Real hockey was finally back at First Niagara Center for the first time since April on Tuesday night. Well, if you count preseason as real hockey. It kind of is. But it doesn’t count.
The scoreboard said 2-0 in favor of the Buffalo Sabres, who used a strong 35-save performance out of goaltender Jhonas Enroth to earn the victory over the visiting Carolina Hurricanes.
Drew Stafford and Tyler Ennis scored for Buffalo, as their line with Matt Moulson combined for both goals. All three were on the score sheet on each tally, with Ennis and Stafford finishing with a goal and assist each and Moulson assisting on both.
“We’ve got great chemistry, there’s not really much else to say,” said Stafford. “I think we can be an extremely effective line, from here on.”
Neither team made it through the game without incident (surprisingly not involving Patrick Kaleta) as Buffalo defenseman Mark Pysyk was injured on his first shift of the game, and Carolina lost forward Jordan Staal in the third period. Coach Ted Nolan said after the game that Pysyk would be “out a little while,” which could mean anything. The news seemed more dire for Carolina, as Staal was seen on crutches after the game, and if the play was any indication, could be out for months.
Buffalo returns to action Friday night as the Toronto Maple Leafs visit for the first of a home-and-home set.
- Patrick Kaleta made his return to the NHL lineup (if you think preseason counts) and made it through the game without any remarkable issues. He did try to run a Hurricanes player through the Zamboni doors in the corner during the third, but otherwise behaved himself. You’d have to assume Nolan wants him around, and it’s on him not to screw up.
- Kaleta’s linemate, Mikhail Grigorenko did an admirable job making it look like he wasn’t annoyed having to play with him and rookie Brendan Lemieux. Grigorenko’s strong play could help make the decision to send Reinhart back to junior. Just throwing that out there now.
- Sam Reinhart didn’t shine, but later in the game, you began to notice some solid play. He made a very patient play with the puck in the defensive zone, the kind of confident move you’d expect of a savvy veteran, not a recent draft pick. He might end up playing every preseason game to help get him up to speed, but I’m still not sure he needs to be in the NHL quite yet.
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
To quote Vin Scully, who called Kirk Gibson’s unlikely home run in the 1988 World Series, “I don’t believe what I just saw.”
On what was and will be one of the most incredibly ridiculous goals you’ll ever see, the shorthanded Buffalo Sabres defeated the Phoenix Coyotes 2-1 in overtime. Mark Pysyk got credited for the winner as the puck was carried over the goal line by Coyotes goalie Mike Smith.
Reaching for a rebound from his own shot, Pysyk’s effort was deflected up in the air above Smith, and it fell directly into his waistline. Not knowing where the puck was, Smith retreated to his goal, unaware that the winning goal was stick on his backside. That’s a turn of events that could be referred to as “unlikely,” but that definitely happened.
The Sabres were able to get the win despite playing with an incomplete roster, only dressing 16 skaters thanks to a flu bug making its way around the locker room. One of those 16 was John Scott, and another was Drew Stafford, who was ejected mid-way through the second period. Somehow, the home team made it happen.
This was all made possible by a late goal by Tyler Ennis to tie the game at 1. Buffalo dominated play for much of the third period, and a miscue at the Phoenix blueline by the Coyotes allowed Zemgus Girgensons to find Ennis alone in front to beat Smith.
“It’s a great win for the guys,” said Ennis. “We beat some adversity today.”
Ryan Miller made 36 saves to get the win for the Sabres, and was strong in the first period as Phoenix outshot Buffalo 15-3. He was only beaten by a questionably-high deflection from Coyotes forward Martin Hanzal early in the second period.
“These are the kind of things that weren’t happening for us,” said Miller. “It’s a little bit of a Christmas present for us, and we’ll take it.”
More like a Festivus miracle.
- I commented after the first period how impressed I was with Tyler Myers defensively. I thought that might have been his best 20 minutes of the season. The next 40-plus? Back to unimpressive Tyler he went.
- That goal went “viral,” as the kids call it on the internet, and for once the Sabres actually got on SportsCenter and Deadspin and dumb stuff like that. It was a dumb goal that brought a lot of brilliance, especially Harrison Mooney’s Grammy Award worthy “Goal In A Butt”. So much fun, guys.
- Girgensons has been fantastic lately, but I think people need to realize he’s only 19. Let’s not build him up into something he’s not yet. Temper the enthusiasm a bit. I know there’s not much to be excited about with this team, but you run the risk of it getting to his head. That’s dangerous (see: Myers, Tyler) and we do not want to ruin anything about this kid. He’s the real deal. Read the rest of this entry
Playing their first game of the season at First Niagara Center, the Buffalo Sabres were shutout by Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson, as he out-dueled Miller and helped the visiting Senators hand the Sabres a 1-0 loss in front of a sellout crowd.
Ryan Miller stopped 45 of 46 shots, surrendering a goal to Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson with 1:35 remaining in regulation.
“Would’ve been nice to grind one out and get an ugly one,” Miller said. “You just have to gain points where you can get them. I just needed to make one more save there. It’s disappointing.”
Buffalo peppered Anderson with 35 shots, failing to beat him at all. Thomas Vanek registered nine shots on goal himself, but came up empty.
The Sabres also went 0-for-4 on the powerplay.
“I thought both teams deserved a point,” Vanek said. “We were the first team to break at the end, which is disappointing, but the effort was good again.”
- Considering I’m the guy who incessantly talks about game presentation, I need to point out that the pregame was pretty damn good and there were noticeable improvements throughout the game. The bracelets they gave away added a nice effect, but overall, it’s better. There’s still some things they can do better, but it’s not like it’s still as
basbad (#unfollowBuffaloWins) as it was. We’ll see what they do for the next game, when there’s not the season opening festivities.
- Thomas Vanek got killed by many after the game for losing Karlsson on the game’s only goal, but after watching the replay, Tyler Myers has to do better. As Clarke MacArthur came into the zone along the boards, Myers had him closed off before he inexplicably backed off and allowed him space to wait for Karlsson to jump into the play. If he plays MacArthur more aggressively, maybe the play doesn’t even happen. Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis were standing around as well. One bad play, one goal, one loss.
- Vanek just didn’t have his touch. Had numerous glorious chances, but some bad decisions mitigated some of the opportunities. A few passes were just off. But he’s getting those chances at least. Read the rest of this entry
Then the third period of the team’s fourth preseason game started.
Blowing a two goal lead in the final ten minutes of regulation, the Buffalo Sabres couldn’t beat James Reimer in time to save the win as they fell 3-2 in a shootout to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The game was decided by a shootout after a spirited overtime, and it took 30 (yes, 30) shooters to decide the winner. Jhonas Enroth was beaten by Jay McClement in the 15th round of the shootout, and Reimer stopped all 15 shooters he faced.
“I thought our game for 50 minutes was really, really strong,” said Sabres forward Steve Ott. “The last ten minutes, we cost ourselves.”
Enroth was solid in net for Buffalo, stopping 32 of 34 shots in addition to 14 of 15 in the shootout.
The Sabres got goals from Mark Pysyk and Marcus Foligno, while Jamie Devane (sounds fake to me) and McClement scored for Toronto. Reimer made 38 saves for the Leafs.
These teams meet again tomorrow night in Toronto, in what should be the last chance to impress for at least a few players.
- Brian Flynn really picked up his game from the other night, and his hustle gave him a few chances to make a mark. He needs another game like this to really make his case to stick around with a guy like Zemgus Girgensons in a good spot to make the team.
- People really hate Patrick Kaleta. Man, he was running around trying to hit anything the first few shifts of the game.
- Jamie McBain had a pretty solid game, but I’m not sure he’s going to make the team still. It’s obvious they were really trying to give him a solid look, as he had a team high 27:02 TOI, but I think that shows more that he’s on the fence than that he’s got a spot. Read the rest of this entry
With their flickering playoff hopes in the balance, and the 8th place New York Rangers coming into First Niagara Center, there was little doubt. Buffalo gave up six straight goals en route to a hope-extinguishing 8-4 loss.
“It’s unexplainable, unexcusable,” said Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff. “That’s just the way our season went. Just like it did tonight.”
The Sabres held the Rangers in check for the first 18:42 of the opening period, but a Carl Hagelin goal opened the floodgates. Brad Richards would score 57 seconds later, and Ryan Miller would have one of the worst fuck-ups of his career, handing the puck to Ryane Clowe who made it 3-0 with less than four seconds left in the period.
“That’s one of the worst plays I’ve made while I’ve been here,” said Miller. “Just shitty timing.”
New York scored early in the second, with Anton Stralman and Brad Richards extending the lead, as the Rangers opened up a 5-0 lead in a span of 2:58 of play. Rick Nash made it 6-0 before Buffalo finally found the board.
Cody Hodgson, Nathan Gerbe, Drew Stafford and Mark Pysyk, with the first of his NHL career, scored for the Sabres, who are now officially relegated to watching the postseason.
Miller was pulled after the fourth Rangers goal, giving up four goals on 14 shots. Jhonas Enroth didn’t fare much better, stopping 11 shots and allowing four goals as well. Ryan Callahan also scored for New York, and Brad Richards finished the hat trick midway through the third period.
Thanks to the shitshow in Boston this week, the NHL postponed what would’ve been a trip to Pittsburgh to play the Pens tomorrow. Now, the Sabres are off until Monday. Time to let it sink in.
- Glad to see the media piling on game presentation for not referencing the fact the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings was caught. Could’ve been an emotional moment, huge missed opportunity. The crowd has been awful all season, and in a do-or-die game, they were even worse tonight. Everyone in that department deserves a pink slip based on performance alone. Letting this shit continue is just accepting below-average results.
- John Scott played 11:00 tonight. The man has not scored a goal since November of 2009. What did I just say about accepting below-average results again?
- Ron Rolston got fiery in his postgame press conference when an unnamed Buffalo News reporter who may or may not drive a white van offered some weak questions. Few media in the room desired to break it up. Can only speak for myself, but it was enjoyable. Read the rest of this entry
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
At least the whole country got a taste of this mess.
In a battle of two struggling teams trying to maintain any semblance of playoff hopes, it was the Capitals who walked away with two points and the Sabres walking away with a 5-3 loss in our glorious global superpower nation’s capital.
Searching for another strong start, Buffalo was able to keep the Capitals off the scoreboard for a respectable 19 seconds, as legendary hockey GM Mike Milbury’s favorite player, Alex Ovechkin opened the scoring. That was actually the high point of the first period, which was an overall craptacular period of hockey.
Buffalo would tie it just 12 seconds into the second period, as Cody Hodgson scored his 11th of the year. Washington came back with three straight before Brian Flynn scored his third to make it 4-2 after two.
Hodgson would add another in the third to cut the deficit to one before Washington’s Mathieu Perrault added an insurance marker for the Caps, who jump the Sabres in the Eastern Conference standings. The Sabres now sit in 14th, while the Caps move up to 13th.
Ryan Miller made 20 saves for Buffalo.
- Mark Pysyk looked pretty solid in his NHL debut. Really came out calm and make some smart plays in the first. He looked bad on the fifth goal, but that was really his only hiccup in 14:55 of TOI.
- The game Steve Ott played tonight is the game you really want out of him when he’s not scoring. He was a pest all night, drew a couple penalties and really was all up in Washington’s shit. He didn’t get on the scoresheet, but he was effective.
- Personally, I would’ve gone with Jhonas Enroth in goal tonight. His last performance merited another start. This was the best situation you could ask for. Don’t know when he gets in again. Maybe on the Florida road trip? Read the rest of this entry
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
Barring a trade, which seems unlikely, coach Lindy Ruff confirmed this afternoon that the Sabres will start the season with eight defensemen on their roster. Mike Weber, Andrej Sekera and Chris Butler would all have to go through waivers and the Sabres aren’t likely to take that risk to get one of them back to Portland.
Based on the fact Sekera and Butler struggled to get in the lineup at the end of last season, the road is clear for Weber to be the No. 6 defenseman to join Tyler Myers, Craig Rivet, Steve Montador and newcomers Jordan Leopold and Shoane Morrisonn. Provided, of course, Weber doesn’t stub his toe in the exhibition season.
“You always look at it that you can never have enough defensemen,” Ruff said. “It’s always tough when you have extra around but you get one or two hurt and that makes it tough on the team.”
Well, if you’ve got a surplus, why don’t you move one? Not that easy.
Darcy Regier isn’t the type to make a move for the sake of making it, especially not unless he’s getting at least what he feels is fair value in exchange. And to give up on a player he drafted? Fat chance. Read the rest of this entry