Blog Archives

Preseason Overreactions: Sabres shutout Carolina, game result means nothing

20140923Real 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.

Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, Preseason Edition: Sabres fall to Maple Leafs in really, really long shootout

Losing isn’t something the Sabres had done yet. Things were going so well. Optimism was creeping in.

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

Overreactions, 31/48 Edition: Wait, I thought this team was bad?

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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

Overreactions, 29/48 Edition: Loss with a Capital “L”

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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

Overreactions, 22/48 Edition: New invention called “winning streak” all the rage in Buffalo

20130302 millerwinThere was as much reason to expect less as you’d think there was. In the end, the Buffalo Sabres found a way to get it done.

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

The day of reckoning is upon us

As soon as the schedule came out, you looked for it. You looked for the opener, and it was home. Then you looked to see when the first game against Boston was.

Tonight, the demons await.

Ever since Milan Lucic brazenly ran over Ryan Miller in TD Garden, the cloud hanging over the franchise still has yet to dissipate. It’s not just they haven’t won there since that 6-2 loss, including two late season losses by scores of 3-1 and 4-3 that surely could’ve improved the Sabres’ playoff chances. It’s not just that they’re in the midst of a four game losing skid in a shortened season right now.

It’s that this franchise had all their faults exposed in one night and have yet to prove that they’re past it.

That game showed a lack of strength amongst the Sabres, not only to stand up for each other, but to avoid being rattled by it. Ryan Miller wasn’t the same for months. The skid the team went on was a major factor towards another year outside the top eight in the East.

And most notably, the changes to the roster since have all been with that game in mind.

It wasn’t long until they decided it was time for alleged-Lucic-in-waiting prospect Zack Kassian to fill that role in the NHL. They brought him up and saw what few had been trying to point out all along, that he wasn’t that guy. And then Marcus Foligno came up and filled the role better, so Kassian was dealt while his stock was still high.

And they traded Paul Gaustad, who was supposed to be the leader on the ice that night, but stood by idly by. He was gone at the deadline. It was clear that whatever toughness the Sabres thought they had, wasn’t enough. Or at least wasn’t the kind they needed.

It continued over the summer, with Steve Ott being acquired for talented center Derek Roy, and the “enforcer” John Scott being signed as a UFA.

There was no skirting around what this was supposed to be. This was supposed to make the team a group that didn’t allow things like the Lucic hit from ever happening.

So far, that hasn’t worked out well. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 2/48 Edition: Sabres beat Leafs, Earth orbits around Sun

20130121 pominvilleLast season, the Toronto Maple Leafs accomplished something incomprehensible: they swept the season series with the Sabres at the Air Canada Centre.

Luckily, we’ve had enough of that shit.

In the first of two meetings in the center of the hockey universe, Buffalo, fresh off a season-opening win over the Flyers, headed up the Queen Elizabeth Way and defeated the Leafs by a score of 2-1 in Toronto’s home opener.

Buffalo jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Cody Hodgson and American hero Jason Pominville. A late powerplay goal by Toronto’s Nazem Kadri, with the teams skating 6-on-4 made it close, but the Sabres held on.

Ryan Miller was strong in net for Buffalo, stopping 34 of 35 shots. For the second game in a row, he was also the beneficiary of not one but two disallowed goals. In 42 career games against Toronto, Miller now has a record of 28-14.

Thomas Vanek also registered an assist on Pominville’s game winner to retain the NHL scoring lead with six points.

Buffalo sits at 2-0-0 on the season, and next heads to Carolina for the first game of a home-and-home Thursday in Raleigh. Toronto, well, they’re still struggling with that expansion to a 12-team league.

  • At some point, someone other than Vanek, Pominville or Hodgson is going to have to create a goal. They’ve been in on everything so far, and it’s not a concern yet, but it will be soon.
  • Ryan Miller looked locked in most of the night, and made some very good saves. Overall, he seemed completely in control.
  • John Scott with 1:58 of ice time and a fight, which, was alright I guess. After two games, he’s spent 4:08 on the ice and 5:00 in the box. Again, this can’t last. Read the rest of this entry

Delayed Overreactions, 78th Edition: That time the Sabres couldn’t beat Brent Johnson

Things were looking pretty swell at about 7:37 Friday night.

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

Overreactions, 70th Edition: Tyler, Tyler, Tyler

This wasn’t just a game the Sabres need to win, it was a game they had to win. A simply dominating effort couldn’t go to waste. It almost did. But almost doesn’t matter.

Even after allowing a tying goal with just seconds left in regulation, the Buffalo Sabres rebounded quickly and thanks to a Tyler Myers goal 2:01 into the fourth period, defeated Montreal 3-2 in overtime.

Tyler Ennis was the star of the night, scoring both Sabres goals in regulation, including a dazzling marker to tie the game at 1-1 in the second period. Ennis would get credit for another in the third thanks to Montreal’s Alexei Emelin deflecting it past Peter Budaj.

Montreal would tie the game in the dying moments on a goal by David Desharnais, sending it to extra time. Two minutes in, it was Derek Roy finding a trailing Myers in the slot for the finish.

“I think it shows we’ve got good character,” Ennis said. “It can be deflating when you let in a goal with a few seconds left. And we bounce back and score right away in overtime.”

The win moved Buffalo past Winnipeg for 9th place in the East, and trail 8th place Washington by just two points.

Ryan Miller was solid in goal for the Sabres, stopping 26 shots.

  • Why was Marcus Foligno on the ice for the final shift that led to the tying goal? Great, the kid played well, reward him, but not right there. Don’t believe those three forwards (Foligno, Roy and Jason Pominville) played a shift together the whole game until then. It bit them.
  • Obligatory “Tyler Ennis is a superstar in the making whether you think so or not” bullet point. Gotta keep him at center.
  • After missing time with injury, Thomas Vanek had a good game and showed a lot of tenacity. Didn’t seem to me that he was laboring much at all. Came extremely close to getting himself on the scoresheet. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 63rd Edition: He dissed you bad, G!

Ryan Miller didn’t seem too happy yesterday. When pressed about his departed BFF Paul Gaustad, he seemed unsettled by not having the big guy around anymore. Never knowing how Miller will react mentally to things like this, it’d have been easy to have tenuous confidence about Wednesday night’s game in Anaheim.

Miller stepped up. Big time.

A sensational outing from the man in the crease propelled the Sabres to a scrappy 2-0 win over the Ducks at Honda Center. Miller made 43 saves for his fourth shutout of the season.

The first 40 minutes were a solid effort from the Sabres, jumping out to a two goal lead on a powerplay goal by Derek Roy in the first and a tip-in from Brad Boyes in the second.

For the Ducks, the roosters were crowing and cows were spinning circles in the pasture, as they came out flying in the third period. Anaheim outshot Buffalo 20-4 in the final frame, but couldn’t crack Miller.

Things got chippy at the end, as the Ducks’ frustration boiled over. Three scraps in the final minute, featuring Anaheim stars such as Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry marred the end of a solid night for the Sabres.

New acquisition Cody Hodgson looked sharp in his debut in blue and gold, earning a +1 in 16:04 of ice time while ripping four shots and winning 5-of-8 at the faceoff dot. Hodgson was centering Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford, and the line looked dangerous for most of the night.

The Sabres now fly directly to San Jose for the second half of the back-to-back against the Sharks.

  • Hodgson was as-advertised, despite not picking up a point. He was buzzing all over the ice and didn’t hesitate shooting. He had a nice opportunity on a 2-on-1 with Tyler Ennis, but couldn’t beat Jonas Hiller. A nice effort to settle into the lineup.
  • On Ennis, he had a good look at an empty net, but made what looked like an unselfish play to try to find Drew Stafford in the middle. One with a killer instinct would look for him to shoot. One looking for team play would be cool with that decision. One named Al Iafrate would think Tyler’s a good egg.
  • Corey Tropp’s name shows up here a lot. Tonight was another good effort. He drew a boarding penalty that led to the Boyes goal. He threw down with Matt Beleskey. Can’t hate on the kid, dude just brings it. Read the rest of this entry
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