Blog Archives

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, 16/48 Edition: Sabres lose to Penguins, unimaginative post titles abound

20130217 regehrIt didn’t start well, and it sure as hell didn’t end well.

Buffalo overcame an early 2-0 deficit only to blow a third period lead on their way to a 4-3 defeat in front of a national audience on Hockey Day in America.

Ryan Miller was fuming afterwards.

“It’s 3-3, get to overtime. It’s 3-2, fucking make them come all the way down. We work too hard,” said Miller, who made 31 saves, many of which were quite good. [full audio below]

Pittsburgh scored twice in the opening 1:27 of the game on goals by Pascal Dupuis and Sidney Crosby. Buffalo crawled back one on a Cody Hodgson goal five minutes later.

In the second period, Thomas Vanek scored his league-leading 12th goal of the season on a two-man advantage to tie the game. It would remain deadlocked until Steve Ott gave the Sabres the lead just past the five minute mark of the third period.

That lead would not even last two minutes as Dupuis scored his second of the game to tie it on a gorgeous pass from Kris Letang.

“We had a real good third period going until that moment,” said coach Lindy Ruff. “Chances were way down our chances were way up. We were putting some heat on them, we didn’t take advantage.”

Pittsburgh would take the lead at 17:56 of the third period on a goal by former Golden Gopher Paul Martin.

“It’s up to us be better in our zone,” said captain Jason Pominville, whose line was on the ice for two of the three Penguins goals at even strength.

Buffalo falls to 6-9-1 on the year and 3-4-1 at First Niagara Center.

  • Didn’t know if you knew this, but that Sidney Crosby? He’s good. In 22 games against the Sabres, 12 goals, 20 assists. Yeah. He’s good.
  • Lots of Penguins fans in the crowd today. Combination of proximity, Pittsburgh’s winning and the lack of desire Sabres fans have to actually go to games can be blamed. When you have so many season ticket holders, you shouldn’t see such a large traveling contingent. That’s your own fault.
  • Christian Ehrhoff was fantastic today. Team leading 24:18, two assists. He’s the team’s #1 defenseman. The contract it took to sign him can be considered a steal any day now. 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, 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, 32nd Edition: One step forward, eight steps back

Coming off one of the more uplifting efforts of the season into the second half of a back-to-back (which the team has been strong in this season), one would expect the Buffalo Sabres to come out to play when they visited Pittsburgh Saturday night.

Unfortunately, it appeared to be the complete opposite.

After Ryan Miller gave up four goals in the win Friday night, coach Lindy Ruff decided it might be a good idea to stick with him instead of going with Jhonas Enroth, who had notched a win in Pittsburgh earlier this season.

Miller, who went into the game with a career line against Pittsburgh of 4-9-3 in 17 GP, with a 3.25 GAA and .886 save percentage, apparently was a better choice than Enroth in the eyes of Ruff, despite the rookie’s 1.51 GAA and .950 marks against the Pens.

The choice paid immediate consequences. Pittsburgh’s Jason Williams beat Miller with a 60-footer 2:17 into the game and the Pens led the rest of the way, as Miller surrendered five goals on 15 shots in an 8-3 defeat.

Pittsburgh got a five point night out of Evgeni Malkin, as the superstar’s hat trick and two assists keyed the win.

“I wasn’t good enough,” said Miller, 4-10-3 against Pittsburgh. “I don’t think that was anywhere close to good hockey on my part, so I just have to regroup and recover.”

Thomas Vanek, Luke Adam and Paul Gaustad scored for Buffalo, who trailed the entirety of the game after the first goal.

Miller gave up three goals in 9:43 and gave way to Enroth, who finished the first period allowing one goal. Ruff decided to reinsert Miller to start the second period, where he gave up two goals before Enroth took over after the second intermission. The Penguins added two goals in the third to add insurance.

Buffalo also added a few names to the injury report, as Tyler Ennis and Colin Stuart were both banged up and didn’t finish the game. Ennis indicated after the game that it seemed like a short-term injury, but Ruff said after the game that Stuart will be out “in the month range or something like that.”

  • As bad as Miller played, since he admitted he didn’t play well, are we okay with that now? Seems like his attitude after bad games has drawn so much ire in the past, after this effort and his postgame remarks, you’d think it’d be easier to swallow. Nope.
  • Incredible stat of the game: Paul Gaustad was +3.
  • At this point, there really isn’t much the team can do on the ice but battle with what they’ve got. The injury situation is laughable, and until they get healthy, no qualified decision can be made on exactly what the problem is. When they get to that point, they’re going to need to do something. 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

Overreactions, 4th Edition: Back in the win column

No Crosby? No Malkin? No problem.

With injuries sidelining the Penguins’ superstars, the Buffalo Sabres rebounded from a disappointing home opener with a solid 3-2 win in Pittsburgh.

Backstopped by Jhonas Enroth, who made 29 saves in his first start of the season, Buffalo got goals from Nathan Gerbe, Luke Adam and Drew Stafford to earn their first win in Pittsburgh since December 2009.

“Jhonas kept us in the game all game long,” Adam added. “He gave us a great effort back there, and when your goalie is playing well in front of you, it gives the guys a lot of confidence.”

It was another solid effort from the young Swede in net. Only a deflected James Neal shot and a rebound goal by Jordan Staal found their way past him. Dating back to last season, Enroth is now 8-0-1 in his last nine decisions.

  • If Enroth is going to play 20 games this season, like many have discussed would be optimal, he’ll have to play once every four games. This was the first opportunity, and natural, being the second game of a back-to-back. Buffalo doesn’t have another back-to-back until November 4-5, so it’ll be interesting to see if/where Lindy gives Jhonas another start.
  • Thomas Vanek had some great opportunities and did a good job stretching the ice, but he must’ve made a bet that he’d score on a slap shot tonight, because he wouldn’t get away from it. He had missed the net on odd-man breaks multiple times. You’re allowed to deke, Thomas.
  • The powerplay had somewhat of a rebound. In only one opportunity, they moved the puck very well and generated a lot of pressure, but failed to convert. They looked good and didn’t allow any shorthanded opportunities.
  • It was mentioned here after the Carolina game that Nathan Gerbe didn’t have a great Friday night. He more than made up for it in Pittsburgh. Gerbe was phenomenal, creating a lot of opportunities and working the puck well. Nate was rewarded with a goal in the first, and made a slick drop pass to set up Drew Stafford’s game winner. Great effort from the little guy. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, Edition 66: Something’s missing, alright.

Despite the absence of several key Penguins, I’m not sure anyone could’ve seen what happened to the Sabres’ lineup between the end of Sunday’s win in Minnesota and the puck drop in Pittsburgh and said, “Oh yeah, they’re winning this one.”

Without flu-stricken leading scorer Thomas Vanek, the Buffalo offense was, in kind terms, anemic in Tuesday’s 3-1 loss to Pittsburgh.

Seriously, the odds of a team winning when Rob Niedermayer is the only goal scorer is similiar to the odds of seeing everyone in the crowd with a shirt on at a NASCAR race. Pittsburgh got all the offense they needed and completed the season sweep of the Sabres.

Ryan Miller made 28 saves in the loss.

It was the end of a good run for the Sabres, who had gone 5-0-2 in their last seven games. The loss was the first regulation defeat under the ownership of Terry Pegula.

With Vanek out, NHL veteran Mark Parrish made his Sabres debut, who played over ten minutes on the fourth line.

  • Buffalo didn’t do a very good job staying out of the box, taking eight minor penalties. The Pens didn’t score any powerplay goals, but the penalties often killed any momentum the Sabres had built up.
  • The first period was one of the most exciting periods of hockey we’ve seen all season. The second period? Well, let’s just say Dan Bylsma made the proper adjustments and toned it down a bit. Read the rest of this entry

Getting to know: Jessie Pegula

Sabres fans are, for good reason, extremely excited about the new ownership situation at HSBC Arena. After having to question how much winning meant to management over the past few seasons, now there is no reason to question.

We’ve heard all about Terry Pegula by now and how much of a fan he is, but the whole family is as into it as he is… especially his daughter, Jessie.

Jessie Pegula, when not playing tennis, is a die-hard hockey fan and a budding Twitter sensation. 3MI had a chance to talk to Jessie about her family’s latest acquisition, the Buffalo Sabres.

3MI: What is your first memory of the Sabres?
JP: I don’t remember how old I was, but my older sister actually took me to a Sabres and Penguins game in Pittsburgh. I was really young and she was really intense in her Mogilny jersey! We were with a bunch of Pens fans and pretty sure we got stuff thrown at us. It was awesome.

3MI: Is that the best experience you’ve had at a game or is there a more memorable game you attended?
JP: We got to go to the first Winter Classic and that was really special. I’ve been to a Sabres vs. Flyers playoff game, which was unbelievable.

3MI: Who is your favorite Sabre ever?
JP: Um… considering I’m young, I never really experienced some of the older players, the French Connection and that era. But I loved Drury, Afinogenov and Roy. Roy has probably been consistently my favorite player.

3MI: Which team do you enjoy seeing the Sabres beat, and why?
JP: Hands down, the Caps and Flyers. Being from Pittsburgh, and somewhat a former Pens fan, they are our cross-state rival. I just don’t like Washington either. They kind of annoy me. (laughs)

3MI: Has it been weird seeing your father all over the news?
JP: Extremely weird, because my dad is just so not like that. I also now truly understand the whole “don’t believe what you read”. I will no longer read stuff in magazines and believe it. There has been stuff we have read about my family or my dad and I’m just like “Where did they come up with this stuff?” I think its funny, if anything.

3MI: Are you worried or excited about all the attention you’re getting now?
JP: A little bit of both. It is exciting how many people are just excited about the situation. It is a lot of pressure though. We will lose games. We can’t have a new owner and BAM have an undefeated season or something. Hopefully people can understand that.

3MI: Do you think people underestimate how much you know about hockey?
JP: Absolutely! I am a girl! Hopefully, I can prove them wrong. I obviously am not a genius at the game by any means. I am trying to increase my knowledge though. I also want to be the first female owner or GM. I realize that’s a scary thought for a lot of people! (laughs)

3MI: Speaking for Sabres fans, it’s awesome to hear your enthusiasm for the game. How do you think this season will end?
JP: Well thanks! Um, I really want the Sabres to make the playoffs. I think they can do it. Especially with all the hype to fire them up.

3MI: Anything else you’d like to say to Sabres fans, now that your family is taking over?
JP: I just want to say that I know my dad will work as hard as possible to try and get this team on track. It has been his dream to own them and I know he hates to lose. Oh, and go Sabres!

For more insight from the new princess of Sabreland, you can follow Jessie on Twitter (@JPegula) or read her new blog.

Photo courtesy Jessie Pegula. Follow Eric on Twitter @3rdManIn.

Kovalchuk trade puts Sabres behind the pack

Yes, I see, they’re still in 3rd place. I can read.

But last night’s blockbuster deal sending Ilya Kovalchuk to New Jersey isn’t going to put the Sabres any higher on the list of Cup contenders in the East.

The Sabres have been struggling of late. Just 3-5-2 in their last ten, and 2-2 since they returned from their recent trip out west. Ryan Miller has been good, but not great. Thomas Vanek has been hitting the scoresheet, but Derek Roy hasn’t. The defense has not been very good, with the third pairing being anything but set-in-stone.

Ok, it seems like the Sabres are kind of a mess. Right now, anyways. That comfortable division lead is now a single point, thanks to Ottawa deciding not to lose any game they play.

It’s just hard to call the Sabres contenders in the East at this point. With New Jersey, who I considered the weakest of the top five because of their offense, picking up a superstar for the stretch run, it’s now hard to argue that Buffalo is ahead of anyone right now.

Washington has won 12 in a row, and is going to run away with the Southeast. Ottawa has won ten in a row, and they play Toronto tomorrow, which should turn that into 11. And Pittsburgh, the defending champions, are right on the Devils’ back for the Atlantic lead.

What acquisition could the Sabres make to jump ahead of any of those teams? I don’t know. There isn’t much on the market right now with so many teams still in the playoff race. Before the Devils swung the deal last night, I figured it’d only take a couple of bottom six forwards to solidify the lineup. I mean, you don’t expect to win with Matt Ellis or Adam Mair in the lineup, do you?

Now it seems like it might not even be worth it if the prices are too steep. The Sabres are well-stocked in young talent, but there’s hardly a surplus. Giving up prospects or high picks for a futile run might do more harm on the franchise than good.

It’s just a tough decision to make with the team’s recent performance. When they were streaking after Christmas, they were playing as good as anyone in the league. Where did that team go? Are they going to make it back to the ice before April? If they don’t, I don’t have too much hope for more than a couple rounds of postseason hockey.

If the Sabres don’t win the division, it would be hard to say they’ll make it out of the first round. It’d be a likely matchup against either New Jersey or Pittsburgh in the 4/5 series. Even if they do, it’d be an uphill battle winning any other series against a top seed. That top 3 seed is huge. The Eastern Conference has a huge dropoff after the top five teams. Division winners should have an easy run to the second round. But whoever is in that 4/5 matchup is gonna have a dogfight.

Would they survive a dogfight? Maybe.

Maybe it’d be a good idea to just let this season play out and run at it next year.

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