audience enjoyed a goaltending clinic.

“It was fun to be a part of. I haven’t had too many good outings in the last few months,” Miller said. “To go up against Lundqvist, who’s having a great season, and have a night like this, where it kind of puts us in the spotlight at each end, it’s nice to be a part of.”

Miller made 29 saves to earn his second shutout of the year, but took the loss after Ryan Callahan beat him in the fifth round of the shootout.

All-Star captain and American hero Jason Pominville was the only Sabre to beat Henrik Lundqvist in the shootout, extending it in the third round after New York’s Marian Gaborik scored in the first round.

  • The deservingly vilified atmosphere in the arena was noticeably improved, and the active crowd was a pleasant change. It felt like an important game for once. They should. They’re all important.
  • Tyler Ennis looked like the best forward on the ice, even considering the two penalties he took. He drew a penalty on Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman late in regulation, and rang a potential winner off the post in the shootout. He’s the most exciting player on the roster.
  • Henrik Lundqvist’s save on Brad Boyes in the shootout was straight-up dirty. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 50th Edition: Gaustad’s interesting night leads Sabres past whining Habs

The Sabres haven’t lost a game in ten days.

Yes, the maligned, basement-dwelling Buffalo Sabres have won two games in a row for the first time since early November.

Returning from the All-Star break with fleeting opportunities to get back into playoff contention, the Buffalo Sabres came out flying and grabbed their third win of the season at the Bell Centre, earning a 3-1 victory over the Canadiens.

Paul Gaustad got the game winner 6:17 into the third period that was the difference, as the Sabres also got a goal from Ville Leino and an empty-netter from Patrick Kaleta.

“It’s always good to get a win on the road and we just have to turn it around quickly and quit patting ourselves on the back and go out and get the next one,” said Gaustad, who set up Ville Leino’s fourth goal 4:01 into the second period to tie it at 1.

Ryan Miller was stellar for Buffalo, making 27 saves to earn his 234th career win, tying him for the most all-time in Sabres history with the legendary Dominik Hasek.

Even with the win, the team suffered another loss, as Thomas Vanek left with an upper body injury and did not return. After the game, Ruff indicated that he will at least be out in the short term and will be reevaluated.

Despite the loss of the team’s leading goal scorer, the postgame chatter was centered around some trash talking between Paul Gaustad and Max Pacioretty. Multiple Canadiens players complained to the media that Gaustad crossed a line by referencing the hit by Boston’s Zdeno Chara that almost ended Pacioretty’s career last season. Gaustad explained that Montreal had initiated the exchanges by bringing up the Lucic-Miller incident.

The most cutting remark was made by Carey Price, who said “We can’t worry about what he’s got to say because he doesn’t do much out there.”

Paul Gaustad had a goal and two assists, and was a +3 on the night.

It is unknown whether the Montreal Police have begun an investigation into the incident.

  • The win is nice, but if Thomas Vanek is out for an extended period, this effort to get back into playoff contention is as futile as they come.
  • Tyler Ennis was phenomenal in his return from injury. Injuries aren’t a great excuse, but if there’s one guy whose absence has hurt the most, he’s got to be near the top of the list. He adds a different dimension to the offense.
  • Funny that Luke Adam got scratched after what I wrote yesterday, but it just accentuates the point. With Vanek out now, he’ll get back in. If Vanek’s injury is short-term, they need to get him to Rochester as soon as Vanek’s back. Read the rest of this entry

For Luke Adam, season at a crossroads

While most of his Sabres teammates got a nice break from the grind this past weekend, rookie forward Luke Adam had an experience of a lifetime.

After being named to the list of rookies participating in the skills competition at NHL All-Star Weekend, Adam was amongst the game’s best for a few days in Ottawa. Adam was selected to participate in the hardest shot contest for Team Chara, and acquitted himself quite well.

The odd part of the whole thing was seen Luke out on the ice along side the game’s best in the showcase weekend for the league is quite atypical of his experiences in Buffalo of late.

Riding a strong start to the season, centering a line between All-Star Jason Pominville and superstar Thomas Vanek, Adam appeared to be filling that top line pivot spot well.

Obviously, Jochen Hecht’s injury woes to start the season certainly helped Adam earn his spot on the team. Many (including myself) had Adam pegged to start the season in Rochester. Without a healthy body down the middle and an expanded roster to go off to Europe, Luke got his chance to start the season with the Sabres and took advantage. With four points in the first two games, he looked the part. Soon after the Sabres’ hot start dissipated, Adam began a slide down the depth chart.

His surprising October led to a solid November, and after a couple good performances early on December, dropped off the radar completely.

As Buffalo slipped further and further away from the playoffs, and dropped to the basement of the Eastern Conference, Luke disappeared from the boxscores. His last goal was December 17 in Pittsburgh, a span of 17 games. He doesn’t even have an assist since December 7th, a span of 22 games. He’s been sequestered to the fourth line, surely a move that can rejuvenate his offense, spending time alongside snipers Matt Ellis and Cody McCormick.

In the team’s last game, a shootout win in New Jersey, Luke Adam played 4:39.

This begs the question: What purpose does it serve to have Adam on the roster? Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 49th Edition: It could happen!

Approaching this game, the most feasible explanation for how the Sabres could end their 12-game losing streak on the road against a goaltender they’ve had trouble with would be simple: Don’t let the other team score.

(Ed note: The least feasible would be a team of angels assisting them in exceeding their capabilities.)

For the most part, Buffalo took care of that. And it worked.

Riding a horrible stretch of play into the final game before the NHL All-Star break, the Sabres found a way to get it done, stealing a 2-1 shootout victory in New Jersey.

“This is huge for us,” said Sabres defenseman Jordan Leopold, who scored in regulation. “The past few week have been tough and challenging and we capped off a long, long road trip with a win. It was not a perfect game. We got outshot and outchanced but in the end we got a couple of big saves from Ryan. He kept us in the game and we were able to win in the shootout.”

Leopold’s fluky goal late in the first period was all the cushion Ryan Miller needed to get them a point, as he stopped 27 of 28 shots through 65 minutes. Jason Pominville scored in the third round of the shootout to extend it, and Nathan Gerbe scored the walk-off winner in round 4.

Buffalo pulled out two points despite registering a mere 14 shots on goal through regulation and overtime.

The Sabres hit the mid-season siesta sitting 14th place in the Eastern Conference, ten points out of a playoff spot with 33 games remaining.

  • Ryan Miller, when he plays like this, is worth every penny. He needs to be surrounded with talent. I truly think, as bad as this team is, that he can be part of the solution instead of being considered a problem.
  • In the talk about what’s wrong with the team, and how injuries can’t be an excuse, the one valid argument in this recent run of horrible play is how much the absence of Christian Ehrhoff hurt. Tyler Myers is clearly not in a position to carry this team as a #1 defenseman, and without Ehrhoff, the team suffered. Ehrhoff played a team high 24:27 in his first game back. Having him in the lineup makes this team remarkably better defensively.
  • Thomas Vanek’s pressing hard and the results aren’t there. The team’s going nowhere if he can’t start getting the results.
  • Robyn Regehr’s return was also a big help. He was incredibly solid. Having the veteran presence on the back end was missed.
  • With 33 games remaining, the indispensable Sports Club Stats has the Sabres with a 0.6% chance of making the playoffs. To earn a playoff spot, they’ll need to get approximately 95 points. They have 45. It’s going to take at least 23 wins in 33 games. Pack it in, guys. No need for a heroic run to 10th. Read the rest of this entry
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