Blog Archives

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

Instigator Podcast #6: Codylicious

Please make way for the sixth edition of “The Instigator Podcast” featuring Chris Ostrander of Two In the Box and myself.

This week’s episode breaks down the NHL Trade Deadline, and the Sabres moves. We talk how awesome it is to have Cody Hodgson, how awesome it is that Darcy got a 1st for Gaustad, all the other deals and play Plus/Minus.

Comments, suggestions and music requests can be directed to us. Let us know below or on twitter, @3rdManIn or @2ITB_Buffalo.

Sabres ship Gaustad to Nashville

As first reported by USA Today’s Kevin Allen, the Sabres were indeed active prior to the NHL’s trade deadline.

Buffalo traded pending unrestricted free agent center Paul Gaustad and a fourth round pick to the Nashville Predators for their 1st round pick.

Gaustad, 30, is on the verge of hitting the market on the expiry of his current deal, which has a cap hit of $2.3 million. The Fargo, North Dakota native spent his entire career with the Sabres after being drafted in the 7th round of the 2000 NHL Draft.

In 479 NHL games, he accumulated 71 goals and 181 points over eight seasons. He grew into a leader on the team, filling a key role on the team’s penalty kill unit while being a faceoff ace.

There was much debate heading towards 3:00 eastern about Darcy Regier seeking too high of a return on Gaustad, but in the end, he got his pick.

The Preds, who are likely going to battle for home ice in the 4/5 matchup out West, are getting a key faceoff guy to fill out their bottom six. With other pending free agents such as Ryan Suter and pending restricted free agent Shea Weber, Nashville’s going for it now.

 

Litmus test awaits Sabres at MSG

A few weeks ago, this scenario seemed unlikely. The Buffalo Sabres were floundering and looked destined to spend their April hoping to win the lottery rather than a playoff series.

But that’s not where they sit tonight. They sit directly on the fence. Facing their last game before Monday’s NHL trade deadline, the course of action is far from obvious.

After last night’s victory over the Boston Bruins, the Buffalo Sabres sit only a handful of points out of a playoff spot, with the number standing at five heading into tonight’s game against the New York Rangers. Thanks to a 3-0-1 run in their recent four game homestand, the Sabres turned a battle for 15th into a battle back into the picture.

This streak of success this month has turned a wayward season into a decision whether or not to try to save this season or leave it to die on the operating table, and tonight is the last chance to decide. The opponent couldn’t be better selected.

Facing the Sabres tonight is the perfect test they could ask for. They head to New York to face the 1st place Rangers, who are running away with the top spot, currently holding a seven point lead on Boston. Hart Trophy candidate Henrik Lundqvist will get the start in goal. It couldn’t be a better situation. Read the rest of this entry

Instigator Podcast #5: Meeting Deadline

The moment you’ve all been waiting for, the fifth edition of “The Instigator Podcast” featuring Chris Ostrander of Two In the Box and myself is out.

This week it’s all about the deadline, we talk Rick Nash & Columbus, what the Sabres might do, what they can do, some twitter comments and a special bonus edition of Plus/Minus.

Comments & suggestions can be directed to us. Let us know below or on twitter, @3rdManIn or @2ITB_Buffalo.

Overreactions, 59th Edition: Sabres get a win for America

With a national audience watching at home, one could’ve easily argued before the game that the Sabres didn’t deserve the attention. Sitting 14th in the Eastern Conference, Buffalo is far from a marquee attraction, and being a part of NBC’s Hockey Day In America may have seemed unreasonable.

In the end, they knew how to impress a crowd.

The Buffalo Sabres, winless in their last four, jumped on the Penguins early and led for over 59 minutes of the game en route to a 6-2 win in Sunday matinee action.

Early goals by American immigrant hero Jason Pominville and Derek Roy gave the Sabres a lead they would never surrender in the opening minutes. Fargo, North Dakota native Paul Gaustad’s early second period goal, assisted by Oxford, Michigan’s own Nathan Gerbe and Jordan Leopold of Golden Valley, Minnesota, would prove to be the game winner.

Pittsburgh cut the lead to 3-2 before Milwaukee’s best Drew Stafford added an insurance goal. Buffalo pulled away on goals by Derek Roy and a highlight-reel score by Tyler Ennis.

Roy had his first three point night since November, tallying two goals and an assist. Pominville added two assists with his goal, giving him a team leading 57 points.

Ryan Miller, the East Lansing, Michigan product, stopped 24 of 26 shots to get the win.

Buffalo, thanks to a superb effort by the line of Gaustad, Gerbe, and Angola, New York’s Patrick Kaleta, kept Evgeni Malkin, the league’s leading scorer, in check. Malkin had just one assist and won only 2-of-11 faceoffs.

  • Tyler Ennis is a restricted free agent this summer. Sign him for as long as you can. Sign him for life. The kid is gonna be a star. That goal was the kind of goal that John Tavares would score and people would drool. He’s got skill, tenacity and is one of the most exciting players to watch.
  • Sure, Derek Roy made a great play driving to the net for his shorthanded goal, but holy crap Jason Pominville had an incredible shift. Pominville twice collected passes from the defense and brought them into the zone, only to clear them back to the awaiting defense to kill time. On the rush with the goal, he called for the puck, brought it into the zone and drew two defenders before threading an unbelievably perfect pass to Roy.
  • Paul Gaustad had the kind of game that makes contenders drool. A hard working goal, great defensive game, and 16/23 on faceoffs. Sabres can collect quite a haul for this guy. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 57th Edition: Too bad games aren’t 20 minutes

Yeah, it is too bad.

It’s too bad that the Buffalo Sabres came into Philadelphia with playoff hopes nearing non-existent. It’s too bad that after heading to the locker rooms at the first intermission with a 2-0 lead, it didn’t last more than a few minutes into the second period. It’s too bad that Ryan Miller’s rare night off lasted just under 27 minutes.

Blowing a lead is bad, but that’s not what happened here. Surrendering a lead and walking into a woodchipper is more like it.

Early goals by Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek, the only two players the team has been able to rely on all season, gave Buffalo an early lead en route to a 7-2 loss to the Flyers.

“This time of year, it’s unacceptable to get a lead like that and blow it,” Pominville said. “In the first, we had control, we generated chances and didn’t give up much. Then the momentum changed sides. That’s when you have to lock in and play better.”

Philadelphia climbed one back just 54 seconds into the second on a Max Talbot goal. Wayne Simmonds scored identical powerplay goals at 3:32 and 6:49 to cancel the lead and chase Jhonas Enroth. The Sabres didn’t get a boost from Ryan Miller, and the Flyers ran away with it.

Enroth stopped 15 of 18 shots in 26:49. Ryan Miller stopped 13 of 17 in relief.

14th place Buffalo now returns home to face Montreal Friday night at First Niagara Center.

  • Ryan Miller had been long overdue for a night off. Jhonas Enroth wasn’t especially horrible, but the move was made to try to wake up the team, and it did nothing except ruin Miller’s time for rest. Now he’s probably going to go back in and start tomorrow night against Montreal. Enroth is gonna need more starts. They need to know what they have in him moving forward.
  • I tweeted during the game that Brad Boyes should be playing 18 minutes a night until he’s dealt. He played 16:29. Give him a proper audition now that they’re headed nowhere.
  • Can’t be said enough how well Jason Pominville has owned that captaincy. Team MVP. Read the rest of this entry

Instigator Podcast #3: Looking for Direction

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.

Comments? Suggestions? Would you like to call us names? Do it below or on twitter, @3rdManIn or @2ITB_Buffalo. Giddy up.

Overreactions, 52nd Edition: Nothing’s over yet

The easy thing to do if you’re a fan is to write off this season.

The likelihood of salvaging this season is slightly above zero, that’s not just based on emotion, but the facts. It would take an incredible run of wins to find a way back into the playoff picture. All it takes is winning, right?

Well, seems they’re figuring that out.

After some lights-out defense and goaltending gave them the edge in breaking out of their extended slump, the Buffalo Sabres survived an early hole, coming back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the New York Islanders in a shootout, winning 4-3.

Ryan Miller broke Dominik Hasek’s franchise record for career wins with his 235th, stopping 35 of 38 shots through 65 minutes and stopping Frans Nielsen in the shootout.

“I played with great teams and many great players, so this is very satisfying,” said Miller, a fifth-round draft pick in 1999 who debuted for the Sabres during the 2003-03 season. “And it was a good comeback win for us. We played a solid game, sticking with it and getting chances.”

Nielsen opened the scoring at just 1:39 of the first period, and after Nathan Gerbe tied the game four minutes later, Buffalo faced a two-goal deficit after 20 minutes. Maligned centers Derek Roy and Paul Gaustad scored in the second and third periods to force overtime.

Buffalo survived an onslaught in overtime, as a too many men penalty allowed the Islanders a chance to win, but Miller stopped all nine New York shots in the five minute extra session.

  • It was a good night for some guys having a rough season. Nathan Gerbe hasn’t been scoring like he needs to. Derek Roy has been taking a beating. Paul Gaustad’s been struggling to justify his role on the team. Hopefully it’s a nice boost for them.
  • Travis Hamonic will have to tell me what it’s like to take a slap shot in the face, because I have zero interest in experiencing it for myself.
  • Congrats to Ryan Miller for breaking the all-time wins mark. He’s had some really good years here, and he’ll likely extend that mark much further. Dominik Hasek could’ve had so much more if he would’ve had more to work with while he was here. Or shootouts. That would’ve helped too. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 50th Edition: Gaustad’s interesting night leads Sabres past whining Habs

The Sabres haven’t lost a game in ten days.

Yes, the maligned, basement-dwelling Buffalo Sabres have won two games in a row for the first time since early November.

Returning from the All-Star break with fleeting opportunities to get back into playoff contention, the Buffalo Sabres came out flying and grabbed their third win of the season at the Bell Centre, earning a 3-1 victory over the Canadiens.

Paul Gaustad got the game winner 6:17 into the third period that was the difference, as the Sabres also got a goal from Ville Leino and an empty-netter from Patrick Kaleta.

“It’s always good to get a win on the road and we just have to turn it around quickly and quit patting ourselves on the back and go out and get the next one,” said Gaustad, who set up Ville Leino’s fourth goal 4:01 into the second period to tie it at 1.

Ryan Miller was stellar for Buffalo, making 27 saves to earn his 234th career win, tying him for the most all-time in Sabres history with the legendary Dominik Hasek.

Even with the win, the team suffered another loss, as Thomas Vanek left with an upper body injury and did not return. After the game, Ruff indicated that he will at least be out in the short term and will be reevaluated.

Despite the loss of the team’s leading goal scorer, the postgame chatter was centered around some trash talking between Paul Gaustad and Max Pacioretty. Multiple Canadiens players complained to the media that Gaustad crossed a line by referencing the hit by Boston’s Zdeno Chara that almost ended Pacioretty’s career last season. Gaustad explained that Montreal had initiated the exchanges by bringing up the Lucic-Miller incident.

The most cutting remark was made by Carey Price, who said “We can’t worry about what he’s got to say because he doesn’t do much out there.”

Paul Gaustad had a goal and two assists, and was a +3 on the night.

It is unknown whether the Montreal Police have begun an investigation into the incident.

  • The win is nice, but if Thomas Vanek is out for an extended period, this effort to get back into playoff contention is as futile as they come.
  • Tyler Ennis was phenomenal in his return from injury. Injuries aren’t a great excuse, but if there’s one guy whose absence has hurt the most, he’s got to be near the top of the list. He adds a different dimension to the offense.
  • Funny that Luke Adam got scratched after what I wrote yesterday, but it just accentuates the point. With Vanek out now, he’ll get back in. If Vanek’s injury is short-term, they need to get him to Rochester as soon as Vanek’s back. Read the rest of this entry
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