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
Sure, looking at the standings, Monday night’s game in Winnipeg (a vacation destination listed somewhere between Sarajevo and Chernobyl on the countdown of “Most Desirable Places To Visit”) looked like a big game. The Sabres, just two points behind the 8th place Thrashers-at-heart, could’ve jumped ahead with a regulation win.
Had it not been at the conclusion of a roadtrip that helped resurrect the team’s season, it might’ve been a do-or-die situation. But thanks to wins at Anaheim, San Jose and Vancouver, arguably, they were already playing with house money. Four-for-four wasn’t in the cards. Oh well.
Buffalo surrendered a lead for the first time in more than two weeks and rarely looked threatening in a 3-1 loss to the team they renamed the Jets.
Ryan Miller, who was sublime for the first three games of the trip, looked solid, but his 28 saves on 31 shots was not enough to steal any points.
Corey Tropp scored for Buffalo.
The Sabres looked lifeless for most of the game, showing signs of wear after three hard-fought wins before getting sent to play in poor conditions against a rested team.
Buffalo now sits four points out of a playoff spot, while still maintaining a game in hand. Winnipeg, clearly a better team in their AHL-sized home rink, plays just six games there for the remainder of the season. They have the 25th best road record in the NHL. Needless to say, the 8th spot is there for the taking.
- Pretty shocked Lindy Ruff didn’t juggle lines a bit to find something other than the fourth line that might’ve shown something. The top line of Derek Roy, Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville looked atrocious. They were each -2 and played under 17 minutes. Your top line is supposed to step up. They didn’t.
- Seriously, when you’re down two in the final minutes and Matt Ellis is on the ice, your team has problems. Read the rest of this entry
Facing the 15th-best team in the Eastern Conference should fall into that category. Saturday night’s game in New York didn’t fall into the “win” category, though.
Despite another phenomenal performance from rookie Jhonas Enroth, Buffalo couldn’t get the goal support or the defense it needed, dropping a 4-2 defeat to the last place Islanders.
“When you don’t execute exits out of your zone, you have a hard time generating much at the other end,” Ruff said. “On the bright side, I did think Jhonas was terrific.”
Enroth’s 36 saves were in most instances timely and crucial to keeping the game close. The Sabres got goals from Patrick Kaleta and Derek Roy, but a late goal by New York’s Michael Grabner was the deciding marker.
Buffalo got a chance to tie the game, as Thomas Vanek got a penalty shot with just 1:24 left, but the team’s leading scorer rang a shot off the post behind Isles goalie Evgeni Nabokov. New York added an empty netter with 30 seconds remaining to seal it.
Next up for the Sabres is a trip to Detroit, where they face the Red Wings on Monday night, winners of 14 straight of Joe Louis Arena. Oh boy.
- Robyn Regehr left with an upper body injury and was deemed as out for the coming games by Lindy Ruff. With Andrej Sekera ready to come back, it won’t necessitate a call-up, but the defense has struggled mightily. Mike Weber has been alright, but right now he’s getting #4 minutes. Marc-Andre Gragnani and Joe Finley looked like a dumpster fire in their own zone for much of the night. Sabres need to get Christian Ehrhoff back badly.
- Derek Roy came through with a big goal to tie the game right after the Isles made it 2-1. The second line finally chipped one in. Oddly enough, it was on a night where the top line wasn’t making an impact on the scoresheet.
- The lack of production from the first line can be correlated with Thomas Vanek getting drilled in the side of the head by a Jochen Hecht shot. Vanek has been taking a beating lately. They can’t afford to lose him. If he’s done, they’re done. Read the rest of this entry
It wasn’t very high, but high enough.
Thanks to two first period goals from the team’s fourth line, solid goaltending, and the team’s leading scorer coming through as usual, Buffalo was able to secure a split to the home-and-home with Toronto, as they pulled out a 3-2 win at First Niagara Center.
Matt Ellis opened the scoring at 1:05, banking in a shot from behind the goal line. The rare fortunate bounce was followed up by Gaustad ripping a wrister past Jonas Gustavsson less than three minutes later.
“We haven’t got many of those,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff admitted in his press conference, referring to the team’s bad luck of late.
Buffalo’s two early goals were answered by the Maple Leafs before the end of the first, as they scored two goals in just 2:46 to even the score.
The tie was broken with just over five minutes remaining in the second, as Thomas Vanek threaded a beautiful pass to Jason Pominville at the back door for the All-Star’s 15th of the season. The Leafs defense failed to notice the captain sneak around the goal to the backside of the crease.
“We should’ve had the coverage in front of the net,” Leafs coach Ron Wilson said after the game.
Ryan Miller made 24 saves for the win, and allowed two goals or less in consecutive games for the first time since October. Jonas Gustavsson allowed three goals on 25 shots to a team he shutout a few days before.
The game wasn’t without the reemergence of the story of the season, as Brayden McNabb left the game with what could be a concussion. Ruff reported that he did in fact visit the “quiet room” and is out for tomorrow’s game on Long Island.
- Getting goals from guys like Paul Gaustad and Matt Ellis is the difference between this being a competitive team and an average team. That depth in offense is crucial. The second and third lines didn’t contribute any themselves. Thanks to Gaustad, Ellis and Patrick Kaleta (two assists) chipping in, they got two points.
- I’ll say there were probably a solid 9-10,000 Leafs fans in the building.
- Derek Roy came out extremely strong and overall had a pretty solid game. He was doing good things with the puck down low, created a couple chances too. Read the rest of this entry
(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 find a bridge.)
It really is the center of the hockey universe. Whether we like it or not.
Living in Buffalo, you get used to Toronto being “right there.” Honestly, it’s a nice perk. I hate Canada in general with a passion, but, to be truthful, I love going to Toronto. It’s beautiful.
I’ve made a habit of heading north to catch Sabres games since the lockout. Thanks to the Sabres’ ownership of the Leafs on the scoreboard since then, it’s been a habitually great trip. Heading into Tuesday, I had attended 15 Sabres/Leafs games at Air Canada Centre, with Buffalo winning 13 of them. Really. When you can leave an opposing arena on a winning note, it makes the trip much more enjoyable.
A couple weeks ago, I found a few standing room only tickets on StubHub for a reasonable $49.99 each. You read that right. Those damn fees turned into $60 each, but I’m a huge fan of the SRO areas at the ACC. You basically stand right at the top of the 300 level, with a birds-eye view of the ice and some space to breathe. Some would look at a $60 ticket that doesn’t include a seat and question it, but I don’t. It’s Toronto. It’s a different world.
So I headed north with some friends eager to see another win. Um, well…
Sabres @ Maple Leafs
Viewed at: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
You can’t win if you don’t score.
Thanks to an impotent offense and 60 minutes without a single powerplay, the Sabres had no chance to win in a 2-0 loss to the Maple Leafs.
First period goals by Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski were plenty of cushion as Jonas Gustavsson got the shutout for Toronto. Ryan Miller made 26 saves in the loss.
Buffalo was in rough shape early, as Thomas Vanek played just four minutes due to illness and left the game during the first period. Without their leading scorer, the Sabres struggled.
“We need to get one and it will make the boys in here feel good and hopefully we can string them on from there,” Sabres forward Drew Stafford said. “We’ve got a great opportunity in the rematch in a couple days.”
Opportunities are only useful if they’re converted.
- The officiating was horrendous both ways. The only penalties called, save for the Patrick Kaleta charging penalty, all required tangible evidence to prompt a call. Stafford put the puck in the crowd. Then Stafford pushed a guy into the net and knocked it off. Then Mike Weber put the puck over the glass. That’s weak.
- Love the atmosphere at Air Canada Centre, but honestly, that was the weakest vibe I’ve experienced there. Crowd was absolutely dead. If I ranked all the games I’ve gone to there in order of quality of atmosphere, that one was 16 out of 16. Shitty intro video doesn’t help get the crowd going either. Read the rest of this entry
For Sabres fans, there’s been plenty of reason to have the feeling that it’s all a lot of oysters, but no pearls.
Of late, it’s hard to come up with new things to say about this team. The pervasive use of “injuries” as an excuse for the team’s poor play has masked many of the team’s problems. Those problems have led to the team losing five of the last six thanks to an absence of offensive depth and the
Friday night, it was just another loss, with the Sabres’ top line being the only effective unit and goaltending that wasn’t going to steal anything. When the clock expired, it was Buffalo on the wrong end again, falling to Washington 3-1.
Struggling superstar Alex Ovechkin scored twice for the Capitals, who got a strong game from former Montreal Canadien Tomas Vokoun.
“I mean, they got a fortunate one on the first one,” right wing Jason Pominville said. “We kind of would like to get a few of those go our way, but that’s just the way it’s been going for us.”
Jochen Hecht scored Buffalo’s only goal, being set up by team MVP’s Thomas Vanek and Pominville.
Unfortunately, the injury excuse just got a little more support, as defenseman Christian Ehrhoff went down with an upper body injury, and could be out “weeks” according to coach Lindy Ruff. Having lost Andrej Sekera the game before, the team’s defense is now decimated with Tyler Myers still on the shelf and no sign that the goaltending will pick up the slack. Ryan Miller stopped 18 of 21 shots against the Capitals.
Buffalo’s last win on the road was December 3rd in Nashville. A team that’s been struggling at home and had the road record to compensate for it isn’t getting wins anywhere. With one game left against Ottawa, the Sabres are 4-7-2 in the month.
Injuries have kept a many players out for extended stretches, but the core of the team has remained in the lineup. Outside of Vanek and Pominville, none of them are contributing.
It’s been a long December, and there’s not much reason to believe right now.
- Derek Roy got killed immediately by fans and media for that awful turnover at the blueline. He’s the new Tim Connolly. I’m not justifying his poor play, I’m just pointing out that he’s going to draw the most ire from fans now. Especially with Ville Leino out.
- Jochen Hecht is producing. He’s honestly been pretty good whenever he’s been healthy. That said, I think it might be a good idea to get him off the top line. Vanek and Pominville are gonna produce with just about anyone in the middle between them. If Hecht is going good and you can put him with Derek Roy or Drew Stafford and get them going, it might be worth a shot. The team’s not winning. Something has to change.
- Mike Weber is a solid #6 defenseman. May eventually be a good #5 blueliner. But right now, he might be the third best defenseman that’s healthy. Yikes. Read the rest of this entry
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
Ryan Miller was fairly solid, making 28 saves in the loss. He was spectacular in the first period and seemed to get hung out to dry on a couple occasions.
Jason Pominville and Derek Roy scored for Buffalo, who have just one win in their last six.
The Sabres took a second period lead as Pominville opened the scoring, but the Leafs answered with two quick goals. Roy tied it early in the third period, but a goal by Nazem Kadri was enough to give Toronto the win.
Buffalo is now 1-4-1 in their last six games.
- Seriously, if Thomas Vanek misses any time, or this is a nagging injury, this team is screwed.
- Brayden McNabb had a really good game. Created a lot offensively, played solid defensively and made an impact physically. If he can string a few of these games together, he should be able to stay in the lineup even after Tyler Myers returns. Being the only defenseman who’s waiver-exempt, he’s going to have to play his way in every night.
- After a strong debut, Derek Whitmore wasn’t as effective tonight. He didn’t seem to be on the same page as linemates Paul Szczechura and Drew Stafford. The team’s lack of centers renders any discussion about whether Whitmore or Szczechura is next to head down the 90 moot. Read the rest of this entry
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
Coming off one of the more uplifting efforts of the season into the second half of a back-to-back (which the team has been strong in this season), one would expect the Buffalo Sabres to come out to play when they visited Pittsburgh Saturday night.
Unfortunately, it appeared to be the complete opposite.
After Ryan Miller gave up four goals in the win Friday night, coach Lindy Ruff decided it might be a good idea to stick with him instead of going with Jhonas Enroth, who had notched a win in Pittsburgh earlier this season.
Miller, who went into the game with a career line against Pittsburgh of 4-9-3 in 17 GP, with a 3.25 GAA and .886 save percentage, apparently was a better choice than Enroth in the eyes of Ruff, despite the rookie’s 1.51 GAA and .950 marks against the Pens.
The choice paid immediate consequences. Pittsburgh’s Jason Williams beat Miller with a 60-footer 2:17 into the game and the Pens led the rest of the way, as Miller surrendered five goals on 15 shots in an 8-3 defeat.
Pittsburgh got a five point night out of Evgeni Malkin, as the superstar’s hat trick and two assists keyed the win.
“I wasn’t good enough,” said Miller, 4-10-3 against Pittsburgh. “I don’t think that was anywhere close to good hockey on my part, so I just have to regroup and recover.”
Thomas Vanek, Luke Adam and Paul Gaustad scored for Buffalo, who trailed the entirety of the game after the first goal.
Miller gave up three goals in 9:43 and gave way to Enroth, who finished the first period allowing one goal. Ruff decided to reinsert Miller to start the second period, where he gave up two goals before Enroth took over after the second intermission. The Penguins added two goals in the third to add insurance.
Buffalo also added a few names to the injury report, as Tyler Ennis and Colin Stuart were both banged up and didn’t finish the game. Ennis indicated after the game that it seemed like a short-term injury, but Ruff said after the game that Stuart will be out “in the month range or something like that.”
- As bad as Miller played, since he admitted he didn’t play well, are we okay with that now? Seems like his attitude after bad games has drawn so much ire in the past, after this effort and his postgame remarks, you’d think it’d be easier to swallow. Nope.
- Incredible stat of the game: Paul Gaustad was +3.
- At this point, there really isn’t much the team can do on the ice but battle with what they’ve got. The injury situation is laughable, and until they get healthy, no qualified decision can be made on exactly what the problem is. When they get to that point, they’re going to need to do something. Read the rest of this entry