No matter the circumstances, preseason or regular season, it’s hard to know what to expect after Sunday’s shitshow in Toronto. The circus of the last couple days really had nothing to do with tonight’s game, and it showed.
Not a fight, scrum or scrap to be seen, as the Buffalo Sabres rode the solid goaltending of Jhonas Enroth and steady defense in front of him to a 3-0 win over the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets.
Buffalo jumped out to a lead early in the second period as Ville Leino finished a rebound from a Cody Hodgson shot as the team skated 6-on-5 on a delayed penalty. With Enroth on the bench for the extra attacker, the team generated multiple chances before Leino scored his first of the preseason.
That was all the offense they’d need, as Enroth stopped 26 shots to earn his first win.
“I don’t think it was that tough of a game on me, actually,” said Enroth. “Overall it was a pretty easy game.”
Third period goals by Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons provided the insurance for the Sabres, who moved to 4-1-1 on the exhibition season. Defenseman Mike Weber added assists on all three Buffalo goals.
Buffalo has one more game before they play for keeps, Friday night in Carolina.
- Joel Armia played his last shift late in the second period and would leave the game with a hand injury. His line with Grigorenko and Girgensons looked really good, so it was disappointing that he disappeared. Sabres coach Ron Rolston was unsure of his status after the game.
- Weber’s three secondary assists look better in the box score than they did on the ice. He honestly had a pretty good game. Funny how he’s turned from a fringe defenseman to a solid veteran in the matter of a year or two.
- Hey Sabres, maybe don’t have your PR arm brag about the fact you didn’t bother to televise 6 of the team’s 7 preseason games. That needs to change next year, because things like Sunday should convince you that it’s worth the effort. 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
Their opponent had limited quality scoring opportunities and good work in the offensive zone gave them a solid 2-0 lead after 20 minutes. But this is the 2012-2013 Buffalo Sabres.
Ottawa stormed back in the second period with three goals, and scored the winner in overtime as they defeated Buffalo by a score of 4-3. Kyle Turris won it with the Senators enjoying the extra man thanks to a Christian Ehrhoff penalty halfway through the extra period.
The Sabres salvaged a point thanks to a third period equalizer by Drew Stafford, who scored his second of the game with approximately eight minutes left. It was his second of the game, doubling his season goal total.
“We gave them a point tonight,” said defenseman Mike Weber, who tallied his first goal of the season. “It’s extremely upsetting. I don’t know what else to say.”
Goals by Patrick Wiercioch, Chris Phillips and Kyle Turris turned the game around for Ottawa, who outshot the Sabres 15-9 in the second. Buffalo, by virtue of the point earned in overtime, temporarily moved into 12th place in the East.
Ryan Miller stopped 30 shots in the loss.
“We’ve got to put together a hell of a stretch here just to have a chance to get in the playoffs. To go to sleep there for 20, it’s extremely disappointing,” said Weber.
- Ville Leino looked really good in his season debut. He picked up an assist on the Weber goal, and was in position to get a piece of it on its way through. It’s hard to gauge how his absence has effected the team. As much as he draws the ire of many, the team is better with him than without him.
- Not sure I’d have called it “interference,” but Christian Ehrhoff definitely earned that penalty in overtime.
- Hopefully, Drew Stafford gained some confidence with his two goals. He earned them how he should be earning them regularly: going to the front of the net and getting pucks on goal. If anyone could use a little hot streak, it’s him. Read the rest of this entry
The loss to New Jersey Thursday night was a lost opportunity among few remaining to reinsert their playoff hopes into discussion. After a couple days off, there was another, with the chance to vault two teams with a win over struggling 11th place Philadelphia.
It turned out well.
Facing a team that was such a mess as recently as the day before that they needed a closed-door, players only meeting after a pathetic performance in a loss, the Sabres came out flat and never really put themselves in position to win. They lost, falling to the Flyers in a 3-2 loss on national television.
Buffalo fell behind 2-0 before the game was even halfway through the first period. Sabres rookie Brian Flynn scored his second in as many games to cut the lead in half before the end of the opening frame.
Claude Giroux scored 17 seconds into the second period to give Philadelphia the margin they would need. Jochen Hecht scored a shorthanded goal in the third period, but Buffalo couldn’t tie it.
Ryan Miller stopped 25 of 28 shots in the loss for the Sabres.
- The Foligno-Porter-Flynn line was really good throughout the game. Flynn notched a goal, Porter added an assist and was named third star of the game. That can be one hell of a fourth line if this team is any good.
- Speaking of Flynn, his goal was possible because of a subtly-brilliant play just prior to it in the shift. With Philadelphia collapsing around the net, Flynn collected the puck above the faceoff dot. Instead of throwing it towards the net into traffic, he spotted Foligno on the far post and threw it into the far corner boards. Foligno easily won the race to the puck and the Sabres continued to work the puck around, eventually scoring. Possession likely doesn’t continue if not for that heads up play.
- Hopefully Jochen Hecht keeps scoring so someone might look at the scoreline and think he’d be a useful pickup at the deadline. Read the rest of this entry
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
They’ve been performing at levels that can be described somewhere between “garbage” and “R. Kelly’s Doo Doo Butter” since they had their hallmark-at-the-time win over their opponent on the night, the Boston Bruins. And Boston is quite good, despite a record against the Sabres that says otherwise.
But there go the Sabres, walking away with a 4-2 victory against the team with the second best record in the conference.
Drew Stafford gave Buffalo an early lead with his first goal of the season. That lead would disappear as Boston climbed out to a 2-1 advantage mere minutes into the second period. But thanks to some fantastic goaltending, they never extended it. Ryan Miller was sensational when he had to be, keeping the Sabres in it when they probably shouldn’t have been. He made 30 saves and got the help from the posts as well to keep Boston from pulling away.
“He’s the backbone of this team,” said Stafford. “It’s up to us to put the puck in the net and win some games for him.”
Buffalo would steal the game in the third period with goals from Tyler Myers, Christian Ehrhoff and Cody Hodgson. Boston registered just three shots on goal in the final 20 minutes.
“As much as they outplayed us in the first couple periods, we came out and played our game and turned the game around,” said Ehrhoff.
- Congrats to Boston’s Dougie Hamilton on his first NHL goal. Wish the Sabres would’ve shown some respect and announced that with the goal like they would if it was a Buffalo rookie. It’s a milestone achievement, it’d be a nice acknowledgement. The kid played junior hockey in what you consider your market, people would’ve appreciated it.
- Steve Ott ended up with 11 hits, the most since Paul Gaustad had 10 in the Winter Classic over five years ago. Honestly, I didn’t expect to see that number that high. He was definitely throwing the body around, but that’s crazy. Boston’s Milan Lucic had a physical game and he finished with 5. Read the rest of this entry
The Sabres were hot, sitting in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot, and the visitors to First Niagara Center were sending their sieve backup goaltender to face Buffalo.
Things didn’t turn out so swell.
Two guys named Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were unstoppable for Pittsburgh and even the weakest of goaltending performances was enough to hand the Sabres a 5-3 loss.
Crosby had a goal and three assists and Malkin, the league’s leading scorer, added a goal and an assist to give backup goaltender Brent Johnson enough support to get the win in his first game since being chased on Hockey Day in America back in February.
“We won’t beat this thing to death,” Sabres defenseman Jordan Leopold said. “There’s a simple formula, we just move forward. We know we can play better.”
Leopold, Tyler Ennis and Thomas Vanek scored for Buffalo, who struggled to bury their chances against Johnson, who was shaky throughout the night.
Ryan Miller stopped 29 shots for Buffalo, who struggled defensively without Christian Ehrhoff, out with a knee injury.
- It was Fan Appreciation Night at First Niagara Center, which is great except for the fact that there were about 5,000 Pens fans there. Oddly enough, they celebrated it before the last home game, due to the influx of visiting fans for the finale. More evidence to the problems the organization is having with the crowd and atmosphere.
- By my count, Brent Johnson didn’t actually catch a puck until midway through the third period. How that guy is an NHL goaltender is beyond me. The pure brilliance of Pittsburgh’s defense kept the Sabres to three goals.
- Marcus Foligno was near invisible on the team’s best line. Not taking away anything from what he’s done, but looking individually at this game, he wasn’t very good. Read the rest of this entry
Left for dead not long ago, the Sabres won’t go away. Somehow, they’re getting themselves back into the playoff picture, and the wins keep finding their way to Buffalo.
Facing the defending Cup champs and Northeast Division leading Boston Bruins at First Niagara Center on Friday night, both teams played well enough not to lose. Since the game has to be decided eventually, the shootout handed the Sabres two points and a 2-1 victory.
Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy scored in the shootout, and Ryan Miller only allowed one goal after stopping 35 of 36 shots in the game.
Andrej Sekera gave the Sabres their only lead of the night with just over five minutes remaining in the second period. Boston came out gunning in the third, outshooting the Sabres 15-5 and tying the game on a powerplay goal by Zdeno Chara.
“I think we got on our heels a little bit in the third,” said Lindy Ruff after the game.
Buffalo held on, and even killed a late Thomas Vanek penalty that ran into overtime without surrendering the deciding goal.
The Sabres now move to 27-27-7 on the season, good enough for 11th in the Eastern Conference and just five points behind 8th place Florida.
The Panthers sit at 66 points, one back of Southeast Division leader Winnipeg with four games in hand. For all intents and purposes, Buffalo is chasing the Jets, who at 63 games played, hold a tenuous spot in the playoff picture.
- Having played three incredibly intense games so far this season, these teams played one absolute stinker tonight. Animosity was limited. Each team doled out only 20 hits through 65 minutes of action. Very few scrums. It was an incredibly lackluster game to watch considering the previous efforts.
- Ryan Miller has been the backbone of the Sabres’ resurgence. In his last 13 outings, he’s allowed more than two goals just four times. He is 8-2-2 in that stretch. His save percentage is up to .910 on the season.
- Good for Andrej Sekera to get rewarded for his great play with a goal. It was a nice play by Ennis to set it up, and Sekera filled in a open lane to perfection. Guy has been a rock lately, even in limited ice time.
- Liked Corey Tropp getting the recall, and even with taking two penalties, he brought a good game. The kid plays with energy, physicality, and he actually has hands. I’m ready to put him on the fourth line next year. Read the rest of this entry
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
Hot off the presses is the third edition of “The Instigator Podcast” featuring Chris Ostrander of Two In the Box and myself.
In this episode, we talk trades, trade deadline, what direction the Sabres might go, take some fan questions and play a game of “Plus/Minus” for the first time.