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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, 26/48 Edition: Sabres’ ship remains on course

163486250_slide(Holy shit, I really did one for a road game!)

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

Overreactions, 1/48 Edition: Thomas Vanek is all man, baby.

20130120 vanek

There may have been some reason to worry about the fact that the Buffalo Sabres were about to play their first game in nine months. Of course, their opponent, the Philadelphia Flyers, had a chance to shake off their rust beforehand, and they were motivated by their loss to Pittsburgh the day before.

Didn’t really matter.

Sabres LW Thomas Vanek had a career night pitching in on every goal as Buffalo dispatched the Flyers with a 5-2 victory in front of a national audience on NBC. The Austrian superhunk scored twice and added three assists to take over the NHL scoring lead on day 2 of the 2013 season.

“That’s one team I really like to beat, and it’s one team I really hate to lose to, so I feel pretty good right now,” coach Lindy Ruff said after the game.

Buffalo took an early lead on a powerplay goal by Sabres newbie Steve Ott. Philadelphia stormed back early in the second, scoring twice to take the lead. Then it was all Vanek. With less than five to go in the second, he deked Ilya Bryzgalov out of his jockstrap to tie the game. Then Vanek added helpers on a go-ahead goal by Tyler Myers and the insurance marker by Cody Hodgson late in the third.

He also added an empty netter for good measure, and linemate Jason Pominville tallied three assists.

“We scored timely goals,” Vanek said after the game. “It’s nice to get a win obviously, but if we would’ve lost, we would’ve talked about ‘It’s just one game with many more to go,’ so it’s the same mindset really.”

Buffalo was the beneficiary of two goals wiped out by the officials, one for goaltender interference and another because the official blew the whistle prematurely. Ryan Miller stopped 27 other shots to earn the win.

Sitting atop the Northeast Division, the Sabres head to Toronto tonight for tomorrow’s game against the Leafs.

  • First and foremost, kudos to the Sabres PR department for the additional access for bloggers this season. A few selected, premier sites were given full locker room access, this esteemed one included. There’s also open voting for the three stars of the game, which I will now include my selections and the actual ones in each Overreactions. Pretty surreal experience for me personally, but I’m not complaining.
  • Tyler Myers had the game winning goal and was overall terrible for the entirety of the night. Ended up with a team high 23:11 TOI and only credited with two giveaways. Was extremely shaky all game. If he’s gonna be the horse, he has to tighten it up.
  • Scott Hartnell is a piece of shit. Any time your team faces him, remind your players “Heads up, don’t duck,” because they’re gonna end up being boarded at some point. Read the rest of this entry

Delayed Overreactions, 81st Edition: So much for that

“It’s disappointing. It’s embarrassing to miss the playoffs,” Sabres goalie Ryan Miller said. “We have a lot of talented players on this team and we just didn’t get it going early enough this season.”

And so it ends.

Despite a rousing run to insert themselves back into the playoff race, all postseason hopes are gone after a 2-1 loss in Philadelphia Thursday night.

Ville Leino gave Buffalo a 1-0 lead in the second period, but the Flyers rebounded in the third period, tying the game on a Marc-Andre Bourdon goal six minutes into the period.

With the Sabres holding on trying to send the game to overtime and earn at least one crucial point, Philadelphia rookie Matt Read took advantage of Robyn Regehr’s defensive zone miscue to add the dagger with 4:21 remaining.

“We just didn’t finish,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “We had our chances, and we didn’t get the kind of shots we needed. There were far too many chances by the wayside.”

What should’ve been a mad scramble to tie the game turned into a circus, as Philadelphia dominated possession in the final minutes and the Sabres were unable to create good opportunities to tie the game.

Thanks to Washington’s victory over Florida, Buffalo is officially eliminated from playoff contention and will finish 9th in the Eastern Conference. The Sabres will miss the postseason for the first time since 2009.

“We did this to ourselves,” Miller said.

  • Buffalo’s tentative play for most of the game put them in the spot that in the end did them in. They sat back for most of the game, and it was one mistake that turned into the difference. Dangerous way to play against a team that’s so strong.
  • Rough night for the Sabres’ best line of late, as Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford and Marcus Foligno were on the ice for both Philadelphia goals.
  • No blame goes to Ryan Miller for this one. While his goals allowed the last few games had taken a bump, Miller was outstanding and made the saves needed to keep Buffalo in position to win. Not on him. 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

Overreactions, 27th Edition: Grag reflex

It’s enough to make you sick.

With the memories lingering of Philadelphia’s last visit to First Niagara Center, where the Flyers jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, the Buffalo Sabres made a concerted effort to make sure that didn’t happen Wednesday night. It didn’t. In fact, it was the opposite.

Unfortunately, a 3-0 lead wasn’t enough to get the win, as Buffalo let an early advantage slip away en route to a 5-4 overtime loss. Early goals by Ville Leino, Zack Kassian and Thomas Vanek were cancelled by Philadelphia before the end of the second period, and it was a goal by Drew Stafford with just 1:35 remaining in the 3rd that saved them from walking away empty handed.

Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux ended the game midway through the extra period, as he intercepted a careless pass by Marc-Andre Gragnani in the Flyers’ end and beat Ryan Miller on the breakaway.

“I’ll take the blame for that,” Gragnani said. “If I saw him, I wouldn’t try that pass.”

Ryan Miller made 29 saves in the loss.

Buffalo seemed to be in complete control early. They a force offensively and a force physically. They responded in kind to dirty play by the Flyers. Joe Finley jumped Zac Rinaldo in the first period after he threw a high hit on Tyler Ennis. Corey Tropp later scrapped with Rinaldo after he backed away from Finley.

In the second period, it was Matt Ellis going after Flyers’ defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon after he buried Nathan Gerbe into the boards from behind. Gerbe would be knocked out for the game, and his future status is uncertain. Lindy Ruff indicated after the game that he’d expect supplemental discipline for the hit.

The Sabres have now won just one of their last seven at home.

  • Good for Ville Leino. The goal was a beautiful effort from that Kassian-Leino-Adam line, which was solid.
  • Speaking of Kassian, whenever you wanna grab #19, go ahead Zack. You should be sticking around a bit.
  • Marc-Andre Gragnani deserves to be benched for that atrocious decision in overtime. Unfortunately for everyone except whoever the Sabres play, Buffalo has no options and can’t sit him down. They need to get healthy. When they do, Marc-Andre’s status in the lineup should be considered tenuous.
  • The powerplay was quietly 2-for-4 and the penalty kill was able to survive the only shorthanded chance from the Finley penalty in the first. Special teams like that should win you games.
  • Rough night for Brayden McNabb. -3 on the night, some awful giveaways, and overall not a great effort. Luckily for him, he wasn’t first on the defensive shitlist thanks to Marc-Andre. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 11th Edition: Awful start dooms Sabres

It’s hard to win a hockey game in the first ten minutes, but as the Sabres proved on Wednesday night, you can sure as hell lose one in ten minutes.

The Sabres only needed 6:23.

That’s how long Ryan Miller lasted in net before he got chased by Philadelphia. The Flyers scored three quick goals to start the game and held off a resurgent Sabres squad for the rest of the night, winning by a score of 3-2.

Goals by Sean Couturier, James van Riemsdyk and Scott Hartnell were enough to make the difference.

“It’s things we talked about throughout the first part of the week, about being better with the puck, and we weren’t,” Sabres captain Jason Pominville said. “The message is there, we have to go out and do it.”

Buffalo was able to turn their game around with Jhonas Enroth replacing Miller, as Enroth stopped all 15 shots he faced and the Sabres got goals from Andrej Sekera and Luke Adam. With many chances to tie it, including a point-blank opportunity by Thomas Vanek in the final seconds, the home team failed to win yet again.

Miller finished with 8 saves on 11 shots. His GAA ballooned from 2.14 to 2.49, and his save percentage dropped from .930 to .922. The stats supporting his arguable strong play to this point provide a much weaker case now.

  • No one here wants a goaltending controversy. There shouldn’t be one. There really isn’t one. But you have a guy like Ryan Miller who’s playing well for the most part but not getting wins, and you have a guy like Jhonas Enroth, who’s playing extremely well and doesn’t lose. Enroth was stellar in relief tonight. With a back-to-back this weekend, both goalies were probably going to get a start. Ruff should go with the rookie Friday at home, and let Miller refocus and get the road game Saturday.
  • Mike Weber surely wanted to have a better game to secure a spot in the lineup. He was extremely shaky early, but settled in and made some nice plays later on. He gets deserved credit for standing up for his teammates at the end of the second period. Read the rest of this entry

NHL Realignment: Planning for now and later

Possibly the biggest burning issue in the NHL, other than concussions, taking advantage of the NBA lockout, avoiding a lockout of their own next year, players getting attention for their Halloween costumes and whether Sidney Crosby will ever play again, is realignment.

The abduction of the Atlanta Thrashers to balmy Winnipeg threw a wrench in the league’s alignment. With the Thrashers franchise, or Jets as they are referred to now, still in the Southeast Division, something needs to change.

And it will.

The NHL’s Board of Governors will meet this winter and figure it all out. The funny part is, it’s already figured out. There’s a great way to do this, and I’ve got it all figured out.

Some teams will be really happy about this proposal, such as:

  • Columbus. The franchise is getting close to the ICU due to horrible play on the ice. No one wants to pay to see a loser, and that’s all the Blue Jackets have been for over a decade. They play too many games out west and not enough in primetime to gain a television audience or attention. Getting them east will improve the franchise’s future.
  • Dallas. Finally, a majority of games inside their own time zone, as they move to a group closer to the mid-west.

Teams that will probably be pissed at this include:

  • Detroit. They claim they were promised dibs on moving back East the first chance they got. Well, they’re gonna have to suck it up, because there’s already too many teams further east than they are. Thinking they would get to move East and Columbus wouldn’t is delusional. They complain about too many games against western teams at late hours, in this scenario, the number of those games is extremely limited. The concept they’d leave Chicago as the only Original Six team in the West is selfish on their part.
  • Nashville. They’d like to go east to try to get more early games and limit travel. They’ll be fine where they are.
  • Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. You boys are going to have to split up.
  • Winnipeg. Stranded from the rest of the western Canadian teams. They may complain about that, but they don’t have to worry about selling tickets because they’re a true hockey market, right?

So without further adieu, here is how you split up the teams, and how it’ll all work:

Read the rest of this entry

Looking Ahead: Previewing the Sabres’ homestand

With seven games under their belt in the 2011-2012 season, the Buffalo Sabres head into somewhat-unfamiliar territory: an extended stay in Buffalo.

To this point, the team has played exactly one game at their home rink this month, a loss to Carolina on October 14. They’ve been superb on the road, sweeping a set overseas and winning their first three away games in North America before Saturday’s loss in Tampa.

Now, the Sabres will face that same Lightning team as they open a five game set at First Niagara Center. Only a point back of Toronto (yes, Toronto) for the division lead, a strong showing at home could be extremely beneficial to widening the lead on the rest of the Northeast Division, which, heading into Tuesday, sits 12th (Boston), 13th (Ottawa) and 15th (Montreal) in the East.

The Sabres have plenty to be happy about and plenty to be unhappy about. Thomas Vanek is scoring goals like they want him to, leading the team with six. The top line of Vanek, Jason Pominville and Luke Adam have combined for 11 goals and 25 points in the team’s seven games to date. At 5-2-0, they are getting to a solid start.

But there’s other stuff that is of some concern. The team was awful on Saturday in Tampa, so they’re coming off their worst outing of the year. Tyler Ennis is out for a few weeks with a high ankle sprain suffered in that loss. Ville Leino, the key offseason addition at center, has been relatively atrocious and asked Lindy Ruff to be moved to the wing.

So, they got that going for them. Read the rest of this entry

Big Ville Style: Sabres sign Leino to 6-year contract

If you can’t beat them, sign them.

After watching him score the goal that basically eliminated Buffalo in this year’s playoffs, the Sabres decided it’d be better to have him in blue and gold.

Making their first move after free agency opened at noon on Friday, Buffalo inked former Philadelphia Flyers forward Ville Leino to a six-year, $27 million deal.

“We felt very strongly about Ville, and we felt that it was important to make sure we didn’t allow a quality player like him to slip by us,” Regier said. “He was someone we identified early and moved him to the top of the list.”

Leino had a breakout season in 2010-11, tallying 19 goals and 53 points, both career highs. While he has spent time at wing in the NHL, Lindy Ruff plans to use him to solidify the Sabres’ center situation.

The 27-year-old Finn scored three goals in the seven-game Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against Buffalo, including the aforementioned game-winner in overtime of Game 6, forcing a seventh game, which Philadelphia won.

It’s a solid move for the Sabres, who were never really very interested in Brad Richards, considered the top prize on the market. While the contract can be seen as a risk due to the fact that Leino has not had more than one good NHL season, there’s no reason to think last season was a fluke. Ville is a proven playoff performer, registering 28 points in 37 career playoff games with Philadelphia and Detroit.

Leino will likely slot in as the second-line center on the roster, and his work in the corners and puck possession skills should open up opportunities for his linemates.

His contract will count $4.5 million against the salary cap.

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