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Preseason Overreactions: Visiting Leafs defeat Sabres in surprisingly entertaining exhibition

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 10.45.41 PMNothing better than a Friday night game featuring two regional rivals, right? Maybe not for the 3,000-ish fans who probably ate their tickets and didn’t come to First Niagara Center, but for everyone who came to see some hockey, it was a treat.

Beginning a home-and-home set in Buffalo, the Toronto Maple Leafs knocked off the Sabres in a very heated preseason tilt by a score of 6-4.

Sabres goaltender Michal Neuvirth had an awful game, surrendering four goals on his first seven shots against and struggling on his way to the loss. In his first action of the preseason, Neuvirth finished with 16 saves.

“I was having a tough time finding the puck tonight,” Neuvirth said after the game.

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The game was noticeably chippy, as three-ish fights broke out (not sure Tyler Myers and Toronto’s Sam Carrick going at it really counted) as Drew Stafford, Chris Stewart and Cody McCormick all picked up majors for fisticuffs.

Buffalo’s offense did have some life, most notably the stick of Chris Stewart, who tallied twice in the first period. The Sabres also got goals from Jake McCabe and Cody McCormick, but they trailed for the final 44:39 of the game.

James Reimer made 34 saves for the Leafs, as these two teams meet again on Sunday at Air Canada Centre.

  • Safe to bet that Jhonas Enroth has a good chance to roll into the season as the team’s starting goaltender. Just a thought.
  • Hell of a game out of Chris Stewart. His backhand goal early was fantastic, a great shot from that position. If he shows he can be a solid power forward for this team, that’ll be great for when they deal him before the deadline.
  • Was honestly surprised at how few Leafs fans were in attendance. Friday night, cheap tickets… what’s the excuse? Traffic?
  • Tim Schaller made his quasi-debut for the Sabres, and he probably earned himself a recall at some point during the season. Numbers game may force him out to start the season, but he’s the kind of guy Ted Nolan is going to adore.

Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions: There actually was a hockey game tonight

475668991_slideIt’s hard to sum up this game tonight. There was a game. It was an NHL regular season hockey game. It counted in the standings, but no one who has a twitter or was around people likely got invested in this game. It was a sideshow.

The impending trade of Ryan Miller finally happened. The impending trade of Steve Ott finally happened. And in one instant, the sense of dread on the horizon became a reality. And the Sabres played on.

While the team out on the ice walked away with a 4-2 win over the visiting San Jose Sharks, there’s not much to take from it. Jhonas Enroth was sensational. Brian Flynn scored again. Tyler Myers actually had a really good game.

And now, two points later, everything is different. The fact the team is currently riding a three game win streak out of the Olympic break is completely irrelevant. The soul of the team is forever changed. And even while Cody Hodgson, Matt Moulson, Flynn and Myers scored in a Sabres win at home on a Friday night, it doesn’t seem quite right. You don’t normally spend the third period’s television timeouts applauding for guys who aren’t on your team.

But the game’s a final, and Sunday, the team will take off out west for a roadtrip, and some of the guys on the plane may not be coming back to Buffalo on the same plane. They may have played their last game here. Matt Moulson, who scored the game winner tonight in maybe his last game as a Sabre (god, we can do this for everybody) wasn’t a story tonight.

There was a game. And I don’t think it matters too much right now.

  • Picked a hell of a game to show up late. Team was already out for warmups by the time I got to the press box.
  • Funny that you naturally didn’t want to put two and two together when Tim Murray missed his WGR spot at 5:30. It’d be too easy to assume there’d be a trade. Turns out, there was.
  • Good to see Enroth step up and have a game like that when he needed to grab the reins and earn a shot at being the #1 guy for the rest of the way. He will be. He’ll get his shot. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions: Penguins (talented) beat Sabres (not so much)

467052031_slideMaybe if you watched the first ten minutes of this game, you thought the result might be in doubt. If you watched the last fifty, you knew better.

Even despite jumping out to a quick 1-0 lead on the Eastern Conference leading Penguins, the Sabres couldn’t take advantage of early chances before the giant awoke. The result of that is Pittsburgh dominating Buffalo en route to a 5-1 decision in the last game at First Niagara Center before the NHL’s Olympic hiatus.

Drew Stafford scored just under six minutes into the game, but that would be the only time Penguins’ netminder Marc-Andre Fleury would be solved. Buffalo got other chances, but Matt Ellis and Zemgus Girgensons couldn’t quite get it done and the lead was nothing but tenuous.

Then the beast came to life.

A rough hit from Steve Ott on Penguins star Harry Zolnierczyk seemed to rile up the NBC darlings. Zolnierczyk would tie the game late in the first period, and it was over from there. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin each scored highlight reel goals in the second, and Brian Gibbons and James Neal added third period insurance goals.

“That’s a good team over there that’s obviously playing extremely well,” Ott said. “We shot ourselves in the foot with a couple of turnovers in the second, but there’s no lack of passion. Every guy is out there working hard trying to compete.”

Ryan Miller, looking to impress Team USA coach Dan Bylsma on the other bench, was solid but helpless, making 29 saves and getting hung out to dry on many occasions.

  • Lots of Penguins fans in the crowd at FNC. Games against Pittsburgh are the right time to play the “Hey Penguins fan, do you know who Lasse Pirjeta or Tomas Surovy is?”
  • Speaking of those guys, we’d all love to have a guy like Malkin or Crosby right? Here is a good reminder of what it takes to get one of those guys. Embrace it, because in the end, we’ll have guys on our team scoring goals like those in the second period. And I’ll take that over hearing the word “compete” on a daily basis 11 times out of ten.
  • Mike Weber on the first Pittsburgh goal, top to bottom, was a complete mess. Sabres were possessing the puck well, moving up ice, and he gets it and fires it into the corner. Pittsburgh easily collects it, goes the other way and he chases them into the corner. By the time he gets there, the puck is headed to the front of the net and Zolnierczyk has all the time in the world to beat Miller. That shift in itself gets him cut from good teams. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions: Capitals’ stars Ovechkin & Green star in overtime win over Sabres

465692425_slideThings didn’t start well for Sabres goaltender Jhonas Enroth. They didn’t end well either.

Three times the Buffalo Sabres erased deficits to force overtime, but the Washington Capitals prevailed in a 5-4 overtime loss at First Niagara Center.

Enroth was beaten twice early by Washington’s engimatic star, Alexander Ovechkin, to give the visitors a 2-0 lead in the first five minutes. Ovechkin would add two assists, including the set up of Mike Green’s overtime winner exactly one minute into the extra period.

The Sabres did show a lot of compete, as they battled back from 2-0, 3-2 and 4-3 deficits to force the game past regulation. Cody Hodgson scored twice, once to tie the game at 2-2 and later to make it 4-4. Buffalo also got goals from Christian Ehrhoff and Phil Varone, who scored his first NHL goal in the second period.

Enroth battled throughout the night, but in the end, came up with another loss to fall to 1-10-5 on the season, making 30 saves.

It’s hard to win with this team, I guess.

  • Few things are more enjoyable than being at a game and seeing a kid score his first goal in the National Hockey League. It’s the greatest milestone in hockey, and it’s a lifetime of hard work coming full circle. Congrats to Phil Varone, who’ll keep that puck the rest of his life.
  • I’m not sure if Ted Nolan knows or supports line matching. I wonder because he willingly put the fourth line featuring noted shutdown winger John Scott out against Washington’s top line. Almost bit them in the ass, as Washington got a great opportunity but didn’t score. If you’re worried about winning, that shouldn’t happen.
  • Also on Nolan, I’ve taken the time to focus and wait for him to say the word “compete” during a postgame press conference. The buzzword of all buzzwords wasn’t a focus. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions: Panthers edge Sabres in regulation

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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

Overreactions: Tank marches on, Sabres surrender late goal to Flyers

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That was a close one.

Just when you thought the Sabres were out, there they go and pull you right back in. And before you know it, they’re right back out.

After Tyler Ennis tied the game with 3:13 remaining, it was Vincent Lecavalier’s dagger for Philadelphia with 14.8 seconds left that handed the Buffalo Sabres a 4-3 loss.

“That’s a game we could’ve won that slipped away,” said Cody Hodgson, who opened the scoring seven minutes into the game.

Philadelphia dominated the second period, tying the game early on a Jakub Voracek powerplay goal as they outshot Buffalo 12-7.

The Sabres retook the lead 6:27 into the third, as Matt D’Agostini put one past Flyers goalie Steve Mason after a dominant shift with Steve Ott and Cody Hodgson. And then the floodgates opened.

Philadelphia’s Brayden Schenn tied it up seven minutes later and then the Flyers took the lead for the first time on the night as Scott Hartnell ripped one over Jhonas Enroth’s shoulder. The Sabres would even it less than a minute later on Ennis’ goal, but in the end it was another mark in the loss column.

Enroth was sensational for most of the night, stopping 29 of 33 shots.

“It’s tough right now to think about how we lost that one, but we’ve got another game tomorrow. We can’t dwell on it,” said Hodgson.

  • Mike Weber was not good. He ended up playing the third most minutes, which if you’re trying to tank, is cool. But not a coincidence seeing the result.
  • Enroth took a little heat for saying it was “tough to win with this team” after his last loss because of lack of goal support. Now he looks like a dick for getting goal support and not winning. It’s not like he didn’t play well. He’s having a rough go lately.
  • That shift that ended in the D’Agostini goal by him, Ott and Hodgson was absolutely fantastic. Very entertaining. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions: Sabres defeat Devils in hockey game

460610051_slideReturning home from a two-game roadtrip where they got worked in two losses, the Sabres hoped the comforts of home would put them back on track. And they did.

Facing a Devils team playing the second half of a back-to-back, Buffalo, on the strength of a powerplay that helped them generate over half their shots and both goals, walked away with a 2-1 win at a sold out First Niagara Center.

Matt Moulson and Matt D’Agostini scored for Buffalo, as they won their fifth consecutive home game.

Moulson opened the scoring late in the second period, jamming home a loose puck from the top of the crease, his 14th of the year.

For D’Agostini, he finally tallied his first goal as a Buffalo Sabre, putting home a rebound with just over eight minutes remaining in the third period. Good work by Steve Ott and Linus Omark, who tallied his first point as a Sabre on the play, created the opportunity.

“I went in there and the puck was just laying there,” said D’Agostini.

The Sabres shockingly got a solid night out of Ryan Miller, who made 21 saves and got the win. Only a Michael Ryder goal on a two-man advantage blemished his outing.

Buffalo is now off until Tuesday, when they face Carolina in the second game of a three game homestand.

  • Tyler Myers should probably get suspended for that hit on Dainius Zubrus in the third period.
  • I hate that Mike Weber or anyone else has to fight after a big hit. It’s ok to hit people. If it’s a cheap shot, knock yourself out, but a good clean hit should be respected and not punished.
  • For everyone in Buffalo that wants to see Ryan Miller start in Sochi, you better start making a bigger deal out of it or it won’t happen. Not one “U-S-A” chant in the first game since the roster was announced, even after multiple impressive saves. Gotta start getting to word out, people.
  • Zenon Konopka was not overly impressive in 11:37 making his Sabres debut. Whatever. We’ll see where it goes.
  • John Scott took a penalty, not for being John Scott, or for being targeted by officials, but for doing something against the rules. It happens. Not everything makes him a victim. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions: Sabres now unstoppable, score goals and win second in a row

458006505_slideIt can get a bit redundant writing about losses ad nauseum. I mean, we know what the deal is this season, but still. And then you have a game like this, and you realize you forgot how much more fun winning is.

And the Sabres, for the second game in a row, did just that.

With the despised Boston Bruins in town, Buffalo rebounded from a 2-1 second period deficit with a 4-2 victory at First Niagara Center.

Drew Stafford and Tyler Myers both scored their third of the season in a 1:20 span in the final minutes of regulation to provide the margin of victory. Stafford, who has struggled offensively this season, finally got one to go in after missing a few solid chances early on.

“I had to stick with it. Sooner or later one was going to have to go in,” said Stafford.

Buffalo also got goals from Brian Flynn and Marcus Foligno. Flynn was the first star of the game, adding an assist as he finished +3. Foligno also finished with two points, assisting on Myers’ insurance goal.

Ryan Miller got the win in goal, as he stopped 34 of 36 shots. Brad Marchand had both goals for the Bruins.

The teams finish their home-and-home set Saturday night in Boston.

  • So happy for Drew Stafford. He gets a lot of shit from fans and media (merited on results), but you can’t question his effort. It’s bound to come eventually. Is “progression to the mean” a thing? Because he’d be due for that.
  • Brian Flynn is awesome.
  • Said it during the game, but I’ve frequently mentioned how I want “Bridge Burning” by Foo Fighters to be used for the team’s intro video. They played it during the game, right after Mike Weber went after Milan Lucic. The next faceoff was at center ice after Flynn scored. Not saying, just saying. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, Preseason Edition: Enroth, Sabres shutout Columbus

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

Overreactions, 45/48 Edition: Sabres lose, tee times await

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You could say the Sabres went down swinging. You could say that, but you’d be wrong. It was worse than that.

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
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