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Revising the blueprints

PC3_slideIt’s still weird.

It was weird when the press release came through around 9:30am on Wednesday. It’s weird early Friday morning when I’m finally putting words to it. Enough about the organization lately led everyone to be skeptical at the words “major press conference,” enough to the point I almost didn’t bother heading to First Niagara Center to witness it. And it had to be seen to be believed.

Even as the news that a new position had been created, and would be filled by one of the franchise’s hallmark talents (a feasible and exciting addition by the organization), the rest was almost unfathomable. It had to be seen to be believed. Despite the addition of Pat LaFontaine as President of Hockey Operations, that didn’t necessarily imply that Darcy Regier’s tenure in Buffalo was over. Nor that they’d cut ties with head coach Ron Rolston.

So when word started filtering out from sources that have remained questionable for many years, that Regier was gone, Rolston was gone, and Ted Nolan… Ted Nolan was back to coach the team on an interim basis, you realize that “major” isn’t quite strong enough to describe it. You don’t see that come through your twitter feed and believe it. Not when you’re sitting at work trying to figure out what’s going on. Not when you’re sitting on a blue chair in the Pavilion at First Niagara Center, staring at four empty chairs and a podium.

And then here comes Terry Pegula, Ted Black, Pat LaFontaine and Ted Nolan walking over from the elevator.

Then it all becomes real. And you don’t know what to think.

So I sat there, watching these faces from the past become faces of the present. And still, almost two days later, it’s hard to put together a concise thought about it all.

In honesty, when we’re sitting there at 9:30 on Wednesday, wondering what’s going on, and someone tweets out that Darcy and Ron Rolston are out and Ted Nolan is back as coach, we’re all laughing because there’s no fucking way that’s happening, right? Someone’s either saying that because it’s meant to be a joke or they’re the type of guy that’s been calling in to WGR’s postgame shows for the last decade.

Then it happens and you have to make the transition from “Yeah, right…” to “Ok then.” Read the rest of this entry

Delayed Overreactions: Bruins beat Sabres, and there’s that John Scott thing

185680683_slideLeading up to the national television broadcast on NBCSN, there was an emphasis on hyping up the Bruins-Sabres rivalry. Lots of hype. Lots of clips of Milan Lucic running over Ryan Miller. And for much of the game, it seemed a bit misguided.

And then John Scott skated through the neutral zone and caught an oblivious Loui Eriksson with a hit and then we were back to where we started. Boston won the game, beating the Sabres 5-2, but that was hardly the big story. It was the hit.

Eriksson would leave the game (and stay in Buffalo overnight with concussion-like symptoms) and Scott would get jumped by Boston’s Adam McQuaid for the only fight of “Rivalry Night.” It was an ugly incident that marred the game, which dropped the Sabres to 1-9-1 on the season.

Cody Hodgson and Nikita Zadorov scored for Buffalo, who got 29 saves out of Ryan Miller.

Boston’s Milan Lucic and Torey Krug each scored twice, while Dougie Hamilton registered the game winning goal for the Bruins.

  • The hit was dirty and everyone knew that when it happened. You don’t need video review, it passed the eye test. But there’s no way there’s as much furor over it if it wasn’t a plug like John Scott throwing it or if it wasn’t a star player like Eriksson getting knocked out. He deserves supplemental discipline, but the deck is certainly stacked against Scott. Not that we should be upset that a guy who can’t score is out of the lineup.
  • Funny that the Bruins get commended for not going after a Sabres player for retribution when after the Lucic-Miller thing, it was the Sabres getting torn apart for not going after the Bruins.
  • This blog and this blogger complains frequently about game presentation being out of touch, and if it wasn’t obvious before, playing that horrible, stupid “Big Bad John” song after the hit should make it obvious to everyone else. The organization should be absolutely embarrassed that they employ people that would do that. No concept of what’s actually going on. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions: Heavily favored Sabres start out hot, but fall to Avalanche

185376342_slideThis season’s gonna be fun.

Not in the way of “these guys are so good, I can’t believe it”-fun, but in the way of “this team is a mess and I don’t know what’s going to happen next”-fun. And as a fan, the least you can ask for out of your team is being interesting. And this team is just that.

Facing a red-hot Colorado team in their own rink, the Sabres, still winless at home, decided to mail it in for the first 20 minutes and couldn’t dig themselves out of the hole they were in. Buffalo ended the night with a 4-2 loss to the visiting team formerly known as the Nordiques.

It wasn’t even about how the game ended, it was about how it started.

Colorado took a 2-0 lead before the Sabres even registered a shot on goal, which didn’t happen until 14:09 into the game.

“A lot of our vets are out there to start a hockey game,” said coach Ron Rolston after the game. “I think preparation is the first thing you look at, and focus on what we need to do early on in the game.”

Buffalo was outshot 14-3 in the opening period, and after giving up a powerplay goal to Matt Duchene in the first minute of the second period, they actually made it a game.

Cody Hodgson ripped a slap shot past Colorado’s Jean-Sebastien Giguere to make it 3-1, which was later answered by Avs center Paul Stastny to make it 4-1.

Marcus Foligno would score in the third to make it 4-2, but Buffalo’s scoring struggles continued despite holding a 27-12 shots advantage over the final 40 minutes.

“We just need to come out better,” said Hodgson. “I don’t know what else to say.”

Neither do we.

  • Nikita Zadorov, playing his first NHL game, looked solid. Played like a veteran. The talk went from getting him a game before the puck was dropped to talking about giving him more minutes after the buzzer went. He did look good, but considering the rest of the blueline is a dumpster fire, it’s all relative. Let’s not ruin this kid for playing within himself. Look at the guy wearing #57. Develop him right.
  • That cheer when Stafford put the Sabres’ first shot on goal was loud.
  • Ryan Miller didn’t talk after the game, again. I don’t find that to be a big deal, but it’s interesting because making the decision not to is as much of a statement as anything he’d say. He can’t be happy with the way things are going. He’s not the problem. He’s playing well, and it’s not enough. 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

Overreactions, 41/48 Edition: The wheels are officially off

166357552_slideIf Tuesday’s loss wasn’t all you needed to write off the season, the Buffalo Sabres wanted to make up your mind tonight. And they did, in emphatic fashion.

With a split crowd thanks to legions of visiting fans in First Niagara Center, there was no home ice advantage, and the home team got crushed by the Montreal Canadiens in a 5-1 loss.

“That was an embarrassing loss,” said Sabres forward Cody Hodgson. “They played a lot better than we did and we, collectively as a group, didn’t match it.”

Buffalo got outplayed for the duration of the game, getting outshot 42-15, and after Rene Bourque opened the scoring 6:43 into the opening period, the outcome was never in doubt. Montreal would take a 2-0 lead on an Alex Galchenyuk goal moments later, and added two more in the second period.

Ryan Miller ended up getting pulled after 40 minutes, surrendering four goals on 32 shots. Jhonas Enroth would stop 9 of 10 he faced in the third.

Rookie Brian Flynn scored the only goal for Buffalo, his fifth of the season, while the team was shorthanded in the third. Montreal’s star defenseman P.K. Subban added a powerplay goal late to extend the final margin.

The Canadiens clinched a playoff berth with the win, while the Sabres are for all intents and purposes dunzo. The only race they’re in now is to the bottom.

  • The Sabres got assessed a bench minor for abuse of officials near the end of the game. I don’t know if anyone asked what happened, but I at least appreciate the passion. That’s something.
  • Steve Ott can’t get praised enough for what he does. He does everything he can to win. He’s got the right attitude and mindset, and if you look at the numbers, he does back it up. Seeing him in the locker room, full equipment still on, bruised and bloodied… as a fan, you can’t ask for more.
  • As much as the team on the ice needs fixing, they got enough work to do off ice as well. Such a miserable place to see a game.
  • Really taking a liking to Brian Flynn, which I’ve stated in here before, but I’ll reiterate it whenever I feel the need. I could handle a Flynn-Porter-somebody fourth line next year. He’s gonna need some time to develop, but the tools are there. Read the rest of this entry

Overreactions, 35/48 Edition: Sabres lose again, should trade everyone

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The day started with a blueliner leaving the building, and it ended with the defense nowhere to be found.

In another episode of “This Team Is Not Good This Year,” the Buffalo Sabres blew leads of 2-0 and 3-1 en route to a 4-3 shootout loss to a Washington team they never trailed for a minute of the 65 played on the night.

Buffalo jumped out to an early lead on Christian Ehrhoff’s fourth of the season just three minutes into the game. Ville Leino would register his first of the season just 1:19 into the second to stretch the margin to two, before Washington star Alexander Ovechkin cut it in half just over a minute later.

Leino would add another midway through the second. And it was all down hill from there, starting with Troy Brouwer’s shorthanded goal early in the third period with American hero John Carlson in the box for the Caps.

“It’s disappointing,” said Leino. “That is a big goal to give up and after that they were fired up and wanted to win the game and that’s just things that shouldn’t happen.”

Mike Green would tie the game in the final minute with the extra attacker, and took the game in the shootout on goals by Matt Hendricks and the aforementioned Ovechkin.

Jhonas Enroth, despite stopping no shots in the shootout, was sensational for much of the 65 minutes before that, stopping 35 shots.

“No excuses for it,” said Ehrhoff. “We’re up 3-1 and put this game away and… we didn’t.”

  • Drew Stafford, without being on the scoresheet, played a hell of a game. One of his best efforts in recent memory. Showed a lot of hustle and created some good opportunities. Maybe he knew the scouts were watching, but I had to get him a vote for three stars. He deserved it.
  • You guys in game presentation can be done with the drumline anytime. You’re missing the point.
  • Enroth has been stringing together some nice starts. While the wins aren’t piling up, it’s usually not due to poor goaltending. With a baker’s dozen of games left in the season, he should be getting a fair share, at least four or five of them. But that’s not considering what might happen by Wednesday. 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

Overreactions, 19/48 Edition: Sabres get shutout in yet another loss

20130223 miller

If you assumed things couldn’t get worse, they couldn’t really. It’s just not getting better very quickly.

On the heels of another loss in Ron Rolston’s debut behind the bench Thursday night in Toronto, the home debut didn’t go any better. In fact, it was worse. The Sabres were inept offensively and, at too many times, defensively in a 4-0 shutout loss to the 12th place New York Islanders.

Ryan Miller was solid again for Buffalo, stopping 28 shots, but got little help from his defense and no help from his offense.

Mark Streit and Michael Grabner scored 1:05 apart for the Isles late in the second period to take what would be an insurmountable lead. John Tavares and Cody McDonald scored in the third to stretch the final margin.

“We can’t point fingers,” said Sabres forward Thomas Vanek, who now has just one goal in his last seven games. “Everyone has to be better. I’m a goal scorer who’s not scoring goals right now.”

With now two games since the deparature of Lindy Ruff, the team has done little to silence the dissatisfaction of the home crowd. The crowd rained down boos for much of the latter part of the game.

“They’re booing for the right reason, we’re not winning,” said Sabres forward Marcus Foligno. “They wanna see a product on the ice that wins, and right now we’re not delivering.”

  • The special teams has been horrid of late. Buffalo was 0-for-6 tonight, stretching their streak of abysmal play to 12 games where they have just two powerplay goals to show for it (2/46 in that stretch). The penalty kill hasn’t been much better, going 3-for-4 tonight, and has now allowed a powerplay goal in 9 of the last 12 games.
  • The exchange of goalie-running at the end was moronic and it’ll be interesting to see how that impacts the final time these teams play, in the final game of the season. I’ll put good money on the fact that that game will be meaningless.
  • Whatever new song they used for the intro video tonight, they can go ahead and never use that again. Who the fuck approves this shit? They sure as shit don’t have a clue what they’re doing. Blame the team losing all you want, but the crowds shouldn’t be this shitty. You need to set a better tone in this rink. The fact they don’t just exacerbates the on-ice issues. Read the rest of this entry

Turning the record over: Sabres finally part ways with Lindy Ruff

Lindy RuffIt’s more than nine hours since the news came across the wire and it’s still a bit hard to grasp: Lindy Ruff is no longer the coach of the Buffalo Sabres.

I’ve been sitting here for at least the last two of those eight trying to put words together to assess what today means… coherently, at least.  It’s not just a hockey move that we can accurately analyze and come to a consensus before moving on. This is a big one.

As soon as the story broke, the lines about the amount of coaching changes and ownership changes and whatever else has happened since Lindy stepped behind the bench in Buffalo came flooding out. It was tired, but almost necessary. It’s hard to really gain perspective on how things have changed since he came in without making it a joke. But he’s been here forever.

Seriously, just think about the goalies who’ve seen time since he came in: Ryan Miller, Jhonas Enroth, Drew MacIntyre, Patrick Lalime, Mikael Tellqvist, Jocelyn Thibault, Ty Conklin, Martin Biron, Mika Noronen, Bob Essensa, Peter Skudra, Dwayne Roloson, Steve Shields and Dominik Hasek.

Some of those guys were here for a long time, too.

Ruff was behind the bench for more than a third of the franchise’s history. Anyone in their mid-to-late-20’s or younger who has watched this team their whole lives spent their formative years watching their Sabres coached by Lindy Ruff. I was 10 years old when he came in, and I’ve watched an obscene amount of games where he’s behind the bench. I joked on twitter about it being upwards of 99%, but in reality, it’s probably somewhere in the 96-97% range. And he coached 1,165 games here. Do the math.

All that said, it was time, if not overdue. The team showed it. Things couldn’t stay the same. Everyone saw the need to change. The same song has kept repeating for years now. Even still, you’d be lying if you said it wasn’t jarring to hear the news. And that’s a good feeling whether you realize that yet or not. Read the rest of this entry

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